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Why It Doesn’t Have to Be All Or Nothing

Why It Doesn’t Have to Be All Or Nothing

By Kelley Noblet

It’s no secret that juggling a full-time job and family life is a delicate and difficult balance to strike. Today’s typical workday no longer operates within the confines of 9 to 5; commutes are long and taking care a family has complex and time-consuming needs. Trying to keep up is tough and many families rely on two incomes to stay afloat. It doesn’t help that television, books, and pop culture tend to sensationalize the concept of “having it all”— a thriving, successful career, a perfect family and household are all touted as the “norm” for women.

But is “having it all” the reality for most?

In actuality, it’s probably farthest from the truth. Something’s got to give. Maybe it’s missing a soccer game or ordering takeout instead of making that home-cooked meal; maybe it means answering emails at 10 pm instead of relaxing after a long workday. Regardless, excelling in one area usually means a sacrifice somewhere else whether it be at work, home, or family.

Before my daughter was born, I knew I didn’t want to take a break from the workforce. Taking a break can be costly as it means no longer building retirement savings, falling behind on important skillsets and potentially reentering the workforce at a lower position or salary than is deserved.  On the flipside, I personally didn’t want to be over-extended and not enjoy those early days with my child. I thought, “Does it really have to be all or nothing? Is it possible to have a fulfilling part-time career and not just a job?”  I approached my manager at the time and asked if a part-time schedule was a possibility. To my surprise and delight, she agreed and proposed a job-share scenario with HR. Together we recruited my counterpart; and devised a three-day per week schedule with one overlapping day for collaboration and meeting purposes, a rarity in corporate America. My manager saw this as a cost-effective opportunity to keep my years of tribal knowledge and business expertise, as opposed to hiring someone from the outside to replace me. I’m pleased to say that my case proved skeptics wrong in that it was possible to manage complex projects, even travel, while on a part-time schedule. The joke around the office was that many of my colleagues had no idea that I switched to part-time hours. My schedule was designed so that I was not out of the office for more than one business day in a row, meaning I could respond to emails and calls within an appropriate time-frame.

Usually women come to mind when the term “job-share” or part-time is mentioned. It’s no surprise that approach started out as a strategy to keep women in the workplace. According to McKinsey, “75% of the world’s total unpaid care is undertaken by women, including the vital tasks that keep households functioning such as child care, caring for the elderly, cooking and cleaning.”  While I truly appreciate the work-life balance a flexible schedule has afforded me, this is just as valuable for men because it gives them more time to participate in family responsibilities. In order for more women to rise up the ranks into leadership positions, the home and family responsibilities need to be more evenly distributed between men and women. Part-time or job share is no longer the “mommy track” that leads to nowhere; it needs to be perceived as the flexible work option for men and women in the modern working world.

Kelley Noblet is a Marketing Manager at Skillsoft.

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