I was one of the lucky ones. As a Senior Manager at a top consulting firm with a 4 year-old son and twins on the way, I was offered options. The firm was very serious about providing a family friendly workplace, so I could have taken maternity leave and then come back to flexible assignment. With twins on the horizon, I decided to leave, but felt fortunate that the choice was mine and I had great options should I decide to stay. Many parents don’t have it so easy, working for companies that don’t have family friendly workplace policies, and forced to make difficult tradeoffs to achieve work/life balance.
After my twins were in preschool, I explored options to get back to work and decided to start my “career 2.0” by working in social media. Writing and consulting projects in social media offer the flexibility to work at home, but there were, and years later still are, many tech events and meetings that I needed to attend. so I did the juggle of working with my husband’s work schedule and finding a sitter.
I was lucky to have a husband who contributed an equal partner in parenting, as well as a mother nearby and some reliable sitters available. While our family’s work-life balance was truly a balancing act, with multiple support options available I have been able to pull it off so far. In my book, “My Parent Plan“, I talk about the process of planning for childcare. Even if it is well anticipated and managed, it is still a challenge because there is never an easy solution to manage both the anticipated and unanticipated in life. Balancing the schedules of younger kids needing a sitter, as well as working through after school programs for older kids, is sometimes nearly impossible to plan.
If I had a national task force to solve this issue, I would try to do the following:
1. Use the power of local communities: I would love to see each local community accept the responsibility of helping organize local (safe) afterschool programs. There are so many people out of work (including teachers). What if local governments could help match qualified local professionals with nearby afterschool programs. Communities could team up with fitness centers (such as the YMCA or JCC’s) to use available space for needed family services.
2. Take Your Kids To Work (when possible). Let’s face it, not every workplace is a good fit for parents to share with their kids (and many kids are in school all day). How about expanding telecommuting options so if it fits with the job – parents can utilize all the modern communication technology out there and work from home more often. Or what if some conferences and workplaces that were flexible offered childcare, allowed parents to bring their kids or offer supervised activities for kids? After years of seeing parents taking their kids to the BlogHer Conferences, I was not surprised to see yet another year of childcare announced for BlogHer13. BlogHer is a great role model for incorporating a family friendly “conference” environment.
I have already seen many great examples of parents (moms and dads) taking their kids to work. The Huffington post shared a picture of Licia Ronzulli with her toddler at European Parliament and Mom101 discussed what a family friendly work environment looks like with a picture of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand being sworn in holding her child. Unicef and many other organizations recognize “Parents should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance to fulfill their responsibilities within the community and to their children“. The New York Times just recently published an article that discussed “For more than two decades the demands and hours of work have been intensifying. Yet progress in adopting family-friendly work practices and social policies has proceeded at a glacial pace. ”
To help move the discussion of family friendly work environments forward I want to call on the power of social media to share #FamilyFriendlyWork success stories. I hope this will ignite the discussion and show that creating a family friendly workplace is possible. Keep in mind, I do believe a family friendly work environment does not mean everyone should bring their kids to work, it means that parents can have the support to either find the right childcare or include their kids in relevant work experiences when possible. What better way to inspire our own kids to create their own career goals?
CALL TO ACTION:
Please comment below with your family friendly work environment ideas, success stories or links to blog posts (or any social media) or websites that discuss this. For those parents that want to share links to pictures of their #FamilyFriendlyWork please do so. It can happen!
I took my 14 year old son to a tech conference (he even received his own press badge) as my cameraman and video editor!
If you post or share, please use the hashtag #familyfriendlywork and share your ideas (and links) as comments to this post.
Disclosure: This post is just my own way of trying to further the discussion of family friendly work environments…