A corporate culture that was perfect for your childless lifestyle may not fit your new family way of living. If the nature of your job or employer makes it impossible for you to achieve that delicate work/home balance, it's probably time to change direction with a new employer.
Family-Friendly Companies: What to Look For
Few organizations will admit to being family
Finding out about flextime options when you're in the process of interviewing can be a sticky situation. In many organizations arrangements like telecommuting are still reserved as a privilege for those who have proven their value to the company. Unless the job description includes flexible working arrangements, you're better off not inquiring directly about the possibility. Instead ask broad questions about available benefits and the average work day, which will reveal the information in due course.
You can look to resources like business-focused local and national media as a starting point. (Both
Flexibility. Does the company have written policies on options like flextime, job-sharing, and telecommuting?
Lactation facilities. Are there comfortable areas dedicated to breastfeeding or breast milk pumping? If not, is your employer willing to provide an appropriate private space?
Paid paternity leave. Are dads given time off for a new baby, either with pay or at least without prejudice? If a policy is in place, is it used successfully?
On-site childcare or childcare assistance. If your workplace doesn't have on-site or sponsored childcare, does it offer enrollment in a flexible spending account that allows you to save up to $5,000 tax free to pay childcare expenses?
Time-saving perks. These run the gamut from on-site dry cleaning and retail services to employee concierge services that can run small errands for you.
Value placed on education. Corporate-sponsored scholarships for children of employees, tuition assistance, and mentorship programs with local schools are a few ways a company can express the value of education.
Flextime, Telecommuting, and Other Options
Even if your company doesn't have established flexible working options, it can't hurt to pitch such an idea to your supervisor or to the human resources department. There's always a first, and you would be blazing the trail for others who follow.
Realize, however, that your job position needs to be conducive to the arrangement you're suggesting. If you have a computer-intensive desk job that could be performed remotely with a simple dial-up or cable connection, you're more likely to get a telecommuting arrangement than a receptionist whose job description requires a physical presence. Consider what type of flexible arrangement your position would work with. For example, a job-sharing arrangement might be perfect for the receptionist position.
Create a proposal that is well-researched and realistic. Outline in specific terms what you want out of the arrangement, including hours and logistical requirements (such as home computer equipment). Cover your contingencies, such as your availability for on site-meetings even when you aren't scheduled to be at the office.
Make sure you note the potential benefits to your employer as well. If office space is at a premium in your building, for example, a telecommuting arrangement will free up your desk for other employees. If your employer has no track record of flexible scheduling, the resulting boost in employee morale and company image can be a reputation enhancement.
I want to keep breastfeeding at work, but my company doesn't have lactation facilities. Any suggestions?
Talk to your human resources department about options at your workplace. Sometimes an unused storage area or empty office can be a temporary solution. If all else fails, you might be able to arrange sharing space with a sympathetic coworker who has an office.
Just asking about such a facility signals your willingness to consider greener pastures without an accommodation of your needs. If that happens, your employer loses time, talent, and money — three valuables corporate America wants to grow, not squander. Make it easy for your company to say yes by putting together a well-considered and realistic proposal.
Full-Time at Home
Becoming a full-time mom is an exciting new venture for many women. If you can afford to stay home without working for someone else, go for it. Pouring your skills and knowledge into parenthood can be enormously fulfilling, and in fact is probably the most rewarding job you'll ever have.
Finally, consider the possibility of forging your own family-friendly path. In today's wired world, many occupations lend themselves to home-based work — writing, income tax preparation, desktop publishing, and web design are naturals. If the field you currently work in is unfulfilling and you'd like to make a change, look to the hobbies you enjoy for some ideas. Refinishing antiques, creating crafts for retail, sewing, and painting are a few activities that might be a good fit for a new career. Starting something new is never easy, but just experiencing the miracle of your developing child can help you envision widening possibilities.