Yesterday, I was on the phone with an expecting new mother when I heard myself doling out advice. She and her husband both work in high pressure jobs. I found myself telling her that one of them will need flexibility if they are going to balance work and family.
As I was giving her advice, I was looking at paperwork my 13-year-old son needs to complete by early next week to start his job as a summer camp counselor. The application requires he get fingerprinted and that can ONLY be done on a weekday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Because my job is flexible, I can take him to the government office. But if I was in a job without flexibility, either my husband or I would have to take time off work to get it done. A difficult boss who doesn't believe in giving flexibility might make that impossible.
It is this type of work and family conflict that starts when your child is born and continues until he or she graduates high school — and sometimes even beyond. Lately, I've seen more fathers in the doctor's office or orthodontist with their kids. The need to take kids places and be at their events during work hours is a dilemma mothers AND fathers now face.
No wonder that flexibility is becoming valued over pay. I'm not sure that employers understand this need, even at a time when the majority of people in a workplace are part of families in which both parents work.
I found myself telling this mother-to-be to have a conversation with her husband and her boss before her child is born. If she is going to balance work and family, flexibility will not be an option, it will be requirement. Getting that flexibility can and will become one of the biggest stressors a working parent will face. It might even lead to search for a new job.
I'm curious to know how other working parents handle this dilemma. Do you argue with your spouse over who is going to take time off? Have you ever been given grief for taking time off to take your child to an appointment? What do you see as the solution for parents who need flexibility in their schedule and can't get it from a boss?