Lifestyle

My struggle to find balance as a working mom in hi-tech

Above: New mom Meghan Boots has investigated various flexible working solutions

This is a guest post by Adobe marketer and mom Meghan Boots

Coming back to work after maternity leave threw me for a loop. My career in hi-tech has been a huge part of my identity; I light up when I talk about my work and thrive when I’m challenged.

Now, as I mom, it’s as if I have two full-time jobs, but the newer job is a lot like working with my mad, deep crush, and while I’m away I can’t help but think about him.

The demands are heavy, the bottom line hasn’t changed because I gave birth. I’m expected to be “on” after being up half the night, dial in to evening conference calls, and when I leave work, there are the inevitable emails that need timely responses. This means that during the workweek, I only get three or so hours per day to spend with my son. It never feels like enough. Then there’s the punch-in-the-gut feeling I get when I realize I’ve missed one of my son’s milestones like sitting up and walking — each one is a rude awakening that makes me question everything.

I admit I’m struggling. Why do we have to sacrifice so much to stay in the game?

I thought the best in-between solution would be to work part-time, but then I realized that there are really only junior level part-time positions out there and taking one of those is not a tradeoff I’d like to make. Instead, I’d like to continue to work in my current position at Adobe (which I love), and I would get paid less to work a little less. Meaning, I’m willing to downsize my lifestyle for more sanity — so are a lot of other well-educated women.

Job-sharing: Will it take off in tech?

I recently hit on one idea to achieve a better balance: sharing my job with another employee. This would allow me to stay relevant and competitive at work, but would free up some time during the week. After all, I waited a long time to have a baby and I just want to enjoy him while he’s little.

After doing some research, I found dozens of stories about successful job shares. In its simplest form, this means letting two employees split a work week, and handle the responsibilities of a full-time position. I had already met with employees at The Clorox Company, who were splitting their roles and found they loved job sharing because it gave them more time for themselves, their marriages and their kids while staying relevant, and they even found empathy in their job sharing partners.

I also explored the advantages of job-sharing for employers and was quickly sold. It is a proven family-friendly flexible solution, an effective way to retain high quality talent, and produces exceptional work quality.

Advantages for employers

A number of recent articles have stressed the benefits for employers. According to Forbes, job-sharers are hyper-productive, as they want to ensure their time at work is fully utilized.  It’s a “vast shift from a time when they found themselves constantly apologizing for missing work due to family needs,” the author wrote.

In addition, a site called WorkOptions listed a few other advantages, which include increased retention of female employees, and better quality work from two employees with a different set of skill-sets. It’s also a great option for staff-members who are caring for elderly parents.

I would also argue that morale increases — people are genuinely happier when they have better control of their personal and professional lives.

Why hasn’t job sharing been deeply embraced by the hi-tech company culture?

This is probably because many hi-tech companies already offer a degree of flexibility.

Anyone who’s worked at a tech company will wax lyrical about the perks: free smartphones, gyms, showers, cafés on campus, and so on. However, in my experience, there’s a price to pay for these perks — they are offered in exchange for sucking you into the always-on work vortex. These perks simply don’t solve the burning problem: people want to take back more control over their time while preserving their hard-earned career status.

I appreciate the perks, and I’m grateful. I telecommute on Fridays, so I can throw in a load of laundry, while kicking butt at work simultaneously. I also set boundaries by making sure that I leave around 5pm (or 6pm at the very latest) each day, and I’m trying to only sometimes check my email later in the evening.

But as a mom with a new baby, I need more time. A lot of us who found the current menu of job perks to be ideal in our 20s have now grown up. We have new concerns, and I think that companies need to do a better job at addressing them. We need to take a fresh look at the current culture and build upon it.

New parents could access additional options like job shares, side-by-side childcare and workspace, and other forward-thinking creative solutions.

In the spirit of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, let’s invite men to the flexible working options table. Many of my male colleagues would love to work less and spend more quality time with their family.

The good news is that I work for a progressive company that is open to ideas. There’s already an initiative – Adobe and women, which among other things, helps women develop skills and grow their careers in an effort to continue to build a strong pipeline of female talent. I’ll start there.

The bottom line is I don’t want to opt-out — I have no desire to do that. I want to work hard and I have much to contribute, but I want it to work for me.

Editors’ note: Meghan wrote this article to kickstart a candid discussion about job sharing and other creative solutions that can truly work for moms in Silicon Valley. Are you a working mom? Do you have ideas to share? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Mboots_DexMeghan Boots, is a former dot-comer who arrived in San Francisco 13 years ago at the height of the first internet bubble. She is currently a Product Marketing Manager at Adobe where she’s invigorated by producing exceptionally positive customer experiences. Meghan lives in San Francisco with her husband, baby, and two teen stepsons.

Follow her on Twitter @bootsatherbest.

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