Everyone knocks millennials as the “me” generation, but I think of us as the “I’m not going for that” generation. We’re aware of how workplaces were when our parents were in entry and middle management roles, and “we’re not going for that.” But generation Z- they expect nothing BUT some of the heavy lifting that millennials did.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Michel Carter. Featured in The New York Times and The Washington Post, Christine Michel Carter is the #1 global voice for working moms. She is also the bestselling author of children’s book Can Mommy Go To Work? and adult novel MOM AF. She’s also worked on the maternal initiatives of Vice President Kamala Harris and received a Congressional Citation from the U.S. Senate for going “above and beyond in ensuring that Black Moms and Moms of Color have access to important health information for their children and families.”
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After returning to work from maternity leave, I had to pump in a bathroom stall due to a lack of nursing accommodations from my employer. Now, I help progressive, family-friendly companies design comfortable and hygienic mother’s rooms. When you head back to work without being ready to do so, it takes a toll on your mental and physical health. What’s worse, for working mothers, many organizations aren’t set up for their success. When new moms return to the workplace, I want to help them combine their careers and motherhood creatively.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
In 2015, I created Mompreneur and Me, a free event which gives moms across the country the opportunity to develop professional skills and network, with accredited childcare on site. By far, when I’m able to engage one on one with mothers across the country… that’s my most interesting project.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The first that comes to mind is trying to emulate the poses and content strategy of mom influencers on social media. I look back at old posts and cringe. After many years I’ve realized that’s not my lane. Just as a doula is a trained companion who supports another individual through a significant health-related experience, such as childbirth, my lane is being “the career doula,” helping women navigate the significant impact of childbirth on their professional careers.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
I have key global pillars which have helped me make a significant social impact:
Advancing Public Policy: I work to advance policies on a range of issues that affect women and families. I provide analysis and author content on eliminating racial disparities in maternal health, addressing the social determinants of health, and a range of women’s health policy issues. I’ve been fortunate to work on the maternal initiatives of Vice President Kamala Harris.
Improved Health & Wellness Support: My purpose-driven mission is rooted in health & wellness. I’m also aligned to one of the World Health Organization (WHO) critical health topics: maternal health. I advocate for companies to create a suite of holistic support for parents, including fertility support and coverage and maternity and postpartum benefits. I have also received a Congressional Citation from the U.S. Senate for my work in maternal health.
Investing in Girls and Mompreneurs: I’m an angel investor for Myavana and Cradlewise, two tech companies founded by moms of color. Myavana analyzes, researches, and recommends personalized hair care solutions. Cradlewise is an AI-powered smart crib and bassinet named the Editors’ Choice and Best Family Tech at CES 2021 and one of TIME’s Best Inventions in 2020.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I look at the way Spike Lee drilled this message into our brains through film, and how Beyonce does so through her music, and I’d love to be able to say I contributed to the conversation via my writing. It may sound trite, but Malcolm X once said, “The mother is the first teacher of the child. The message she gives that child, that child gives to the world.” I feel by giving working mothers positive, insightful content, I’m doing my part to reduce their stress, raise loving children and thus- change the world.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
#1: I’m urging congressional action on a federal paid family leave program. Lack of a national paid leave policy makes all of us more vulnerable during public health emergencies while putting businesses’ financial stability on the line. Paid leave is also a key element of addressing racial, class, and gender inequalities in the United States. An investment in this is an investment in women and the future of our economy.
#2: Childcare is one of the main catalysts to the decline of maternal health. I’m also aligned to the WHO health topic: quality of childcare and am passionate about elevating the importance of this issue. America, for example, has been facing a childcare crisis for years — it’s been too expensive, unavailable in certain areas, or deemed an unnecessary resource by employers. Many single working moms can’t afford quality childcare or predominantly hold hourly jobs with few social protections like paid leave. Single motherhood has grown so common in America that today 80% of single-parent families are headed by single mothers, and nearly 1/3 live in poverty.
#3: Deeper federal investments in America’s care infrastructure could provide better quality care for our country’s children, make care more affordable for single working mothers, pay care workers what they deserve, and help close the widening inequality gap for women.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
In today’s world, it’s difficult to tell where an influencer ends, and a leader begins. The words are used interchangeably. But the key difference is that while an influencer can persuade a group of people to act, a leader motivates and inspires them. A leader is the catalyst which makes a group of people feel like to solve their problems, there is no other choice BUT to act. I hope that others would consider me a leader, not an influencer.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
#1: To balance your worlds, you’ve got to ask for- and accept- help. I was once told independence is a spectrum, and the only way a mother can achieve true work-life balance is by relying on the help of others. This includes everyone in her circle, from her employer to partner to friends. I find the moms who are having challenges balancing work and life, are the ones who just can’t bring themselves to say anything to their circle other than, “I’m fine.”
#2: Work/life balance doesn’t exist. When I think of work/life balance, I think of having it all. The only way for a mom to have it all is to go to the store and buy a bottle of All detergent. There is no perfect work/life balance. There are times that you are not spending as much time with your kids for work, and there are times when your work is pushed to the side because you need to walk away from the company, recharge, practice self-care and have time with your children. It always ebbs and flows.
#3: Mothers in the workplace face a ton of unconscious bias. Working moms typically work more hours than the average young employee, but they also spend about twice the time fathers do on both childcare and household maintenance. They’re also more productive in the workplace than the average employee without children. Moms go to work earlier than the average young worker and are more likely to have nonstandard work hours.
#4: Everyone thinks to keep young mothers in the workforce, they must have a cool office space. But it’s not just a mom who joins a company, it’s her entire family. Also, before accepting an offer, moms think questions like, “Is this a company I’d be proud to tell my girlfriends I work for? Would I be proud bringing my child to see where Mommy works?” Moms are more inclined to work for companies who think about the future of our world (via their sustainability efforts), because indirectly, it shows the company is invested in their own children.
#5: Everyone knocks millennials as the “me” generation, but I think of us as the “I’m not going for that” generation. We’re aware of how workplaces were when our parents were in entry and middle management roles, and “we’re not going for that.” But generation Z- they expect nothing BUT some of the heavy lifting that millennials did.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m on the journey of inspiring a movement- for mothers to feel accepted and welcome to bring their authentic selves to all environments. Motherhood didn’t hurt my career, it helped it. And I think you should be defined by motherhood. This brings the most amount of good to the most amount of people because I always say mothers have immense power. Whether they choose to use it for the betterment or detriment of their children is up to them. I choose to use mine for the betterment of my children, so they inspire me.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
You are responsible for your own happiness. If you expect others to make you happy, you will always be disappointed. This was relevant to my life because I was a person who ran on expectations of people and situations. I let the actions of others affect my mood when I shouldn’t have given them that ability. It left me anxious, depressed and lost. But when I started repeating this life lesson quote, I remembered I can’t control the actions of others, only how I respond to their actions.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Oh, this is a no-brainer. Beyonce. Now and forever. I’ve always been a huge fan but as she gets older, I’m inspired by her as a working mother. I’m inspired by her growth; she’s clearly more comfortable in her skin at 40 than she was at 20. I look forward to seeing what she gives the world in the coming years.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!