Why This Working Mom Agrees with Mayer’s ‘No Work from Home’ Policy

by Melanie Edwards on March 4, 2013 · 4 comments

in guest-posts,Wahm,Working Mothers

Working Mom in the Office

Editor’s note: The following is an anonymous guest post from a working mom of one child. She shares her personal views on the recent discussions of working from home and Marissa Mayer’s ban on telecommuting for Yahoo employees.

Last week, when I heard Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer was going to put a ban on telecommuting, I didn’t get why it caused such an uproar. I kind of admire Mayer for making that call. I’m a working mother. I have a special needs child. And I do not work from home.

I work for one of the largest media companies in the world, a place ranked as one of the best places to work for women , specifically working mothers. And I suppose that is true – but, only for some mothers.

Shared Motherhood, Different Lifestyles

My boss and I were pregnant at the same time. We are about the same age. We have the same hour-long commute – except in opposite directions. When my boss entered her sixth month of pregnancy, she started working from home two days a week. I worked almost to the end.

In my eighth month of pregnancy, there was a transit strike. During those few days, I came into the office with my husband (a FedEx employee) who drove into work with his coworkers. I was in the office by 6 in the morning and didn’t leave until after six in the evening – when my husband got out of work. I did this for several days – with no overtime, not even a thank you for making the effort to come in. At this point, my boss was working remotely five days a week.

I returned to work from maternity leave in early May, my boss did too – except she worked remotely for another month before returning to the office. I left my baby with a neighbor, while she had a nanny coming to her house. When my boss returned to work, she explained that she would be working remotely two days a week. She was breastfeeding and needed the time to bond with her child.

Two years later, my boss stopped breastfeeding, but continued to work remotely. Her son was enrolled in classes during the week and she wanted to be as involved as possible. “These are the most important years – I want to be there for him as much as I can,” she said.

I would have liked that option too. But, I came into the office 5 days a week – if I worked through my lunch, I was allowed to leave at 4:30 instead of 5:30.

No Flexible Options for Most

When my son was diagnosed with autism, I went into my boss’ office – crying, overwhelmed and uncertain of what to do. My son’s therapy required 15 – 20 hours per week of home-based therapy. I remember asking if I could work from home temporarily – at least one day a week so that I could be involved and he could get the maximum amount of therapy. My boss explained that working from home could not be an option for me – “Your job requires you to be in the office,” she said. The best she could do was reduce my work hours, which would impact my salary and vacation time. It was an option I couldn’t afford.

I was lucky I had my mother who was willing to help, that my husband worked less hours (making less money) and that I found a therapist willing to work later hours in the day, so I can at least catch the last thirty minutes of her therapy sessions.

Our sons are now seven years old, and my boss still works from home two (sometimes three) days a week. On her work-from-home days, she gets to take her son to school and pick him up. She schedules medical appointments, signs her son up for after-school activities, volunteers at her son’s school as a helping parent, and chaperones class trips and runs errands.

On her “work-from-home” days, she takes care of all the things that require me to take vacation time.

Having a child with special needs requires many appointments; many of my vacation days are spent sitting in waiting rooms. If the tables were reversed – if my boss’ son had special needs – she’d never take a vacation day for an appointment. She’d never have to choose between working and being there for her child; she’d get to be involved in everything.

Earlier this year, my son’s school bus company was on strike. My son’s school is more than twenty miles away from our home and with limited options, I was forced to choose between going to work and sending my son to school. Within two weeks, I took four vacation days, struggling to get my son to and from school.

With no idea how long the strike would last, I asked my boss about options. I knew better than to ask for a work from home option but in such an extreme case, it would have been a great option to have. Once again, there was nothing my boss could do except offer me time off without pay. And then we discussed her schedule for the following week – she was switching her work from home days because it was her son’s birthday and she was going to his school to celebrate. (Insensitive much?)

Working From Home a Privilege, for Some

Working from home is a privilege, a luxury offered to a woman like my boss – a working mother with a six-figure salary who has a nanny, a housekeeper and a husband with a six-figure salary. And my boss has me – an administrative assistant – who faxes and photocopies her son’s insurance forms, prints out her holiday card labels and other personal things that have absolutely nothing to do with the company. She doesn’t have time for these things, she says.

My boss isn’t the only working mother in our office who has the privilege to work from home and be there for her children. Other high level executives have that option, while their assistants come into the office five days a week, leaving their children with babysitters, daycare centers, and after-school programs. To say this blatant inequality in the office causes resentment and animosity among working mothers is an understatement. The message sent to the lower income working mothers? Some women’s children matter and others don’t.

I know this isn’t the reasoning behind Marissa Mayer’s decision to have all employees return to the office. But this ‘uproar about working mothers’ speaks only to a certain demographic of women. Unless companies are willing to provide all employees with the option to work from home and/or flexible work arrangements, then it shouldn’t be offered at all.

Photo: Victor1558/Flickr

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Unknown Mami March 4, 2013 at 3:12 pm

What you are describing certainly sounds like inequality, but that does not make me want to jump to if we can’t all work from home, then no one should be able to. It is BS that the privileged get more privilege, but two wrongs don’t make a right. I’m sure that even if your boss was in the office every day you would still be doing tasks for her that have nothing to do with your actual work, that is a flaw in your boss and her sense of entitlement. I also believe that some jobs can not be done remotely, but let’s stop pretending that all jobs require employees to be physically present in a particular location. That is just simply not the case for many jobs. In a company like Yahoo that should be forward thinking and about innovation, pushing an antiquated work model is ABSURD and not conducive to thinking outside the box or rewarding performance. Not to mention all the time it kills in commutes, which is not productive at all. Also, if people were hired and told that they could telecommute, how can you come to them after the fact and say…this job that you accepted under certain circumstances is totally going to change those circumstances and if you don’t like it well, no job for you? Not at all having to do with whether the employees affected were performing well remotely? We are not drones. We need to restructure our society (jobs included) to help us thrive, not to keep us in the same tired routines that are not moving us ahead or helping us excel.

I appreciate you perspective and I love you, but I just can’t agree on this one.

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2 Melanie Edwards March 21, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I personally agree that it should not be a blanket policy (either way), but do feel for the guest contributor of this article and appreciate her sharing another side of the equation.

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3 Maximom March 5, 2013 at 9:27 am

There is a lot of personal circumstance in this posting. It sounds like you made some choices that many working moms wouldn’t make- the 6 to 6 thing with your husband was a choice that you made. You could have left work and hung out at Starbucks until he picked you up. Be mindful of the tone you set at work. There are many jobs that require you to be in the office this is true. I don’t know if yours is one of them. It also sounds like your boss is a bit of a hypocrite in not being open to your request. (Personal circumstance) However, as a high level executive leader I would be annoyed by you entering my office in tears. In business- keep even your personal needs aligned with the business.

Now as for executive privilege- nope. Executive women work from home because we work 24/7. There are no off hours for high level executives. So while you were both pregnant- she was likely on a conference call while doing her ultra sound. Working from home is a privilege that executive women earn as they climb the ranks. That said, as a leader I don’t care where my people work from as long as they get it done and are accessible. My admin needs to be here in the office to coordinate with all of the people she supports. Admin is not a work from home job. Sorry this post sounded like you were whining that life isnt fair. Surely you figured that out before now.

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4 Melanie Edwards March 21, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Thank you for the comment and sharing your opinion. This is such a varied topic with many points-of-view and I enjoy hearing them all.

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