Today’s new mothers often find themselves caught between their drive to become a strong, successful career woman and their desire to fulfill the more traditional role of stay-at-home caregiver. But now, thanks to modern technology, progressive companies and a population that demands work life balance, it’s actually possible to achieve both. Many different factors can influence how successful such a partnership will be, but ultimately there are two primary components that must be in place for this to work.
First, your employer, obviously, must be on board. While there are still many companies with rigid policies that aren’t likely to allow such an arrangement, smartphones, remote access and a round-the-clock work mentality have given flexibility to a growing number of employers. Hours are no longer 9-5, and the jobsite can be anywhere Wi-Fi is available. The key here is not to assume that working from home isn’t an option, just because an official program for working mothers doesn’t exist at your company. Prepare a formal proposal that you can present to your employer that includes estimated hours, suggested pay and an outline of duties to be performed. Most importantly, you must demonstrate your continued value to the company. For example, your clients might find more benefit from the long-term relationship they share with you and would prefer scaled back hours over the hassle and inconvenience of training a new account member. Or perhaps you possess an invaluable skill that won’t be easy to replace. You might also be in a position to forgo full time benefits, and instead remain on as a part time or contract employee, thus resulting in less overhead for your employer. If you can get creative, and if your employer is open-minded, there’s a good chance an arrangement can be made that satisfies you both. It’s worth a try and remember, you don’t get what you don’t ask for.
Second, you must be mentally and physically committed to making this work, which means a great deal of sacrifice on your part. Children change rapidly in the early years, meaning your time and attention will change just as quickly. A schedule that worked perfectly one week may not work at all the next. Sleep when your baby is sleeping? Forget about it. Every minute of downtime, you’ll be squeezing work in, often late at night when you’re sleep deprived and exhausted. Familiarize yourself with your phone’s mute button, because you’ll be changing diapers and tending to tantrums while conducting conference calls. Household chores will have to take a back seat or hopefully, a helpful spouse can pick up your slack. Again, the key here is to get creative and work with your employer to take on projects or clients that are conducive to your new situation. Tasks that aren’t as time sensitive and don’t require regular direct interaction with others are best – no matter how understanding your client or colleague is, screaming or even babbling children are not professional and will not be tolerated for long. Ideally, family, friends or a babysitter can step in to help when you need to lead calls or attend meetings.
Every mother’s situation is unique, so it will be up to you to customize a plan that works for both you and your employer. And, both you and your employer must be willing to allow that plan to evolve – anyone who’s had a child knows to always expect the unexpected. But if you can make this work, the benefits are numerous – you’ll continue to bring in income, you’ll stay in touch with the professional world making a future transition back to full time considerably easier, and most importantly, you can spend your days with your little one during the most impressionable years of his or her life.