Every other week, I will be guest blogging at FlexPaths.com…Check out my most recent post below:
Last week I asked a friend who doesn’t have children her thoughts on Lisa Belkin’s article in The New York Times about equal parenting. She responded, “It made it look so hard, I can see why women choose to stay home. It seems easier” Then she asked what I thought, and I was somewhat surprised by my response, “I guess I wonder whoever told us this would be easy. The couples in the article are trying.”
A week later I found myself in a similar situation. This time an individual was asking me what she should do because her company’s CEO had outlawed all types of flexibility (short-sighted CEOs is a subject for a whole other blog) and her manager could no longer accommodate her need to work from home. I suggested she should try to work something out with her manager, because she’d be surprised how much flexibility continues to happen under the official corporate radar-screen. And then, I explained, if that didn’t work out she may have to make another decision. I found out later she was disappointed with my advice because she wanted to know “What I should do?” I found myself thinking, “There’s no easy answer, and you may have to quit. But at least you should try to work something out before walking out the door because you might be surprised.”
Twice in two weeks, I’d had the same response—“It’s not easy,” and “You need to try.” Being actively engaged in how you manage your work and life is not always easy. It requires time, attention, conscious thought, decision-making, redefining success and patience. But, really, in today’s 24/7, high-tech, global work reality, do we have any other choice?
To my colleague, the path of least resistance for a parent seemed to be the decision to “stay home.” This is what a lot of people think. But the truth is that choice isn’t always easy. One of my closest friends, Laurie, is a stay-at-home mom who often talks about how hard that choice can be not only on the mom, but the dad:
“In general parenting is not easy. But whether you work or stay-at-home with your kids there’s guilt and second-guessing. It’s just different. There’s guilt because your husband is under so much pressure as the sole breadwinner, so you feel you should pick up the slack with everything else. But it’s not possible to do this full-time parenting job from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm full-tilt everyday alone without going insane, so you rely on your husband to also relieve you. This adds even more pressure on him. If you stay home, there’s pressure you put on yourself, even if your husband doesn’t expect a lot, to have the house clean all the time, cook meals every night, etc. and you just can’t. Finally, the fact is your kids do grow up. You come to the end of this phase and start facing the question, what do I do now? And that’s huge. No, staying home is not the easy path of least resistance it is too often perceived to be.”
And as far as what you do if your company doesn’t have an official flexibility strategy, or if you work for a manager who is perceived to be unsupportive, you still need to try. Create a flexibility plan that considers your needs as well as the needs of the business, and propose it for a 90-day trial period. Why? Because you might be pleasantly surprised by your manager’s response to a well-thought out plan, particularly if you are a valued employee. And, how is anything ever going to change if we all just keep quitting without saying anything when we don’t get the flexibility we want. We need to try to make change happen, or we are going to run of places to go! Is it easy? No, and in the end you may have to quit. But at least you will know you’ve tried.
Flexibly managing your work and life does take effort, but the potential of finding a solution that meets your needs as well as the needs of the business makes the effort all worth it. And once we realize that there are no easy answers, whether it’s staying home with your kids or quitting an inflexible job without first proposing a solution, maybe we will begin to find more answers for ourselves.
What do you think? Did anyone ever tell you managing your work and life would be easy? Do you think there are choices that are easier than others? Do you think you should try to propose a flexibility plan before you quit an inflexible job?