Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Family Friendly Workplace

A mother holds up her child.Image via Wikipedia Joe asks to take off work early on Friday to play a round of golf with the boys. No problem (He’s networking.) Jill asks to take of work early on Friday to volunteer in her child’s classroom, and eyebrows are raised and suggestions made that maybe Jill does not really care about her job. Jill gets the message that if her family is her first priority, maybe she should just leave the workforce and stay at home…where “good” mothers belong.

But the reality is most families need duel incomes to survive. Jill must work. For that matter, Jill WANTS to work. She wants to take care of her family too.

This old “between a rock and a hard place” scenario is the basis of The MOMMY WARS. One side says women are traditional caregivers, and should fulfill that role in the home. The other side says women who want careers should have ample opportunity to compete with men on a level playing field. They want all day every day kindergarten, and state funded daycare, and passage of The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Now, I am all for the Ledbetter Act, and Early Childhood Development, but it seems to me there is a middle ground we are missing in this debate:

Women have worked along side their men since the beginning of time. Go back to the Hunter Gatherer societies, and you will see, women providing the majority of the food.
Seventy percent of the food consumed by prehistoric peoples consisted of plant material, and only thirty percent came from the hunt.

Some scientists believe the tendency for right handedness -- which is passed on the maternal side -- comes from these gathering gals. They say women would hold their babies with their left arm because the children were comforted by the sound of the heartbeat, while working with the right arm. In other words, the girls were doing twice as much “providing” as their male counterparts, with one hand tied behind their back!

I wonder why we never see anything about that in those cave man documentaries on The History Channel.

In agricultural societies, women also worked along side their men. Women milked cows, gathered eggs, fed livestock, and harvested food. The difference between then and now is simply that children are no longer allowed in the workplace, because the workplace is no longer part of the home or community. The industrial revolution changed everything.

So we have a new standard of work ethics in the modern world; 9 to 5 Monday thru Friday, with a little overtime thrown in for good measure. This is a problem for primary caregivers. They simply can not compete for promotions and raises under the current system. I have always said I can put in a sixty hour week, and still be a good mom; I just need control of my schedule to do it. As the primary caregiver for my family, my schedule must fluctuate with the needs of my children, my husband, my pets, and sometimes my aging parents. I am in charge of doctors’ appointments, dentist appointments, visits from Joe the plumber, and Jill the electrician. It is my responsibility to make sure the kids get on the bus at 8:30, and are home safe at 3:30. I am the one in charge on snow days, teacher work days, late start days and holidays. I attend the PTO meetings and go to school events and conferences. I bring food for classroom parties, and chaperone for field trips. It’s expected, and I don’t mind doing it one bit. I just need the ability to do some of my other work early in the morning or late at night to manage it all.

Have you ever taken a good look at a school calendar? Almost every third week of the year includes either a late start day or a non school day. How many employers will put up with that?

To paraphrase the famous line from the Paul Newman movie “Cool Hand Luke” What we have here is a lack of communication.

I believe we need a new model in the work place. With today’s technology there is no reason why flex time, telecommuting, and job sharing programs can not become the norm. The industrial age is over. This is the information age, and yet we still can not seem to come to grips with the basic advantages of the technology we have harnessed.

Flex time works. There are plenty of studies to prove it. Employee satisfaction goes up when people are in charge of their own schedules. Employee turn-over goes down. Companies who use these family friendly models attract the best and the brightest. A better worker pool means higher production and bigger profits.

Families with duel incomes and low daycare costs have higher net worth and more disposable income. That extra money fuels spending and boosts the economy.

Flex time and work from home also decreases rush hour traffic, and reduces our carbon footprint. It’s good for the environment.

Kids who have a parent at home, acting as a responsible hard working role model engage in lower rates of vandalism and get better grades in school.

If we really value the family as the core of society, why is Joe rewarded for golfing while Jill is considered “below par” for volunteering in the schools? I don’t get it.

I suggest we could jump start our economy and solve a great many social problems by creating tax incentives for eco friendly, family friendly businesses, willing to employ some of these proven strategies in the workplace.

The bottom line is; IT WORKS!

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5 comments:

Rj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rj said...

Sorry about that. I hate this google login crap.

Excellent post. All the work women do...I may have to link to this because men still seem to not get it.

Gabriele said...

Great Post.

I agree completly. A women should be able to take off for their childrens school functions.

The womens right movement should not go to sleep thinking the fight for womens rights is over.
Oh and I just looked, I am a man.
:-)

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