Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Your Balance Needs Change, Trust Me

A friend sent me an interesting article in Forbes with the tantalizing title, Shattering the Work/Life Balance Myth. The author describes a mentoring session with a group of women MBAs who asked nervously about post-graduation work/life balance.

The author decided to lead the group on a quest for the definition of work-life balance (none could be derived) and how that changed over the course of a woman's life.

My older two children were born during my second year of MBA studies at Georgetown University, a month a half early, cluing me in pretty early that this Type A, plan everything woman was no longer in charge.

Upon graduation, I thought I had it all figured out: a somewhat-flexible schedule for both me and my husband and a full-time nanny so that we each were in charge of the babies for equal 8 hour increments. Then, upon their second birthday, the speech pathologist strongly urged us to enroll the boys in preschool. OK fine, but preschool tuition x2 AND a full-time nanny meant I was in the red for working. So a new daycare solution, and work schedule were in order. Fast forward two years, and the twins head to kindergarten and we've added another son; once again, new work schedule, new care solution.

My twins turned 10 this weekend and a decade into working motherhood I can say without a doubt: your flexibility requirements and work/life balance goals will change, sometimes monthly!

Come September, 4 Momentum babies will head to kindergarten, including my youngest son. Again, new schedule, new care scenario.

If these needs evolve annually (monthly? daily?) and even a bunch of super-smart women MBAs can't derive a definition of work-life balance , how can working parents negotiate the best flexibility scenario with their employers?
  • Remember, it's still an employer's market. When developing a flexibility request plan, address all potential concerns your manager might come up with up front, head on. Build in metrics for evaluation, propose a 30 day trial period and be gracious and appreciative.
  • Knock their socks off. Be the best in your job, deliver consistently above-average results, be responsive, and don't give your boss any reason to say "no" to a specific request.
  • Be Patient. Even if the answer is "no" to a current flexibility request, chances are your business environment will change (management turnover, policy change, etc) or your needs will change.