It Is very early Monday morning. Your child wakes you up complaining that they don’t feel well or the baby wakes up with a fever. You have an 8:00 AM meeting, but know you need to get them to the doctor. Besides having your heart sink, what do you do?
This is a common problem for parents in the workforce. It is difficult to take care of children, and even aging parents, while holding down a full time job. It seems to be a constant juggling act. Even news outlets like NPR starting writing about the inadequacy of FMLA back in 2013.
While speaking with a colleague who has a young child, I asked her what she does when her kid is sick. She confided that she never references her kids when there is a problem that will make her late or means that she has to leave early. “The culture doesn’t allow it,” she explained. “If I am sick or even need to take my dog to the vet it isn’t an issue, but the moment it is my kid… my commitment to the job is questioned.”*
With articles coming out about discrimination against working moms each day, it brings into question the value placed on family in this country. There is extreme irony to this increasingly difficult topic. At the very time a person’s commitment to their job is being questioned their commitment is most likely higher than ever before. Most working parents need jobs in order to take care of their children. Without these jobs they can’t afford food, shelter and clothing for their babies let alone anything extra. So companies have highly committed employees in the form of parents. Parents are often willing to work hard in order to provide for their families and are only looking for a little flexibility in return for their commitment. Instead their flexibility is most likely decreased by the employer as the expectation is their focus will no longer be on the job. This mindset creates a severe employee retention issue.
“I took a step back in my career when I became a mom because I didn’t want to face the added criticism,” another colleague disclosed*.
One company has seen the damage that losing working mothers are doing to business. Vodafone recently took the unusual step of mandating 16 weeks paid maternity leave for all employees globally and allowing woman to transition back into the work place with a 30 hour work week the first six months after maternity leave. Despite the decrease in hours, woman will continue to receive their full salary.
“Sharon Doherty, a director at Vodafone who was the architect of the new policies, went looking for ways to address those numbers. She noticed that in Italy, Portugal and Romania, where mandates are in place for companies to help women transition back into the workplace after maternity leave, the company’s retention rate was higher. The policy will apply to all 500 full time employees in the United States” (Washington Post).
If only all employers were being as innovative as Vondafone.
It isn’t just happening to women either. Men are often told that their wives should handle issues with the children. A close friend’s husband is often ridiculed for leaving work at a reasonable hour so that he can spend time with his son and it is extremely difficult for him to help with illness and childcare despite the fact that she works as well.*
While working parents strive to make ends meet in an economic world where wages are flat and the cost of living has outpaced salaries, we are losing sight of what is most important; our children.
Children are the future. They will be the people making policies and taking care of us once we age out of the workforce. Don’t we owe them a better example? Shaming or even preventing parents for caring for their children will only affect everyone’s future negatively in the end.
Peace, Love, and the Ability to Care for Your Children,
*Names have not been disclosed to protect privacy