If you find yourself taking a bus in Wellington, NZ, in the next few days, have a look for an unexpected jewellery ad on its back end, the evident product of a brainstorming session at Michael Hill Jeweller about how to grow the Mother’s Day pie.
Here is the “Work Mum,” represented on Kiwi public transit as a random young blonde inside the embrace of a beaming man, his other arm around his “Mum,” an older woman whose expression screams confusion about the dame sharing her son. Indeed this newcomer’s reassuring and mustard-yellow presence attracts us all. She is, after all, a fresh new target for this most maternal of holidays.
The “Work Mum,” say all the sites not put off by its whiff of potential for political incorrectness, is a woman one encounters in the workplace who reminds everybody of their real mom—but who you only see at the office. This is the co-worker who nudges you to take your breaks and always has gum and even cleans up microwave splatter. She probably organizes your company socials and is everyone’s first pick when they have an arcane requirement at the office (like black thread or the Project Runway winner).
In her book Work Wife: The Power of Female Friendship to Drive Successful Businesses, Erica Cerulo warns that work mothering—which often extends beyond matters to do with work—can be a thankless task.
Worse, says Alexandra Sacks in What No One Tells You: A Guide to Your Emotions from Pregnancy to Motherhood, Work Moms get passed over for promotions, dismissed as caretakers rather than thought leaders.
None of which is to suggest that employees of all types and genders and sentiments shouldn’t acknowledge their Work Mums on Mother’s Day. The Work Mum addition is a cheesy, capitalistic, commercial development for this already saccharine box on the calendar, yes and blah blah. But this woman cleaned your microwave, for gawd’s sake. Get her a card.