October 21, 2014 — Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of travelling to Toronto to attend our annual Catalyst Canada Honours Conference and Dinner. After returning from my year-long parental leave this fall, I was eager to reconnect with my colleagues and member contacts as well as learn from the various engaging discussions planned throughout the day.
But as I was packing for my flight, I got a call from my daughter’s childcare provider that turned my excitement to concern. My daughter was running a fever and needed to be picked up right away.
Meanwhile, my husband was at an important work event of his own. With our backup caregivers out of town and unavailable, I decided there was no way I’d be able to attend the conference. I couldn’t expect my husband to take time off during his busiest time of year. Tamping down my disappointment, I called my husband to tell him what was happening and shifted my focus to taking care of our daughter.
As I cuddled my daughter at home, periodically taking her temperature as the clock ticked closer to my flight time, my mind kept going back and forth. If I postponed my flight, maybe I could ask my husband to stay home with our daughter. Then again, I thought, I’m her mother; she needs me.
I knew my colleagues would understand my absence, but I still knew I’d be missing a big professional opportunity. As any working mother can imagine, I was feeling anxious and guilty about either choice: missing an important work event or leaving my daughter when she was sick.
Luckily for me and my daughter, I married a wonderful, supportive man and I work for an amazingly supportive organization. Within minutes of getting off the phone with my supervisor, who told me not to stress about the conference, my husband walked in the door!
To my surprise, he’d made the decision to come straight home following his company’s press conference. He told his communications manager he wasn’t available for interviews because he needed to get home to his sick daughter so his wife could catch a flight to Toronto.
His colleagues congratulated him for being a role model for other working parents and encouraged him to take all the time he needed at home. In a moment, my guilt evaporated. My husband is a great dad, and I knew my daughter was in good hands. My husband was relieved that he didn’t have to hide or rationalize his decision to stay with our daughter and do some work from home. When he returned to his office, his boss was more concerned about our daughter’s health than he was about my husband’s temporary absence.
As new parents, my husband and I are enormously grateful to our employers for being so understanding. And as a woman, I learned how to ask for and accept my husband’s help—and my husband got an opportunity to help support me in my career, as I’ve always supported him in his. In other words, flex worked for our family—and it’s a healthier and more sustainable model for families and organizations in general. Progressive companies make it a priority.