I had the perfect life. I was married to an amazing guy, and I had a fabulous job being the Staff Writer for Seventeen Magazine. No two days were the same; one day I might have been visiting a school in Topeka, KS to interview high school students, and the next, I was on a music video set, interviewing Britney Spears.
And then I got pregnant.
From the beginning, I had a rough pregnancy. I developed sciatica (a debilitating nerve condition which can make it painful to walk). So I spent the entire pregnancy hobbling into the office with a belly—and with a cane. And while being pregnant and in pain guaranteed that I got a seat on the subway each day, it didn’t make my daily schlep into the office any easier.
I had eight weeks of maternity leave, and had every intention of returning to work on the eighth week and first day. But a funny thing happened; I fell in love with my newborn son. Hard. The thought of leaving him with a sitter was enough to send me into a fit of tears. So a week before I was to return to work, I called my executive editor and told her that I could not leave him. And as kind and as wonderful as she was, she told me that I needed to make a choice: Either return to work, or quit.
At that time, work flexibility wasn’t nearly as common as it is now. And frankly, as a writer, I had a job that was designed to be a work at home job. Thing was, I didn’t even think to ask if I could work from home; it simply wasn’t an option. So I listened to my heart, and wound up quitting a job that I absolutely loved—so I could be with this new little person who I loved more than life.
In doing so, though, I committed career suicide.
After my son got a little bigger (and my daughter came along), I tried to get back into magazine work. It was nearly impossible. Every door was shut. Having taken time off to raise two children, I was looked at with an air of disdain—even in an industry that was mostly female-driven. At this point, I knew that if were to reenter the workforce, I needed a job that would afford me some sort of a flexible schedule.
I found all that—and more—at Working Mother Magazine. Mostly mothers, the staff just got it; they knew that having a flexible schedule made workers more dedicated and productive than forcing them to sit in a cubicle for eight hours a day. Each and every one of them had some sort of flex worked into their schedules, which allowed them to be the dedicated mothers they wanted to be in their personal life, and the kick ass career women in the workplace. As their Senior Writer, I finally felt like I was at home.
Thing was, home for me was over two hours away from the office. Each way.
I commuted four hours each day to and from work. At first, adrenaline and excitement kept me busy on my commute via the Metro North into NYC each day. I would whip out my laptop and answer emails and write stories on the train. But over time, the commute started to suffocate me. I felt trapped on the train, which during the day was a local one, and made stops at every single station. I began to hate the train, hate the commute—and hate my life.
At work, my editors rallied behind me. They had already given me a flex schedule, where I worked half the day in the office, and was able to leave at 1:30pm to catch my train back home, where I made it just in time to meet my daughter’s school bus. I would then head back out to the train station later in the evening to pick up my husband, too. In total, I commuted five hours each and every day; more than a part-time job. To alleviate some of the pressure, my bosses let me work from home one day a week. I tallied it up, though, and I was commuting 20 hours each week, which was way too much for me.
After two years of killer commuting, I finally had to come to a decision. Everything that I wrote about in my columns at Working Mother was about finding work life balance and being happy. As one of my editors pointedly told me, I wasn’t following my own advice. So I sat down to figure out what would make me happy. I realized, painfully, that I needed to let go of Working Mother (despite loving the job so much) because I truly couldn’t continue on in the same fashion as I had been living.
FlexJobs and Working Mother were content partners, and one day, out of curiosity, I just clicked on the FlexJobs widget that is on their site. Ironically, the first job I clicked on was for a Career Writer, and upon registering for a membership, I realized that the job was actually working for FlexJobs! I took a deep breath, and applied for the position.
It was the one and only position that I applied for. And, dear readers, I got it.
I have had this new remote job for nine months now, and I cannot express the difference it has made in my life. My quality of life has improved dramatically. Instead of a 4+ hour daily commute, I walk 20 seconds down the hallway to my office, turn on my computers, and I am at work. I am also able to attend any and all events at my kids’ schools—I’m even the Room Mom for my daughter’s class! In having this tremendous flexibility, which I am grateful for on a daily basis, I push myself to work harder. I feel such loyalty to this company, which respects its workers and where every voice is heard and validated. And interestingly enough, for being a virtual company, where we are all spread out across the United States, I find that this staff is more connected and shares more camaraderie than many traditional in-office workers.
Having full work flexibility has truly opened up my eyes. I see, finally, that you can truly have the best of both worlds. You can be the parent and partner that you want to be, while still pursuing your professional passion and working in a career that you love. It is completely possible—all you need is to have a vision of the life you want to have, and then simply go for it. And by being part of 1 Million for Work Flexibility, we can all help demonstrate how necessary and life-changing flexibility truly is.
photo credit: thinkstockphotos.com