Conversation Culture — Mothers at Work

December 13, 2008 was the single most important day in my life.  It was the day my daughter, Ryleigh was born into the world.  I worked up until 2 days before her arrival as I had our Regional President was visiting the office and wanted to meet with me about the 2009 staffing and recruiting projections for one of our offices.  I moved back the date of my maternity leave to accomodate the meeting and waddled proudly around the office.

Less than 10 weeks later I returned to work with a completely new priority list.  My daughter came first in everything I did, and I struggled as a mother at work.  I struggled to juggle meetings between the late nights.  I struggled to find time to pump my breasts.  I was made fun of by my male counterparts when I canceled a meeting because I forgot all the components of my breast pump.  And felt uncomfortable when I had to ask my boss for a mother’s room during our regional HR meeting.

Being a mother is the single hardest and most rewarding job in my entire life.  It’s also the most important.  So imagine returning to work with with a new priority list and over 5,000 unanswered emails and projects waiting when I returned let alone the parental  juggling that took place.  And then imagine while 10 months later, I entered the world of business owner and consultancy with a new vigor, determination, and hunger to be myself fully — a mother as well as a professional business woman.

As a wife, I am very fortunate that my husband was (and still is) supportive of my career choice to leave the corporate office for a more flexible business lifestyle, but it hasn’t been easy.  During Ryleigh’s first two years, she attended many meetings with me and was my wingman.  I gave no excuses.  And before I left my position, she regularly visited my office where I set up a temporary (and by temporary I mean pillows) bed and play area for her to play and sometimes sleep while I checked email and sorted through stacks of paper to finish various deadlines.

Being a mother is the hardest job I have ever had and combined with the rigid schedule of office life, it was too much.  I’m not alone.  Nearly 31% of mothers, leave their corporate jobs for more flexible lifestyle for an average of 2.7 years.  And today, I had no one to answer to but myself and my clients as I dropped my daughter at daycare at nearly 10:00 AM just because.   Not every parent is so lucky.

Why not?

The topic of flexible work schedules often to referred to as flexible schedule or workshifting are becoming at hot topic because of successful case studies with companies like Best Buy and ROWE as well as the pass of the Federal Telework Bill in late 2010.  And nearly 86% of employees say they would prefer some sort of flexible work schedule.

So what are we doing about it? Here are some suggestions:

  • Talk to your employees about their schedule.
  • Set up a mother’s room in your office.  Have more than 50 employees at your office?  It’s the law.
  • Provide your soon to be or new parents parenting/priorities classes.
  • Talk to your employees about what matters at work.  Is it compensation, flexibility, advancement.  Just talk.

I kindly invite you to join me on March 30th during the live viewing of the White House’s web chat on woman in the workforce and the importance of flexible scheduling.  Be sure to tune into the Blogging4Jobs Facebook Fan Page where we will be discussing women and flexibility in the workplace all day.

The Conversation Culture is a new topical series at Blogging4Jobs discussing how engagement, communication, and conversations in the workplace can create an environment that drives employee productivity as well as employee satisfaction.  Have a topic idea?  Send me a message at jessica@xceptionalhr to start the dialogue.  Want to write for me?  Don’t be shy.  Send me an email.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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  1. I can not thank you enough for writing this. After being laid off in May 2010, I chose to stay home with my then 3 month old son for his entire first year. I went through every type of emotion possible over that decision. Elation at getting to spend the time with him, guilt over staying at home and “not” working, worry about what would happen when I started looking for a job. In January of this year I started job searching and have to catch myself apologizing for my time off. I also have to catch myself looking at jobs that I “should” apply too but would take too much time away from my family. He is my priority and while I do much soul searching over my next move I know this for sure – I am his mother first and everything else is going to have to take a back seat.

    So glad to know others have done it and found success. You are an inspiration!

  2. Sabrina,

    I think all working mothers go through this. I just think that some make the decision to sleep through the working hours (not literally but maybe so) because of the increased amount of demand and stress they have on their lives. I can remember quite a few times when I took a 20 minute nap in my office on my yoga mat because I was so exhausted.

    Don’t apologize! I have to remind myself too. Thanks for the comment!

    JMM

  3. This is awesome Jessica. Thank you! I am a huge advocate for work/life flexibility. It should be for EVERYONE. My belief is that it comes down to the individual – you know what you want and what you need – and you have to make it happen. But it is unfair when people are discriminated against when they ask for it. Companies need to understand the importance of flexibility. It comes down to productivity as well – if you can be just as productive in 5 hours versus 8 hours – that needs to be made aware. We have lost the concept of normal working hours now.

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