Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Can We Afford To Have It All?

I've found that most of the articles I've read regarding the work life balance that families need so that both parents can thrive in the work place centers around those that are highly educated and are already established in their careers. When you have an MBA from an elite university or have worked and established yourself within a Fortune 500 company one may have more leverage with requesting things like a flexible schedule or paid maternity leave. So, what about everyone else? What about the Millennials that have not gone to college or recently graduated from school and have not gained valuable work experience? What about those of us that work in positions or industries with a sink or swim mentality instilling the fear that we can be easily replaced?

Not all families have two parents in the household, not all families have parents that can afford nannies or full time daycare so that both parents can work long hours and travel for work. Many families work in industries such as healthcare or retail where the hours are inflexible and the wages are low. How do we lean in? Is it fair to penalize or condemn those of us that are not fortunate enough to have the same choices and possibilities as someone like Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer? Is it fair to expect that those of us with a household income below $80,000 should not procreate at all?

Don't get me wrong, I am glad that there are women like Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg in the positions of power that they are in that can make decisions that benefit families, help to foster an environment where moms and dads are able to thrive and contribute the way they did before becoming parents. I am glad the “lean in” debate has received the attention that it has so that it may create a dialogue at other companies with regard to favorable policies for families that would extend to all employees, not only those that are in a position of authority.

Most other first world countries have more favorable policies for working families than the U.S. Yes, the cost of providing paid leave can be costly but the cost of having to replace workers or face the risk of losing quality workers must be an incentive for employers to provide paid leave for new moms and dads. If some of the most successful companies can see the value in retaining their workforce why can't other companies do the same?

It is clear not all families are the same, which create unique challenges across the board. Whether it’s the woman who has found success in corporate America but earns less than her male counterparts or the dad that cannot get the flexible schedule he needs to be home more with his family or the single mom that works her butt off but still needs to rely on government assistance to barely make ends meet; families are in dire need of support in this country and we need favorable policies that will help us continue to thrive and grow as a nation.