Guest post by Ursula Mead, the co-founder and CEO of InHerSight, a website that helps women find female-friendly companies at all stages of their lives and careers. She’s also the mom of a young daughter and enjoys working in the garden and shooting hoops with her family in North Carolina.
Everything changes when you become a parent. You change the way you eat. (You don’t.) You change the way you sleep. (You don’t.) You change the way you answer the question, “What are you doing this weekend?” (Nothing for the next 18-plus years, I think.)
You also change the way you divide up your time between home and work. Gone are the days when you or your partner could stay past 5 p.m.—now you have to worry about paying a fee if you pick up little Sophie just a few minutes late.
While it may feel like you’re riding a rocky working parent rollercoaster, it’s important to remember you’re not alone, and that there are things you can do to make work, even out of office work, work for you.
Here are four ways moms can find a great work-life balance.
1. Ask for flexibility
At my company, InHerSight, we recently polled more than 7,500 working moms about what they want most from their employers. PTO came first because...duh. But companies with flexible work hours and the ability to telecommute were also in the top five.
If you work in a traditional office, you probably didn’t get those benefits right off the bat, so it might feel like a big ask to change your schedule. But you need to—for your child, obviously, but also for your sanity.
Before you talk to your boss about it, think through exactly what you need. Do you want to come in late to drop your kids off school? Do you need to work from home one day a week to save on daycare? Both of these are reasonable requests.
When you do have the meeting, you should drive the conversation. Come in with a communication or check-in plan that will keep people in the office in the know when you’re not there, and be prepared to suggest a trial period or other compromise if your boss is wary.
Oh, and if you’re worried about what your coworkers will say? Let that feeling go. Whatever arrangement you have is between you and your boss.
2. Divide up chores at home
It’s no secret that most women pull an extra shift at home: We do the majority of the housework and “life” work. (Are you the family’s human calendar? Yes, that counts, too.) It’s time for that to stop.
When you have kids and a job, you really need to think through with your partner who is going to do what. Taking care of a third, or fourth, or, god, fifth person is a lot to deal with on top of full-time hours.
My husband and I actually did this when I founded InHerSight. Knowing I’d be overloaded as the company ramped up, we sat down to divide up our chores 80-20, meaning he does 80 percent of the at-home work and I do the rest. Of course, I think that’s awesome, but it might not be the divide you want or need. It could be 50-50. It could be 70-30. What’s important is that you sit down and talk out, responsibility by responsibility, who’s going to take the lead. I’m not talking just who does dishes and laundry, but even the hidden tasks like who has to remember to buy the next size shoe when your little one’s feet grow and who’s on the hook for filling out daycare waitlist applications.
The process is particularly enlightening if you’ve never done it before and you’ve always carried most of the burden. Your partner will get to see precisely how much you do, and why you might not be as gung-ho about hosting friends on a Friday night as they are. Ugh, just think of the dishes.
3. Take some you time
Work-life balance is a part of PTO and flexibility, but it’s also a beast of its own. All parents need time to themselves—time when no one is calling their name or touching them. Time when they’re not checking emails with a sick kid at home.
That might seem impossible right now, but baby steps count. Step out of the office for five minutes to go for a walk, eat something you enjoy (read: not leftover chicken nuggets), or listen to a podcast that inspires you while you’re driving to work. It’s also okay to ask for an afternoon off to just catch up on life things, or even to see the new Avengers movie without your kids in tow.
Does taking personal time make you a bad parent or a bad employee? Absolutely not. It makes you a happier person in and out of the office.
4. Find a company that works for you
If you’re not getting the flexibility or balance you need from your job, it might be time to start looking for other options. That’s where I can help. If you create a user profile on InHerSight, you can find a company that matches your values or talk to other women in our community about their experiences in the workforce. We have over 100,000 women-rated companies on our platform, and those scores will tell you whether a prospective employer values working women like you.
There’s no faster way to gain such data-driven insights, which means you’ll have more time to devote to tee ball practice. That’s a swing and a hit.