“I tell women that whole ‘you can have it all’ — mmm, nope. Not at the same time — that’s a lie. It’s not always enough to lean in, because that s--- doesn’t work.” Michelle Obama’s super candid take on the work/life struggle during her recent book tour resonated deep with employed mamas across the country—perfect balance is, womp womp, a pipe dream. But as more and more high-achieving women search for mom/job harmony, flexible work schedules seem to be a step in the right direction. Whether it’s the option to work from home, have flexible working hours, a compressed work week, or part-time status, smart employers are finding flexibility can equal productivity, job satisfaction, and retention. (In fact, a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 67 percent of women who don’t work by choice say they’d be likely to go back to work if they had flexible hours.)
Thinking about negotiating—or creating—a schedule that better suits your mom life? Here’s how five women did it successfully.
'I negotiated working from home two days a week at my marketing agency by framing it as a 'temporary experiment' so the team would be receptive to my idea. Once I was allowed my two 'home days' I made sure I was always available to my team. I deliberately became more present and enthusiastic during our online meetings and phone calls. This new setting ended up working so well for everyone involved that I kept doing it for many months, even though I didn't need to.' -Cynthia Brown
'I found a great job, but they initially offered a lower salary than I was looking for. Rather than trying to haggle on the salary, I asked for Fridays off, which was much easier for my boss to agree to than find me more money. It worked out perfectly. It allows me the luxury of not having to worry about missing school activities, doctor's appointments, and quality time with my son, without sacrificing a career that I love.' Nora Schlesinger, @nora_acleanbake
'I worked at a theatre, so I approached management and asked for days off when the theatre was dark, or reduced hours when we were in pre-production and rehearsal. I worked out a schedule with the babysitter, my parents, my husband, and a neighborhood stay-at-home mom via a quid pro quo reciprocation, that allowed me to change my status from full-time to ¾ time.' -Vivian Young
'Before I ever had the conversation with my boss and made the proposal for a flexible work schedule, I made sure that I worked as hard as possible for as long as I could to create a ton of value for my company. Come into the negotiating meeting with materials prepared: get a letter from your previous manager at the company who allowed for that arrangement and saw you thrive. Find studies that show how productive workers are when given flexible scheduling opportunities. Let your employer know that this isn't just for you, it's for the betterment of the company.' -Diane Elizabeth
'As a stylist and TV personality, many times I have to bring my baby to set with me and just figure out the day as best I can. Sometimes I'll try to plan a TV segment around her nap time, and I podcast when she’s in bed. Other days it's naps in the car, conference calls on the go, and making it work…I also have moved many of my styling clients to Facetime and Zoom appointments and only go to them for closet consults in person and major red carpet dressing.' -Ali Levine, @alilevinedesign