November 23, 2022

London and career building during the "busy years"

I have been to London a lot.  I am very lucky.

London is so big and full and busy.  What often gets me is the number of people and where they are - they are everywhere! There are people living above shops and across from offices.  There are people living in big houses and in tiny bedsits. There are restaurants next to restaurants next to restaurants.

I am really enjoying my office visit and excited about my hybrid working arrangement.  I'll be hopefully traveling once a month for work, and then spending the rest of the time with the flexibility to enjoy my family and home life the way I want to.

During the pandemic I often felt there was a negative shift in the parenting balancing act, where we told parents that it's okay to work from home, so it's okay to ignore your kids, park them in front of the TV, and work.  In my last role I almost cried when a call with the MD ended with him turning his laptop to show me his ill seven year old, laying on the sofa next to him, starting at a tablet.  

I still fundamentally believe children need parents to be present, both physically and mentally, and I detest the transition to "pick up the sick kid and get back to work".  But also wonder if the remote/hybrid transition is possibly allowing more women to stay in the workforce now... that maybe the glass ceiling of non-office-presence when having a family is becoming a... cellophane ceiling?  

I'm not convinced myself - I know there are huge numbers of women forced out of the workforce for childcare responsibilities during the pandemic.  But maybe now that the dust starts to settle, the idea of hybrid might allow the bit of flexibility in daily scheduling that sometimes precluded mothers from perusing careers in the past?

I'll have to wait and see.


  1. Oh, that description of the MD is so telling (and heartbreaking). And I know some would argue that if the child was "really" sick, the parent would be able to sign off. But it's that in-between zone we have to juggle so often. The kids are sick enough to need/want us, but not "sick enough" that work will understand. And many people wouldn't even have work that would be understanding if a parent has a very sick child at home.
    Having just had two sick kids - with all sorts of vomit and fevers - over the last month, this stirs up a primal response to your post! My kids could have survived without me by their side the whole day; they could have been fine with a babysitter I suppose. But I wanted to be there, and I'm so glad I could be...and this is due to flexibility in my work! That said, I definitely used screens at times when I need to get work done.
    But regardless of how things shift "post-COVID?", I think a fundamental truth remains: parents have an uphill battle juggling a balance between work/home life.
    I remember feeling utterly overwhelmed during the pandemic - me with my part-time job and absolutely staggering amount of flexibility and green space outside my back door! The advantages I had were too many to list. I cannot imagine the parents (especially single ones) who had to leave home what with their kids all day?
    I am 100% in agreement that women should have equal access to jobs, the same rate of pay etc, but our society is fundamentally set up to discriminate against parents when they need to prioritize their home role over their work career (again, disproportionately targeting parents - especially mothers - in low-income jobs which predominantly are not able to be completed from home).

  2. You raise some goods points - I think it's a little bit of "all of the above". I think the work from home arrangement can be good (for flexibility), but it can also lead to situations where people are taken advantage of and are expected to work even though their focus should be elsewhere (their kids).

    One of my co-workers told me that she worked all through her Covid-infection (because she could work from home), even though she wasn't feeling well.... and I thought, damn, just because you're home doesn't mean you feel well enough to work... and how efficient can you really be at work when you're sick or taking care of a child?

    In my office, the policy is explicitly that flexibility is encouraged but that one shouldn't mistake the privilege of WFH as a way of saving on childcare.