Remember that time before you had kids, when you knew everything about having kids? Yep, me too. I found out we were expecting our first child right after I had completed my MBA and started a promising new leadership role with a Fortune 500 Company. Friends asked if I would continue working or if I’d stay home once the baby arrived. Of course, I would keep working, things wouldn’t be that different. Afterall, I loved my new job and was anxious to put my newly minted MBA to use.
Enter Baby #1. I am now convinced no person, no class, and no amount of prior childcare experience can prepare you for what it’s like to welcome a child into the world. To say it’s lifechanging is an understatement.
I was fortunate to have a supportive team at work and at home. I spent 10 weeks at home with my baby before returning, and even worked part time my first week back. However, the reality of being a working parent hit home sooner rather than later. Because of the nature of my role, I would see my baby in the morning to feed her and then not again until I picked her up from daycare, sometimes 10 hours later. She was only awake for about 1.5 hours a day with me. This baby, who I was never apart from, suddenly seemed like a stranger. It wasn’t how I envisioned being a working mother at all.
It didn’t take me long to realize this was not what I wanted for my family. I spoke with my leadership team about the idea of a part-time position. Although my immediate supervisors were supportive, I ultimately knew it wouldn’t be sustainable due to the company culture. I decided to engage my prior employer about a similar arrangement. I knew they offered some sort of job-sharing arrangement on a case by case basis, but it had been a long time since anyone in HR had tried it. After much discussion with the business and my former manager, we decided to go for it.
I started job sharing 2.5 years ago and have not looked back. In my situation, I don’t share one job with one individual, but rather a team of HR professionals. As the senior HR person, I work directly with the leadership team of the business on the strategy, direction, and execution of the HR programs. I then work with other members of the team on day-to-day operational issues.
Job sharing has been ideal for me. I spend more time with my growing family at home, while working in a field I am passionate about. I also appreciate the ability to mentor more junior staff and watch as they achieve their goals. From a business perspective it provides a scalable model and helps deepen our bench strength.
I don’t know how long I’ll continue to job share, but I am thankful to work for a company that embraces and explores many types of unique working arrangements. Because of it, we allow room for a more diverse and flexible workforce, retaining talent as life happens.
If you are considering job sharing but aren’t sure where to begin, I would encourage you to start a conversation. You never know where it may go, and both you and the organization may be better off in the end.