What Happened at 40 for My Working Mom Friends

People are talking a lot about the Motherhood Penalty these days. Even Ivanka. And, for good reason — it’s true. But like many big problems, there’s not a simple fix and the reasons are layered. Consider the need for paid family leave and affordable childcare, diversity in leadership positions and on boards, changing deeply ingrained traditional views on caregiving, and flexible work practices available for all.

The crux of it is this; while women make up 47% of the workforce, we remain by far the primary caregivers, forced to make difficult decisions between work and family. Some drop-out or go part-time, but those who work full-time often face discrimination, are given less responsibility and less opportunity for promotion, or are even demoted. Conversely, men are given a career boost when they become parents. Many working moms don’t push for promotions that would require more hours or travel due to their caregiving roles.

Right around the time I turned forty, something started brewing in my life and in the lives of my working mom friends.

They were making life changes. Big ones. Many had worked full-time, well over forty hours a week including travel, for years. We’re Americans–big time workaholics, and in today’s global workplace where work is literally in our hands 24/7, working moms are beyond stressed. Meanwhile, there is mounting research that unanimously shows that working over forty hours a week has increasingly diminishing effects.  Even for those who cram work into 9 to 5, today work never stops–not for COB, not the weekend, or vacation, or even when we’re sick. And, it’s taking its toll on us big time.

My working mom friends told themselves it would get way better once they were out of toddler town and onto elementary–but homework, schedules, and practices coupled with the growing emotional needs of kids made that possibility a non-possibility. So, they started looking for another option.

They couldn’t take a career break during The Great Recession and still can’t, but forty came around and after decades of working their asses off at the peak of their careers, one by one, they started quitting. They started working part-time, freelance or consulting to work from home. However, much of this was to the sacrifice of meaty work and/or benefits which have steadily grown since 2007 while salaries have remained stagnant.

Gabriela Mendez, Work Muse Founder Melissa Nicholson & Gabriela Proctor

Last March, I left my corporate job after a decade to do something groundbreaking, start a business to spread job sharing, the least-known, most innovative flexible work practice. There are a handful of job share companies popping up in other countries–UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands–but Work Muse is the only U.S. company dedicated to the spread of job sharing.

It’s clear that the world of work is rapidly changing; millennials through boomers want flexible work, but few flexible work practices give companies the 24/7 work they need while employees rest, recharge, and create stronger solution-driven results. Job sharing does. I saw my company and career thrive through job sharing and made it my mission to spread the practice to improve the lives of others while giving companies the most productive, most loyal and happiest employees.

 “My working mom friends told themselves it would get way better once they were out of toddler town and onto elementary…forty came around and after decades of working their asses off at the peak of their careers, one by one, they started quitting.”


If you are interested in finding out more about job sharing and whether it’s right for you, email me! I can’t wait to help you find a way to work so you can bring your best to your career, your life, and your family.


This article previously appeared on Linked In going viral with over 29,000 clicks.

Melissa Nicholson is the Founder & CEO of Work Muse, a job share solutions firm. Job sharing is a partnership between two people to share the responsibilities of one full-time position. Work Muse drives adoption of job sharing in business as a source of competitive advantage while helping individuals find work-life balance. Join the #JobshareRevolution here –– events, resources, and relevant content to empower you in work and life! For more info, hello@workmuse.com.

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