I had taken the day off to take my kids to the Putt-Putt and arcade money pit. The whining began when Chase, 8, realized that he had won only half the number of tickets in the arcade as his 10-year-old sister, Rachel, and only had enough to trade in for a cheap, plastic blow gun. As much as I hate guns, I figured, "What's the harm?"
Late that afternoon, as I was cooking dinner, Chase sucked, rather than blew, and down the hatch went one of the blow gun darts. Remembering another choking incident earlier in my parenthood, I miraculously remained calm, realizing that if he was screaming, he was breathing. As he screamed, "I'm dying, I'm dying," I watched as my 71-year-old mother grabbed him around the waist, attempting to perform the Heimlich maneuver. It all seemed to go in slow-motion as my daughter, who normally considers her brother to be expendable, began to panic that her brother was dying. [She actually DOES love him!]. I found myself walking around the counter, calmly asked my mother to take over the cooking and I, too, attempted the Heimlich maneuver. I quickly realized it was not working and I worried that even though Chase was screaming, the dart could have gone down further and may obstruct his breathing.
Luckily, I've been working out at the gym for four years now and even though they're unobservable by the human eye and covered with a soft layer of fat, I've actually developed some muscles! Between those and adrenaline, I picked up Chase, turned him upside down and shook him like a salt shaker. A little bit of throw-up and the orange dart fell out on my scratched-up wood floors! Whew! We all laughed in relief and watched as Chase broke the gun in half over his knee, and willingly threw away his prized possession! Great! Now he hates guns too!
As I think back on the blow gun incident, and other fabulous and scary times with my kids, I am both gratified and fulfilled. As a professor, I've had a flexible schedule for my entire career, and this has allowed me to be an integral part of my kids' childhood. I've said out loud many times, "I don't know what I'd do if I had a 'real' job and had to go to work every day from 8 to 5. I would have missed so much! I would have hated it. Yet, many women do this every day either because they have inflexible careers, demanding clients, old-fashioned bosses, or because they simply have to work full-time at a job that requires 40 hours of face time.
Then, there's the other choice.
Many moms leave their careers entirely to stay home with their children. This is a noble calling and, in the long run, harder than any job I've ever had. I did it for 15 months once and found myself itching to get back to work. Luckily, I was on sabbatical and had my flexible job waiting for me. As long as I show up for classes and meetings, and am available to my students, I can come and go as I please and do the rest of my work anytime, anywhere.
But most women are stuck in a purgatory between two distinct choices -- work full-time and miss many of their kids' triumphs and challenges, or stay home and miss out on their ability to express themselves professionally in a grown-up environment. Surveys show that a large majority of stay-at-home moms would like to go back to work if they could do so flexibly. It's just too hard to find positions that allow moms to have it all. Unfortunately, companies are missing out on this talented, educated, and experienced segment of the workforce because they are unable to think outside of the box and package work in a way that allows for flexibility, i.e., working from home, job-sharing, part-time, flex-hours, project-based.
My business partner, Kevin Cain, and I have created a new resource for moms and employers called www.HomeBy3.com. Our mission is to be the premier website for flexible jobs for moms. We work hard to find companies that have flexible opportunities, and we ask them to post their jobs on our website. We also work to educate employers on the benefits of packaging work so that it is accessible to the hidden workforce of stay-at-home moms and other professionals who'd like to work flexibly. Join us on our venture as we learn about the challenges of work-life balance, and as we gather stories from around the country about flex-employment. If you have a story to share, please e-mail me at sherry.moss@HomeBy3.com. Your story may even appear in a future blog or on our website!