The Real Truth about Flexible Work Schedules


I always knew I would be a working mom. When I became pregnant I never once considered staying home. My husband and I couldn’t afford to be without two incomes at the time, and, honestly, the idea of quitting my job to care for a baby felt alien to me.

Then I had my daughter.

First came the depressing issue of finding–and keeping–quality, affordable childcare. If I wanted to place my little one in a center I would have to make the equivalent of a second mortgage payment every month. (Back then I worked in a building that housed the headquarters of a major corporate entity – why couldn’t they provide a daycare center? That’s a topic for another post.)

When I did find good sitters to care for my daughter in their homes, I struggled to hold onto them. One had to quit due to family problems, and though our current sitter has given us no indication that she’ll be saying goodbye anytime soon, I have learned that you just never know…

The biggest issue for me, however, was the 8:30 to 5:30, Monday through Friday grind.

I didn’t want to quit my job, but I desperately wanted to be able to spend more time with my child. When work got slow, I would sit in my office and feel resentful that I had to be there when I could have been with her. I’m lucky to have skills that can be used wherever I can plug in a laptop, plus I enjoy working in the evenings from the comfort of my living room couch. Why couldn’t I split my time between home and the office? Why couldn’t I be more flexible?

I’m thrilled now to have a job that allows me to do just that. My fellow copywriter Cara blazed the trail in our workplace for flexible work schedules that allow parents to give their best at work and at home. I hope she’ll blog about how she convinced management to let her do a 30-hour work week with one day a week working from the “home office.” She demonstrated how successful it can be, and now several of us are benefiting from it. (Props, also, to Susan–a working mom herself–for being such an open-minded, helpful and, well, flexible boss.)

The opportunity to be flexible is what made me decide to take this job.

I love that my daughter spends more time with me than she does at the sitter’s. I like that, to a certain degree, I can control when and where I work. I don’t consider myself “part time.” In fact, I often find myself working close to full-time hours, I have full responsibility for several projects, and the hours when I do work are more likely to be spent actually working–I can’t gossip at the water cooler when I’m writing from home on a Sunday evening.

All this isn’t to say that the “G” word doesn’t haunt me still. I hate the guilty feeling on Mondays (my day off) that business continues at the office when I’m not there. I dread checking email on Tuesday morning–what if there was an emergency and I wasn’t available to help out?

Working from home on Tuesdays can be challenging with a toddler around; she watches more TV on that day than I’d like. And dragging a crying child out of bed on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays so everybody can make it out the door on time is still no fun.

In general, though, I feel like everybody gets the best of both worlds.

I get the satisfaction of continuing to work, my daughter gets to spend more time with mommy and still hang out three days a week with the sitter, whom she loves, and my workplace gets my best effort because I’m happy, focused, and grateful for the opportunity to be flexible.

6 thoughts on “The Real Truth about Flexible Work Schedules

  1. Sara, you are a great example of a company using flexible work options to attract and retain top female talent. You had what they needed, and they were willing to offer you the flexible arrangement you wanted in order to hire and retain you long-term. If more employers were this smart about hiring working moms, they’d have an easier time of finding and keeping the best performers for the job.

  2. I echo what Susan said. I think that because you are such a talented employee and didn’t back down on your wish for PT employment, you helped make the argument that part-time and flexible work opportunties are valuable assets for a company to offer. I credit you, Cara, and Sue for setting such stunning examples of how these part-time situations can work out so well.

    Now I think I just need to find out where you discovered your babysitter…

  3. Sara, I am envious and proud of your accomplishments. When I was raising my sons (she cringes while adding “back in the day”), we didn’t have flexible work options, and employers thought nothing of asking you about your plans for family — then turning you down flat, if you dared to admit you wanted children at some point. Hurray for us women, that we’ve got more options than ever before. Importantly, mothers of all ages have to support one another, no matter our individual choices or the reasons behind them…That’s part of the beauty of your new blog. Congratulations on that, too, by the way.

  4. Good for you, Sara. Yeah, one day I will post about how I proposed my flex-time schedule. Good suggestion! I’m glad more people are having the oppurtunity to have more flexibly on the job. I’m also very glad that we are proving it can work.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I, too, would be interested in reading how Cara managed to do it. I had an entire proposal for my superiors that included all sorts of options: work from home, part-time, flex time, four-day work week, etc. I got a flat-out no. And after they said no, they said, “please don’t quit.” I was furious and still am. “It’s policy,” is the only reason they gave me, and were not willing to give any part of my proposal a try, even though I had worked from home on several occasions when I was sick at home or after business hours over the past four years.

    I’m now one week back after 12 weeks on leave and still looking for a new job that fits my new life with my son Jonas. It’s a shame they won’t change their antiquated policy. Since I’ve worked for them, they have lost 8 smart, capable, incredible women because of it, and they’ll lose one more as soon as I can find another job!

  6. I will try to write about it in my next post. I promise! It’s funny that they won’t work with you on a flexible schedule, but then beg you not to quit. It’s your life, your career… you have the upper hand. Don’t let them make you feel like you don’t have an option. You do have an option, you can find a new job.

    Here are some other points that I’ll write more about later, but you can always propose a “trial period” of a couple weeks or months. Prove to them that you can make it work.

    It sounds like your employer is losing their most productive employees. I remember reading something that said it’s the “top performers” who are asking for more flexibile benefits–they’re the employees that have the motivation to make it work. “Larry-the-complainer-cubicle-guy” would never propose a flexible schedule. It’s much easier for him just to sit back and complain about his job, go sit at his desk from 9 to 5 and pretend he’s working (although he’s really playing video games and updating his My Space page.)

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