So, the debate of working parents continues.
We seem to go round and round discussing whether women should job share, should they be working full time or part time, how best to cover the hours required without burdening the rest of the team.
Some blog commentators clearly feel that working mothers are a challenge to work with, that they are selfish for dumping work on the rest of the team at the end of their day when their hours are up and they need to leave on time.
In fact, working mothers are valuable members of the team – experienced and motivated, they actually really enjoy being at work, along with all the challenges it provides them.
And because of their life outside work that many begrudge them, they can often put the daily professional challenges into perspective – suddenly that challenging client or extra consultation don’t seem such a big thing. The team can all learn from this attitude.
I think it’s also important to face into the bigger issue here.
If you are paid to work certain hours, then why shouldn’t you leave at a certain time?
Yet many people (myself included) find it very hard to up sticks and leave on time, which is why we find ourselves still at work sorting things out way past the end of our working day.
Maybe we should all be looking seriously at being more flexible.
As a team, it’s in everyone’s interests to pull together, to be flexible when needed. In this way we can all experience less stress and lead fuller lives, both inside and outside the workplace.
With better planning and staggered finish times we aren’t all trying to leave the building at the same time, and there is always someone to take over if you need to go. It doesn’t matter if that’s to pick up a child or run a personal errand.
And yes, I do think that everyone, regardless of their situation, takes their fair share of the later shifts. This will undoubtedly present child care challenges, but if it is one regular day a week it will be easier to plan than last minute scrabbling round friends and family when a something runs over.
I feel that one of the solutions is simply to have more open and honest conversations about your expectations and boundaries, and that’s for the whole team. So now everyone knows that on a Tuesday John needs to get off on time to play football and on Wednesday Jane needs to pick up the children straight after work.
Agree some back up plans too. What happens if your childcare lets you down at the last minute? Do you phone in sick or can you perhaps bring the children along to keep the show on the road? I have certainly resorted to this myself!
Clearly, these are not ideal situations, but life can just get in the way sometimes. For all of us, parent or not. But with a more flexible approach, perhaps some lateral thinking and a mindset of how can I make this work for the entire team and the business, solutions can be sought and then everyone becomes a winner.