You know about the so-called “Mommy Tax,” wherein working moms are viewed as less committed than men and childless women and therefore face negative career consequences, including earning less.
Now, new research has shown that, contrary to the “daddy bonus” suggesting fathers earn more over the course of their careers than childless men, more involved dads have lower long-term earnings than those who fit the more stereotypical provider role.
Despite the increased prevalence of employee benefits and perks meant to support better work-life integration, many working moms and dads remain afraid to “out” themselves as involved parents. Instead they’ll feel pressure to demonstrate commitment to their jobs out of fear they’ll be passed over for important projects, promotions or other opportunities.
We asked more than two dozen working parents from across several different industries what questions they’ve been afraid to ask their employers. Here’s what they had to say.
“Can I Adjust My Schedule?”
Having the ability to decide to come into work early or leave early can make being a working parent much easier. It can help parents with pickup and drop-off hours at schools or day care, and even allows for family dinners once in a while.
“Can I Use Sick Days When My Kid’s Sick?”
Better to ask than to fib about it and wrestle with the guilt later.
“Why Does Our Bay Area Office Get Better Parental Leave Than the Rest of Us?”
Yes, we know California has a statewide policy. But that doesn’t explain why working moms aren’t treated equally across all of our company’s U.S. offices.
“You Call THAT a Mother’s Room?”
I call it a curtain draped between copiers. Not exactly my idea of a private place to pump.
“Can We Talk About My Paternity Leave?”
Modern dads want to share caregiving responsibilities more equally with their partners, and that starts with paternity leave. But taking time off work for family reasons still carries a stigma, so many new dads are afraid to take full advantage of paternity leave, even when it’s offered.
“My Boss is a Mom and She Works ‘Round the Clock. How Do I Gain Her Respect If I Log Off at 5 p.m. Every Night?”
In many cases, leaders and managers – not the handbook – set the tone of what’s expected of employees. So when managers work through maternity leave or log super-long hours, it’s hard for working parents to feel confident in their choices to unplug.
“What Kind of Child Care Subsidies Do You Have?”
Child care has become the largest household expense for many American families, with a price tag of about $18,000 per year for two kids in daycare. About 70 percent of working parents report making career decisions based on the cost of care, yet many don’t feel comfortable asking their employers about any programs in place – DCAPs, flexible spending, and reimbursements – to help offset the high cost of care.
“Can I Work from Home?”
Whether it’s a telecommuting once-a-week arrangement or more of a situational thing, the flexibility to be able to work from home can be a big difference-maker for working parents. But it’s often something they’re reluctant ask for, because they don’t want to be seen as seeking special concessions.
“Have You Ever Thought About Offering…?”
Going to HR can be an intimidating proposition, especially when you’re asking for additional employee benefits.
“Do We Have Any Scholarship Programs Available for Employees’ Kids?”
Employer-sponsored scholarship programs toward a child’s college tuition or for costly summer programs could help working parents manage these rather costly expenses.
“OMG, My Nanny Just Quit! Can You Help Me Find Backup Care?”
There’s almost nothing more stressful than scrambling to find child care in a pinch. When your employer can lend a hand finding long-term or situational care, it’s a huge help for working parents.
“You Know What Would Be Great? Unlimited PTO”
Nothing makes employees – not just the working moms and dads – more envious than reading about companies, like Netflix and Chartbeat, that have take-the-time-you-need PTO policies. Being able to blend vacation, sick days and other forms of PTO takes a lot of the pressure off of working parents who’re juggling sick kids, snow days, child care, holidays and school vacations.
“I’m Nervous About Coming Back from Maternity Leave. What are My Options?”
Many new moms struggle with the transition back from maternity leave, yet a large number don’t feel comfortable asking for help with the reintegration. Having programs in place – whether a flexible scheduling plan or informal employee resource groups – can make a big difference for a new mom returning to work after having a baby.
“Can I Leave Early on Tuesdays from April to June?”
Somebody’s going to have to coach the baseball and soccer stars of tomorrow.
“Do We Have Any Family Planning Benefits?”
It’s not an easy question to ask, but some employees would be pleasantly surprised with the answer. For example, at Deloitte, adoptive parents are reimbursed up to $5,000 per child. Companies like AOL also help cover the cost of fertility treatments, while some, including Facebook and Apple, will pay for female employees to freeze their eggs to start families later on down the line.
“What Kind of Family Care Benefits are Available?”
A recent survey of Care.com members found that 64 percent of working parents worry about their kids every minute of the day. Yet, many parents don’t know quite what work-life and family care benefits their employer offers.
“What are My Next Steps?”
Because becoming a parent doesn’t erase your career goals.
“Where’s the Yoga Studio?”
Not nearly as out there as it sounds. In the modern workplace, wellness programs are no longer the exception – they’re the rule. And today's working parents, whose lives couldn’t be busier, are looking for all of the on-site wellness initiatives and perks that they can find – from on-site fitness centers to yoga studios and more.
“Are You Ever Going to Increase Our 401k Match?”
Future planning is a huge concern for all employees, not just working parents. But for those moms and dads who are saving for college tuition and retirement, every bit helps – especially when it’s in the form of a generous 401k matching program.
“Can We Reschedule?”
Those 4:30 or 5 p.m. meetings can be killers for working parents. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a big deal – maybe it’s technically within work hours. But when those meetings run long, it can all but guarantee you’re sitting in traffic, which adds time to your commute, which adds overtime to your nanny’s pay or delays daycare pickup. And yet many working moms and dads are reluctant to ask to reschedule, again, out of fear of seeming like they’re not committed to their jobs.
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