How moms get their ideal work schedule

Creating work life balance is a struggle for many working moms in the U.S., so it’s a big step to find out that more companies are paving the way to make that happen. The majority of U.S. employers now offer flextime to allow employees to set their work hours within certain limits, according to a recent study from the Society of Human Resource Management. That can help working mothers find work life balance by crafting their ideal work schedule.

Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel suggests that embracing a flexible team approach can also help companies execute their work more effectively, and the Society of Human Resource Management says employers use benefits like flextime to attract and retain talent.

More than 10 different working moms reveal what they did or plan to do to adapt their work days and hours to their life. From changing jobs to working from home, each working mom in the video explains her own strategy for making sure she has control over the 24 hours in her day.

If you want a dose of insight for and about working moms in new video every week, subscribe to my YouTube channel:

I was pleasantly surprised during my interviews that finding a working woman who said she had her perfect schedule was more common than I thought, but they didn’t stumble into this ideal by chance. Many worked closely with their own employer to convince them to adjust, and others sought out new positions or decreased their hours — though some were longing to go back to their careers full-time.

I used to be one of those working moms who felt like I needed a computer algorithm just to coordinate my schedule. I was constantly feeling beat down trying to balance work deadlines, children’s sports practices, spouse’s job travel, PTA meetings, girls night out, family vacations, children’s doctor’s appointments, yoga classes and the never-ending onslaught of school activities. I eventually realized my packed calendar shouldn’t rule my life and started delegating some of the duties of my family business.

Many of us feel like we are constantly juggling our career with raising children and not doing either one as well as we’d like. I managed to find my ideal schedule when my boss agreed to let me work two days a week after my second child was born. Other working moms I interviewed have negotiated their work days and hours in harmony with the rest of their life rather than in conflict with it.

I hope a glimpse into how they got their ideal work schedule will inspire you to seek out your own.

“It’s kind of nice to have some travel time away where you can really concentrate on your job,  but it’s also nice to have some family time,” said Debbie Erives, a full-time mechanical engineering sales manager raising five kids with the help of her husband. “It’s wonderful to not have a commute and to have a home office where I can go to recitals, plays, sports. I really don’t have to miss them. I’m really there for 90% of what happens in my kids’ lives. The only thing I would say or that I would have different from what I have now is my job is very high stress, so it’s hard to wind down and calm down and get away from it. I would say the only thing that would be different is somehow be able to unplug and disconnect and maybe have a little bit of extra me time — exercise time, yoga, meditation, something that would be good for me to calm down. My demands are on me the second I turn from my desk.”

“I actually worked in community mental health before I had children, which was a lot of hours, very stressful, more dangerous. Now I work in a private group practice. It’s a little cushier, a little quieter, and I make my own schedule,” said Jessica Parks, who works part-time as a therapist while raising two girls, 6 and 4 years old. “It was sort of a natural shift for me. I wanted something that was just a little more predictable with having young kids at home. I work three weekdays, and then I’m home with the girls on two weekdays and then the weekends. My youngest is in preschool three days a week, the days I work. We don’t need supplementary childcare. I really do have an ideal schedule. I looked really hard when I found out I was pregnant with my first for something that would be more balanced, and actually I couldn’t find anything in my field with the education that I had. I sort of let it be known in my church that I was looking for this kind of thing, and somebody who had graduated from my college knew someone who owns this company. So there was a connection, but it’s hard to find an arrangement like this. It’s really rare, so I’ve been very lucky.”

“My work is pretty flexible, so I generally work from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., which is pretty typical of a school day, so I don’t miss out on too much. I’m home for dinner, home for bedtime, breakfast in the morning. It works out well,” said Erin Plencner, a full-time team leader for a laboratory operations group raising her 4-year-old son with the help of daycare and her husband, who also works full-time. “I’ve actually worked with this company since I graduated from college, and they are very flexible. So I just kind of make my schedule fit what I need.”

“It’s taken me a few years to find that work-life balance, and I’m starting to thrive with it,” said Cassondra Pauling, a full-time pension administrator and mother of two daughters, ages 12 and 9. “I wake up at five in the morning, and I get to work at 6 a.m. I get home by 2:30 or 3 p.m. I think companies are coming around to that now. I think they see that a happy employee is gonna work harder for you, and if you have that flexibility with them, they’re gonna give you their heart and soul. I think that’s what my company does, and that’s why I do wake up so early. I give them all I have when I’m there, and I get home and give my kids all I have when I get home. I was scared of leaving my last job and pursuing a new job, and I wouldn’t take it back for the world.”

“I love my schedule. I work just three days a week, and then the days that I’m off I’m starting to substitute teach at my girls school,” said Cherish Walsh, mom of a 21 year-old boy and 10-year-old girl twins. Walsh works part-time as an office professional. “I also go to an exercise class two times a week, and then I’m in Taekwondo three nights a week with my family.”

Denise Bregenzer works at Which Wich Sandwich Shop, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., but is looking for full-time work as a single mom of 13-year-old twin girls and a 7-year-old.

“I mainly try to work when he’s in school, so it works out that way; we both have the same schedule,” said Tammahra Peterson, a full-time mental health counselor and single mom of one boy. “I have to drop him off a little early at daycare.”

“I have summers off, so I can’t really complain. I get to spend all summer with him,” said Leasa Kelly, a full-time third grade teacher and mom of a 7-year-old son and 17-year-old stepdaughter. She said her long commute means a grandparent has to watch her son before and after school.

“I have my ideal schedule. I work two days a week, and I am home the rest of the time,” said Carrie, a part-time nurse and mom of three boys. “It’s a wonderful balance.”

Geeta Fatwani just started a part-time job as a school lunch lady after being a stay-at-home mom for years to her 11-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. “My son got surprised: Oh mom, you’re gonna do job? But gradually when he saw that I am at home when he is going to school and when he’s coming back, I think he’s fine. But kids get surprised, and kids get worried mom is not gonna be home. So they did that. They got that surprise. My daughter is going a little bit of time to daycare. My idea is to get to my career actually. I worked in India. I was a lecturer in the National Institute of Technology. I did my masters in information technology. I sure miss my career.”

“The world will treat you like you don’t have a job if you are working from home,” explained Emily Paster, a work-from-home author and blogger and mom of two kids. “If you’re a freelance writer or a consultant and work from home, the world will want to treat you as if you’re a person without a job. You have to fight back and act like a person with a job and say, no, I can’t go to a 10 a.m. Pilates class. I have a job. I will go to the 6 a.m. Pilates class, or I will just not go to Pilates. So that was a skill I had to learn. I had to learn to be protective of my schedule. I would read to my son’s class when he was in first grade, and that was on Thursdays. I’m gonna stack everything on Thursday, so I would make my doctor’s appointments for Thursday. If I was gonna meet a friend for coffee, I would do it on Thursday. So you pick one day, and that’s the day you have your volunteer commitment, your doctor’s appointment, your coffee with a friend, your exercise class. But then try to be protective of the other days. So you learn these little tricks.”

If you have questions or topics to suggest for my next round of interviews, share them in the comments along with your ideal work schedule, whether or not you have it, and how you got it.

— Diane Moca


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