Balancing Work & Family

By Robbie McKeon
Four smart working women shared their thoughtful ideas and advice at a NYWICI Cocktails & Conversations panel discussion on “Balancing Work and Family,” held March 8, 2016, at The New York Times offices.

Valerie M. Grubb, HR consultant, executive trainer and coach at Val Grubb & Associates, Ltd. moderated the lively discussion, and the panelists — Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch; Jennifer Owens, editorial director at Working Mother Media; Neha Sangwan, internal medicine physician and corporate communication consultant at Intuitive Intelligence —  not only talked about how to balance work and child or elder care obligations, they also delved into the issue of overall work-life balance.

Here are some highlights of the discussion:

If you’re interviewing for a job while pregnant but not showing

  • Let them get to know and like you before telling them about the pregnancy but do it before you get the offer. Learn about their benefits and negotiate for what you need. (Jennifer)

If you interview for a job knowing that you need flexibility

  • I lived this. Once I knew they were interested in me, I let them know that I had to leave on time to pick up my kids. You’re just asking for an accommodation. (Jennifer)
  • Know what you want. Don’t apply for full-time and then ask for 15 hours/week. But if you can do a full week, though not on the traditional office schedule, raise the issue after expressing interest in the job. Stress that you just want to adjust where or when you work, not reduce your hours. (Carol)

If you’re a mom who needs help but doesn’t want to ask for it

  • Lower your standards. Try getting your family to contribute more. (Carol)
  • Know what you value — for example, is it a clean house or your own exhaustion? And know what gives you energy and what drains you. (Neha)

If you need to broach the issue of caregiving with your boss

  • Performing well as an employee is key. If you are, approach your boss so you can work it out together. (Valerie)
  • Know that the only legal protection for you is the FMLA. There’s no legal requirement for flex time or child or elder care programs. It’s all up to the individual employer. (Jennifer)

If you‘re not a family caregiver but need flexibility nevertheless

  • We’re beginning to value performance more than time in the office so, if you’re performing well, tell your boss that even though you don’t have kids, etc., you need flexibility to deal with things in your life too. (Valerie)
  • If everyone is using flex policies, then it becomes more a part of the company culture and less of a “working mother ghetto issue.” (Jennifer)

If you’re stressed by the work/life balancing act

  • Don’t let stress get to the point where your work is compromised. If it’s time for a career break, leave on a high note so it’s easier to return. (Carol)
  • Just breathe and you’ll feel a release from stress. Be present in your body. (Neha)


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