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Opinion: Why flex-time is a solution for working parents

Last Tuesday, I entered panic mode when I got an email entitled “School Closing” which read, “Dear Parents, this is a reminder that in observance of Columbus Day, we will be closed.”

All I could think was “Crap. What am I going to do?!”

In a perfect world, I would be off as well, and I would get to spend the day with my child.

Instead, I have to go to the office. Am I complaining? Just a little bit.

Who thought that giving kids a holiday when parents had to work was a good idea?

This is just one example of how working families are not supported, and how the reality of two working-parent households hasn’t yet transcended into policies that help us raise our children.

The way I see it, there are numerous problems that need to be addressed. Let’s just talk about one – school schedules that don’t match parent schedules. If a child finishes school at 2pm and both parents work, parents still have to scramble for babysitting. Same goes for holidays – many times kids get these days off, but not parents.

The 9 to 5 work week was designed and implemented when most mothers stayed home. So there was always a parent available to drop off, pick up, attend PTA meetings, pick up a sick kid at school, etc.

Today, things have changed.  About 70 percent of mothers are in the workforce, and about 60 percent of families are two-income households.

It would only seem logical that the 9-5 work week would change, to accommodate the fact that a person can’t be in two places at once. The way I see it, we either change the work week, or we change the school schedule.  But at some point, something’s gotta give.

Back to these holidays where we are not off but our kids are—would it really be SO bad if we were off too? In the United States, we are obsessed with working. Sometimes, we don’t even leave our desks to eat our lunch (I am guilty of this. I suspect some of you are just nodding your heads right now.) The thing is, more time in the office doesn’t necessarily make us more productive (or happy.)

Here are some of my reasons why we should have holidays off when kids are off from school:

• Parents wouldn’t have to stress about making arrangements; less stressed parents equal happy workers.

• Less stressed parents wouldn’t get sick as often (less absenteeism and lower health care costs!)

• If you have a long weekend, you might plan a trip somewhere, helping boost our economy.

Granted, sometimes you just have to be in the office.  There’s a deadline, or a project, or whatever. So what about telecommuting or flex-time? I spend almost 10 hours a week commuting to work. What if I could log into my files and work from home?

Here are some of my reasons why companies should offer flex-time and telecommuting options:

• Cheaper! They’d save in electricity and other utilities; at home, people pay their own bills.

• Sometimes offices are full of distractions, perhaps working from home can lead to more productivity.

• Innovation – giving workers time outside the cubicle might get those creative juices flowing.

• Less stressed parents equal happy workers.

There is research to back this up too.  According to the Families and Work Institute, there is a direct correlation between flexible work conditions and employee performance, retention and job satisfaction.

Tuesday, October 15th is National Flex Day, and October is National Work and Family month.

So, if you’ve ever dreamed of having some flex-time, or adjusting your schedule, this is a great opportunity to start that conversation. When I was pregnant there was a snowstorm and I managed to do some work from home.  I wasn’t sick, so I didn’t need a sick day. I was just afraid of falling and hurting myself in a foot  of snow. My employer agreed; it worked because I asked.

Thankfully, I am one of the lucky ones—I have some flexibility in the morning and evenings, and I can arrange my schedule so I can go to graduate school. Not all places are like that.  But you never know how accommodating your bosses will be unless you ask!

Big changes begin with one person, who knows, maybe others want the same thing but haven’t asked because they’re afraid to do so, thinking they would not get it.

Let’s not be afraid to voice our concerns and start a dialogue.

NBC Latino contributor Diana Limongi

Diana Limongi-Gabriele works hard juggling a full-time job, motherhood, family, grad school and her blog, LadydeeLG, where she writes about issues she is passionate about including teaching her son Spanish, motherhood, parenting, Latino issues, good quality food and women’s issues. Diana is a regular contributor for Mamiverse. She has a MA in Migration Studies, and is pursuing an MPA in Nonprofit Management. Her most important job however, is being mommy to Enzo, a French/Hispanic/American (one day trilingual) 2-year-old boy. You can connect with her via Twitter, @dianalimongi or on Facebook.

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