Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Family Friendly Workplaces - my thoughts on what it means

I believe that the work place should be family friendly in all ways - to mothers and fathers as well as to spouses or children who have care giving responsibilities.  This is how I view it....let's say you and I are both women.  We have the same job title, same job responsibilities, same expectations from management in terms of quantity and quality output and receive the same pay and benefits.  The only difference between us is that you have children and I do not.  If you need to adjust your work day to accommodate your parenting responsibilities, I'm fine with that - if you are fulfilling your responsibilities - same quantity and quality work product as mine.   If you are not - you don't get a pass because you have a child.  I shouldn't have to bear a larger burden for the quality and quantity of the work product because I do not, while you receive the same pay and benefits.  I am in favor of employers allowing flexible schedules, etc for parents/caregivers.  But - equal work for equal pay - wasn't that the battle cry?  We childless women get unfairly labelled as mean or unfair or insensitive, if we expect that those getting pay that is equal to ours do work that is equal to ours.  You want to cut your hours - no problem, but recognize that it comes with a cut in pay.  Recognize that reduced hours may not provide your employer with the quantity of work product that they need and the employer may have to seek another solution.
It's a myth that we can have it all.  It's a dangerous myth.  I think that myth has caused problems.  People think they can have the 4 bedroom house in the suburbs with 2 cars in the driveway, 2 kids, successful careers, annual vacations, the perfect family life with lots of "quality" time and not have to give anything up.  Well - you do have to give something up.  Most of us anyway.  There are trade-offs and choices.   To get that house, maybe you give up the quality time.  To get the quality time, maybe you scale back the career for a while.  You can't have it all.  And don't blame those of us who expect you to hold up your side of the bargain.  You can't tell the mortgage company that you won't be making the next month's payment with no repercussions any more than you can tell your boss that you can't give them work product they hired you to provide without repercussions.

So, to wrap this up...Bottom line - the work place should be family friendly - with all definitions of family considered.  But there needs to be a balance.  The give can not be solely on the side of the employer.


Aims said...

I totally agree with you. I've had to call upon an expanded definition of "family friendly" as my mother's health declined. And yes, now I need the balance for my kid. But it's not really about being "family friendly" as much as it is being "balance-friendly" -- for whatever reason you seek balance. (And I for one, would never discount your opinion!)

loribeth said...

Hear hear!! I wrote an article for my company newsletter in the early days of "flexible work arrangements." One of the women I interviewed worked slightly longer hours four days a week so that she could have one day a week off. She did not have children. She said she used her days off to tend to personal matters, go to theatre matinees and work on her novel. She said, "Why should having children be considered the only 'legitimate' reason to have a flexible schedule? My time is important to me too." I was still believing I would have children at that point, but I've never forgotten her words.

Sarah said...

I 100% agree with you... and I like the woman that loribeth mentions... sounds like she has found a great life/work balance that is productive for everyone!