The Secret to Happy Working Moms

“I can bring home the bacon. Fry it up in a pan. And never let you forget you’re a man.”

Those words were the very definition of a “24-hour woman” in a classic ’70s  perfume commercial. (Let’s not even talk about the nasty stench of that cheap fragrance.) Can you imagine the same ad running today? How long would the 30 second commercial have to be in order to fit in all that Mom juggles; kids’ activities, carpool, paying bills, running a house … and how about trying to maintain a healthy relationship (or do it all herself) with a 50% divorce rate? Not to mention toss in the added stress of the “sandwich generation” (around 43.5 million Americans taking care of a family member over 50); you’ve got enough to jam-pack an entire week into one day for today’s “24-hour woman.”

Of course she’s also expected to fit in a career, right?

As part of the White House Forum for Workplace Flexibility, the Council of Economic Advisers released a report earlier this year, showing that women not only make up nearly one-half of the labor force, but many women even balance it with school, working to obtain skills needed to be competitive in today’s job market. I’m exhausted just thinking about it! If you’re a working mom who ever tried to somehow fit in dentist appointments, parent teacher conferences and sick kids while holding down a full-time job, you know how intense it can be, it’s an existence not for the weak.

But could companies actually be listening, willing to adjust in order to respond to the needs of American families? The CEA says “yes,” citing some positive changes over the past few years.

• “Workplace flexibility” is becoming more common,  encompassing a variety of arrangements that allow workers to continue making productive contributions to the workforce while also attending to family and other responsibilities.
• In 2007, over one-half of employers reported allowing at least some workers to periodically change their starting and quitting times.
• Some companies are open to flexibility in terms of when one works, where one works, or how much one works (including time off after childbirth or other life events).

One trail-blazing company took flexibility to a new level, performing an experiment meant to find the impact (or lack thereof) of workplace flexibility. During the one-year span of allowing employees a more flexible schedule, not only did they see a more than 20 percent reduction in absences, results also suggest that businesses could save about $15 billion a year.

But progress is often a slow process, with many companies still hiding behind inaccurate information and unwilling to make changes that could actually save them money and create a more productive environment. Take a look…

• Less than one-third of full-time workers report having flexible work hours, and only 39 percent of part-time workers do.
• Job sharing is less widespread and only about one-fifth of employers permit some of their employees to work from home on a regular basis.
• While firms report benefits in the form of lower absenteeism and turnover, improved health of their workers, and increased productivity, almost one-third of firms cite costs or limited funds as obstacles to implementing workplace flexibility arrangements.

One thing the CEA’s report doesn’t reveal is how many intelligent and enthusiastic moms would actually return to the workforce, had they been offered a position that would allow them to balance their personal and professional lives. I asked 50 stay-at-home or part-time working moms “If you were offered a 40-hour full-time ?flexible job (sometimes from home, work on your own schedule), would ?that send you back to work?” A whopping 90% said that would certainly change things and they would seriously consider taking on career and family, responding with things like “Oh my word – YES!” and “Absolutely!” For Louise, flexibility is the answer for millions of moms like her. “I’ve always said that if someone came up with the perfect job of the balance of both worlds, more moms would go back to work. It’s hard to have to give up or sacrifice your time away from your kids once you’ve had a taste!”

So what about you? Would workplace flexibility send you back to work?

Jackie Morgan MacDougall is a TV-executive turned parenting blogger who lives a crazy life with her husband and three small kids. Her dreams of climbing the corporate ladder have been replaced by the dream of one day having a nap. You can find more of her musings at The Silver Whining.

Casey’s Comments

This is not my typical post.. but just had to share… Flexibility is key with career and family. Whatever it takes is my motto and we deserve to be able to have it all, the kids, the career and be happy enlightened beings. Enjoy

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