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



I totally agree about the "balance" myth. I've done a lot of work in the work/life effectiveness space, and I always avoided the word "balance" in the work I did. Some days things are balanced, but most days, a few balls get dropped. For me, I don't say yes to everything and try to focus on what's most important week-to-week. Some weeks, it's work; some weeks it's family. But who can really balance day-to-day - life is way to unpredictable for that!


I love the comments about how men don't apologize. Too often, I found myself almost having an anxiety attack when I worked at home w/ my infant daughter one day/week, who at the time, was taking 2 hour naps - three times a day. Looking back, I know I was probably more productive working at home than in the office with constant interruptions from coworkers or my manager wanting to "talk about strategy". You can't tell me that there aren't people working in the office taking 2 hour lunches, or having long conversations with coworkers that are not work related. I think we all need to cut ourselves some slack and remind ourselves how efficient we all are as working moms!


I can relate. I am a programmer and as long as I show up at the office for the Monday meeting the boss doesn't care if I work from home or sit in my cubical. The hurtles, I get paid by my billable hours and bonus are made by meeting deadlines. I can balance my schedule however suits as long as I bill out at least 30 hours and meet project deadlines. What does this mean... Sleepless nights when I take days for field trips, doctor visits or personal errands. But all things considered I like my life.