By Natasha Kwachka, Employee Benefits Service Manager
Taking the road less traveled has always been my specialty (insight into why some days I literally look as if a train may have run me over). I’m a mom of four and a full-time working professional, a modern feat for sure. And let me tell you, working mom life can be rough. Have you ever tried to round up four spectacular, amazing, beautiful children at 5am, all on different scales of the growth chart? This is not for the faint of heart. Somedays it sounds and feels a whole lot like Jurassic World right at the crack of dawn. Herding cats is an understatement.
As a mom, I have found the confines of traditional work models to be an uphill battle that I have struggled with most of my life. I know there are more than a few of you that can relate to this. Traditional work hours of Monday – Friday, 8am-5pm, make it very difficult to accommodate the average school drop-off and pick-up. Now factor in before school and after school programs for each kid to get the extra 1.5 hours of work time, which can cost a fortune. This is not a debate article on finances, nor is it negating the fact that those programs are necessary and worth the cost. In my opinion, those who care for other people should be the highest paid members of society… but that is a conversation for another day. So, let’s keep reading to find out just where we are headed. It’s good, I promise.
Take parent life out of this equation for a second. Do you ever have days where you open your eyes, and as your eyes slowly open you know immediately your day, on every level, would go so much better with just one, tiny, extra hour of sleep? Days where you struggle to keep your mental focus because you are stuck adhering to a traditional work model. Where did this model even originate from? My 10-year-old son has asked me countless times over, “Who even decided you should go to work at 8am mom? Why can’t you go at 9am or 10am?” When he is the President one day, I have high hopes he will investigate all of this (wink wink).
Having worked in the traditional setting year after year, where life just felt hard for countless reasons, I am happy to say there are employers out there that will value you. There are leaders that will see you as an individual and evaluate your needs. I have been seen in this way, and now I am blessed with the flexibly to better balance my work and mom duties. If you can do the job (and do it well) does it really matter if you are logged in at 8am or 9am? Of course, there are some people that must be present for the front lines. Clients coming into the office or calling the phone lines must be attended and I am not here to argue that fact. I am not saying that you should have a free for all, but what’s wrong with flexing schedules? That is where teamwork makes the dream work. Working together as a team to make sure phones and clients coming into the office are being greeted appropriately leads to happy employees that want to show up for their employers. Employees who deliver an excellent client experience every time there is an interaction.
Flexibility can come in so many forms. It could be 2 months that you came into the office at 7:30am so you could leave by 4:30pm to take your little one to basketball practice and finally be present. Do you know what a relief it would be to not be the mom always asking another parent to give their kid a ride because you will be working? Even though you are working you still want your child to have the opportunities to participate in their interests. They are only kids once!
Even having the ability to work remote while your 4 year old is running an extreme temperature would make all the difference. Especially when all she really needs is Mommy next her while she sleeps. Let’s be real, mommy can work on the computer 90% of that time and only breaking when she needs to be the bridge carrying a popsicle from the freezer to her sweet child’s hand. Fun fact, endless supplies of popsicles always come with a cold at my house because they magically relieve sore throats in the 10 min period my kiddo is awake. Kids are so resilient!
Do you know the emotional and mental stress parents can go through in these instances? Do you know what I would have given to be able to show up for my oldest son like this? To have had this flexibility at work allowing me to be more present for him? How many professionals are fighting this same uphill battle?
Rocky starts make for magnificent stories, I am told. We will see how that all shakes out. My rocky start has been softened by my employer’s recognition that flexibility is key. To be present and know your child can look to the sidelines and see you smiling back at them. To be present and know your child feels safe despite their sickness just because you are there. That, my friends, is absolutely priceless. These small things make a huge difference to the most important people in your life. The people you go to work to support, your family. These people are the sun in my world and my world does not spin without them.
I am not saying that our traditional work setup or work values are wrong. But I do wonder, is there a future world where more people can have better work life balance? Can we change the lens we view life through? When I think about what I want in life, two things come to mind. I really want to be a Rockstar Mom and I would really love to be a Successful Professional at the same time. Showing up for my kids and family, AND contributing to my work in a meaningful, valued, and productive way is something I feel strongly about.
A world where your employer sees you, sees you alone, sees you as a valued member of their team, sees you as the amazing person you are and wants to support, uplift, and encourage every part of you, all while working together rocking the professional world… well, that world is by far one of the coolest places I have ever been. I can confidently say that I will show up for my employer on sick days, after hours, and any day of the year if they need me. Why? Because my employer heard my needs.