August 31, 2010
It's a tough balancing act: finding child care while working full time. Can you leave early to relieve the sitter, or maybe to see your son's soccer game? Parents are constantly trying to be everywhere at once. How can we be proactive parents without causing resentment at the office?
"The last boss I worked for took objection to the fact that small children take ill often and required to be taken to the doctor," says Diane Beaulieu, a working mother of three from West Chicago. "I had to work weekends and nights to stay on top of my work load."
But more companies are trying to work with their parenting employees, according to Bernadette Patton, president of the Human Resources Management Association of Chicago.
"In today's environment, companies are trying to attract and retain the best talent," says Patton. "They want to accommodate workers with child care, but also elder care and flexible hours … anything to build morale."
More and more moms are turning to online networking for support. "We call ourselves a community of moms empowering moms," says Kelli Thompson, founder of NapervilleMomsNetwork.com. The online group, which started in December of 2009, is now over 500 strong and growing. "I was having concerns about balancing my home life with work, and I figured the one thing that would make it easier was having connection and support with other moms going through the same thing."
Going into the office everyday isn't the only way to be productive. Every company on workingmother.com's 100 Best Companies list offers telecommuting and flexible schedules, while 86 percent provide back-up child care and 62 percent provide sick child care.
Still, it is a fine line. "As much as people understand family/balance issues, work is work," says Tania Licata, a working mom from Naperville. "I had to make a career change to meet my child care needs. To be understanding and accommodating is a fine line."
One company that seems to be ahead of the curve is Abbott Laboratories. They offer mother's-to-be counseling and breastfeeding education. After returning from their six week fully paid maternity leave, new moms can take advantage of "lactation stations" at the office. There's also a child-care center which will look after kids from birth to kindergarten.
Want to spend more time with the kids while you work? Get a gig with Lilly, in Indianapolis. This pharmaceutical firm gives workers company laptops so they can work offsite, and encourages employees to spend time at home with their families by arranging telecommuting.
"Work is distributed, so it's about performance," says Patton. "The question is how can you help employees and get the best performance to create a win/win?"
Here are five tips to getting that "win/win" with your work situation.
--Be upfront and honest with your boss. "Nobody likes surprises," says Licata.
--Find a support group or online parenting community. "You never know what kind of leads you'll find when you reach out," says Thompson.
--Go into the conversation with your boss with a plan. "Don't expect your boss to come up with solutions to YOUR scheduling issue," says Licata.
--Seek companies whose culture fits your family's needs. "A happy mom is more important than how much money we earn," says Beaulieu.
--Don't be afraid to ask for what you need. "In today's world, it's about conducting business WHILE tending to your family life," says Patton. "Then everyone thrives."
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