In today’s world, flex time is a valuable benefit for many working moms. But while a flex-time schedule might work really well for you and your family, it might also result in frustration for your male co-workers when they can’t reach you during traditional office hours. If you’re a flex-time working mom, you might have a legitimate concern that—even though you’re getting all your work done—your co-workers aren’t viewing you as an equal colleague because they don’t always see you in the office.
As a working mom myself, I get how difficult it can be to balance the demands of your job and the needs of your family.
But it’s important to be aware of how that might be viewed. In my research for The Male Factor, I saw a perception held by nearly all men (and, often, executive-level women). The men may logically know that an offsite colleague is working lots of hours, but it doesn’t feel the same for one reason: they don’t see that person as sharing the same pain. The men I interviewed often mentioned a sports analogy: in the heat of the summer, football teammates would bond during sweltering two-a-day practices, getting in shape to win their games. Never would one teammate say “Coach, I don’t have to practice with the others, because I can get in shape on my own time over here in my air-conditioned gym.” He might technically be correct, but his teammates would not look at him the same because—you guessed it—he didn’t share the same pain.
So what does this mean for you?
#1: Put yourself in your colleagues’ shoes.
First, acknowledge to yourself that by not being available during the regular hours, you may not actually be sharing the same pain as your colleagues… and if you were in their shoes, you might be frustrated too. So without compromising your flex priorities, look for ways to improve the relationship. Since you’re already ensuring that you get your work done, you might want to next look for ways to demonstrate to your “team” that you are sharing their pain, you’re just spreading it out over different hours. You know that committee no one wants to lead? Lead it if you can. Offer to be the one to make the phone call to the awkward client. If you work after the kids are in bed, don’t hesitate to send the email with the midnight time stamp—and don’t mention your late hours the next day.
#2: Keep your priorities in mind—and be thankful.
But second, and most important, never lose sight of the great gift you have: you’ve found a work schedule that meets your primary priority of being able to balance work with family. Be thankful for the opportunity to do your best and be your best both personally and professionally. And be fierce about protecting the work/life balance that allows you to prioritize your family. Don’t apologize for that. If you handle it well, your flex-time schedule and professionalism could lay the groundwork for other women to be afforded the same benefit—and it might even give some of the family-oriented men in your office a precedent so they can do the same.
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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her latest book, Find Rest: A Women’s Devotional for Lasting Peace in Busy Life, focuses on a journey to rest even with life’s constant demands.
Visit www.shaunti.com for more.