Even though I accepted this transfer to Virginia, earlier in the month, the thing that has been weighing on me the most is that in this new role - I would be required to be in our corporate office, five days a week. Over the past few days, the picture that has been painted for me, from people who work there, is that those who are not the first to arrive and the last to leave, are viewed less favorably than those who commit their entire lives to their work.
And well ... that's just not how I roll. Because while I do work hard and have a lot of passion for my career, it's not my life. My life is made up of a lot of things, and at this juncture, my children are among the most important.
Now that there's been a new "twist" in our situation (and for those 200+ people who have left me comments that I have yet to publish inquiring IS IT WHAT I THINK IT IS? the answer is YES) my priorities have shifted even more, once again.
My current boss called me earlier this week to tell me that because the children are due to start kindergarten in the Fall, this move would happen in June. So that by July 1, I am sitting behind my desk, in my new office, in my new assignment. A new assignment which sounds absolutely wonderful to me. Minus the whole sitting in my new office every day stuff.
Being who I am, ye unable to hold a secret, I spilled the beans and told my boss what is going on. I also told him that I suddenly have considerable hesitation (and heartburn) (and nausea) (and bouts of drowsiness) about taking a job that will pull me away from my family for 40+ hours a week.
He said that he understood. And he called his boss to tell him the situation.
When my boss called me back a few minutes later he essentially told me that the boat had left the dock. I accepted the position, they expect me in the position. In an office. Monday through Friday. Either Seven to Four. Eight to Five. Or Nine to Six. My boss was told by his boss, that he needs to coach me to take this job because it has already been communicated to senior management and there is no backing out. If we need assistance with childcare, we can hire a nanny.
Now, please. Imagine my response, if you will.
First, imagine me thinking, "Are you seriously telling me that I need to put my CAREER before my FAMILY?" And then, imagine those words coming out of my mouth before I could stop them. Words to the effect of, "Are you telling me that I need to put my CAREER before my FAMILY?"
EVERY WEEK DAY?
To some, this might not seem like a big deal, but to me, someone who has worked out of their home for the past 10 years, in an extremely flexible job, it's like being thrown in to a lion's den.
There was more discussion, most notably - my boss telling me that although the expectation is that I accept this job, he does not want to feel guilt down the road for putting me in a position that rips me away from my children.
(My boss is a very good, compassionate man.)
We concluded the conversation and I told him that I'd be in touch.
The next day he called again. Twice. But I never answered my phone because I didn't know what to say. There is a BIG part of me that wants to move and since I said I'd take it, I feel like I should. Moreover, I essentially had us mentally packed and out the door, living on the east coast - two months from now.
But as more information emerges about this job and what the expectations are on me, I feel positively weak. Like I have absolutely no control over how the company is going to use me, and work me, and drag me away from my family, and yuck. I don't want it. Despite the benefits and pension and all things that shine and glimmer.
I DON'T WANT IT.
Because the gain is not worth the loss.
Today, I decided that I just couldn't avoid my boss any longer, so I called him. And because I'm nothing if not open to a fault, I told him that the reason he hasn't heard from me in the past few days is because I have been deliberately hiding from him and screening all calls.
Then I told him that while I want this job and I am more than happy to move, and even though I've already accepted it, I absolutely will not take on a job that will force me to be in the office - five days a week for at least eight hours a day. Especially given my current situation. Ahem.
If, however, the company is willing to allow me some flexibility - such that I arrive every day at around 9 AM, and depart every afternoon at around 1 PM, and continue my work in the early morning, or evening, once the children are down for the night, that would suit me just fine. But I am not going to consistently tell my children that Mommy cannot volunteer in their kindergarten class room because it would be frowned upon by her company.
I am not going to miss out on my children's lives because of WORK.
My boss, a man that I really respect and appreciate, hesitated before saying, "OK, so let me make sure I've got this straight. You don't want this job?" I replied, "No, I do want this job and I want the relocation. But I don't want this job under the conditions that I currently anticipate."
He hesitated again and said, "So, what you are saying is, you cannot take this job and be in the office every day from 8 to 5?" I clarified, "It's not that I cannot take this job ... it's that I will not take this job, with zero workplace flexibility. So if they are not willing to make that concession, I am not willing to take it."
After a long pause, he said, "The problem is, if you want this kind of flexibility, all working mothers will want this kind of flexibility. We can't make a concession for you that we don't make for everyone else."
And I responded, "Well, I don't see that as being a problem. It is my belief that a HAPPY employee is a PRODUCTIVE employee and if you can find a way to merge family life more seamlessly with work life, you might see an increase in productivity from your employees with young children who are silently stewing and biding their time until they can break off the golden handcuffs, snatch that golden carrot and quit."
He was quiet as I continued, "I would bet that the vast majority of working mothers, with young children, and who are locked in an office, are being eaten up inside because they are away from their children for 50+ hours a week. We brought these little people in to the world so what? We can see them two, maybe three, waking hours a day? That is totally unacceptable. In this day and age and in our profession, with computers and cell phones and broadband coverage, it doesn't have to be that way. It shouldn't be that way. It's time our management evolves to better accommodate the working parent. There are a lot of excellent employees out there who are simply not willing to sacrifice their family life for their career. However good that career might be."
My boss laughed and said, "I totally understand your position. But let me take it up line and see what happens. I'm not feeling too optimistic that management will endorse your plan."
Eh, I'm not feeling too optimistic either.
But I am feeling a whole lot better that they know full well what I'm capable of committing.
And what I'm not.