Being a mom is one of the most amazing, life-changing and overwhelming experiences a woman can have. As you maneuver your way through the various stages of motherhood, networking may be the last thing on your mind. But networking is really just another way to talk about relationships. And strong relationships are even more critical during the thrilling and stressful days (and nights) of motherhood. These relationships most definitely include both professional associates and personal friends.
As excited as I was to become a mom, I had a hard time adjusting. As I was taking a short hiatus from work, I found motherhood to be a somewhat isolating experience. Most of my adult friendships were developed in the workplace, and not all of my friends were married and having kids. I was suddenly in a different stage of life than many of my closest friends.
Fortunately, I soon realized it was a great time to develop new friendships with women who had children the same age as mine. Other mothers can be a source of endless information, ideas and support. With the mommy network, you can exchange information, experiences and advice. After all, who else REALLY wants to talk for hours about teething, potty training and separation anxiety? Yet even more important than these tips is the support you will get from and give to women who are sharing the ups and downs of motherhood. Just having other moms to talk to can make a big difference.
Regardless of whether you are continuing to work full-time, transitioning your career or staying at home, it’s crucial to maintain your network of professional contacts. If you have made the choice to stay at home, remember that you never know when you will want to—or have to—work again. It takes time and effort to keep your professional relationships up, but it is a lot harder to build an entirely new network. Your network is a valuable asset and you must make it a priority to keep it alive. It’s also a good thing to have relationships with people that have nothing to do with your children—a little variety and “non-mommy time” can be a good thing!
Networking is obviously challenging for women trying to balance work and children, especially if they’re handling the demands of both for the first time. It can be time consuming, and it can be tempting to reduce or eliminate networking to spend more time with your children. But there are ways to include strategic networking in your schedule—you just have to be creative with your time, and prioritize the networking activities that are the most critical to your career. Remember, networking is a part of your career plan, regardless of whether it is one of your job functions or not.
So to my fellow mothers (and mothers-to-be) out there, keep on networking, whether you work out of the home or not! You will get out of it much more than you put into it, and your network can be a critical lifeline, whether you are dealing with an ornery boss or a cranky two-year-old (or both!).