Mother’s Hours?

A few weeks ago, I came across a blog by one of the life coaches I follow – a smart mom who used to help MBA students figure out their careers after Harvard, and now she runs her business and a great and funny mom blog – that talked about the concept of “Mother’s Hours” and I made a note to circle back on it later.

Have you heard of this concept? The idea that employers should give parents a little more flexibility – expressly – to have dedicated meeting hours during the day from 9-3 or so, and allow people to get the rest of their work done whenever they can fit it in. My first thought was: isn’t this what everyone has been doing for the last year??

Becca Carnahan is really smart. And she has a point – salary employees have pretty much flexed their workload over the course of their day or week for years. However, what happened (pre-pandemic) is that employers sometimes turn that into having people on call 24/7. And at the end of the day, everyone needs to have life outside of work.

For me, I made a conscious decision years ago to step out of traditional 9-5 (or 8-6) office work and go into business for myself. I chose to take control of my schedule, take on only projects that interest me and fit with my life, and have the flexibility to also be a wife and mom and do all the things that includes for my family. I love working for myself, and I highly encourage entrepreneurship if you think you are self-directed enough to do it – and to take on the risks and challenges that are included with being a small business owner.

back up plan graphic
Kids and life don’t always go according to plan, and sometimes our plans change – or our goals and dreams change as our families change.

On the flip side, it is really nice to work for someone else, to have full benefits, and job security. After the crazy year that we have all had, I think it is great to consider these outside-the-box ideas for workforce management. Taking on the idea of “mother’s hours” at your company might scare anyone who really likes the 9-5. However, as Becca points out, there could be so many benefits.

Having to juggle full-time work and kids and all of their activities is hard. I watched my parents do it, and I’m not joking when I call my mom “super-mom” – she totally was. She worked over 50 hours a week or more, and still managed to get to all of our major life events, sports stuff, be a swim referee at every meet, on several school and church boards, and do all the things at home. Dad worked full time and got to all the things too.

My husband has never had what we would call a 9-5. For the last 15 years, he pretty much worked every day, mostly 6 days a week and 18-hour days a lot of the time. I was pretty hard core about us having a couple full weekends a month for family time, Sundays were off limits as much as I could make them, and we traveled to meet him a lot of places so that we could get a few hours extra time with dad when we could.

With that in mind, me working for myself and having the most flexibility possible was necessary for us. I don’t ever want to go back to a “real office” and a “regular job” again. But, now that I am adding clients to my consulting practice, adding projects and community activities, and doing a little bit more to add to my “adult conversation” repertoire – it feels a little strange to be branching out again.

Doesn’t every parent need flexibility in their schedule? And down time? Time to take a walk or a hike with their kids?

I’ve pretty much been a Stay at Home Mom for the last six years, since our youngest was born. While I’ve had some new projects (like this blog), and a few small contracts here and there, I have really focused on our family as my center. Now that I’m building my business back up and starting to network again (and isn’t it great that we’re all getting vaccinated so we can have coffee and drinks in person again?), I love being productive! I love getting tasks small and large done for my clients.

The decision about when and how to go Back to Work after having kids is a hard one. There is no right or wrong answer – you have to decide what is best for you and your family, and every family is different. Your personal goals, ambitions, motivations, and your partner’s as well. Work/life balance is always tough, and finding the just-right balance for yourself and your situation takes some trial and error.

So, “mother’s hours.” I think the concept is terrific. We should be talking more about alternative work schedules. Moms and dads should ask for flexibility – because we’re all better parents and our kids are happier when we can focus on them when they come home from school and download their day, or when we show up to watch a sports practice (they notice when we don’t, even if they don’t say anything). And better/happier parents make for better employees.

Obviously, this concept doesn’t work for every job or profession. But, companies who can give the most flexibility are the most attractive to prospective employees – at least people like me who like to juggle all the things, produce the best work product, and be the super-mom. Some people like being able to go to work and get it all done in one shot – and flexible schedules aren’t for everyone. But, that’s why you should always bring it up in interviews. Have some back and forth with a prospective employer about workload expectations and flexibility. It never hurts to ask!

And, if you want the ultimate “mother’s hours” and have been considering branching out on your own into the entrepreneurial world – go for it! Take a Chance! It can be big and scary, and so unbelievably rewarding. Life is an adventure – get out and do all the things!

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