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An “office Mom’s” maternal gift brings compassion, nurture, mentoring, and dignity to the workplace

In my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious,  one area of focus is the maternal gift that women bring to the world  based on their feminine nature. This maternal nature is part of God’s design of womanhood, as Blessed John Paul II taught, in that the human person is entrusted to women in a special way because of this gift of maternity.

The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way – precisely by reason of their femininity – and this in a particular way determines their vocation…

A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting… (John Paul II, Mulieris Dignatatem, 30)

Often, women help to humanize the situations they are in; they are all about “relationships”and how well people mesh together. This is one of the strengths of women, and when exercised in friendly and respectful ways, women become a life-giving resource in our society, especially in the workplace. In this recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, we see this demonstrated, as writer Katherine Rosman asks the question: “Who’s Your Office Mom?”

The office mom is shorthand for a figure in many offices: the colleague who remembers everyone’s birthdays and brings in cupcakes. She has Advil and tissues in her desk drawer. She knows your significant other is all wrong for you—and will say so.

She is often an office manager but can be a senior executive, too. Just as people talk about their “office spouse,” a colleague they spend time with and confide in, the office mom is asserting herself as the matriarch of the office family. This is especially true for more companies as they ditch private offices in favor of open-space desks where senior staff members sit among the junior and every personal phone call is overheard.

The office mom is almost always a woman and often slightly older than other colleagues. She might actually be a mother, but not necessarily. A relationship with her is complex like all family relationships tend to be: A younger employee might want to please her professionally, even as she grits her teeth listening to her personal advice.

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 1.41.43 PMHow an office mom might operate? I think it is as individual as a woman herself. Someone might offer to celebrate birthdays and such, but then, another might change the office culture just by being thoughtful, as in this case where a woman serves her co-workers when she sees needs and intentionally  sets out to fill them:

In an economy where companies can grow quickly without the infrastructure of human resources, an office mom is about more than birthday cakes. Pamela Mendoza is the executive assistant and office manager at Udemy, a Silicon Valley online education company. At 38, she is one of the oldest in the office. When new people move to town to join the company, she offers advice on finding apartments and restaurants. She shares her feelings about the importance of a work-life balance. Recently, she ordered a dining room table for the center of the office to encourage people to step away from their computers for long enough to eat lunch. “It’s not the job, it’s my personality,” Ms. Mendoza says.

For Eliza Davidson, a 23-year-old recent college graduate, Ms. Mendoza’s support has been a comfort. Ms. Davidson says: “Pamela has been a great guide for the more quote-unquote ‘adult things’ I need to care about, like health care and taxes.”

Some office moms say they take on the role without thinking—they are moms at home and don’t know how to switch it off. Others become office moms because nurturing younger colleagues gives them an outlet for maternal energy.

The rest of the WSJ article is here.

The mission of women in the world at large is to nurture and care for it… that includes the people in her sphere of influence.

For more on this subject of women and work, especially, faith-filled women at work, you might be interested in this recent Among Women podcast with Mary Wallace, author of the blog The Working Catholic Mom. 

On the heels of my post “The Art of the Love Letter”, let’s hear it for acts of kindness in Marriage!

On the heels of my post “The Art of the Love Letter”, let’s hear it for acts of kindness in Marriage!

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I wrote “The Art of the Love Letter” last week to give men —  who think they’d rather show their love instead of talk about it — an insight into the heart of many women for whom the words of love are important. Yes, even long past the “honeymoon” stage of the relationship, there’s nothing like receiving a handwritten testament of the love of one’s mate. I made the case that in Catholic life both words and deeds are important because they reflect the sacramentality of our lives. We are both body and soul, and marriages are both physical and spiritual. Of course, a woman wants her man to demonstrate his love with the things he does, and while some men may balk, I continue to stand by the notion a love letter is a physical demonstration of their love for their wives.

By the same token, there’s no reason a woman shouldn’t compose a love letter to her husband or husband-to-be. So, of course, good women, write away! Just because I wrote my piece from a woman’s point of view, does not mean that woman could not return the favor in kind.

In fact, the point of this whole post, is that marriages need acts of kindness to support the relationships between husbands and wives. I’m happy to report that Frank Weathers at Why I Am a Catholic gives an excellent reply to the invitation to write a love letter for his wife by issuing his own Valentine’s Day challenge to the women…

As Pat Gohn shames us men into drafting epic love letters for our sweeties this year, will us men be rewarded in kind? Here’s an idea, ladies. We’re pretty easy to please… Bacon_Roses

…Think STOMACH! Just give him Bacon Roses.

Do read the rest!

Just today, the Wall Street Journal has an excellent article by Elizabeth Bernstein: Small Acts, Big Love” that describes that a recent study finds that “small acts of kindness boost marital satisfaction.”  The husband of the first couple cited in the article, Mr. Kline, mentions that he’s not one of those tell-her-I-love-her kind of guys…

Chris Kline doesn’t like to tell his wife of 17 years, Tara, that he loves her. He prefers to show her—by loading her favorite songs on her phone and warming up her car on cold mornings. While she was away on business recently, he surprised her by painting her home office in her favorite colors, Mardi Gras purple and gold.

“Saying ‘I love you’ is just words,” says Mr. Kline, a 42-year-old engineer from Shoemakersville, Pa. “I like to do things that require effort, planning and a little bit of sacrifice. It shows you are putting the other person first.”

Researchers call this “compassionate love”—recognizing a partner’s needs and concerns and putting them ahead of your own. “It’s not just making people feel good,” says Harry T. Reis, a University of Rochester professor of psychology. “It’s a way of communicating to the other person that you understand what they are all about and that you appreciate and care for them.”

Illustrations by Kyle T. Webster

Since 2009, Dr. Reis has been studying 175 newlywed couples from around the U.S., asking how they show their spouses compassion. His findings, not yet published, indicate that people who discover ways to regularly show their spouses this kind of love are happier in their marriages.

Small selfless acts between spouses aren’t just nice—they also are necessary, experts say. When acts of kindness and caregiving disappear, it is an indication the relationship needs help.

You’ll have to read to the end to see if Mr. Kline changes his perspective on using words of love to his wife… but I stand by my advice when it comes to love letters from husbands to wives. There’s a separate side bar that includes “10 Marriage Sweeteners” such as:

“Put your partner’s goals first. Giving your husband the last cupcake is easy. Spending your vacation—again—with his family is hard.

“Go out of your way to ‘be there.’ Pay attention when your partner seems particularly stressed and try to help.”

“Show respect and admiration. Celebrate successes, even little ones. Did your spouse handle a touchy situation well, or make you laugh? Point it out.”

Finally, here’s a video with tips from the article.

Happy Valentine’s Day!