Work-Family-Life Balance and Having it All (Whatever That Means)

So I’m mapping out a maternity plan for work.

Last time around, it wasn’t like this. Because I worked for a large company, I was promised a job after three months. I had a huge team in my department to take up my slack. My boss could hire a temp if things got nuts. That gave me peace of mind. I had benefits, so I could go on short-term disability and still get paid a little bit. Not 100 percent, but at least it was something. America’s maternity leave laws are embarrassing compared to other countries, but something is better than nothing. So yeah, all I had to do was sign a few documents in the HR office and I could rest knowing I could enjoy my new baby for a few months and my livelihood and income would be waiting for me on the other side.

But it was not all rosy on the other side. My vision to work from home a few days a week on a long-term basis was not in the cards after I returned. I knew this before my  leave, which is why I spent most of my maternity job hunting. The company was young, the owners were young, the workforce was young. The culture was cutthroat and ambitious. We were all replaceable. The idea of me working from home was worrisome to leadership – uncharted territory. They feared I would be the first of many people to want to work at home. Plus, could I pull it off? They didn’t consider my tenure or value my many above-and-beyond contributions or the fact that I was a new parent now facing a three-hour car, train and bus commute. So they didn’t care if I left. They would replace me and/or divvy up my tasks. Sometimes it takes a huge life change to see once and for all your employer’s true colors. I never want to work for a company that doesn’t trust me or value me or care about my quality of life. I am thankful every day I am far away from my old job even if I did take a huge pay cut to get here. Money shmoney. For real.

This time around, I’m again charting new territory. I work for a very small private company that’s never dealt with a new parent. In fact, I was the last “new parent” to work here when I began three years ago. I don’t have benefits here. No HR department to lean on. I’m the only person who does what I do here. So I’m crafting a plan that I hope won’t burden others. One that will continue to demonstrate my long-term dedication to the company. But most importantly, one that I can live with. I feel lucky every day to work for a boss with the high-quality of character that mine possesses. She trusts me, she values me, she believes in me. She’s seen me pull rabbits out of hats. She knows I take my role here seriously. I believe in the product and I can use the money. Still, I feel like I have a lot to prove given this unique opportunity to create my own work-family balance – my attempt to “have it all.”

In my universe, it’s important to do quality, challenging work that I enjoy for people I respect, bring in a little income for my family and spend quality time with my brood. That, to me, is “having it all.”

As I write this, I can’t help but be reminded of the summer issue of the Atlantic with the mom and the baby in the briefcase on the cover. The story, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” is a brilliant and even encouraging piece despite its title. I highly recommend it. Parts made me angry about our hypocritical society. Parts made me super proud to be a working mom and thankful for those who paved the way so I can do both. Parts made me optimistic for working moms of the future. I cried when she talked about how people on their deathbeds regret working to much/parenting too little. So I think life’s too short not to at least attempt having it all – whatever that might mean to you.

Here’s what I want to know: How do you as a parent attempt to have it all? What does that even mean to you? Tell me about your struggles and accomplishments in finding that work-family balance. Tell me about the values of the people you work for – are they accommodating? Family oriented? Does it matter? Did your outlook on what you wanted in an employer change after something major happened in your life whether it was a move, a new baby, a spouse losing his or her job or having to take care of an aging family member? I’d like to get some more insight on this.

Photo: Phillip Toledano


2 Responses to “Work-Family-Life Balance and Having it All (Whatever That Means)”

  1. 1 norah October 16, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Dude- we both posted “HOW DO WE HAVE IT ALL!??!?!?!” blogs at the exact same time.

  1. 1 The Past Two Weeks Like Whoa! « Mommy's Alright Trackback on November 13, 2012 at 5:15 pm

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