When my son was born, I took 12 weeks of maternity leave and marched back into work like a boss lady -- never looking back. Before I started working, I was on top of the world, easily balancing my life. Every night, I had dinner on the table by 6 p.m., laundry done and clothes laid out for the next day. I didn't know what people were talking about when they said that it was hard to balance a job alongside being a mom.
The truth is that during my maternity leave I did feel like super woman. Yes, my son, Major, had recently been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and I was certainly dealing with grief, but I was very organized. I quickly got into a rhythm of medication refills, scheduling doctor appointments and sterilizing nebulizer equipment. I did expect to go back to work feeling the same way as I did during my maternity leave. I didn't account for 40 or more hours being taken up by other activities after the first 12 weeks!
My very first day back at work, Major was battling his first cold, which meant that on day one I already had to take a long lunch break to run him over to our local CF clinic. And that was only the beginning. I quickly began to feel like I was being spread too thin. Cystic fibrosis requires frequent phone calls to doctors, insurance companies and mail order pharmacies, as well as trips to the retail pharmacy, more sick days with your child than most and days that you just can't bring yourself to leave home because of your child's persistent coughing. I frequently had to step out of meetings for doctor calls or miss half days because of an appointment.
I began to feel like I had no line between work and home because I was checking on home from the office and checking on work at odd hours from home.
Knowing that my company strongly advocates for work-life balance, I finally decided that I should approach my leader about working out an alternate schedule that could give me one day a week at home with Major. I was already utilizing my flexibility, but it was time to be strategic. We created a plan that worked for all parties involved. I have been using this schedule for almost a year now, and I have finally realized that I will not feel like super woman every day and that's okay. There are still some days that I have to step out of a meeting for an urgent call. There are still days that I need to stick close to home. However, I now feel safe letting my phone ring most of the time when I'm at work because I know I have my day off approaching and can use that time to return calls. I can focus on work when I am at work, and I can focus on my family when I am at home.
While many parents battle to find balance between work life and home life, with CF care for Major, it felt like I had another layer of stress added to my already full plate. So, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to work for a company that truly supports and advocates for work-life balance.
If you are working parent, you may also be able to have the same flexibility that I do. I encourage you to talk to your supervisor. Maybe your employer can't accommodate an alternate schedule, but they may be able to work with you to get remote access or grant you a day where you can take a long lunch to return calls when doctors are available. If you are searching for a new job, make these conversations about work-life balance a priority and a part of your search. Accepting a job with a new company involves mutual selection, and you should feel confident in asking questions about flexibility to find a fit that works best for both you and your employer.
Now go put on your version of a super hero cape, and start thinking about what work-life balance could look like to you!