Work-life balance. Who ever gets it right, right? In fact, sticking the word “balance” in there is somewhat misleading.
Work-life bias would be better, with the heaviest weight on the Work side and a small hummingbird feather on the Life.
Work-life guilt would be the most appropriate phrase as the Work is drenched in the stuff and the Life is underpinned and driven by its burdens.
Just over a year ago, the law was changed to give all employees who’ve worked for the same company for 26 weeks the right to request more flexible working arrangements.
But a study by the budgeting account website Thinkmoney found that just 13% of parents take advantage of flexi hours, either starting later or leaving earlier, and only 14% work from home.
I do a bit of all of these – working in the office, working at home, trying to find better hours to cope with childcare.
The result is a mush of compromises, long car journeys, full diaries, frantic excuses in the middle of important meetings – nobody’s happy.
For many parents, me included, we work on the fringes of legitimacy. We don’t make formal requests for flexi-time because, as the saying goes a “no” often offends.
A formal request puts the whole matter in the spotlight whereas working mums tend to work in the shadows.
There’s a whole lot of goodwill – from bosses, colleagues, clients – that we’d rather not put under the strain of rigorous protocols and rigid time-keeping.
Flexible working when a child is sick is a must. But if you’ve bargained away your goodwill with some foot-stamping it can become the cause of resentment.
Head of policy at the Working Families charity Julie McCarthy said: “Good employers say flexible working can really engage and empower their employees.”
True. But no-one has quite got their heads round the idea of six weeks off in summer.
Working Mum, feeling too often that I’m letting everyone down – with my son getting the worst of it.