For reasons already explained in a prior post, being a working mommy is hard. But being a stay at home mommy looks (at least to me) even harder. All the working mommies I know want that happy medium – 40 hours or less with flexible hours and generous sick and vacation time.
We’re past maternity leave, so don’t get me started on how crappy that is for woman in this country. I mean really, 6 weeks at 60% of my pay and then up to three months of no pay before I can be fired. And I was one of the lucky ones! On vacation this winter I met a Canadian family with a son the same age as Maddie. His mommy got a year off, A YEAR!!!, and then was able to return to work at part-time hours, no problem. Oh and her husband got several weeks of paternity leave too. She was appalled when I told her we had no guaranteed maternity leave, no paternity leave and had to go back to work before our baby started sleeping more than 3 hours at a time. Oh and even though our insurance covered it (after our $5,000 deductible was met), the hospital bill was close to $18,000 for a uncomplicated birth. Hers, Zero. I know, I know the Canadian system isn’t perfect either…Anyway….maternity leave rant over.
So back to my search for the perfect mommy job. I loved my job. The people were fun, the mission exciting, and the work satisfying. I was given a ton of autonomy and I had no one breathing down my neck like I have in other jobs. I worked 50 hours or so a week. It was fine. Then I had a baby and my priorities shifted. I struggled going back due to lack of sleep and a touch of postpartum depression. Once I got my groove back (it took six months, ironically the length of most country’s maternity leave), I struggled, not to get the work done, but to be in the office 5 days, 40 hours a week. Being a mommy means you are on someone else’s schedule. Punching a clock simply doesn’t work for working mommies. Many make it work, but most admit they’d be happier if they didn’t have to.
Most mommies need flexibility to work from home and make up time in the early mornings, evenings and weekends. Even better, they’d rather work a 32-hour schedule and/or a four day work week. Having the extra day to be with your kid may not sound like a lot, but it is. When you are home only two days a week, someone else (no matter how wonderful they are) is with your kid more than you are. It stings a little each time your kiddo does something new for the first time and you weren’t there to share it with them.
My employer wanted someone 40+ hours in the office 5 days a week. I get it. So I reluctantly started looking. It took 5 months of sending emails, scanning job sites and networking before it fell out of the sky. A friend who knew my employment woes called me up to say she’d just heard of someone looking for someone like me. I sent the woman an email and within 10 minutes I had an interview. Within two weeks I had an offer. They matched my pay, my benefits and wait for it….they were flexible, let people work from home and were fine with me working 4 days at 32 hours a week! Come to find out, not just the CEO, but 90% of the employees were woman, most mommies. They understood.
Alternative work schedules, as they are labeled in the policies, are very hard to find, at least in my experience. I feel strongly that employers in this country must recognize the need to support parents in raising their children, by providing paid maternity leave, affordable childcare and alternative work schedules for parents that choose to return to work. And those employers that want to change must be supported as well with financial incentives, regulatory change…whatever works. Investing in working parents is investing in their children, our nation’s future employers by the way. Most organizational policies related to work schedules were written for a time when many woman did not return to work. It’s clearly time for an update.