‘Standard empathy tactics go a long way’: Confessions of a former marketer on motherhood and getting laid off

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This article is part of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor to get an unvarnished look at the people, processes and problems inside the industry. More from the series →

The balance of gender roles has become glaringly unstable as the coronavirus pandemic forces working from home to be the norm for the foreseeable future, throwing work-life balance out the window.

As Digiday previously reported, working moms and women in caretaking roles seem to be feeling the brunt of it. In this edition of our Confessions series, where we exchange anonymity for honesty, we hear from a former marketing employee in the ad industry and new mom who is navigating work-life balance and new business venture after being laid off.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

You recently stepped into the step mom role. What has your experience been with that given the pandemic and remote work?

The amount of guilt that comes with having to shut off child access at certain times to get work done is almost unbearable. I feel like a terrible mom for not being able to spend time with her, a terrible professional for not being able to get my normal amount of work done, etc.

Then throw in Covid, where you can’t go anywhere or do anything, there are no breaks. It’s hard — a lot harder than I ever imagined it would be.

[Prior to being laid off], I was at a boutique firm. At the time, there was a limited number of employees and not many resources. Like if you’re gone for a half hour, you should be working for three hours after you’re back to make up for it. That’s expected in a lot of situations, not just at my specific company. And that’s one of the things that people don’t talk about. Like, ‘Yes, we’ll let you have off for the hour, but here’s what you need to do to make up for that hour.’ During the pandemic, working [at] that company, I lost almost 50 pounds.

What would have been more helpful?

Resources. I wish that was something there was more of. It’s easy to say ‘I totally understand what you’re going through’ but what are you doing to make it feel that way? If there’s issues with mental health, here are the resources. How can we help connect you? ‘Here’s a therapist.’ Standard empathy tactics go a long way.

Towards the end of my experience, I felt like I was being left out. They were rearranging who was going to handle certain tasks and clients instead of connecting with me and making it an easy process to go through.

My company was diverse. That was great, but there was nothing on the support side. No extra help or advice or a one-on-one connection to check in on your employee base, which I think is very important during crazy times like this.

What’s the importance of voicing unique situations, like women stepping into caregiver roles, as it relates to burnout and work-life balance?

It’s one of those experiences that people don’t think about until they’re in it. I never thought about how becoming a mom truly impacts [you]. A lot of women will mentally prepare themselves throughout their pregnancy, but then there’s situations like my case. I didn’t have the mental time to prepare. Women, whether new moms, step parents or [foster parents], should be more represented in companies. We have different viewpoints.

You’ve since launched a new business venture after being laid off. What are some of the things you’re taking with you from your experience in terms of motherhood?

When I’m hiring people, I think that I’m able to see them as more of a helpful hand and somebody that’s here to really drive business and that appreciates the company and the opportunity to work here. I’m able to see them that way and not as a worker.

I come at it in a more humanistic way. Not everyone’s going to have great days. Everyone’s going to have bad days. But working (at my last company), it was all product and outcome-focused. I want to be successful, but expecting the grind out of my employees isn’t going to do that.

Any other takeaways?

I really push having your mental focus in line before working — making sure that you’re taking care of yourself first and work comes second. If you’re working to the point where you’re miserable, you’re not creating anything that’s helpful. You’re ruining yourself and your work product.


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