Before I went on maternity leave I swore blind I’d be back in 6 months, bored out of my brain.
Then I had the baby.
I feel like I owe a HUGE apology to all parents now. I was an idiot before. I just had no concept of how hard life after a baby was. And I certainly had absolutely NO concept of how hard working parental life is.
Now, after taking the full 12 months’ maternity leave (6 months was seriously optimistic), I’m working full-time again. My daughter O is going to a childminder’s, and I feel like life has a precarious balance.
If everyone’s not ill (rarely), my husband and I split the pick-ups and drop-offs between us. O goes to the childminder and I clock-off at 4.30pm in time to begin the commute home from North London to collect her at 6pm.
If illness descends, all the routines we’ve tried to establish implode and we’re left relying on the good will of colleagues while we drag a poorly toddler onto the NHS merry-go-round.
I frequently get anxious about letting work down. I regularly worry that my career is permanently stalled. And I constantly convince myself I’m not doing the ‘right thing’ by my daughter.
Flexibility – the key to productivity?
The working world is crying out for a more flexible approach, and it seems the evidence is that flexible working benefits everyone. This Stanford study reveals that Flexibility May Be the Key to Increased Productivity, and it’s hard to argue with the evidence.
Over a nine month period they found that flexible workers:
- achieved more
- were off sick less often
- worked longer hours
- were happier in their work
These findings were replicated in a recent study, which found that employees who were placed on a flexibility program were both happier at work and less prone to burnout and psychological stress than their colleagues who were not on the program. (~Forbes)
I’m fortunate that my application for flexible working was approved. I work in the office three days a week, and two days from home. My job allows for this because I help to manage an online discussion forum.
I use my office days to meet with colleagues, attend training sessions, and have one-to-ones with my manager. Home working days are great for report building and writing, and there’s the added bonus of being able to pick up O a bit earlier.
I realise I’ve got nothing to complain about. But I’m conscious that the majority of working parents are not getting the same access to flexible working that I am.
And I’ve only got one kid. And my husband does a lot of the care. And we can afford childcare. Just.
What about single parents, those with multiple kids, and families with low incomes? There’s no pretending that their lives aren’t challenging enough without work being shitty about them wanting a bit of flexibility so they can pick their kids up from school, or be there in time for bedtime.
I can see things are getting better but, as with most things, it’s wealthy families that are benefiting first.
The future is flexible
I want to see a day when all employees are offered a degree of flexibility in their working. I understand that for some roles, this just isn’t possible, but I bet there are ways round it for most – from job shares to compressed hours and out-of-hours, seasonal or term-time working.
The employers who resist this are the ones that are going to end up with the burned out, disenfranchised workers. People who see that their friends are being offered flexibility elsewhere will ditch their current employers’ arcane ways of working in favour of a more progressive approach.
I love my daughter. I love my job. And I really like being able to have both. Flexible working works for us and, without it, we’d really struggle financially.
Part of the problem?
I’d like to sign-off by asking you to read the amazing post below, by vlogger Mother_Pukka. In my experience, it’s not the (very few) cases that reach court which represent discrimination in today’s workforce, but the everyday, insidious injustices that are carried out, almost without thought.
As long as people in positions of seniority refuse to entertain flexible solutions, they’re perpetuating the problem:
We’re now more connected than ever before and, fortunately, most people have the right to request flexible working.
If your place of work doesn’t support flexible working, maybe it’s time they did. A sea-change is happening in the workforce and, like the tide, there’s no turning it.
Flexible working websites:
Some handy resources I came across recently when I joined the fantastic Flexible Working for Mums Facebook Group: