Ah.. the mommy wars.
There has always been a push and pull about staying home with kids vs. working outside the home. Yes, there are many who also work from home, and yes, being a mom is also work. The terminology alone offends people sometimes!
And because this is me and I like to speak in fair terms.. all of the below statements can also refer to dads. Dads are equally an important parental partner and can make these same choices and decisions that moms can. Many dads also feel the same push and pull about working. I will be using the term ‘mom’, but please know it can be interchangeable with dad.
I specifically want to talk here about those of us who work outside the home for an employer. In some cases, these are choices we make, believe it or not, some moms LIKE to work (the shock! The horror!)! In many cases, a dual income family is a necessity.
In both cases, and I’m speaking in general terms here, there is always the thought that we need to be at home. Some times we need an extra day to be with our kids either for pleasure or because of inconsistent daycare. Sometimes we want to reclaim that commuting time to add on an hour to our days to make a proper breakfast for our kids before they go out the door to school or to be able to be home when they are done. Sometimes we just need to throw in those loads of laundry so we don’t have to do it on those too short weekends.
Does any of this sound familiar to you, my working mom friends? I thought so.
The truth is, instead of getting frustrated about it, you should figure out what you really want, what would be ideal for you, and make it work.
While the working environment can be hostile to work/life balance, you don’t know what your options are until you try. In many cases, Human Resources departments and senior management don’t know how to handle work/life balance. They want to be fair to everyone. They also want the work done, and done well.
Well if that is the case, show them how it can realistically happen.
Step one? Be a hard working, dedicated employee in the first place. I add this in here because I did not want this to be an assumption. Be great at what you do, always. You want your employer to go above and beyond for you? Do the same for them.
Next, you need to make decisions for yourself. What do you want? What would make the balance easier for you? For some it might be working a 40 hour workweek in 4 days instead of 5. For some it might be telecommuting a couple days a week (and in some cases, full time). Adjusted work hours, job sharing, there are many choices. Be realistic about what your requests are in balance with your typical work load.
Write up a plan. A serious proposal about how this can work. Mom’s Rising has a great template to get you started on the path for asking for telecommuting. Its a good base proposal to customize for your needs. Be fair to yourself, your employer and your clients.
Have patience. You might be turned down or put off at first, in fact I would almost say, expect this. You just have to keep presenting your case and perhaps adjusting your requests, at appropriate intervals. For me these intervals were review periods.
Human resources and senior management actually want to figure out work/life balance. They want to keep hard working employees. There is a struggle for them as well. Be willing to work together to create new policies. Be willing to be flexible, be open to the conversation, and be willing to be the conversation starter.
For me, I have been proposing some balance for a couple of years. I will fully admit, that the timing was just wrong in the beginning based on the projects I was working on, but now? The timing was better, and my manager came to me.. yes, you read that right, she came to me, and asked if I was ready to do some telecommuting. More importantly, she was ready, the company was ready and the timing was right.
So we are working on it, and I am piloting this project. Adjustments will be made, discussions will take place, but this is how change happens.
Am I lucky that I work for a company and a manager who are willing to discuss these issues? Who do care about work/life balance? You bet I am. But you also have to be willing to take a chance and bring it up yourself. You don’t get what you want by wishing for it and not telling anyone, and then get frustated when it doesn’t happen.
As with anything in life, if you need something to change. Do something about it!
One last thing.. I believe that the term “work/life balance” is a fantasy. Even in the best of situations, there will be struggles and conflicts. But I do believe we can make adjustments to traditional work situations to make both a little more realistic.