It seems that workplaces and women have been talking about how to manage a family and a career for years now, and yet there still seems to be no one clear cut answer. That perhaps is because there likely is no magical answer like daycare + lucrative career = happy and complete woman taking care of her family.
For Nan Mooney, author of "I Can't Believe She Did That" and Inc. columnist, who is a mother of a two-month-old, transitioning back to her career from taking time off promises to be interesting.
"I am just kind of getting segued back into work," says Mooney. "I'm trying to figure this out. I've been able to ease back into it, but I have to wrap this up in the next few weeks," she adds, noting that soon she will be working more hours.
Mooney has gone into this situation though with a plan. After getting pregnant, she moved back to Seattle to be near her mother who will be helping with childcare. "It didn't seem like it has to be a choice about whether you work or have a child," Mooney says. She's been operating under the principle since.
One thing that Mooney believes would be helpful in the workplace for mothers transitioning back into work, or for women taking care of a sick relative, is for other people to pitch in and help out wherever needed.
"This is the key to balancing work and family and this is how women in the workplace can help each other," she says. "People are really worried about how they’re going to balance career and family and that they’re making the wrong choice… We should try to facilitate as many different options as we can for women with families. But you have to have realistic expectations of how people can work and handle a family. This is the most important issue that women struggle with in the workplace."
Mooney's view is that everyone in the workplace should lend a helping hand to a person who needs more time with her family. While she recognizes some may be unwilling to do so, she encourages everyone to put themselves in the other person's shoes and realize that they too would want help in a similar situation.
She maintains that this concept of being the pinch hitter sometimes falls upon deaf, or at least hesitant, ears with younger, single women at the office who do not have children. To them, it can seem like they are being punished for not having children while they have to work later hours.
"There is a lot of guilt involved in that," Mooney says, referring to women asking other women for help so that they can take care of their families. "You don’t want to be taken advantage of but you might want to be supportive… Be as generous as possible. Take the other person’s situation to heart."
While it might be difficult for a single woman or woman with no children to ruin her Friday night to stay at work, some are trying to accommodate their coworkers.
Having to shoulder more than one's share of responsibility is a charge that can typically fall on more junior players in an organization. "Most of the working moms are in higher positions," says Amanda Carlock, an account executive at Edelman who doesn't have any children. "Since it costs less for the junior staff to stay at work, obviously they will have to work more."
However it's not always an uphill road, as some moms do work with women who try to accommodate their needs. Says Carlock: "Work is work and life is life. I would rather be with my kids too."
So if you're a working mom and you are looking for a good place to work, it sounds like using part of your interview to assess the other people working in the office could be a smart move.