Wednesday, February 06, 2013

WMW: Flexible Jobs

As I realized while writing last week's WMW post about taking flextime, etc., when one's child is home sick, many jobs just don't allow the flexibility that office jobs sometimes do. My teacher friends came to mind, not just in regard to the sick child situation, but many aspects of working motherhood. It feels sad and ironic that those women who are so devoted to caring for other people's children might be at a disadvantage when it comes to balancing work and the care of their own children.

Teachers often don't have a paid maternity leave, and so have to try to plan for May/June births to allow a summertime postpartum period. Teachers can't easily take two or three breaks from the classroom each day to pump their breastmilk, and so might abandon breastfeeding when they'd prefer to keep nursing.

Teachers who commented on last week's post and via Facebook confirmed the general inflexibility of teaching. Pastors, on the other hand, and working moms with pastor-husbands, confirmed the flexibility pastors tend to enjoy. There aren't too many perks to a job that requires you to work a lot of evenings and weekends (something pastors have in common with waiters and bartenders, I imagine) but weekday flexibility to care for sick kids and get other personal/family business taken care of is a big one. Until just recently, it was almost always Matt who handled the calls to rescue a sick kid from school, staying home for the repairman to come, running packages to UPS, etc.

I remember when I started my first full-time job, working 8-to-4:15 Monday through Friday. It was a definite adjustment from being in grad school, where my day was a varied combination of classes, part time job, studying at Starbucks, running to Target or the grocery... Suddenly, I was confined to one place for the bulk of the day. I was in an area of the building with no windows, so in winter (when, in Nashville, it gets dark at 4:30) I really felt like I barely saw daylight. If I ran an errand during my lunch break, I remember getting mad at all the traffic, thinking, "Why don't these people have to be at work right now too?!" 

At the time, my awareness of people not working 9-to-5 was probably limited to the aforementioned waiters and bartenders, third-shift factory workers, and ER docs. But obviously, the work world is a lot more diverse than that, and getting more so. I remember a stat my high school geometry teacher used to cite: that 75% (or whatever large percent) of the jobs you'll be competing for don't even exist yet. (Who could have imagined a position called "Social Media Manager" or some such in 1995?) Technology has created many career paths we couldn't have imagined, but also changed the face of many other career fields, allowing many people to work from wherever, whenever.

There is such a diversity from the 9-to-5 concept, but there are trade-offs no matter what kind of position you pursue. Teachers get summers off (to some extent), but seem to have very little freedom over their own schedules and things when school is in session. A friend of mine recently transitioned from a demanding but relatively flexible job to starting an in-home day care, keeping two or three children in addition to her own during the day. She has the pleasure of being home with her kids, which she wanted, but I imagine there is much less flexibility than being a SAHM who is not also in charge of other people's children during the day.

For me, I traded greater security for flexibility, and so far, it's working out pretty well.

What are some of the trade-offs of your job? Where do you rank flexibility in comparison to income, satisfaction, advancement potential, etc?



3 comments:

Rachel Moss said...

I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head for teachers. We enjoy 2 months off in the summer, a week off at Thanksgiving, two at Christmas, and another one at Spring Break. But we work our tail.ends.off throughout the rest of the year.
In my opinion, my sister has the perfect job for a mommy. As an OT she has the option of working the usual 9-5, working 4 10 hour days a week and having a 3 day weekend, or doing contract work on a part time basis. Strict patient confidentiality laws mean that she walks out of the clinic at the end of the day empty handed...free to enjoy her evening without the stress of bringing work home.

EMU said...

Jessica, your last two WMW posts have been really interesting to me. Although I'm a SAHM right now while our kids are young, I probably will enter the work force at some point while our kids are still at home; when and where largely will depend on where we decide to send our kids to school, which is something I'm thinking a lot about these days. Anyway, your posts have me thinking about the hard issues that will arise once I do back to work, not something I've really thought about before.

Also, when I was pregnant with DAU, I imagined this luxurious, flexible life of a SAHM, able to run errands when I wanted, have play dates whenever, etc. BAHAHA! What a joke. I was really surprised by how rigid my schedule is as a mama due to naptimes and having to lug kids with me every where I go (if they are having a bad day, no sense in trying to leave the house!). I also imagined that I'd have plenty of time to get things done around the house: false! My main job is to play with my kids, and if I'm not doing it, they let me know it! ;)

chris miltonshawn said...

It's very difficult for working mom to care their child. I agree with you that teaching job is not flexible job. But nowadays many kind of jobs are coming which can be do in home that means home jobs. Home jobs is the best for mom because they can work in flexible manner. she can care of her child and give child facilities to their child.

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