Flexibility: What (I Think) Canadian Moms Want From Their Employers

Moms, it’s almost a year to the day that I left the job I loved to raise my toddler full-time. It was August 12, 2016 to be exact. I wrote this post about why I left.

Was it scary? Yep.

Do I still think about my old job? All the time.

Do I regret it? Definitely not. The time I’ve spent with my baby has not been a waste. I’m glad I challenged myself — my talents have only grown and I’ve done so much learning. In addition to blogging, I’m even launching my own home-based business that I conceptualized myself. (What a cool process!)

But do I still watch job postings? Oh yeah. 

Yet flexibility is sure in short supply, with full-time openings dominating the list at the companies and organizations I want to join.

Every time an article pops-up in my Facebook feed about a game-changing new flexible workplace – articles from Working Mother, Forbes, and Fast Company, I have to read it. I can’t scroll past it. I start getting ideas in my head about how to incorporate more workplace flexibility in Canada.

For us new moms in the great white north, we need more discussion on the topic and more flexible workplace cultures. Many public and private organizations in Canada work tirelessly to better their staff, expand their recruitment pool, retain their most talented employees and star performers, and build a succession plan that works. These organizations pay so much money to consulting firms and hire people from within to work on these strategic areas — only to keep falling short and questioning why.

It’s all in real flexibility. Because there’s an unhappiness with 1) totally leaving your career and 2) leaving your young child or children for a packed full-time work schedule.

Many times, moms have to choose one. (Dads, too.)

Recently, Jen from Heartlifted Coaching has been sharing some of these articles and has been questioning what a flexible workplace looks like here in Edmonton and in Canada. I see her posts and I say, “Yes, yes, yes, we need more companies doing this!” and then I go back to daily mom life, cleaning up toddler messes, juggling multiple daily to-dos, and wondering how new parents (new moms, especially) who work full-time balance their lives.

For the past few months, I’ve been taking my little guy to daycare once per week, who is now just over two years old. As I’ve been taking him, I keep thinking about how I would love to be able to split my time more equitably between the two things I love most: my son and my career.

Yes, even after having a baby, and only a year after leaving my job, I am still just as passionate about my vocation as I was pre-baby and pre-pregnancy. That has not changed. The only thing that has changed is the amount of time I’ve been able to dedicate to different areas of my life.

(I laugh — I had so much TIME I had before I had a baby. What the heck did I do with it all?) 

I was lucky enough to love my job. I was given an opportunity to use my talents and strengths and actually get paid for it. I still really miss it. That’s why I have been blogging — to use my skills when I can manage the time (communications, engagement, change management, communications strategy) and slowly build up to self employment.

Yet, each week, when I drop my son off at Early Learning Childcare in downtown Edmonton, I keep imaging how my daily life and routine could have been different. It’s only a few blocks from where I used to work full-time. Right now, he’s there one day per week. I picture what it would be like to jump back into a Monday through Friday, eight-hour workday schedule.

This new daycare in Edmonton’s downtown is wonderful. We love our teachers there: Katie, Reina, Collette, Stephanie, Casey, Tayja, Christina, Teresa and Vince. We’ve gotten to know the other parents. A fellow local blogger and I (Live It All In) even planned and hosted an outdoor Canada Day event there — yes, it’s downtown and has a huge yard and deck.

Would I want Alex there 5 days a week? Probably not, only because I don’t like that balance of time. Would I love to do 2 or 3 days? Definitely, yes.

Full-time or bust seems to be the norm for most of my peers.

Why aren’t there more flexible professional jobs?

To me, it seems like if flexible work options were presented, women (and men) would be fighting for them.

Katie Zimmerman of Forbes wrote the article, “8 Ways to Retain Female Talent After Maternity Leave” and the 5th way on their list was to “offer her a flexible work schedule.” They confirmed that, aside from adequate maternity leave (the US is severely lacking in this department) and higher paying jobs, flexible work was stated as the “most important factor” in their decisions to return to work.

Having flex options up front, before women return to work, may be way more important than we think it is. This is the future!

I loved the article from Working Mother, “If Your Company Doesn’t Flex, You’re Behind the Times” by Melanie Foley.

The article states the obvious: if an organization wants the best talent, which will include working mothers and fathers, new mothers too, it must have flexibility. Flexibility can be built into part-time and full-time schedules. Simply put, flexibility means all of the following work arrangements: part-time, work-from-home, flexible start and stop time, and job sharing.

Melanie Foley does an excellent job of describing the benefits of having flexibility:

It promotes a more inclusive workplace. 

It helps managers to expand their recruitment talent pool — which becomes more competitive — and includes more prospects. 

It improves employee morale, as with flexible time, people are happier at home. 

It increases job satisfaction with less pressure and stress from work. 

It creates a culture where employees appreciate the flexibility, allowing people to take charge of their schedules. 

And most importantly…

It removes stigma from not being present, at a desk, from 9 until 5. 

Melanie admits in the article that “the concept of not being physically present can be a difficult one for traditional companies to embrace… a dramatic mindset shift for many people.”

But, she suggests workplaces can get past that. Managers can demonstrate it by using a flexible work schedule themselves, showing buy-in from senior leaders that sets the tone for a new team culture. Management style can change into one that keeps communication lines open, telling success stories, having daily team huddles, incorporating various flexible work options into teams, and more. She admits that it’s not a “once-and-done” initiative to be flexible — it’s a mindset shift, that requires training and ongoing support.

Another article, “Actually, Women Are MORE Ambitious After Having Kids” debunks the thought that women aren’t focused on their careers after having babies.

This article looks at the findings of a survey done in the US that shows working moms were just as likely to work towards a senior leadership position — and apply for it — as their female colleagues who didn’t have children. Despite the drastic drop in numbers of new mothers from their careers — there seems to be evidence that moms might be choosing a schedule works best for their families, not abandoning their careers in favour of motherhood.

I also found another stat very interesting: “Women with kids were also far more likely — far more likely, emphasis — to want to branch out and become entrepreneurs.” The difference? Those without kids, 35% would — those with kids — 50% would.

Why? Flexibility, my friends. 

I loved reading about a new start-up in the US called Werk — founded by Annie Dean and Anna Auerbach. Ainsley Herns of Fast Company wrote an article about it, “This Startup Wants to Kill the Mommy Track Once and For All

The one reason why they created the start-up?

“Women seeking flexibility shouldn’t have to compromise their career goals.”

These two female entrepreneurs want to provide jobs with work environments that are “designed not for [women’s] failure, but for [their] success.” As two women acting as one CEO, they firmly believe that it is not only possible, but profitable and smart, to have job sharing and other flexible options at various workplaces. They want to turn the sometimes blurry concept of flexibility at work into a clear set of expectations, as in, what a “good day’s work” can look like for a new generation of workers that need more flexibility.

The article states that, “among women with bachelors degrees (that’s me), 30% leave their careers around the time their first child is born, a statistic that has been consistent for the last three decades.” And, going up the ranks, it only gets worse.

It sounds like Werk is onto something.

In my opinion, Canadian Moms can’t keep pretending after babies that our lives aren’t different, that we don’t need more flexibility to maintain more happiness, a balanced income, and peace in our lives as parents. Especially as new mothers.

For now, I scan available positions with the organizations I love, hoping to see job shares and part-time opportunities posted.

I am also making change for myself, by planning my own business from home, as so many before me have done.

Follow me on my Facebook and Instagram pages as I dig deeper into new motherhood, career, and launch my own business — coming soon.

Feature Photo:

Provided by Kendra Allen Design, this image (and more) will be available for purchase from her new stock photography shop, Rebel Road Stock Shop. How unique, a local collection of stock photos put together by a local mom and designer. Follow along with Kendra on Instagram and Facebook.