Luckily, as a benefit, and not a requirement, since I can’t even come close to touching my toes.
The word was actually referring to a flexible schedule, and every working mom knows that the ability to schedule work around your life instead of the other way around is huge. After all, just because you spend eight-plus hours a day away from home doesn’t mean your family responsibilities just — “poof” — go away. Without flexibility, you’re grocery shopping at midnight, cleaning on weekends and strategically scheduling appointments in the wee hours of the morning — and you better be ready to be put on a waiting list!
When you get a call from the school that your child is sick and needs to come home, from a multitude of phone calls emerges a plan so elaborate it rivals pulling off a royal wedding. Leaving early or coming in late results in working through lunch the rest of the week or burning a vacation day. You’re stressed driving to work, stressed trying to make it to your kids’ after-school events, stressed just thinking about what the heck’s for dinner — you’re just stressed!
All the while, the pile of clean clothes gets lower, the pile of dirty dishes higher, grocery lists are long and your amount of sleep is short. This is the state I was in nearly six months ago, before that glorious word, flexibility, lured me away.
When I first re-entered the workforce, I not only gave up the luxury of setting my own agenda to accomplish things, but I took one for the team, so to speak, as well. I made personal sacrifices, giving up my early morning runs and my beloved yoga classes that were the only things I truly did just for me.
I also gave up meeting my group of friends for lunch each month, which I quickly came to realize was something I missed a great deal. They tried to keep me in the loop, and even planned dinners instead of lunch from time to time so I could be there, but seeing them only on occasion was tough. We’re talking about a group of friends who’ve been together for nearly 20 years. We’ve seen each other’s kids go from wearing diapers to earning diplomas. We’ve laughed and celebrated, cried and held each other up, rallied together in support and just plain been there for each other. I missed them dearly.
In the interview for my new job, we discussed all the important stuff — salary, benefits, responsibilities — and when they told me as long as I got my hours in, I could come in when I wanted and leave when I needed. I tried to contain my excitement, then threw out this hypothetical situation:
“Let’s say a group of friends meets for lunch once a month …” Before I said anything further, the partner of the company shrugged his shoulders and said without pause, ”Just work from home that day.” The interview went on, and they eventually offered me the job, at which point I wanted to say, “You had me at the shrug!”
Sure I still end up in the aisles of Meijer when others are getting ready for bed, and I often have to fit my run in to a small wedge of time after work and before dinner, but I’ve worked from home multiple times now, and even made appointments in the middle of the day — crazy, right? I have the peace of mind knowing that if my son needs me, I can be there with no problems, and I haven’t missed a friend lunch yet.
Just having this tiny piece of my life back has done wonders for me. I’m less stressed, more patient, quicker to smile, slower to get irritated — I still can’t touch my toes, but it’s totally less upsetting to me. OK, maybe that’s a stretch — hey, that’s it! Yoga stretches before work. I might be a little late, but that’s the beauty of flexibility.
— By Kelly Kalis, Tribune community columnist