Throughout the past few weeks, the flexible work schedule topic is center stage with top companies like Yahoo and Best Buy announcing that telecommuting and a “results only work environment,” respectively, are coming to an end. I realize that at the core of these companies’ decisions may be the pressure from investors to turn around their business, but it ultimately hints that women working from home are not as effective as those in the office. I can’t help immediately think of how this affects the women who rely on the flexible work options to more effectively raise a family and earn a living.
I’m not here to rant about these companies’ decisions but rather to provide a point of view on this topic as a female who often contemplates the need for a flexible work environment because her spouse has a full-time job “away from home.” What does one do if their current career path doesn’t allow for a work-from-home option or even a part-time option? I work in an agency and often feel the options are limited or slim to none. And it’s not just my current agency; it’s the general sentiment among the industry. I mostly agree with the author of this article on Digiday about “Why Agencies Can’t Work From Home,” because by nature creative services are collaborative and excel when physical and impromptu interactions are possible; however, I disagree with his statement that account people are generally exempt from the rule of having to be in the office all day for collaboration-sake. Making an exception for one discipline only encourages others to feel disenchanted and causes friction between team members who are supposed to work together for their client’s sake. But I digress…
Before we considered starting a family, figuring out the work / family question was a non-issue, something we could figure out down the road as I was chasing my career goals and he focused on his. But now, as we turn toward the future with little ones in mind, is one of us forced to give up our chosen career path with the ultimate desire to raise a family? Or resort to a full-time nanny to nurse and nurture our children while both mom and dad are away from the homestead? I’m not here to judge decisions on that issue because I believe it’s each person’s right to choose what you desire, and one of my new favorite bloggers (thanks to my sister!), Momastery, speaks to those points and more in a recent post.
But with so many unanswered questions and lack of choices on the issue, it’s no wonder this time of life causes so much anxiety and mixed emotions among women.
The workplace debate heated up this week with the launch of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. To quote USA Today (no, I have not read the book yet): “The book, though dotted with career advice, details why American business largely remains a man’s game, and what women — and men — can do to change that mindset. She details the insults and points the finger back at a culture that she says still doesn’t fully comprehend the hurdles women face.”
While I can’t find any shame in a woman bringing the topic into a national spotlight, my feelings toward the movement started by Yahoo exec Marissa Mayer and Sandberg mirror closely the thoughts in this USA Today column, The New Mommy Wars, published on February 25th. “The message coming from these C-suite moms is less about empowerment and accountability than it is about guilt. Guilt for women wanting to work remotely in order to manage their lives and provide for their families. Guilt for not acting with more ambition. Guilt for daring to put their children and spouses on equal footing with their careers.”
So to tie this all together, there are no easy answers. There are only complex questions that will become even more twisted and complicated as the public debate heats up. What is good is that we are as a society talking about it, and loudly. For better or for worse, I agree we need to increase the national and societal dialogue about the new mommy wars. Can we have it all? Depends on your definition of “all.” And that definition varies widely among us ALL.
If you have a significant other who travels frequently, I encourage you to share your thoughts about my post. What works for you and your spouse or family? How did you arrive at your decision to work, not work, or seek out a flexible work option? And, can’t we all just win the lottery? That would solve everything, right? ; )