When I started writing about working moms, I was trying to write about what makes a mom-friendly workplace. I soon found that I had something more to explain before I could write that blog, which will have to come another day. First, I need to tell you a story.
One mild summer day, my husband and I were taking an urban hike through Denver, our recently-new home at the time. We lived about 4 miles from downtown and had decided to take a bus to the center of the city and walk back. Halfway home, we stopped at a really nifty ice cream shop called Little Man (which, btw, is amazing). I looked up at the street sign as we left to see where we were and was taken back.
We were at the intersection of 16th and 30th.
Now, I’m from Oklahoma. All our main byways, if we can help it, run cardinally. “Number streets” in this very logical, straightforward system either run 100% north to south OR entirely east to west. This means that numbered streets are always parallel, aka, never intersect.
If you’re familiar with Denver, however, you’ll know that while the majority of the city is laid cardinally, the nucleus downtown area is laid diagonally.
Why? I don’t know, and I would like to. It’s beside the point, though. Here’s the main reason I’m telling you this story.
At some point, with this sort of layout, the diagonal roads have to run into the cardinal ones. And that’s about as encapsulatory as anything I could think of to metaphor what balancing parenting and work has felt like for me, at times.
It feels like that moment when I looked up at those street signs — 30th and 16th — and thought to myself — these are NOT supposed to intersect!! And yet, they do. Because they have to.
As a manager, employee, and a mother, I understand better than I ever have that “life” and “work” do not and cannot exist in complete isolation from the other, hence the term work life balance. In fact, by looking at each piece as a mutually beneficial part of the whole, I think more healthy business practices and structures can be put in place to help employees thrive inside and outside the workplace.
I found this great diagram from ReWire that gets what I am aiming for:
It is important for managers to consider employee needs. We as leaders often fail to think, when creating workplace policy or trying to guide workplace culture, about how those things will impact our people in the other realms of their life. On the flip side, employees are also not always apt to think through the business-wide implications of the policy change they’d like to see to benefit their personal life.
However, that’s a disconnect we can dissipate with better transparency and communication internally, which we should be striving for anyway. Here is what I know: the constraints of my job have impacted how the rest of my life goes – if you’ve ever planned ANYTHING around work (uhm, everyone), then your job has too.
Parenting choices are always influenced by work
Most personally, it has impacted choices I can make in parenting my daughter, and whether I like it or not, it will continue to. I have seen my colleagues, working moms AND working dads, make similar choices based off of their workplace. It’s just how the world works.
Daycare is the obvious one. Choices like whether to breastfeed or not (or for how long) are decisions that are less visible but perhaps even more weighted on workplace policy and culture.
Choices of medical providers (are they in the network for our company plan? Are they within driving distance, so I don’t have to take a whole day off to take baby for a checkup?), choices of food (what can we afford to feed our baby?)… all of these can be and are impacted by the workplace.
Being parent-friendly is setting your business up for success
The straw man a lot of people throw around when conversations about mom-friendly, family-friendly, or just generally people-friendly workplaces come up is that the business has to put itself at the bottom of the priority list for employees to have everything they want. Like the employee is a parasite for the business. I disagree.
In actuality, there is opportunity abounding for a beautiful place of symbiosis, where businesses and the people who make them run can live, each benefiting the other in a circle of trust, support, and success. It’s not a pipe dream since accommodating working moms is a matter of Human Resources. It’s a direction, and more companies are trying to move in it. We’re trying to move in it. And I’m looking forward to writing more, in the coming days, about what specifically that looks like.
I’m standing here, at the corner of Parenting Avenue and Working Street, and I’m looking forward to making this a more beautiful place to be.
Article written by Erica Bass