Don’t Get Stuck Being the Office Mom

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Do you routinely go above and beyond the expectations of your job, improve your workplace culture, and groom employees, for no additional recognition or pay? Congrats — and sorry — you’re an office mom. Identified in the Wall Street Journal today, the office mom is the employee — “almost always a woman and often slightly older than other colleagues” — who “remembers everyone’s birthday and brings in cupcakes,” has “Advil and tissues in her desk drawer,” and “knows your significant other is wrong for you.” And no, you can't put that on your résumé.

Boyfriend advice aside, the value of office moms is up for debate. I know people who are tormented annually by their office birthday party planner, and it is my personal experience that productivity is negatively impacted by cupcakes. But Lori Richmond, the creative director of TheKnot.com parent company XO Group Inc., told the Journal that “nurturing valuable employees is critical,” and she has a point. In a company that values work-life balance and morale, isn't office mothering just a feminized version of mentoring? (What is parenting if not managing human resources?) The Journal doesn't even consider whether some companies might be exploiting the extra work office moms do — especially in small or start-up companies — writing it off as an expression of their innate maternal instinct that brings them personal joy.

Cincinnati start-up Chore Monster was casting about for an “office mom” on Twitter, by which the company meant someone to manage “a recent move to a new office space, focus on staff morale and keep the organization running on schedule.” It’s what one might call a logistics project manager, if not for the Mary Poppins personality requirement (and if one wanted to attract male candidates).

Maybe Chore Monster should consider poaching Pamela Mendoza, the office mom at Udemy. According to the Journal, she helps new employees find apartments, advises co-workers in work-life balance, teaches young employees about their health care and taxes, and encourages the staff to break bread at lunchtime just like they do at Google. She’s a one-woman HR department and employee mentoring program for the cost of an executive assistant/office manager. It sounds like the kind of job only a mother could love.