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A Working Parent on the Way It Should Be

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Mother holding hands with son on ledge
Mother holding hands with son on ledge

I am a married mother of two young children and I also work full time. When I was pregnant with our first daughter, it was always my intention to go right back to work after my maternity leave. Childcare was set, cute lunch bags and coolers were ready. Everything was great.

Then she was born. RECORD SCRATCH. How I didn't know that my whole world would be flipped upside down is a question I'll never really be able to answer. I felt really prepared. I really wasn't. And my first daughter was the poster child for easy baby. She made it impossible to want to leave her. But, we had made the decision, and I felt lucky that my job at the time offered six paid weeks of maternity leave. I had saved up my vacation as well, and took a few weeks of unpaid leave and dropped my 12-week-old newborn off at daycare and left for an overnight conference in another state. Go big or go home, right?

By the time I was pregnant with my second child a year later, I was working 16-hour days and barely seeing my daughter. I'd hurry through her bedtime routine so I could get back to my computer and continue working. My OB noticed my blood pressure was high and my amniotic fluid was low. I was doing too much. But, the job was the job and the job didn't care about my life choices.

The good news is that by the time my second daughter arrived, our maternity leave had been boosted to a fully paid 13 weeks, nearly unheard of in the U.S. Our pay was competitive, our benefits outstanding.

But, the job was still the job and the job was too much for our family.

I decided to look elsewhere and found a lower salaried position with a small company that boasted flexible hours, caring bosses, and a real work-life balance. I figured it was too good to be true, but I'd give it a whirl.

Spoiler alert: It's been three years and they will have to kick me out the door. My first week here, my new boss was late to welcome me because her daughter had an emergency dentist visit. (No running in Target, two-year-olds!) I've learned that the balance can and does exist. The work is important. The company depends on us giving our best and being committed to our jobs. But, our personal wellbeing is also important. Our families are important. And my company understands that. Sick kid? Stay home and use your sick time for that. Don't use a vacation day. Kids have a play? Absolutely go to that and make up the afternoon another way. Parent/teacher conferences? Of course.

My older daughter's school offers a free month of summer camp in July. The first half of the day is academic and the second is fun. They provide breakfast and lunch. Free. FREE. The catch? The day is 9-3pm and there is no before or after care. Sad trombone for working parents.

I brought it up to my boss and she was completely open to me flexing my schedule to accommodate this month. I could come in early (my husband would drop the girls off in the morning) and leave early enough to get them at 3pm for that month. It would be my responsibility to make sure my work was complete, though.

That's the thing here. As long as we hit our goals, keep our commitments, and do the work, my company doesn't care how it gets done. Be a parent. Have a family. Let's actually celebrate that by having a family-centered holiday open house! They preach work/life balance and they walk the walk.

I work from home on Wednesdays because that makes it easier for me to get the girls to dance class at night. If there is a half day with no after care, I can bring a tiny intern to my office to finish out the day with me. It's all good.

Could I find a job that pays more? Probably. Would that place let me make 5pm soccer practice? Probably not. Would they let me work from home on the days that my water heater breaks and someone needs to let the repair person in? Maybe?

But I'm not willing to take that risk. The understanding and trust I have here are too great to lose.

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This post is part of an editorial series produced by The Huffington Post as part of our monthlong "Work Well" initiative, which focuses on thriving in the workplace. The goal of the series -- which will feature blogs, reported features, videos, and more -- is to present creative solutions you can use to take care of yourself as you take care of business. The effort is also part of The Huffington Post's "What's Working" solutions-oriented journalism initiative. To see all the content in the "Work Well" series, visit here.