Many working mothers quit their jobs to become stay-at-home moms. For some, this is a happy choice! But for other mothers, there seems to be no choice in the matter. It doesn’t have to be this way.
For working women, the flexibility to pick up your kids, make dinner, or go to your child’s ballet recital is rapidly becoming a more accepted norm in the workplace. Thanks to the possibilities of telecommuting, as well as the realization that the patriarchal workday just doesn’t work for everyone, more mothers are taking steps to be both professional and maternal. You don’t have to choose only one or the other.
I’ve worked with many women as they transition from traditional jobs to more flexible ones, and have found seven steps to help mothers successfully negotiate greater flexibility in their careers. Here’s how you can, too—
1. Just ask!
I am often approached by professional working mothers in high-powered careers asking me to help them find an alternative to the lack of flexibility in their work week to balance with familial support. The first question I ask this women is, before you jump ship, have you asked your superior about other options?
The answer often is no and I urge them to use their voice and influence at work to inquire about opportunities for varied work hours and occasional work-at-home time. With the powerful technology we all now possess, from our smartphones, to Skype to Dropbox we are capable of giving our full effort and attention to our work even if we aren’t in the office.
2. Be honest with yourself
If you need to leave at 3pm to pick up your kids from soccer practice, tell your boss you need to leave at 3pm, not later. It’s best to be realistic with yourself and what you really need if you’re going to negotiate flexibility. One of the big reasons you’re negotiating for greater flexibility in the first place is to mitigate your stress. So be realistic!
3. Demonstrate the pros
You will be able to do work from home, in a more relaxed and fulfilling manner. Better that you complete that report once you have your kids with you, than to stress about where they are during those last two hours of the work day. Yes, there is a chance you’ll miss a late afternoon meeting, but you can phone in, or get notes on that meeting later. Show your boss that the pros of taking time to meet all of your obligations will increase your overall productivity.
4. Point out success cases
There are plenty of examples of companies giving their employees greater flexibility and reaping the rewards. Have some of these articles printed out and ready to hand off to your boss. It shows you’ve done your research and you’re not just asking on a whim.
5. Do a trial run
If this is something new for your company, suggest a trial run. Try for at least a month, so that everyone can get into the swing of things. You’ll be able to demonstrate in real time the benefits of flexibility, and hey! maybe some other working moms will want to hop on board as well. You’re a pioneer!
6. Evaluate with your employer
After a month of flexibility, evaluate what’s working and what’s not. Maybe instead of taking off work early, it would be better to have Fridays off. As always, be honest with yourself. Maintain an open dialogue with your employer. Point out the benefits to the company and to yourself, and be honest where you could tweak things.
7. Be confident
Confidence is key in all areas of life! You’ve already made it this far—you’re a professional woman and a mother. You’ve sacrificed for countless people in your life. Don’t be afraid to make yourself happy. Be confident, and ask for the flexibility you deserve.
Workplace flexibility is one of the best solutions to the mother/professional dichotomy. It doesn’t have to be a one-or-the-other choice. The wisest people are those who do not see the world as black and white, but can celebrate life’s spectrum of choice and possibility. So remember, one of the best ways to get what you want in your career, and in your life, is to ask.