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Working Moms Want Flexible Work

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Moms (especially first time moms) who work outside the home know this feeling: It’s the first day back to work following maternity leave. Your baby is staying with Dad, Grandma/Grandpa, another relative or a qualified sitter or daycare. It doesn’t matter, though. Your beautiful little baby, who you nurtured for 9-ish months within your body and then bonded with night and day for (if you’re lucky) 2-3 months, is being abandoned. Never mind that you’re leaving him with his dad, your parents, or licensed and qualified caregivers. You are giving over the care of this precious creature to someone other than yourself and it feels like a knife to the heart!

When I went back to work after my first son was born, that’s exactly how I felt. I cried on the train all the way to my office and periodically throughout the day so that by the time I could leave, I had worked myself into a guilt-induced migraine. To some, I understand my reaction may seem over the top. For others, you know exactly what I mean!​​ ​​

I only lasted a couple of months in my job once I can back from maternity leave. I stayed long enough to fulfill the company requirement and then gave my notice. Looking back, it was a fair trade because in exchange for returning to work, the company covered 100% of my and my son’s medical expenses. I dare you to find that kind of coverage in today’s insurance climate! I had a C-section and ended up staying in the hospital (as did my son) for three days, so the bill was considerable. Enduring two months of 12-hour days (with the commute) away from my baby allowed me to leave my job debt-free. No income, but no debt, either.

That was more than twenty years – and two more children -- ago. The availability of corporate benefits, like working from home, were in their infancy as was the internet, social media and the technology needed to effectively work outside a traditional office. These days, even though work flexibility is not yet wide spread, mothers have so many more options available to them!

According to recent research by SFN Group, working moms want flexible work arrangements. A majority of study participants agreed that work/life balance coincides with achieving career happiness. A flexible work arrangement is a major factor in finding that balance. Unfortunately, this provision continues to be unavailable to many working mothers.

There are some companies that place a premium on work/life balance. Companies like Buffer, Toptal and MySQL embrace a 21st century attitude that employees should be assessed on productivity and performance, not presence. Buffer in particular is known for how it has embraced a decentralized workforce culture that allows employees the autonomy to adjust schedules around family and personal commitments.

Only a modest percentage of organizations use a decentralized workforce. Most companies, particularly in the U.S., remain traditional work environments that require employees to co-locate and where flexible work arrangements are virtually non-existent. As a result, mothers may feel stressed due to the difficulty of balancing work and family priorities and dissatisfied with their careers. Companies may experience decreased retention of working mothers when work flexibility is not offered.

Most mothers who work outside the home need to work. However, this should not preclude them from finding career happiness.