Employer Warning: Years 1 & 2 can be unproductive
I started working for my current employer almost four years ago, a non-profit organization. I love the work; I do important work in communities that don’t have access to these services. One reason I chose to work for this organization is because it prided itself in being one big happy, supportive family, professionally and socially. Many of the employees have families. In their time with the organization, they have juggled life with young ones, life with medical conditions, and life as primary caretaker to less able partners. One of my colleagues works primarily at home, as his partner is home-bound. Where there is a meeting he has to attend, he is able to skip the meeting or make other accommodations (perhaps call in) if he cannot find a caretaker for his partner.
When we found out we were expecting a baby two years ago, even though I had worked full-time before and after my first two children, I was again nervous about how to handle the juggle of a baby and a full-time work load. This time, however, I had the flexibility of working at home when I returned to work on most days, whereas my jobs when I had the previous babes had been more rigid 9-to-5 (rather, 8-to-4) jobs. The most flexibility I could finagle back then would be working an hour earlier than the standard office hours. Telecommuting or working at home was not an option.
In the past year, I have continued to manage the familiar juggle: family, food, home, activities, baby care, [urbanMamas], and – of course – work. Admittedly, all through the baby’s first year last year, I let my work slide, slide, slide until – one day – I felt buried under something so deep that it would take me weeks to dig out! Along the course of the year, all the time I was taking to continue volunteering at the schools, to leave “work” 30-60 minutes earlier to get kids to activities, to pump (& all its related tasks), and to make frequent visits to our health care provider for frequent check-ups on a baby with some weight and skin issues…. All of added up to a whole lot of nothing, when it came to my work. To add to this: with piecemeal childcare in the first year, I was often only *really* working when the baby napped, which he dutifully did about 5-6 hours a day in that first year (hallelujah!). (Also, he’s in FT care now, so no more working from home for me!)
Over the course of the past year, as I have attempted to ramp up with my work, I have also attempted to demonstrate that I could work and be a mother at the same time. The baby has traveled with me to meetings in Arizona, New York (twice!), Seattle (a few times!).
The other day, I felt I hit the lowest of my working lows. I had a talking-to from my boss. He called to ask about my “progress” with certain aspects of work. I came up with a few excuses, knowing full well that the number one excuse was that I had an under-two-year-old at home, resulting in a mama brain unable to focus and resulting in a schedule equally unfocused. I knew the day was coming. I knew I was slipping. My resolution for this year, now with baby one-and-a-quarter [practically self-sufficient!], was to begin refocusing on myself, which included regaining traction at work as well as making time to spend away from the home.
My boss is father to three himself, and one of his babies spent long periods of time hospitalized when a baby. On the one hand, I knew he understood. But, was it acceptable?
In ensuing days, I am left wondering: should “family friendly” employers somehow acknowledge and accept subpar or less-than-100% from mamas (and even papas) of young children? Even when I feel like I am giving my all to family, home, and work, I am still not achieving 100% in any of those categories. We all know that life with little ones is particularly hard in those early years. Those of us with older children know it gets better. Should we cut ourselves some slack at work? Can we? Will we sacrifice our jobs? Does bringing baby on work travel give the impression that I am less committed to work? What is this all supposed to look like, to be working outside the home while parenting [especially the youngest of the young]? How should it feel? Should we feel buried by it all, and just let it pass as the offspring age? Does something have to give? Can’t that “something” be some slack from my employer? Is that too much to ask?
(thanks for listening....)