I have a good friend who knows this experience well. She has been at her company a long time. She is smart, hard-working, and well-deserving of the promotion that should have come to her years ago. Still, she realizes that by aggressively fighting for and getting it, she may be signing up for a trade-off she’s not willing to make. Does she want the promotion more than the ability to leave at 5pm every day and be home for dinner with her girls at 6pm? Is the professional success she’s earned worth the fundamental loss of personal flexibility her work schedule currently affords her? While I’m currently a stay at home Mom, I sympathized with her largely because my husband is currently struggling with the same scenario. He has aggressively pursued his promotion over the past year, but done so at a high price. The travel, the hours – the writing was clear: work first, everything else later. Ultimately, he got the promotion and was happy, sort of. But also kind of miserable because he’d spent the past year doing nothing but working and missed his home, his family, his kids – himself.
So it struck that me what we are really talking about here is not really just a working mom conundrum but a working parent problem and the greater question as a society that we have to answer, is how can we incentivize and educate our corporate culture on the idea that efficiency, more than hours clocked, and miles logged, matters more to their bottom line. What systems can we share out to promote the idea of working smart, not working long so that being effective and high performing in the office, doesn’t mean checking out at home?
I’ve always said that happy mamas make happy babies but I think the same fundamental precept is true here again: happy people make happy and ultimately productive workers. It’s time that we as a culture stop thinking in terms of trade offs and start structuring our time in non-traditional and more efficient ways to encourage working parents to go for that brass ring, while still being able to make the last out of their kid’s game. This group of women and men are struggling and subsequently stifling their potential contributions and innovation both at work and home. The problem is not unique to women. Increasing flexible schedules and thinking on both ends will unlock our potential to be both great parents and leaders.