A Conversation with Barbara Palmer, Executive Career Coach

A recent study published in the journal Work, Employment and Society has working moms breathing a little easier when it comes to the social and emotional development of their children. Conducted by researchers from Harvard Business School, the study found that working mothers are more likely to raise successful daughters and compassionate sons. Compared with individuals who grew up with a stay-at-home mom, women who grew up with working mothers are more likely to obtain better, higher paying jobs and men are more likely to spend more time engaging in household chores and caring for their children.

As a working mother with two young sons, I’m relieved by these findings, which sure help alleviate my working mom guilt – but I also recognize the challenging job of the stay-at-home parent. My husband has taken on that role since our youngest son, now almost 5 years old, was an infant, and it is certainly as taxing – if not more so – as my work outside the home. He teaches our boys amazing things that feed their curiosity and broaden their horizon. Every. Single. Day.

At a time when so many of us are trying to figure out how we can make all of this work, we recognize that having it all is really hard. Moreover, trying to raise children in an era of total transparency and immediate access to information is frightening. So how do we balance it all successfully? I sat down with Barbara Palmer, founder and president of Broad Perspective Consulting and executive career coach extraordinaire, to get her advice.

Barbara, as a veteran career development coach with a successful practice that focuses primarily on women in the workforce, what are your key takeaways from this study?

I LOVED the stats shared in the study. FINALLY, that silver lining every working parent looks for to help them feel better about their working parent status! What I have found is that parental guilt is an equal opportunity emotion. If you work outside the home, you lament about not being home all day with your child or not being the class mom or not…not…not…it never ends! However, I also know from experience that parents who take on the work of raising small humans all day are also riddled with guilt. They feel they aren’t contributing to the family financially; they demean and downplay their contributions to the home, school and community. We need all members in our village.

The study confirms that working parents are positive role models for their children and are contributing in quantifiable ways to help their children achieve future success. Working parents are showing their kids what work-life integration looks like in a positive way.

Although this new research is interesting fodder for a working parent, the “guilt mentality” is hard to overcome. What is your advice for overcoming working parent guilt?

Guilt is persistent and it’s really unfortunate. Parents need perspective to keep that guilt in check:

  1. Own that you work for a good reason – either because financially it is good for your family and/or because you enjoy and feel fulfilled by your career. It is okay to like your work!
  2. Remember guilt goes both ways – working parents feel guilty for working, and stay-at-home parents feel guilty for not contributing financially or not using their talents to their potential. The grass is not always greener.
  3. Quality matters. When you are with your children, focus on them. Unplug, take an interest, play, be involved – make your kids your priority when you are together. Be present.

In 2017, W2O implemented Your Fourth Trimester™ program as part of our benefits package to support employees as they become working parents. Since then, several new parents at W2O have participated in the program – all of whom said it helped them smoothly and successfully transition into the working parent role. What was your impetus for developing this innovative program and what do you hope participants ultimately achieve from the curriculum?

Interestingly, when we first conceived the program, we initially thought of it as a parental leave benefit. However, as more working parents went through the curriculum, it became evident that the coaching and support it provides is actually professional development for employees. It isn’t about the baby. It’s about the employee and supporting them as they navigate this chapter of their career.

Your Fourth Trimester was created to:

  • Provide a confidential third-party resource to help employees transition to their role as a working parent.
  • Complement more generous leave packages with an equally generous and supportive transition coaching program.
  • Lower the attrition of new parents, which can be debilitating to a team that “held space” for the employee’s return.

Thank you for the valuable insight, Barbara. We are thrilled to be working with you on a regular basis within our organization.

At W2O, we employ approximately 125 full-time working moms and dads, and we promote a culture that values both work and life outside of the W2O walls. Through trailblazing programming such as Your Fourth Trimester and other people-first initiatives, we aim to ensure that our staff have a voice in shaping their individual careers and building unfair advantage for themselves, their families and our clients.


If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page!

Want to work with us? Check out our Culture & Careers‘ page!