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Time at Home: Flexible Schedules & Work-Life Balance for Working Moms

By on Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The New York Times profiled on Sunday the story of working mom Sarah Uttech, who works from home one day a week from her job managing member communications for an agricultural association. The story, “Coveting Not a Corner Office, But Time at Home,” has garnered more than 450 comments.

Writer Catherine Rampell contrasts Uttech’s approach with the “lean in” advice of Sheryl Sandberg and notes Anne-Marie Slaughter’s highly-debated Atlantic essay on what has to change for women to be successful in the workplace.

What the writer finds remarkable about Uttech are her priorities – that family comes first and that work is fit around family life. Even so, Uttech works in an office four days a week and manages a grind familiar to many working moms – using her crock pot and freezer to prep meals for the week, multitasking kids needs alongside others, and trying to be a highly productive employee when she is working.

The author notes factors that led to the association agreeing to Uttech working at home one day a week, and what is surprising is how often others seem to judge Uttech for getting this great accommodation to her family life:

“People have said to me, ‘It’s not fair that you get to work from home! I want to work from home,’ ” she said. “And I say, ‘Well, have you asked?’ And they’re like, ‘No, no, I could never do that. My boss would never go for it.’ So I say, ‘Well you should ask, and you shouldn’t hold it against me that I did.’ ”

Perhaps that is one of our greatest problems in addressing work/life balance issues – our unwillingness to accept a solution that makes someone else different from the rest of us. Instead of rejoicing that someone found a way to make it work – we clamor jealously for the same benefit ourselves, even if it might not be what we need.

Personally – I find achieving work-life balance to be extremely difficult but an important goal to strive for. Being at home at least three days per week (in an ideal week) puts me in proximity to my young daughter and relieves commuting stress. It also saves time (when you commute 2.5 to 3 hours a day on a day you commute this is huge) that I can use for client work.

I can do some work after hours – but it is still challenging even when working at home to make it all happen. And like many working moms – I use the weekends for laundry time and prep some meals in advance – even though I work from home quite a bit.

But being nearby at home during the work day doesn’t make me an engaged parent, if I am pounding away on a computer. calling back a reporter, and distracted by a writing project. I take breaks and time away from my desk to check on my daughter’s day but the emotional tug of a young child who wants mommy is strong. And sometimes sitting at that desk is hard. Today my daughter is going to the zoo with my husband and some of her preschool friends, and I’m wishing I could tag along – but I can’t. It makes me a bit sad.

What works for you in balancing work and family life?

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design work for publications and websites (portfolio). Ami blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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