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 more accepted 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 + I’ve found 7 steps to help mothers successfully negotiate greater flexibility in their careers.
1. Just ask!
Working mothers in high-powered careers often ask me how to deal with the lack of flexibility in their workweeks. The first question I ask these women is: Have you asked your boss about other options?
Often the answer is no, and I urge them to use their voice and influence at work to ask 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, Slack and Dropbox, we’re capable of giving our full effort and attention to work even if we aren’t in the office.
2. Be honest with yourself.
If you need to leave at 3 pm to pick up your kids from soccer practice, tell your boss you need to leave at 3 pm, 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’ll be able to 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 workday. Yes, there is a chance you’ll miss a late-afternoon meeting, but you can phone in or get notes on it later. Show your boss that the pros of taking time to meet all 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. Ask for a trial run of 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 about 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 one or the other. The wisest people are those who do not see the world as black-and-white, but can celebrate life’s spectrum of choice and shades of gray. So remember: Oe of the best ways to get what you want in your career and in your life is to ask.