Getting High or Getting By?
Women who telecommute, at least part time, tell me, "I have a killer job."
The pièce de résistance of their professional setup? "I can work from home when I need to. I can bend my work schedule around my child's needs."
Turns out, that's a mixed blessing. It's a killer job, all right--and it's killing them.
One 36-year-old senior VP of an L.A.-based international P.R. firm described to me this conundrum:
"I need tips for managing clients, bosses, and my team while juggling parenting, like one of my children bursting through my office door for 'an emergency'. I do a stellar job and want to maintain my professional image, even when I'm closing a deal while flipping grilled cheese sandwiches to keep my hungry kids from flipping out after school. How do other women do it without losing it?"
I Hear That
I'm on a three-minute break during a phone interview with Oprah & Friends Radio's Jean Chatzky. Thinking she's off mike, I hear Ms. Chatzky sweetly whisper, "Honey, you have a fever. You need to be in bed." Another mommy busted! Later, I told this story to a small group of women professionals between the ages of 29 and 45.
"Isn't that adorable? We're all juggling work and home, yet somehow making it all work."
Everyone nods in unison with knowing, soft smiles.
My friend, Andrea L. Henderson, an executive recruiter and founder of the Basketball Academy, a youth basketball camp for girls and boys from six to sixteen, shared with us a similar personal experience:
"Recently I was being interviewed by phone by a high-profile financial consulting expert. A few minutes into it, I heard a small child call out, 'Mom-MIEEEE!!!!'
"My interviewer said, 'Would you please excuse me for just a moment?' I heard her muffled voice: 'Just a minute, honey; Mommy's on the phone.'
"We continued our interview. A couple of minutes later, 'MO-AH-AH-AH-OMIEEEE!!!!'
Clearly embarrassed, she started begging: 'Honey, Mommy's working. Please. Let me talk on the phone without interrupting.'
"She told me, 'I'm SO, so sorry!' I reassured her (and she was vetting me!), 'It's okay! I have a child. I know the drill.' But she kept apologizing over and over.
Laughing and empathizing, Andrea said to us, "I mean, My God!! You'd think we're apologizing for being caught smoking a joint instead of mothering a child!"
Don't Explain, Don't Complain