Let me start by saying this: If my job weren’t so flexible, I would have quit. After welcoming my first baby into the world in May of 2013, I took a 10-week maternity leave. Two weeks after returning to work, I came to the sudden, emotional, and very unnerving realization that I had come back too early. I needed more time to adjust to being a new mom, without juggling work again, and I needed my boss to understand. And without hesitation, she did. How many new moms can say that?
With another two months of maternity leave and a whole lot of growing as a new mom, I finally felt confident enough to try working again, and this time it has stuck. But looking back on the last six months, I can say with absolute confidence that if my job and my boss weren’t so amazingly flexible, I would have quit working. If forced, like so many other working moms and dads, to choose between my family and my career, I would choose my family every time. Instead of seeing that as a liability, my boss saw that as completely normal, and she embraced it. And thanks to her, I am happy to be a working mother now.
Here are five ways work flexibility helps new moms return to work.
1. Flexible work options take away the forced choice. So many new parents feel forced to choose between their child and their job. By having a flexible job where I work from home and set my own hours, I don’t feel the usual tension that exists between family time and work time. My day is structured in a way that works best for me, so that I can be both a present mother and a present worker.
2. Flexible work helps me contribute to society in multiple ways. As a mom, I hope I’m raising a thoughtful child who will grow into a responsible adult. And as a professional, I can continue to contribute my talents and skills to my company, and to a larger extent, society as a whole. The more talented professionals we can keep in the workforce, the better. Flexible work helps new moms contribute.
3. Flexible work gives me a chance to exercise my brain. I’m not sure how else to say it, but because I can devote part of my day to my work and the rest of my day to my family, I feel like my brain is being engaged in ways that it wasn’t when I was a either professional OR a mom. Being able to intertwine these two parts of myself makes me feel like I’m really exercising my brain every day, in the best way possible. And with work flexibility, this mental exercise isn’t accompanied by stress or tension, just a feeling of accomplishment.
4. Flexible work acknowledges what’s really important, and ignores the rest. I work from home, and because of that I can focus on what’s really important every day. I don’t have to get up super early, pick out the best outfit, fill my car up with gas, and spend 30+ minutes commuting each way. Instead, my mornings are peacefully spent playing with my son, taking him for walks with the dog, and maybe running an errand or two. Once the baby is off to daycare, I spend the rest of the day focusing on work. Traditional work is structured with a whole bunch of distractions, delays, and time wasting activities which work flexibility easily eliminates.
5. Flexible work values quality over quantity. Working from home allows me to be in control of when, where, and how I get my work hours in. No “face-time” worries about being in the office before my boss, or being the last to leave. In addition to working from home, I have a flexible schedule. This allows me to get my work done when it makes the most sense to me, while also allowing me the ability to adjust my schedule or take breaks in order to fit in life events like doctor appointments, errands, or even going to the gym. Flexible work allows me to focus on the quality of my work, rather than what hours and how long can I work.
A recent Salary.com survey found that 69 percent of people admit to wasting time at work every single day, mainly because they have a set schedule and need to fill the hours doing something. But because I work flexible hours, I don’t need to fill time. I make the most of my schedule because it’s my schedule and I’m in control of it. And really, that’s the main way that flexible work helps new moms return to work: It puts us in control.
Are you a new parent who has benefited from flexibility at work? Share your story and add your voice by joining 1 Million for Work Flexibility.
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