by Christy Williams | Featured Contributor
I have been a passionate evangelist of flexible work for as long as I can remember. Certainly, long before I had children of my own.
But I am only now realizing how this absolute requirement in my life is leading me, and many others, to become unexpected entrepreneurs.
I remember vividly the day that I had a visceral reaction to inflexible companies, their policies, and the impact they have on our families.
I had been in marketing for about seven years and had recently followed my beloved Marketing Director to a new company as her Senior Marketing Manager. I had already worked for this woman for a few years, and in addition to being one of the best managers I have ever had, she had become a valued mentor and trusted friend.
We were close enough that I knew she and her husband had been struggling with infertility and had more than one pregnancy that ended in heartbreak. So I was thrilled when she was finally able to realize her dreams of motherhood and adopted a beautiful, redheaded, one-year-old boy.
Unfortunately for my friend, she had only been at this new company for a few months, so she was not eligible to take any paid leave in order to be home with her new son to bond with him.
I couldn’t even wrap my brain around that. After all this woman had been through, she finally became a mother…and had to go right back to work the next day, like nothing had happened.
She might have taken some vacation time or unpaid leave. To be honest, I don’t remember. But that wasn’t the point. I can only imagine how crucial the bonding process is when adopting a one-year-old child, and bells and whistles were going off for me that this was just not right.
I became obsessed with this work-life topic. So much so, that once I realized how passionate I was about the subject—and how bored I was in corporate healthcare marketing—I made the transition from my marketing career to human resources in order to be able to change things from the inside out.
I became a Work-Life Generalist for a company I had previously worked for, and managed to make great strides in implementing policies that helped employees balance their work and personal lives. We created flexible work arrangement policies; offered errand-running services to help employees with all those day-to-day duties; and even created a Mother’s Room, where lactating mothers could pump in a private space instead of a company bathroom.
Fast forward almost 20 years and I am so happy to see the strides that corporate America has made towards flexible work policies.
Now that I have children of my own—not to mention aging parents—flexible work is not only a necessity, it has led me—and many others like me—to unexpected careers as entrepreneurs, in large part because of the flexibility that it can offer.
There is a part of me that would love the so-called stability of a full-time job, working for someone else who would hand me a paycheck every other week.
But the reality of my daily life doesn’t even begin to fit into that unyielding, structured box.
I have two children who go to different schools—neither of which have buses—so not only am I faced with figuring out how to get both kids to their schools at the exact same time in the morning, I then have to leave by 2:15 to pick up my high school freshman by 2:45. After running her home and picking up my son at 3:30 and getting home by 4:00, after-school activities start around 4:30 and run throughout the evening.
But just because I have a busy family life doesn’t mean I don’t want to work. In fact, it’s more of a need at this point in my life than a want. And that need is as much for personal fulfillment as for the income.
I know my situation is not unique and there are thousands—if not millions—of other people who are faced with the same challenges.
So for those of us who can’t find the holy grail of flexible work—the work-from-home position where you can set your own schedule—the next best thing is to create your own flexible work.
Sure, it might be more of a hustle to generate steady income at first, but that’s why freelance work was created. So we have another income stream while we grow our businesses.
But I will happily take on some freelance writing and coaching gigs on the side if it allows me to build a business where I can be my own boss, set my own hours, and allow me to make my work fit my life, instead of the other way around.
Now that I think about it, maybe entrepreneurship is the holy grail after all.
Image: Brooke Lark on Unsplash