Being a working mom is tough. I am constantly being torn between being at my job, being taken seriously as a professional woman, and being at home with my sick children. Having two at the exact same age makes it even harder because they usually get bugs at the same time (or within a couple of days of each other) because they are usually exposed at the exact same time. What might be one or two days off with a singleton - turns into 4-5 days. I am lucky that hubby works for a family-friendly company and can stay home sometimes...but he is very busy and it is usually easier to just have me stay home. Plus - as a contractor, he doesn't get paid for the days he needs to stay home.
At my last job, despite being a child-focused organization, was really demeaning towards moms. They never said anything to my face but it was there in their eyes. "Suuure, your kids were sick again" those eyes would tell me. And I knew the words by heart because I had heard them often enough behind the backs of other working mom coworkers before I had my own kids. It made me strive really hard to ensure my kids were sick as little as possible. I hated that look. I hated knowing that that was how people talked about me behind my back when I had to call in with a sick kid. Add that to the other crap I went through on my return and it was one of the big reasons I decided to move on.
My new job has been a godsend for the working mommy. First of all - I have a female boss. WHAT A DIFFERENCE! I actually apologized to her last Friday for my kid being sick and she flat out told me "I GET the mom thing - it's more important for you to be at home with them and it's good that they get it out of their systems before we get too busy here". What a relief that was. In my last job, my male boss would have merely grunted in my direction and then not spoken to me for a couple of days. I am also lucky in that I have a large number of personal days and really great benefits. Knowing that I have the tools at my new office to help me be a better mom is such a weight off of my shoulders.
I have often said that my 8:15-4:30 job is my part time job and the demands of my full time 24/7 volunteer job will always come first, though I will do my best to be a good employee at the job that pays me. Our generation is filled with moms in the same situation. It is a much different world than the one my generation was raised in. Women's lib has made us "equal" in the workplace but it is an imbalanced equality in that we still need to be able to do everything at home like our own mothers did - including being the snuggler when our babies are sick.
Finding Family Friendly Employers
There are many companies that tout themselves as being family friendly. This is actually a criteria for selection on both the Alberta's Top Employers and Canada's Top Employers lists (other provincial lists are available as well).
These are a great place to start looking for a company that will fit well with your family values.
Other things you can look for:
- Ask your mommy friends about the companies they work for. Some real gems can be hidden there. Sometimes a really family friendly company doesn't make a provincial or national list because it doesn't fill ALL of the criteria. Many companies fulfill the "family-friendly" quotient and could be just perfect for your needs
- Is there a workplace daycare? Sometimes having your childcare onsite can fill many of the needs you have - especially in those uncertain days after illness where your kid is too healthy to stay home, but not quite themselves. Being able to drop by might get you back to work quicker. (while my work doesn't have onsite childcare - there are a large number of providers in the neighborhood)
- Research the benefits plans. Many companies post these online now and you can review what your benefits would look like before you even apply. This should be a given even if you aren't a working mom, but I can't tell you how many times I have encountered moms who are dissatisfied and then find out they didn't inquire beforehand. If they don't post the information and you are offered the job - don't be afraid to ask for details before accepting. Knowing how many vacation/sick/personal days you get plus any health-related benefits can give you peace of mind before you enter a new workplace
- In my experience, female managers are more understanding about the demands of motherhood. It's not that a man can't be understanding - particularly the ones with really young kids of their own - but a woman really gets the conundrum
- Know what you want - figure out the degree of flexibility you need so you can make the new job work for you. Do you need flex time, ability to job share or work part time hours? Shorter work days? Adjustable schedules? Ability to work from home? Good leave options? Knowing exactly what you are looking for will help you eliminate those jobs that don't fill the criteria.
What to Ask in the Interview
I realize it is not always easy to dig for more information about a company - particularly when you NEED the job to make ends meet. Asking a few questions might help make the job you NEED also be the employer you WANT.
- What family-friendly policies do you have in place?
- Do people generally work beyond the end of their working hours?
- Do you have a workplace nursery and how many places do you have?
- How many women return to work after maternity leave?
- How many people work flexibly?
Resources and Food for Thought
- Working Mother Magazine - awesome resource for mommies seeking work life balance. They also publish an annual list of mommy friendly companies
- Finding a Truly Family Friendly Employer (Fortune Magazine)
- Family Friendly Workplaces (BBC)
- Are Canadian companies falling behind on family-friendly programs?
- Top Family Friendly Employers (Globe & Mail)