As we prepare to mark Mother’s Day on Sunday, today we share stories from three members of Mom-mentum who have used different kinds of work flexibility to navigate the workplace as women with children. Mom-mentum is a non-profit organization that provides leadership, education and advocacy to mothers in meeting today’s personal and professional challenges. Each of the women profiled below participated in Mom-Mentum’s Mothers’ Center Discussion Groups, which provide a space for moms to receive support and connection from other moms. Follow on Twitter @Mom_mentum.
Director of Development
Twin girls – Halle and Juliet, 3 and Amelia, 5 (almost 6)
Earlier this year, Stephanie Ramos, a mom of three young girls, started a new position as Director of Development for a small nonprofit in New Jersey. The position is flexible and part-time, about 15 hours a week, and has a short commute. “I am able to be home with my girls after school and in the evening and my office is close to home,” Stephanie said.
Before taking the new position, Stephanie had returned to the workforce last summer after two and a half years away following the birth of her twins through a short-term position at a large nonprofit organization in New York City to assist with their annual benefit dinner. The contract position was a four-month project, and also allowed Stephanie flexibility: 20 hours per week, including remote work two days a week and one day in the New York office.
Both flexible positions came after Stephanie left the workforce following the birth of her twins in 2012. “With my girls being now 3 and almost 6 I want to be with them as much as possible. I also love my work and really enjoyed going back for four months last year. My current position allows me to do both. It allows me to maintain my skills in the field of fundraising while also giving me time to be home with my young children.”
Her advice for other moms who are wondering if they can make a flexible arrangement a reality? “My advice for others is to always ask because if you don’t ask you don’t know!”
Educational Technologist, Adjunct Professor
Amaya (age 4), Evelyn (age 1)
After becoming a mother, flexibility was important to Amanda Prieto for two reasons: her husband’s profession in the airline industry and her desire to be home with their young children. With her husband traveling frequently, and an unpredictable schedule, the family wanted to make sure Amanda was consistently available to help balance his inflexibility and promote a sense of stability for their daughters.
Amanda’s own experience growing up was with her mother working part-time, and is filled with memories of both of her parents being actively involved in her and her brother’s lives. They were at sporting events, piano practices and recitals, birthday parties, play-dates, and daily family dinners. Amanda wants to have, and enjoys having, a similar active role in her girls’ daily lives.
Amanda, who has a doctorate in instructional leadership, trains faculty on how to deliver engaging and collaborative online course content and support their students using a learning management system called BlackBoard. Since it’s a software available entirely online, it facilitates her ability to work from home (or anywhere). Sometimes, it also works to her advantage to be working after traditional hours, as that’s when many faculty do their prep work to design their course.
Originally from Canada, Amanda was working full time at Rutgers when she had her first child. She tried to go back part-time at 12 weeks, but “it wasn’t the vision of motherhood” she had in her “head or heart.” Amanda said that in Canada, mothers have a full year of paid maternity leave, so her experience here “didn’t feel natural to be away from [her] baby when she was so young.”
She then switched to an hourly position to help find and train her replacement and consult on open projects. It was a way to focus on her family, but also stay partially connected. It came with a big pay cut and she lost access to benefits, but Amanda kept her title, had complete flexibility over her hours, and was able to work from home. Amanda said the compromise worked because she could afford to make the decision—and it allowed her to keep a foot in the door of her career.
Then, when her daughter turned two, she was ready to accept a more permanent part-time position (20+ hours a week) but became pregnant with her second child. So she declined the new part-time position because she thought it would be too disruptive to accept and then leave within eight months. While there was no guarantee that there would be a position when she returned, Amanda stayed hopeful and in touch. Then over a year later, when they had a staff member leave suddenly and needed someone to teach an online faculty development course they called to if Amanda was available. It was a perfect fit—she was able to teach the course from home when her second daughter was six months old. After that, she started consulting on a project basis (around 5-10 hrs a week) for the same very understanding and flexible boss—and hopes to increase her hours when her daughter is a little older.
Her advice to moms considering more flexible work environment: “Be honest and ask for what you want. Have a clear picture of your priorities and needs. Understand what you are willing to compromise on and what aspects are non-negotiable. Paint a clear picture of how you can add value to your position. Make sure you are being realistic. Look at it from your boss’ point of view and consider what you would do in their shoes. I believe the goal should be how you can add value while finding a balance that works for both you and the company.”
Executive Assistant for a Special Needs school in NYC
Reese, 2; and a boy due in August
Before Lindsay Clark’s daughter Reese was born, she worked a typical 40-hour week. With their apartment only three blocks from the office, she could arrive early or late without any worry. When she found out she was pregnant, she and her husband “did what any soon-to-be family did: packed up and moved to the New Jersey suburbs.” Then, with a 1.5 hour commute looming, Lindsay and her husband decided they could afford for her to work part-time after Reese was born.
Lindsay approached her extremely supportive boss with a proposal of working from home with Reese on Mondays, working in the office Tuesdays through Thursday, and off on Fridays. Lindsay, who said “being a parent requires the most flexibility out of any job” she’s had and that her proposal worked because her “boss respected it and knows firsthand what it means to be a working mother.” As one of the first administrative level staff to go on maternity leave, Lindsay has made sure to have regular check-ins to ensure the arrangement is working, as well as year-end reviews every June, all of which have been positive so far.
Now into the second year of this alternative flexible schedule, Lindsay said it hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worth it: “Three days a week are spent rushing around to daycare for drop off, to my parent’s house for pick-up, leaving at 7:00 AM and getting home just in time for her bedtime routine at 7:00 PM. But knowing that I have Mondays and Fridays with my child is the silver lining. I can bring Reese to Mother’s Center playgroup on Mondays and take her on field trips or play dates on Fridays. I can manage the household chores that were neglected during the week. I can spend time with Reese without feeling (too) guilty about it, although I still have my moments!”
Her advice to other working parents looking for flexibility? “Let your workplace know that you will alter your new working parent schedule to meet their needs, and you hope they will do the same for you. Many people know what it’s like to be a working parent so hopefully they will understand.”
This Mother’s Day, join the 1 Million for Work Flexibility movement to help all moms get the flexibility they need to succeed at work and at home.
photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com