More Moms Are Working But on Their Own Terms

Amy Keyishian

Working MomWhat we’ve always been told is that working moms can have it all -- as long as we learn to do it all, and perfectly: juggling childcare and being a stellar worker (and supportive, exciting wives in the bargain). The net result is that working moms feel like no matter how fast they run, they’re letting someone down.

That’s just how it is, though: your work is your work, your home is your home, and since neither is flexible, you have to be.

Except there’s a growing trend with moms working but on their own terms, after being shoved out of the workplace. Lo and behold, having these powerful and intelligent women as a resource turns out to be so valuable, the workplace is changing to accommodate them.

But who’s coming out ahead here?

High-powered professionals with advanced degrees and years of experience often have the desire (and the need) to keep contributing in a professional environment, but because moms are generally the ones who have to run home for puke or pink-eye, we’re often the ones least valued.

(I don’t mean to denigrate dads who also do the heavy lifting, by the way. My own husband finds himself unwelcome in the industry he formerly flourished in partially because he’s no longer willing to work “startup hours,” e.g. “all weekend if we say so,” which is totally the norm in the Bay Area. So I should say “parents,” but I’m saying “moms” because show me one dad who reads this blog.)

So according to the Washington Post, women who have quit or been pushed out of their jobs are finding their way back into their industries by working as consultants, freelancers, and part-timers. They do it because they love the flexibility and the ability to be on-call for their kids. And I applaud workplaces that understand that you can't always replace a particular, excellent worker and therefore make these concessions.

But the price sounds high. For one thing, freelancers and contractors don’t get health-care; part-timers rarely do -- a part-time job with health-care is like the Holy Grail of mom jobs.

For another thing, contractors and part-timers work harder. I know that when I worked a full-time job, I felt free to screw around and found life in the office to be quite relaxing. Now that I work at home, I have a little timer that tells me how many billable hours I have worked, and if I spend five minutes on the Internet, I feel guilty and awful. That makes me a better worker, but it means I work harder than the equivalent in-house person -- so when corporations complain that employees who work from home are somehow a drain on their resources, they’re full of Pamper-stuffing.

We’re supposed to charge more per hour to make up for the loss of health care and other full-time benefits (like the office kitchen and its burned coffee), but we women are notoriously bad at asking for what we’re worth.

Bottom line: I am glad that there are now many different options. In the '50s and '60s, moms had to fight just for the right to work, and many moms even now find that the “family values” we claim to love so much go right out the window when they have to make a choice between paying rent and being on-call for their kids. But it does seem to be getting better.

I just want to keep reminding people that we don’t have to apologize for rearranging our work schedules. Corporations will act like they are doing us this big freaking favor for “letting” us care for our kids and finish up work at 11 p.m., when in fact all they’re doing is barely making a concession to the most important job anyone can do. The more time we spend hands-on with our kids, the more likely they are to be productive and useful members of society themselves -- it’s a win-win situation.

So don’t act like this new trend is anything but what we working moms (and our kids) deserve.

Have you worked in a flexible office? Did you work harder? Did they make you feel guilty about it?

Image via Perfection1908/CafeMom

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