Why We Need More Mom-Friendly Jobs
You know what we need? More mom-friendly jobs. Like, the kind that are cool about you staying home with a sick child. Or encouraging to attend little Billy’s school program in the middle of the day. Supervisors that didn’t silently judge you when you left the office right at 5 p.m. (Because sometimes you JUST KNOW they do.)
If I could be Fairy Godmother for moms, I would wave my wave my magic wand and grant this for all of us. Seriously, we need more mom-friendly jobs.
I’ve been frustrated by this for years, since my daughter’s birth ten years ago. In all this time, I still haven’t cracked the code of work-life balance as a mom.
Honestly, I don’t think it exists. Work-life integration? Maybe. If you really have your stuff together. But balance? Meh.
Balancing a Household is Difficult
Balancing the household is where I always struggle, and I’m not alone. Let’s face it, working leaves us with a limited amount of time to get crap done. I’m talking cooking for our family, decluttering, and don’t even get me started on cleaning.
Even when we hire help with cleaning or purchase meal prep packages, it’s still freaking hard. Why? Because there is always something, damn it.
Homework, school sports, dance lessons, programs, family commitments, birthday parties, grocery shopping, paying bills. Oh, and what about that extra work that didn’t get done at the office? Well fire up the laptop, baby. Nobody cares that your head is about to explode. Take your Excedrin and get going. Just shut up and be grateful that you have a job.
Juggle smarter, not harder. Go take a class on time-management or something. Yes. That’s it. One more thing for your agenda; learning how to do more things in less time. You’ll be better for it.
It’s a never-ending to-do list and it’s time consuming. So that three to four hour window between when you come blazing in after work to when you collapse into bed in exhaustion, well, it’s just not enough.
Balancing Life Is Difficult, Too
When you’re cramming in all of the above into your limited open hours, it leaves little room for balance. Taking the time and having the energy and mental space to be fully present with your people is hard. I know! I’ve been there.
Me time? Ha.
Just those words alone can elicit a bout of hysterical laughter from working moms. Sadly, self-care falls to the way side for a lot women.
By the Way, It’s Not Just a Millennial Mom Problem
The first several articles I read on this work-life balance struggle were solely from the Millenial Mom viewpoint. But hey girls, this isn’t just a millennial mom problem.
Even though millennial moms now account for the vast majority of U.S. annual births, let’s not forget about Gen X and Boomer moms. There are a lot of us “Midlife Moms” out here. And also grandparents who are simultaneously in the workforce while raising grandchildren. We all need flexible options.
It’s Hard – Even When You Have Partner Support
I’m lucky. In our household, my husband takes on a lot. He helps with cooking, cleaning, and shopping. He even does his own laundry. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Still, he can’t do his role at work to the level required, and still do the all things I do. Conversely, if I had a role at his level, not only would I be doing less around here, but I would be a stark raving lunatic. (More so than I am now.)
Yet if I had a similar role in terms of responsibility and income, I would still feel the pressure and the expectation to do as much as I do now. I know this because I have been there before. And it’s one of the reasons I am so hesitant to go back to work.
It’s Hard – Even When You Have Work Support
The closest thing I ever had to balance as a working mom was a field-based job years ago. I worked mostly from home, which offered so much flexibility. My supervisors and my team fully supported me. When the baby was sick, when we had doctor appointments, when I had manic meltdowns, they understood. They loved me and lifted me up.
Even with that kind of rare support, I still felt frustration. Like when I wasn’t there to take her for the first day of daycare because I was out of town on a market visit. She didn’t attend daycare until she was 15 months, so she was old enough to miss me. I was sick that I wasn’t there to comfort her.
I remember standing outside in a parking lot in tears, calling the Program Director to see how she handled nap time. But I couldn’t let my team seem me cry. That would indicate that I wasn’t handling my roles well.
Or like the time I was required to be on a 6 p.m. conference call. I took the call from home, simultaneously giving my recommendation on a media plan while trying to keep my eight-month-old occupied. During the call, she pulled herself up on the sofa and in the process, the phone fell on her head. She howled like an banshee and I abruptly clicked off the call so I could comfort her.
There are countless times that I felt like I was missing the mark. I was missing the mark at home when I missed moments with my daughter. And I was missing the mark at work because frankly, even though I loved a lot about my job, my passion had waned.
Family Friendly Cultures – Many Employers Talk It, But Few Walk It
I’ve worked for a lot of companies since becoming a mom. Not because I’m flaky. But because I couldn’t seem to find a job that fit with how I wanted to parent. Every company I’ve worked for claims to be family friendly. I don’t find that to be the case in most circumstances.
I can only speak from my experience, but for the most part, the underlying message I continually received was that it’s not really okay to miss work for a sick kiddo. Or a dentist appointment. Or a talent show. Nobody says it, but it’s inconvenient.
I still clearly remember overhearing some moms talk about how they would drop their kids off at daycare when they were sick, even when they knew the child had a fever, so they wouldn’t miss work.
I remember days of rushing back to the office with a knot in my stomach, worried that I had been gone too long for the Pre-K Christmas Party, and the anxiety I felt over missing one of about 7 (mostly unnecessary) conference calls that week. That’s not a culture that works for me. And it never will.
Either Way You Cut It, The Mom Guilt Is Real
I remember the heavy sadness of leaving my toddler at day-care. I hated handing her over to the teacher. She would cry and grab for me and I would walk away, fighting back tears. In time, it got better.
Ms. Gretchen would feed her french toast sticks and have her smiling five seconds after I walked out the door. I am forever grateful to Ms. Gretchen for taking care of my girl. But it still hurts my heart.
And then I would feel guilt for missing work even when I couldn’t help it. One reason I pursued self-employment as an Insurance Agent (which did not end well) was so that I could take off for my daughter when I needed to.
Yet even in that first year when I was trying working in the District Office and trying to qualify for the program, the District Manager watched when I came and went.
He made note of anytime I left before 6 p.m. He let me know when I wasn’t meeting his expectations. Even while pursuing self-employment, the guilt from “not doing enough” overshadowed everything I did.
The Funny Thing About Not Working
So these days, I don’t work full-time. I’ve done some part-time temp work for a former employer. I do some contract real estate work, also very part-time.
I love the space and freedom, but I feel a little lost. The longer I’m out of the work-force, the less relevant I feel.
As a strong-willed and independent woman, that feels unsettling. I’m looking for things to fill my days (one reason for this blog.) Because the flip side of leaving my career is that it feels like there should be more.
Once, I was an up-and-coming employee. At my wedding, my supervisor told my Dad I had a bright future with the company. And I’m not saying I regret that I didn’t move higher up after I had my baby. But I am saying that I miss using my talents and skills. Because I grew up with a fire in me to do big things. I still want to do big things.
Inevitably, at least once a week, I find myself scrolling through jobs on LinkedIn. Because “what if?” What if I could find that sweet spot? A job that keeps me in the game but let’s me be mom in a balanced way?
But for me, that means being able to take my daughter to her martial arts class that starts at 5 p.m. It also means being able to pick her up from STEM Camp this summer at 3:30 p.m. The opportunities for kids are not always offered at convenient after-work hours. And the opportunities for employment don’t necessarily allow this type of flexibility.
Maybe I Want Too Much
Seriously. Maybe I’m just not being realistic. That’s entirely possible. All I’m saying is that for me, it’s hard to make these choices. But I don’t think I’m the only one in this boat. How the hell are we supposed to do it all?
I don’t have that answer. But I do know this. While we have better mom-friendly job options that generations before, we still need more. And we need better.
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