Posted: Dec 10, 2012 8:00 AM
 
Having Charlie meant it was time to shift priorities and focus less on career... but try telling that to my type A mindset. Then a colleague approached me with an appealing concept: a job share!

It's a sunny December morning, and temps are heading toward 70 degrees. I just swung my daughter around and listened to her shriek and giggle. My son is playing with his Little Peoples horse on a windowsill, after signing help so I would open the window.

It's just another Monday morning – but one I'd never experience if not for a job share that allows me to be home with my children half the work week.

Good ol' (17-hour-long) days

For years, my single, non-parent life focused on my communications and public relations career. Working a 60- or even 70-hour week was common, exhausting and exhilarating.

Then I got married and had my son, Charlie, who has Down syndrome. Charlie brought joy to my life, but the transition to parenthood and overcoming challenges of a child with special needs were particularly daunting.

Suddenly, work wasn't exhilarating as much as it was stressful and exhausting. For more than a year, I tried to successfully juggle work, Charlie's therapies and, when he was 9 months old, a second pregnancy with my daughter.

But I come from a long line of hard workers, and quitting wasn't an option.

Oh, and I did my best to keep up with laundry and exchange substantive grunts with my husband as we passed each other on the way to bed.

But I come from a long line of hard workers, and quitting wasn't an option.

Besides, what would I quit? We needed the income, I needed the stimulation and reward of contributing at work — not to mention having grown-up conversations that did not end with, "Oh, and can you empty the Diaper Genie before you go?" And, of course, I am eternally grateful for the children who have improved our lives in countless ways.

(For the record, I only want to quit them between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. each night, when they hit Whine Time. Other than that, they are my precious cherubs and I wouldn't trade them for all the Rue La La boxes in the world.)

A glimmer of hope

Something had to give. My colleague, Abby Buford, was expecting her first child the day after we were expecting to welcome my daughter, Mary Emma, to our family. Abby and I had worked together for 5 years and shared a mutual work ethic. I think we also respect each other's capabilities and have the utmost trust in each other.

With that foundation, she tossed out the idea of a job share and it seemed... well, too good to be true.

Pursuing the dream

We work for a Fortune 100 company that, at that point, had made notable strides toward supporting work/life balance in recent years, but a job share... well, that seemed like an impossible dream.

We crafted a proposal and, like communication junkies, er, experts, we tried to anticipate every possible flaw in our proposal that someone might spotlight on the path to denying our dream.

Here are our top 5 tips when it comes to pursuing a job share

Check In^

Do this only for your own peace of mind, but don't respond unless absolutely necessary. Your counterpart is in the office while you are not. She is equipped to handle whatever comes your way during your off time — or if she isn't, a quick call or email is appreciated.

Stay COnnected^

This can be in person or via emails and even texts. Abby and I have lunch on Wednesdays as we transition. Our chats allow us to catch up on workplace changes, projects and points of interest.

Sometimes, our chats focus primarily on our children and their rapid changes. The point is, we care about each other and are as interested in each other's personal lives, as well as what has happened at work over the past few days.

Communicate^

This means beyond your job share partner.

Abby and I have a fabulous boss who wants our arrangement to work as much as we do. We all understand we're setting a precedent, so we'd better do it right.

It's also important that our whole team understands why our job share success requires a team effort, and can be either a team win or a team challenge (in our industry, we avoid fail).

Successfully executing a job share takes a supportive team, and thankfully, we've got it.

Keep Communicating^

So, you've got an awesome boss and a fab team. Don't stop there! Share your share news! Shout it from the rooftops, or at least while in line at the cafeteria!

Letting colleagues know your work arrangement accomplishes two things:

  1. It evokes the warm, fuzzy feeling that we all work for a great company willing to look outside the 9-to-5 box to support employees and...
  2. Sharing lets your colleagues know when they can expect to reach you, or when it might be [insert job share partner here] returning their call.

Be Committed^

No, not to the asylum (although that might have been my next stop if not for this job share!).

Make sure you communicate to your entire team that, while you're in the office, you are 100 percent there. Abby and I both have taken on outside commitments that have really helped us feel fulfilled professionally, but those passions don't come to work with us.

For me, well, you're reading my outside passion — for Abby, she has been able to fulfill her dream of opening her own boutique PR and marketing firm.

You may be asking: "What? You've both taken on... other jobs?” Not quite. We're following other passions, which are extensions of our day jobs and nicely fill the hours when children are napping or playing.

Who wins?

Hands down: We all win.

Sure, it wasn't easy when we started. We worked out a few kinks and figured out that, truly, we were better suited to manage our own projects vs. share projects. (That kinda sorta falls into the win column for the office, but when our own win is being able to spend time with our children, it's so worth it!)

Abby sums it up nicely: "LOVE the ability to be at home with [my son] and spend time [at the office] as well. LOVE the flexibility. LOVE I have a good friend and colleague who wanted to engage in this adventure with me!"

LOVE the ability to be at home with [my son] and spend time [at the office] as well. LOVE the flexibility. LOVE I have a good friend and colleague who wanted to engage in this adventure with me!

Imagine if more employers saw the benefits to supporting this model? If you're a mom who once had a career or currently works full time, stop for a moment and consider the possibilities.

Benefits for employers

From an employer perspective, embracing the job share concept does several things:

  • It shows flexibility and support for your employees.
  • It helps retain good employees — you know, the ones you see leaving the company when their maternity leave ends because they can't stand handing over the kids for 50 hours a week?
  • It keeps those employees engaged and up to date on new processes, so when the kids enter school and it's time to return to focusing on career, they're not playing catch-up (and neither are you).
  • I'll just say it: No one (I'm sorry, Dads), and I mean no one multi-tasks and prioritizes like a working mother who does not have the luxury of working late. I thought I was good before. Now, I'm freaking Wonder Woman. (To give credit where it's due, all the magnificent multi-tasking in the world isn't enough if you aren't backed by a supportive team, and by God we have the best!)

Welcome to 21st century workplace

It's an understatement to say the world is constantly changing, but I'll say it anyway.

As the definition of family evolves and work/life balance becomes even more precious, employers and their teams can benefit from taking a fresh look at what used to work.

Today, I'm as connected from my kitchen island as I am in a cube — sometimes, even more so, because home lacks a ringing phone and distracting but necessary social drive-bys.

Someone once said, it takes a village.

Well, a village and Wi-Fi.

Read more about working moms

Moms of kids with special needs weigh work vs. staying home
Is work/life balance a joke?
New parenting guide: Are you a sh*tty mom?

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