Sunday, May 17, 2015

Doing a "Big Job" With Kids

Earlier this month there were a couple of articles in The New York Times on how parents with "big jobs" manage to put in all of those hours and occasionally see their kids (the Motherlode blog takes it on here). Supposed 80 hour work weeks (with no kid responsibilities), in careers such as "investment banking, consulting and law," are long-professed to be standard in those fields, and I have no doubt that is the case for many people. I just don't seem to know them.

I think, technically, my job would be considered to be a fairly "big job," if not an official big job. I work as a product manager at an investment firm, working closely alongside the portfolio managers and several other departments to help those that invest with us in many different ways. It's a demanding job, and my days are usually very full. Email really helps us keep up with a global clientele, and if I'm checking my personal email account, I'm always checking my business account too.

But that's just the same at work--if I'm checking my work account, I'm often checking my personal account too. I recently did a presentation to 150 people, and the first email I saw after removing my lapel microphone was that Max had forgotten his lunch on an early release day (when no cafeteria options were available). The lines between my work life and my personal life are definitely blurry, but from my view, everyone in my life benefits that way. That's what the article generally revealed as well, that "if you have control of your calendar, you can work solid hours, and still score kid time."

I recognize how lucky I am to have that kind of control over my time, but as I have come to see the inflexibility involved in public school scheduling, I realize that so many parents have to have some measure of control just to make it all work. You can't bend the school bus schedule to your will just because you'd like it to be that way; somehow, parents are making a lot of things work.

For an article that had me nodding along for most of the way, however, the last sentence struck me as off. Here it is:

"But in some circumstances, if you’re hoping to keep that job and advance, excelling at work without drawing attention to your also-excellent life may be the best way to live to fight another day."

An also-excellent life? Being a parent and the responsibilities required aren't always "excellent." Having a work-life that allows me to take my sick kid to the pediatrician? Or the other one to an orthodontist appointment? Or to get treatment for a child with special needs, mental illness or addiction? Being a parent isn't just about attending the preschool Mother's Day tea time, although that is also a completely valid reason for needing some flexibility too. And further, the idea that if we want to advance, we should also have to shut up about our lives and needs outside of the office? That's a really outdated model, and surprising to hear touted as a solution to anything. It doesn't work for me, it wouldn't work for my employer, and it shouldn't work for any of us.

The quality of the work we do, and whether or not advancing is something we actually want, should be the sole determining factors in whether or not we can advance our careers. Needing to meet the responsibilities we hold as parents shouldn't mean we aren't capable of taking on "the big jobs." If it does, then frankly, many who have held those jobs probably shouldn't have had them either. Or maybe we need fewer "big jobs" and a lot more "middle jobs" where no one has to work at such a breakneck pace.  Hiding your "involved parent" status shouldn't make you more eligible for a promotion. People who are skilled at managing the needs of their jobs while simultaneously not making detrimental sacrifices to their family life should be just as suited to succeed.

What do you think? Do you have a "big job?" How do you manage it?

1 comment:

  1. Love this post Cheryl - and I couldn't agree more. Taking the parenthood out entirely, I've read a number of posts over the past several months that speak to the disadvantages of working such long hours. Research is showing after a certain point, you're no longer productive, creative, etc. Hopefully the corporate world will continue to evolve and see that people with full lives also make tremendous employees and leaders. It is certainly a juggle to manage it all, but that's life. And I agree we shouldn't keep our parenting life in the shadows.