As I have always been passionate about work, this set-up suited us both and him transitioning into assuming a larger domestic role once we had a baby seemed natural. So when that little blue line on the pregnancy test hit the plus, we were pretty well prepared on the home front.
Work wise – however – the timing was less than optimal. I had just left a steady but bland employment in a large law firm to accept a position in a not-for-profit animal rights foundation and was in the first week (!) of a trial period when I found out I was expecting. Talk about bad timing… Luckily, the guys I worked for were very understanding about my pregnancy.
Although I had accepted this position at 100% when I started out, I knew that having zero family time with my baby girl during the workweek was not something I could – or wanted to – handle. So I negotiated an 80% quota with two afternoons off during the week upon my return to work and promised to come in on those days in case of emergencies. Turned out that the emergencies could wait at least half a day most of the time…
In the following years, my desire to grow professionally saw me evolve into increasingly more executive positions.
However, none of those employments came with a ready-made solution for a working mother. But they did come with superiors who were willing to try out a more flexible work model when I proposed it to them.
Mind you, I had to color outside the lines and fib about my work capacity being 100% to get an interview in the first place. But I found out that once I was given an opportunity to demonstrate that a little flexibility can go a very long way, I was able to always put my family first in crucial situations and to strike a balance between spending enough time with my family and still deliver great results at work.
Our daughter is going to be 10 this summer and we have a great rapport. Over the last few years I continued to work in an 80% capacity and my husband at a 35% capacity, which has panned out really well for all us.
Did I encounter prejudice and bias for being the primary breadwinner during that time? You betcha. I still do. But I never let that anger or deter me from doing what I felt was right to be able to pursue the path that I considered healthy both for me and my family.
At one of my earliest Powerhouse Events Tabi Haller Jorden, then General Manager at Catalyst Europe, spoke about gender attitudes in the workplace. One of the participants complained about the lack of opportunities for working moms in Switzerland.
They claimed, that other European countries such as Sweden and Denmark were a beacon in the dark nether world of employment seeking working moms while Swiss employers were a bunch of Neolithic troglodytes basically still clubbing their female staff over the head with their rigid and outdated work models.
Of course my inner Heidi was not amused.
Because, I think that this statement is only marginally true.
While I agree that many Swiss companies are still quite conservative in their work conditions, there are many willing to adapt. But they need Change Agents. Linchpins.
Let’s step up and disrupt the default.
The Take Away
- Don’t be disheartened if the perfectly fitting job opportunity does not present itself on a silver tablet.
- Be bold and apply for positions and companies that appeal to you and see if you can make them fit.
- Don’t accept the status-quo as set in stone – be ready to Disrupt the Default
- Keep on rocking