I spent last week driving around Central Texas with a co-worker delivering marketing materials to my accounts. As we drove we visited on various work projects, families, friends, but the most interesting discussion we had was on the lack of choice that society gives to mothers. It made me sit back and think about how I really feel about where I am right now as a mother, an employee and a person.
In a perfect world that didn’t having me owing far to much money in student loans we might be able to afford for me to stay home while we have young children. In reality though I work to make sure we can afford Alex’s school, groceries and the occasional splurge. Although we don’t live paycheck to paycheck we are a far cry from even considering being a single income household, and usually I’m okay with that.
Lately though I’ve been a bit frustrated with how Alex is reacting to changes at his school, the constant colds coming home and as my workload gets busier and busier, the need to spend family time occasionally doing work. I enjoy my job, my family, and my hobbies but my priorities fall with family first. I truly feel that being home with my kiddo would be to his benefit while he’s young, and luckily I’m blessed with a job that allows me to telecommute so the parade of colds and sick days don’t necessarily derail my work schedule.
But how do parents with less flexible employers manage this. My mother worked for a variety of companies when I was younger and at many of them she could only take off for extreme emergencies. She was a single parent doing the best she could and the deck was stacked against her. If we as a society want to tout that the children are our future we should be a bit more careful of who is rearing that future. Society sees motherhood as a part time affair and doesn’t always give credit where it’s due. Our children spend more time in daycare each day than they do at home, and even though I’m very grateful that my son has a safe and loving environment to be at each day, it makes me sad when I see all that he is learning that I’m not playing a part in teaching him.
Companies should explore alternatives for sick days that allow parents to be home with their children and depending on circumstances, to still manage some of their tasks. This is not to say if you have a puking child you should have to take phone calls, but there have been several days this year when my son was fine but waiting out a 24 hour fever free rule to return to school. On those days I can work and he can play outside thanks to my companies telecommuting policy. With phone forwarding, webinars, conference call lines, web cams and free online resources like google docs there are few reasons left to require a physical presence in the office at all times. Telecommuting, like staying home with your children is not for everyone, but for the most part I think it should be more of an option for those who want to pursue it.