Get Flexible

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

This should be a golden age of flexibility. Not only do most of us have the tools to do our jobs from anywhere, at any point in time, but today's modern "knowledge workers" also have enormously powerful technology that helps us do those jobs far faster than could have been imagined a decade or two ago.

But it's not a golden age, and that appears to fly in the face of basic logic and economics. Post writer Shankar Vedantam had an interesting Labor Day piece that argued that the absolute inability of most companies and bosses to measure productivity is what keeps flexibility from really taking off.

It's hard to figure out when a guy like me is really firing on all cylinders and making things happen. You can't measure the number of widgets I create every day/week/hour. And judging me on the quantity of my work is tough, too. I could write 10 times more words every day, but it wouldn't be much fun to read. So, according to Vedantam, employers are reaching for what they think is a proxy for productivity: hours worked.

This is incredibly unfortunate for everyone. It sets up an inter-office competition to log the most hours. Those who ask for flexibility can't play the game, so they lose. And it does nothing to ensure quality work. Or any work at all. I'd wager that a healthy percentage of you have once spent an entire day in the office without accomplishing anything other than Web surfing. And I'd further bet that no one noticed. After all, you were at your desk all day, typing away.

I don't know of any grand policies that would fix that on a societal level. But on an individual level, there are some ways out of the trap. Any job hunter serious about flexibility should go to their would-be boss and hammer out some solid, measurable metrics of productivity. These might end up being lousy measures, but it's something to start with. At a minimum, document everything you do, and make sure you share all of that information with your boss (and if you're a boss, demand it of your workers).

Is all of that a pain? You bet. But it's worth the price if it leads to greater flexibility.

Or, perhaps, you have even better solutions -- let me hear 'em.

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  September 14, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Flexibility , Tips
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I work for a government agency, and what Brian describes is dead on accurate. As long as my projects are completed, turned in on time and exhibit good design atributes, no one cares if it took me 8 hours a day or 3 hours a day to get it finished! The "official" policy is "work 40 hours a week", defined as "be in the office 40 hours", not necessarily working. We are allowed some flexibility on when we can come to work (start 6:30 to 8:30) and how many hours we can work per day (8, 9 or 10 hours) as long as we put in the required 40 for the week. I work four 9 hour days and a 4 hour Friday, for example, which does have its benefits.

My wife's job, OTOH, is with a private engineering firm, where getting the job done quickly (and well) is paramount. She's an hourly employee and is expected to do whatever's necessary to meet the deadlines. Where she does the work is immaterial, however; she's worked at home on the weekends with an online connection and software on her laptop computer. Her boss has already said when she becomes pregnant and afterwards he will work out a more flexible schedule for her to work at home a few days each week, which should help a lot wrt daycare expenses.

Posted by: John | September 14, 2006 7:43 AM

John, you are competely right about the government position. As long as the job gets done, no one seems to question what we do all day. But the agency is very resistant to telecommuting. I think it is perception more then anything else. Personally, except for the commute, I prefer to do my work outside my home. When I am at home, I like to just be at home with my family. But I applaud anyone, who telecommutes and can work it out with their families. I would like a telecommuting center better though. Maybe in the future.

Posted by: Lieu | September 14, 2006 7:55 AM

For this to work -- me, pioneer of sorts, as I have been doing this since 1989 -- you must first:

establish your credibility BEFORE asking for flexible-work condition.

A few practical hints:

*short, targeted emails (GOOD, SHORT subject lines) sprinkled through day and week, asking for input about tasks and strategy; reply quickly to ensure you "got it."

*never did face time with my five or six floating colleagues but did conference calls ten days before large, looming deadlines;

*be willing to work late and at night and on-weekends to meet deadlines, enjoying the flex during the day with children, dogs, and perfect weather.

*be careful with multi-tasking as the efficiencies are largely false. Be a Buddhist: when you work, work; when you play, play.

*do NOT over-rely on MS software like MS Project or MS Outlook-automated email-deadlines.

And as you say, develop metrics JOINTLY with your boss and colleagues. Meeting internal deadlines goes a long way. Think of this as a relay-race baton handoff. Your partner will remember that you did what you said, on time. Internal on-time metrics are a great way to "measure" work out-put. Don't let the creep in other people's schedules make you "creep" too. Hard to work with late stuff? Yes. But the credibility you enjoy for ON-TIME is valuable, and and evidence for more flexilibilty.

---
Finally, watch the humor. Does not play well through email and phone. But, cackle to yourself and the dog all you want.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 14, 2006 7:55 AM

Would a Starbucks with a decent internet connection for your laptop be considered a "telecommuting center?"

Of course, it would cost you in addictive coffee...


e

Posted by: harerin | September 14, 2006 7:56 AM

To John - Will this be your first child? If so, then don't expect your wife to be able to work at home with the baby there. (If it's your second or third I'm assuming you already know what you're getting into and for some reason think she can do it). A baby is a lot of work, and you can't just sit it down and expect it to be quiet while you get work done. I tried a part-time schedule when my daughter was three months old where one day out of the three that I worked was from home. I ended up spreading my work over that day and the two "non-work" days at home because I only was able to get a few hours of work done a day. If your wife can work from home, great. But you still need day care.

Congress wants to encourage telecommuting, but my agency is very resistant to it. My supervisors are very flexible on an as-needed basis, but the higher-ups are reluctant to establish a policy where people can do it on a regular basis. I am actually more productive when I work from home. I feel like I shouldn't get credit for any time there that I am not really working where, as you can see, I occasionally web surf and post on a blg when I'm in the office. We now have to "bill" the hours we work on particular projects, so that may help in terms of showing how much you worked while telecommuting. But it doesn't solve the problem of hours worked being the sole means of productivity. And projects finished is not always a good measure either. At least not in my case, where all my work is litigation projects and take the form of drafting pleadings and the like. Some projects are more complicated than others and require more thought and work. In addition, a crises may come up that requires changing priorities. I think general measure of productivity and quality of work over time are really the only things that can be measured here.

Posted by: Sam | September 14, 2006 8:02 AM

Comment here with irony -- so imagine my up-raised eyebrow and arch tone.

The hours-worked proxity for productivity noted by VS in his article reminds me of another "false efficieny."

Don't we all know people who leave early and stay late, but part of the time is spent on power-breakfasts, racket-ball or gym, and I guess tribe-culture rituals like golf or meeting at the Hawk & Dove?

(Don't take offense, prickly-people!))

But like
*staff meetings (yawn while we all talk-retalk and hold hands as a team);

*water cooler bonding (Britney named her baby WHAT?);

blogtime (quicker than therapy).

Hours-present in the cubicle does not mean that more paper moved through the pipeline.

(IMPORTANT paper, people. I know. I push that too. Prickles aside, some people here are hedgehogs, in addition to the true trolls.)

Posted by: College Parkian | September 14, 2006 8:17 AM

Sam, yeah, this would be our first child. We'll just have to see how the "work at home part of the time" plan for my wife functions. If she could work just one day at home that would help on the childcare costs. We're aware of how much work babies are, and I intend to spend as much time helping out as I can those first months as well.

Posted by: John | September 14, 2006 8:51 AM

To College Parkian

So true....
When the O.J. case was going on, the water cooler talk went on for hours every day.
Same thing with Laci Peterson, JonBenet blah, blah, blah.
The Monday morning quarterbacking here eats up a huge daily chunk of time during football season.

Some people need to get a life!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 8:52 AM

Good morning.

Not all jobs fit the (essentially piecework) model of a stack of projects awaiting a worker's individual attention. Those jobs work well with telecommuting and other flexible arrangements. [But beware - if you prove your job can be done "anywhere," you may find that it moves to Bangalore or Wichita without you.]

In other jobs the worker won't know what the day will bring, or even know who will need their expertise during the day. Set hours for everyone gives more freedom to these folks because it imposes limits on their superiors.

Downside of flextime: It kills me when I have to deal with admin folks who work "the early shift" - support staff who leave at 3 when "supporting" people who leave at 5:30? Support staff who are available at the crack of dawn before anyone they support has any work for them to do? Not very efficient.

Sometimes too much is granted to the flex-time, part-time, telecommuting folks at the expense of the regular old 9-5 types. Flexers with long commutes are often inaccessible at peak work hours delaying things for everyone.

It really isn't simply "as long as I do my work..."

Posted by: me | September 14, 2006 8:55 AM

having 'the tools to do our jobs from anywhere' is great IF we have employers who are not stuck in the mindset of 'if i cant see you, you're not working.' and that is still a long long way from happening. The only way it will turn around is when someone who's recognized the value of telecommuting becomes the boss. So far I've never seen this happen in any of the workplaces I've been, or those of friends. Employers often care more about the appearance of productivity, of posturing and exerting 'power' than getting the work done--and they really don't care if we have 'lives' and children who would benefit from our presence.

Posted by: Ritamae | September 14, 2006 9:07 AM

I work at home one day a week...been doing it for years. And it's truly not that much different than being in the office. Still gotta get the work done...still need to respond to tons of email and review things for people, etc. The only difference is that I don't need to drive anywhere to do it and I can have lunch in my own kitchen. Otherwise, I could just as easily have been in the office all day.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 9:08 AM

>In other jobs the worker won't know what the day will bring, or even know who will need their expertise during the day. Set hours for everyone gives more freedom to these folks because it imposes limits on their superiors.<

I agree with "me"'s post above. I have a "knowledge worker" kind of job, but I need to be available for whatever comes up during the day. So I may spend the morning web surfing and wondering why I'm here, then something important and interesting will need to be handled later on. And I *do* think it is much better for me to commit to being available 9 to 5, and then go home to my family and be basically untouchable. That way I know my time with my family is sacred, and will almost never be interrupted by work. So having the occasional slow day sitting at my desk "just in case" something comes up is a small price to pay for knowing I will definitely have uninterrupted time with my family outside work hours.

Maybe it is a personality thing, but I would hate to be home playing with the kids on a Wednesday afternoon and have to switch gears to suddenly handle a work call.

Also a note to the guy expecting his first child -- your wife isn't going to be able to work and care for an infant at the same time. Even if the little rugrat takes a nap, she'll need that free time to FINALLY go to the bathroom, get something to eat, and collapse on the couch for a few minutes. Infants are more exhausting than you think. Just go ahead and pay for the babysitter, even while she's home working.

Posted by: Like "me" | September 14, 2006 9:39 AM

And to John and his wife.

It is very easy to make work one does at home seem invisible to the other spouse.

To Mrs. John - it isn't complaining to state that you did not achieve task X, but spent the day doing Y and Z.

To John - never assume that a lack of complaint means that doing tasks Y and Z instead of X was no big deal. Notice if your wife seems to be finishing up tasks for the office when she should be sleeping.

Hire that sitter.

Remember, for skilled workers, the math isn't "I hardly have anything left over after childcare" because you must include the future earnings you didn't forfeit when you maintained your skills.

Posted by: me | September 14, 2006 9:48 AM

I think productivity would improve if people worked more from home (provided their work can be done from home). People waste so much time in the office socializing. And I have notice people who put in really long hours, typically have the worst time meeting deadlines and acutally producing anything.

Posted by: alexandria mom | September 14, 2006 9:52 AM

I agree with Alexandriamom about time wasted socializing and web surfing. I like to be in the office, get my work done, and go home. I don't need my job to have friends and a social life. When I have downtime, sure, I surf, snack, or chat with a co-worker. I've also seen that those people who always have to work late are often the ones who spend a large portion of their day "spinning their wheels" rather than concentrating on their work. Flextime is only good for everyone when the person using it isn't needed in the office when everyone else is there and perhaps waiting on Mr. or Ms. Flex to finish a portion of a job.

Posted by: Sandy | September 14, 2006 9:59 AM

>>>But like
*staff meetings (yawn while we all talk-retalk and hold hands as a team);

*water cooler bonding (Britney named her baby WHAT?);

blogtime (quicker than therapy).

Hours-present in the cubicle does not mean that more paper moved through the pipeline.
>>>>

Other office time waste:
- coffee runs

- long "working" lunches

- all hands meetings (oh upper management has perfected the art of droning on about nothing for half a day)

- forced "training"

- IM with co-workers

- co-workers fighting/screaming at each other about deadlines/limited resources/general office politics

Posted by: alexandria mom | September 14, 2006 10:00 AM

Although all of Alexandria Mom's examples ARE time wasters, I don't think they are therefore reasons for people to work from home. I really think it's better for an office culture to develop more efficient ways for workers to get work done so they can leave on time, or even early when there is downtime, rather than try to figure out how to coordinate massive schedule shifs so more people can flex or work from home (or Starbucks). Companies will spend years trying to sort all this out, measure individual "productivity", and waste more time and money than we can imagine. Many many jobs are not the sort you can do from home or by working odd hours. Sometimes all the team needs to be in the office a set 6-8 hours per day.

Posted by: Sandy | September 14, 2006 10:08 AM

John: Thanks for the perspective. The government -- of all groups -- should be leading the flexibility charge. After all, it's not like anyone is pulling their hair out about what the shareholders will think.

To College Parkian: Thank you for the list of tips.

Also: I could do a whole post on the right way and the wrong way to do meetings. And a good 95 percent of the meetings I've attended in my life have been the wrong way. But ... I'm not opposed to water-cooler talk (or even business golf!) because I think that making and sustaining personal connections is vital to morale/team-building/network creation.

To "me": You're right -- flexibility is not an option for everyone now, but we might as well start fighting the battle where it is possible, with those paper-pushing "knowledge workers."

To Ritamae: There is certainly some education that needs to happen. I wonder if things will change as the first generation of Internet-native workers (where were *you* when you first saw Mosaic) rises up the corporate ladder.

To Like "me": There's a lot to be said for the bright line between work and family, and certainly, having a workplace to go to helps the process. But some folks are happy with the ambiguity and the sudden gear-shifting.

To alexandriamom: There are some people for whom the distractions of home are waaaaay worse than those at the office, and some for whom the opposite is true. I'd love it if we all got the opportunity to go with what works best for us.

Posted by: Brian Reid | September 14, 2006 10:15 AM

I don't think all the watercooler chit-chat is completely wasted. There's a lot to be said for having social ties with your coworkers and knowing what kind of people they are. I can find more effective ways to motivate people if I know what makes them tick. It's easier to get people to pull together as a team and work for a common goal when we all feel, if not like friends, at least not like strangers. And if I need a favor on a work project, I feel more comfortable asking 'Bob' (in between comparing notes on last night's American Idol) than I do asking 'Cheryl,' who works in our west coast office and who I've never met in person. Just for example.

Besides, if you have to work, what's wrong with having fun while you're doing it?

Posted by: 2Preschoolers | September 14, 2006 10:26 AM

I'm home this morning designing a curriculum for a new course -- and procrastinating. Undoubtedly, I'm more efficient without all the opportunities to take breaks with friends -- but I really miss the collegiality. (Most of my colleagues teach in the distance education division and are scattered throughout the world.) Sometimes I find that I find hours researching and tracking down appropriate examples to cite in a course, for example, when if I had a colleague i could presumably just yell across the partition wall "Does anybody know of a good academic article explaining why the 911/Pearl Harbor analogy sucks?" See what I mean?

also, maybe it's just because I'm female, but I seem to have a lot of mom friends who think I don't "really" work (with deadlines, stacks of work piling up, frantic e-mails and phone calls, etc.) and so they tend to call me and say things like "We just found out that Sandra's not going to be able to help out with story time today in preschool today because her kids are sick, so would you mind coming in and giving us a hand? You're not doing anything, are you?" Still not sure about the best way to tactfully handle that one.

Posted by: Armchair Mom | September 14, 2006 10:35 AM

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy work and co-workers. I can work from home as much as I want but only do it 2 days a week typically. I miss the social aspect of work. I also feel it is harder to get promoted when you telecommute full time. Who else, besides my co-workers, would care about Britney's baby's name?! Only they know my secret shame of being a celebrity blog/gossip reader.

On a serious note, I was merely pointing out that companies who site productivity concerns as a reason for NOT being flexible are not looking at the real picture. I bet companies who give employees greater flexibility have more loyal employees and less turnover. Nobody likes to feel they are being constantly monitored (Foucault anyone?! Does this make up for my celebrity gossip reading?).

Posted by: alexandria mom | September 14, 2006 10:41 AM

Armchair mom:

The tactful answer is simply "I would love to, but I can't. I am working. I'm sorry."

Posted by: me | September 14, 2006 10:42 AM

To armchair mom - I know lots of people (men & women, parents & no kids) who work for themselves or otherwise work at home. They have made it clear that even though they are at home they are working. If someone said to me on a day I was telecommuting "you're not doing anything are you?" I would have no qualms about saying "Yes I am, I am working on.... and I need to get it done by x time or before school lets out, etc." Said politely they shouldn't take offense. If you truly can help out thats great but don't feel bad if you just have to say no.

This is important for anyone telecommuting. You need to establish boundaries, with family and friends.

Posted by: Divorced Mom of 1 | September 14, 2006 10:43 AM

In the second sentence of his essay, Brian makes a huge and erroneous assumption, which then forms the basis of his argument. He alleges that "most of us have the tools to do our jobs from anywhere, at any point in time."

Given the discussions on this blog just over the past couple of weeks, we know this is simply not true. Unless, of course, Brian has a special definition for the "us" in "most of us."

How many posts have we read recently from or about women (and men, but prinicipally women) who work at Starbucks (or in other food service jobs), in retail, on a production line, or in an office where they have to be available when wanted?

If you reread the posts just from the pumping-breast-milk discussion, you'll get a sense of the number of "us" who don't work at jobs that can be done "anywhere, at any point in time."

I agree that employers have been slow to take advantage of flex-time, which is a very good thing in settings where it can be implemented fairly. It benefits both employer and employee, but employers just haven't yet been convinced. That, however, is a different issue from the point Brian seems to be making.

Posted by: pittypat | September 14, 2006 10:45 AM

"I don't think all the watercooler chit-chat is completely wasted"

Unless it's during scheduled breaks or lunch, yeah, the watercooler chit-chat is a waste of the employer's time.

Can't you think of anything better to do than watch American Idol? Sheesh.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 10:47 AM

Armchair mom, I work from home as well and had a lot of requests like this initially. I have basically been able to stop this by mentioning stress from a deadline or other work demands, as they happen. It took a while, but I think people now see me as having a "real job" even though it's at home. I hardly ever get these requests any more, and I get more "how's work going?" friendly inquiries than before.

Posted by: Ms L | September 14, 2006 10:49 AM

Flexible means they can move your job over to India.

Posted by: Inflexible | September 14, 2006 10:52 AM

Over 'water-cooler chat' this am I asked a collegue what he was working on. It turned out to be something I was also starting to work on.

This chat, that is, according to pittypat "Unless it's during scheduled breaks or lunch, yeah, the watercooler chit-chat is a waste of the employer's time."

saved me from doing hundreds of hours of duplicate work.

Posted by: example of useless water cooler chat | September 14, 2006 10:55 AM

>Unless it's during scheduled breaks or lunch, yeah, the watercooler chit-chat is a waste of the employer's time.<

How about posting snarky I'm-so-culturally-superior comments to blogs? Good use of your employer's time, you sanctimonious prig?

Posted by: to 10:47 | September 14, 2006 10:56 AM

"Can't you think of anything better to do than watch American Idol? Sheesh."

No, I happen to like it. So you think I'm a complete loser and a moron. Then again, I'm happy and get along well with most people without judging them over trivial personal tastes.

Can you say the same?

Posted by: 2Preschoolers | September 14, 2006 11:02 AM

I should point out on behalf of employers.... Some IT employers do recognize that because they sell services, their main business asset is people. The more they work from home (past a certain point - 8hrs week??), the less they feel vested in the business. The less they feel vested, the more likely they are to go work directly for that client, taking a piece of revenue out of the corporation.

Not saying that's a very employee-friendly view, just that my last VP made it clear to her Directors that this was a concern, whether it was employees working from home, on client site or at the prime contractor's site. "If they aren't here, we still need to make them feel like part of the company. Get them here as much as we can."

Posted by: Proud Papa | September 14, 2006 11:02 AM

Today's a weird day. I usually don't get time to read the blog until after lunch, but here I am...

=====

John: Thanks for the perspective. The government -- of all groups -- should be leading the flexibility charge. After all, it's not like anyone is pulling their hair out about what the shareholders will think.

Posted by: Brian Reid | September 14, 2006 10:15 AM

=====

Brian--have you ever worked in the public sector? The atmosphere can be as bad or worse. In our case, every tax paying citizen of the US are our "shareholders" to whom we have to justify ourselves. A significant amount of the beaurocracy that exists in federal agencies is based around the concept that we have to ensure that we do the best for the tax-paying citizen and ensure that we do not waste their money. I work for a high profile (read publically and media scrutinized) agency and it is constantly drummed into our heads that we have to ensure that we are careful with anything that might reflect on public use of funds. We regularly have Congressional oversite appointed to "review" what is being done and we have audits by executive branch appointees and staff.

That said, this agency is very good about telecommuting where appropriate. Since we have a *LOT* of computer based work, many of those people can work from home. Most of the time, it is for emergencies or special situations, but occasionally, it is regularly scheduled.

I like the tips that were offered on the link you added. I would add two things:

- if you have regular teleworkers, you should arrange for some regular conference call meetings (if project appropriate). Even if only once/month, talking with people in a meeting setting even remotely adds that team-building exercise and allows you to learn a little about folks. This partially solves the problem that 2preschoolers has with "Cheryl on the west coast". I have a regular conference call with people in six different states of whom, I've never met any of them, but I do know a little about them from the regular "meeting". They feel like work acquaintances that I only occasionally work with, but I still feel like I work with them.

- Be available. Not only should you have dedicated space, but you should have a phone for accessibility and a cell/pager if you might be away from the phone while you are working remotely. Nothing discourages management from allowing teleworking more than staff not being available when something is needed (even if it is just a consultation on an issue). If they can get in touch with you when needed, they'll be assured that you are "working" even if out-of-sight. For the government, this is like having contractors at an off-site facility. As long as you know that you can call them and get a response, that adds the reassurance of "being in the office."

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 14, 2006 11:05 AM

"I don't think all the watercooler chit-chat is completely wasted"

Unless it's during scheduled breaks or lunch, yeah, the watercooler chit-chat is a waste of the employer's time.
~~~~~~~~~
Teambuilding is NOT a waste of time for knowledge workers who must collaborate on projects. Excessive teambuilding might be. But there IS a level of collegiality necessary to increase productivity. I don't want to cite a specific source here because there is an entire field called Organizational Development, and any of hundreds of books would give you that information.

Posted by: Random Guy | September 14, 2006 11:05 AM

Thanks everyone for the comments. My wife and I have already split most of the housekeeping duties; I cook dinner, grocery shopping, run the vacuum around occasionally, and put away clothes (sometimes run the washer/dryer), while she handles the budget and some of the cleaning & clothes washing. I suspect my list of jobs will grow after we have a baby...

My office is a lot more flexible in granting me leave when I need/want it too, while hers is more of the "please stay another hour, pleasepleaseplease" type. It doesn't help that she's the most efficient and experienced at her job in her company, so she is the "fireman" when an emergency occurs. As a manager, I'm expected to be at work (most of the time) to answer questions from others about my projects (there are 70 or so of them, I think), so no home work for me!

Posted by: John | September 14, 2006 11:07 AM

'Thanks everyone for the comments. My wife and I have already split most of the housekeeping duties; I cook dinner, grocery shopping, run the vacuum around occasionally, and put away clothes (sometimes run the washer/dryer), while she handles the budget and some of the cleaning & clothes washing. I suspect my list of jobs will grow after we have a baby...'

Hello, you left something off the list. Taking care of the baby! You might get a baby that sleeps alot, and you might not. When babies aren't being fed, they are busy generating laundry. Baskets full of laundry! Please make sure your wife gets enough sleep too.
Enjoy.

Posted by: experienced mom | September 14, 2006 11:14 AM

Proud Papa, I've worked for the same company since graduation-- 9 years (with a stint of part-time/no-time work as I was a SAHM). They have been extremely flexible with me and allow me to telecommute. My work is interesting and the bosses are kind and friendly.

In return, they have earned my undying loyalty. I can't imagine working anywhere else.

I'm not saying that everyone has this, but I think employees are MORE likely to be loyal to companies that allow them flexibility.

Posted by: Ms L | September 14, 2006 11:14 AM

I don't really see how working from home one day a week would save on daycare. Most daycares I've seen charge almost as much for "part-time" as for full-time infant care. Basically, the liability insurance for infants is so high that it's not in their interests to take part-timers so they discourage it using a market approach. For a nanny I would think it would be even worse: she's dependent on one salary for her living so does it really benefit her to make even less than she alreaady does by taking an enforced day off every week?

But working from home could eliminate a commute and thus add time to your family life.

Posted by: m | September 14, 2006 11:14 AM

I work four days a week as a lawyer at a large DC law firm and have two young children. My job offers amazing flexibility. More than the salary or any other benefits, this keeps me a loyal, happy, motivated employee.

To me, flexibility is not about working from home or at odd hours per se. Flexibility means that if daycare calls because my child is sick, I can leave immediately to pick him up after shooting a quick email to my colleagues. I know they'll cover for me, and I'll reciprocate. It means that I can chaperone a field trip in the morning and go to work in the afternoon, and maybe stay a little late over the next 2 or 3 days to make up the time. It means I can go to the doctor without squeezing it in at lunch and getting stressed sitting in the waiting room because they are running late and I'm starving. It means if my children dawdle over breakfast, I can afford to be patient and get to work 20 minutes late, rather than getting all stressed and angry at my 4 year old for doing what 4 year olds do. Basically, I find I need to have a little give in my day here and there, now and then, and not having a rigid fixed schedule is critical to making our family life go smoothly. Having one day off a week is like banked time--I can borrow from it if I need to and pay it back later.

The tradeoff is that I must give equal flexibility to my employer. If they need me to attend a meeting on my usual day "off" or work crazy hours to meet a deadline, I'm there, no complaints, going full bore. That means I pay for full time daycare, but so be it.

This has worked for me because there is a mutual respect between me and my employers. They know I'll get the job done and I know they won't infringe on my time off unless it is important. I worked with these people for years in order to develop that kind of relationship of trust. And that only develops if you put in the time face to face. This is why I don't agree with the "I'm not here to socialize" type of employee. Human relationships are critical--people will bend over backwards for you if they like you and feel invested in you personally.

And to the person who thinks his wife can stay home to work part time while taking care of a baby, I join the chorus of (gently) laughing parents. Not trying to be mean, but it just isn't possible. Ok, maybe it is possible but your wife will end up a basket case.

If it makes you feel better, once upon a time I looked at my newborn son and believed I could keep him from gun play. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Posted by: hometoday | September 14, 2006 11:15 AM

Armchair mom--I occasionally work from home. The following all work:

- "Sorry I'm on the clock for another X hours"
- "I'm waiting for an important work phone call"
- "I have a deadline to meet and it's going to be tight..."
- "Sorry, but I have too much to get done before the end of the day"
- (for sysadmins like me) "Sorry, but I have a server down and until I can get it back up, I can't do anything else."

and rotate as needed. Once the pattern is set that you are actually working and not available during the day, the requests will decrease.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 14, 2006 11:23 AM

>>> Flexible means they can move your job over to India. <<<

To Inflexible: I think your concern is valid. I work in the software industry so I used to worry about this quite a bit. Recently, I have been running across articles in the Economist for example, about quality problems with outsourcing. The company I work for has had similar serious quality problems with outsourcing software development, which all boil down to communication issues that are not easily solved. In the long run companies are finding that outsourcing doesn't always save money and in fact can cost a lot more due to quality issues. I feel some things will continued to be outsourced but I no longer feel that we are moments away from losing our jobs to India.

Posted by: alexandria mom | September 14, 2006 11:24 AM

>>> Flexible means they can move your job over to India. <<<

Fortunately, not for me. As a sysadmin, although a lot of what I do is software based and can be supported remotely, a significant portion is hardware based. I have to be ready to get up at 3:00 AM and come into the server room to reboot the server that is only responding to the console there when the remote access processes are stopped. The commute from India would be a killer. :-) However, because my job is slightly more tangible (are all servers and services up and running? all updates installed?), I have much more flexibility. The non-tangibles I get done as I can and as long as those get done regularly, the bosses are more willing to turn a blind eye to my flexibility. But, it just means that I have to be flexible myself and respond even when not convenient when there is an actual emergency.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 14, 2006 11:32 AM

With an infant around you have to radically scale back your expectations for what can be accomplished in one day. I went from thinking I'd use my maternity leave to brush up on my cooking skills and finally organizing the closets (Ha!) to just being excited if I found time to brush my teeth once a day. I don't remember what exactly I did all day, but it sure was exhausting.

Moral of the story: don't set any ambitious goals for the first year or so. And it does get easier eventually.

Posted by: To John | September 14, 2006 11:40 AM

To John: I don't want to burst your bubble but some day cares will only take you on a full time basis. They can't bring in a child for one day off a week. Some will take part time arrangements like 3 days a week or no summers. But they are a business too and need to fill all their slots. I work 4 days a week but pay for full time care. It is worth the extra day off to know the other four days a week are quality care. But I understand they need to pay the bills as well. Check in advance before assuming you will save money by skipping one day a week at day care. I also agree with Sam. Working from home with an infant is a big stretch for most people. Babies are really demanding and create a schedule themselves. I have a few friends that did it successfully. But it entailed a lot of evening and weekend hours and a lot of TV time for their kids. Not a great thing all around.

Posted by: Lieu | September 14, 2006 11:44 AM

Ms. L - I'm not saying that everyone has this, but I think employees are MORE likely to be loyal to companies that allow them flexibility.

Ms. L, you have a point -- that often is the case. However, depending upon the field, employees who are single/no-kids may be looking to increase salary or rise through the corporation as fast as possible before considering what Leslie fantastically termed a "Management Plateau" several blogs ago.

When the company sells services, and those services are largely contained within the brains of the employees it is hard to translate that into a corporate asset -- some kind of IP. That's harder to do if the employees aren't consistently in office space. Worse still, IT fast movers quickly deduce that they can double-to-triple their salary if they cut out the corporation and contract straight to the client OR they want to be at the company's office to get the face-time that they think will help them move up. The more time they spend in the office, the more both of these factors are mitigated in favor of the corporation.

(I don't want to come off like Mr. Corporate Fascist here, I'm just communicating one argument that I've heard in the past.)

Posted by: Proud Papa | September 14, 2006 12:03 PM

I have to agree with all those who have told John and his wife to drastically scale back their expectations of being able to get ANY work done at home after the baby arrives. My friends used to amaze me by thinking they would pop up as the baby's third month started and begin running a "home business" on a daily basis or do an extensive job search or that sort of thing. I warned them (and I don't even have kids!) that it would be highly unlikely that they would have ANY "free" time until the baby was at least a year old. They all thought they would "find" the time, and all were stunned by how exhausted they were not only in the first few months but for the first year. Just adding to the comment, please please make a truly realistic plan for post-baby. Start getting organized now, but remember, once the baby arrives, he/she will dictate your schedule and that's the facts.

Posted by: M.T. | September 14, 2006 12:14 PM

To "example":

I didn't say what you quoted me as saying ("This chat, that is, according to pittypat "Unless it's during scheduled breaks or lunch, yeah, the watercooler chit-chat is a waste of the employer's time.")

In fact, I haven't said anything at all about water-cooler chat. My only post here today has been in regard to Brian's assertion about "most of us" having the tools to work at home.

Maybe you should read more carefully. Somehow, you've conflated my post with someone else's message.

Posted by: pittypat | September 14, 2006 12:17 PM

Comments from those of you who've "been there, done that" are the reason I read this blog; thanks. My wife and I are planning ahead for when (if) a baby shows up (we're working on that) and are setting up several options in case one or the other doesn't work out.

As for my duties once a baby is in our lives, that's why I said my job list will increase. I've got plenty of friends with children who've pointed out that they only do three things when very young; eat, sleep and make messes in their diapers! Strangely enough, I'm looking forward to it...

Posted by: John | September 14, 2006 12:18 PM

John, a full time care giver will be needed while your wife works at home one day a week. When the infant sleeps, then the caregiver gets either to rest or clean up laundry or the kitchen.

Posted by: SAHM of four | September 14, 2006 12:19 PM

I like my job, but don't love it. I believe that if I were allowed to work from home, I would have a VERY difficult time disciplining myself. I've also been working for a very long time (25+ years), and work/home is completely separate for me. Due to confidential nature of my work, I have never done a bit of work outside of the office. I really think that if I were home, I would be distracted by the home and garden projects that I have been putting off. I think that it would be harder to stay focused on work with my personal interests so close. The last sentence is specific to me, I'm not saying how it would be for anyone else.

Granted the saved commute time would be nice as would not having to get dressed professionally. However, I would miss the interaction of co-workers. I have made many nice acquaintances during my work years, and actually several good friends and can't imagine being home all day isolated from others.

My government agency has flextime from 6:00 am - 6:00 pm. Arrive anytime up until 9:30 am and leave 8 1/2 hours later. Core hours, when everyone is expected to be in the office are 9:30 - 2:30. Meetings are generally only scheduled during core hours. Also, some divisions within the agency have an unwritten policy to not schedule meetings on Monday or Friday (the most popular days off).

It is a large agency with many married couples. Many will split the flexband (one works early and one late) so that school age children can have one parent with them in the a.m. and one in the afternoon to avoid after-school care.

I think one flexible improvement would be to offer one category of leave (personal) as opposed to annual and sick. Then if you need to be off for any reason, it shouldn't be a problem as long as you have the leave. Over the years, I have seen many people not take vacations because their annual leave was used for taking care of children and elderly parents and using sick leave for those reasons was not allowed.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 12:23 PM

Some jobs require personal presence at the work site for a fixed number of hours like service jobs eg. MDs, retail sales, mechanics, librarians, etc. There are many many jobs that fall into this category.
The clock is one of the best ways to measure productivity.

Other jobs like engineering, perhaps law, writing, software, etc are measured by the end product. One can work from home, work 60hrs this week and 20 the next, etc. As long as the work is done, most managers will accept flexibility.

Consider yourself lucky if you are in a job that affords flexibility. More power to you.


Posted by: WorkerBee | September 14, 2006 12:23 PM

>>> I don't want to burst your bubble but some day cares will only take you on a full time basis. They can't bring in a child for one day off a week. Some will take part time arrangements like 3 days a week or no summers.>>>

Only very expensive day care centers in the DC area will work with flexible work schedules.

Posted by: To Lieu | September 14, 2006 12:31 PM

"given the discussions on this blog just over the past couple of weeks, we know this is simply not true. Unless, of course, Brian has a special definition for the "us" in "most of us."

You are so annoying! You don't even have kids so I don't understand why you would need to telecommute!

Posted by: to pittypat | September 14, 2006 12:35 PM

The part that bugs me about this is the focus on "metrics" -- the whole concept that if you don't have some defined, concrete way by which to measure an employee's worth, you can't trust them as far as you can throw them. That's precisely what's wrong with the corporate mentality. People are not widgets; they cannot simply be defined as X + Y + Z. Especially when you're talking about knowledge workers, no matter how hard you try, you cannot simplify things down to two or three critical metrics and ensure good performance with any reasonable degree of accuracy and consistency -- people are too different, job requirements are too different, projects within individual jobs are too different. Which, of course, terrifies the corporate types who need a "policy" or "system" for everything, and who therefore default to treating employees like kindergarteners. (In all fairness, due in large part to people like me -- the lawyers).

In my profession, it should theoretically be very easy to measure performance -- we're paid by the hour, so whoever works the most hours should be the "best," right? (Unless their work is so poor that it gets written off). But in practice, by far the "best" associate I work with is never at the top of the billing charts. She works her butt off and manages an unbelievable workload (has pulled my butt out of the fire on numerous occasions), but because she is so efficient, she doesn't need routine 80-hour weeks to do it. And yet everyone here knows exactly what a star she is, and we will do whatever it takes to keep her here and happy.

I understand the reasons for consistency and policy, especially in government and large companies. But really, if you are a professional, you should be treated like one -- and act like it. The only "metric" should be whether the job gets done, well and on time; where and how that happens should be an issue only if necessary for the job (i.e., someone's got to answer the phones). That's why I stay at my firm -- the way they've treated me the past few years, no amount of money would lure me away (ok, maybe that $165M MegaMillions jackpot. . . .).

I certainly recognize that this does not apply to every job (or even most). But it never ceases to amaze me how many places won't even consider flexible options where they are possible. How sad is it that they don't trust their own employees to act like grown-ups -- or their own ability to tell whether the job is getting done and deal with it if it isn't?

Posted by: Laura | September 14, 2006 12:40 PM

Another metric-related issue concerns evaluations.

As some organizations move toward 360 degree evaluations (all team members evaluate each other, including supervisiors) interesting "value" judgements can accrue that could stand in for number-metrics.

I am sure an experienced OnBal-blogger can identify the problems with 360 degree evaluations, but I have always fared well, due primarily to being

1) on-time, within the process and for final "deliverables." (Ugh. Such a word should be banned);

2) responsivement to team and clients;

3) manners (who knew that manners would become a competitive advantage, since so few practice these courtesies!).

So, my colleagues like me. Helps greatly.

As for non-flexible time colleagues or on-the-clock team members, what can I say except these fine people are key to all projects.

Treat your support staff with courtesy and acknowledge their professionalism. Works wonders.

And, never dump on them. Why should your procrastination (or that of people ahead of you in the document pipeline) make their life miserable?

For the distracted or crummy support people, just avoid them and be grateful that your skills and advantages and luck grant flexibility.

Oh yes. Specifics on the manners:
Say thank you.
Take your turn at the copier.
Write a note or send flowers or give a card to known-store (Woodies, sigh, ToysFORUs, etc.) Some support staff will see your burden and help. Make sure you thank them.

Before work:
Put your pants (pantyhose) on one leg at a time.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 14, 2006 12:43 PM

'make messes in their diapers'

John, babies make messes in their diapers, which then leak onto their layers of clothes, sheets, blankets, and your clothes. And they spit up, which soils their clothes, your clothes, the sofa, every sheet on your bed, etc. (Projectile vomiting, I don't miss that!)

Look into nanny sharing. It can work out well, especially if someone else is on maternity leave but doesn't want to lose their nanny.

Posted by: experienced mom | September 14, 2006 12:43 PM

"As long as the work is done, who cares what hours you work" is fine for salaried people. Where I work, we are paid hourly - measurable "production workers" as well as knowledge workers. If a knowledge worker completes their project in less time than expected, they are expected to work in some other capacity. That may be researching something new, reviewing something old, learning something new, etc. They are being paid by the clock and are expected to work by the clock.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 12:46 PM

If I weren't nearing retirment, I think I would start a new daycare business - catering to part-time arrangements.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 12:55 PM

Your comment directed at someone else-- "You don't even have kids so I don't understand why you would need to telecommute!" is INCREDIBLY rude.

Only people with kids should be able to telecommute? Is that what you are saying?

I don't have kids. It took me two hours to drive to work today in this horrible DC- area traffic. That's two hours I could have been doing my job in my home office instead of wasting time in traffic.

Telecommuting is for everyone, not just the people with kids.

Posted by: Hey, 12:35 pm | September 14, 2006 12:57 PM

I don't have kids and I'd love more flexibility. Living life is more important to me than zooming up the corporate ladder. I'd be a more motivated and happier employee if I had flex time.

I imagine that more felxibilty would be nice if I had kids, but the attitude that it should be reserved for people with kids is wrong. I've got things to do to.

Posted by: flex | September 14, 2006 1:04 PM

You wish it were as easy as "babies just eat, sleep, and poop."

When they eat, you realize you have to feed them (assume 30 minutes every couple of hours, for prep, feeding, and cleanup), burp them (10 minutes, plus another 10 to clean the spit up off the couch -- how did it get there??), change them (10 minutes, then another 20 minutes to clean up everything the poop smeared on, even though you were being so careful), then rocking him to sleep (anywhere from 5 minutes to forever), then half an hour later you get to start the routine all over again.

And you forgot one other major activity for babies. They CRY! sometimes for hours on end. In between the diaper changing and feeding and burping you'll be singing and rocking and trying to calm him down and...

trust me, there's no room for "working from home" in this schedule!

Posted by: one more for john | September 14, 2006 1:07 PM

>.If I weren't nearing retirment, I think I would start a new daycare business - catering to part-time arrangements.>>

Our sitter does this. It's a home daycare and she's licensed for up to 5 kids, but she doesn't really care if she has 2, 3, 4, or 5 at any given time so I think she has a total of 7 kids and just works with the parents to make sure there are never more than 5 there at once. Home daycares maybe be more flexible than center-based care (which have to pay staff) and nannies (who need to earn a living off of one family) in this regard.

Posted by: Arlmom | September 14, 2006 1:08 PM

talking about companies that are only impressed by how much a person works not the quality of the work reminds me of a company that i worked for that sent me and another employee on-site to work. the other employee pulled an all-nighter to get some work done & the company stood up and applauded and looked down on me for not doing "whatever it took". i didn't point out that if they looked at the total number of hours he worked vs the total number of hours i worked the difference was 4 hours. even though he worked all night it took him all the next day to recover. that mind set that all-nighter = good was one of the many signs that i needed to leave the company.

Posted by: quark | September 14, 2006 1:09 PM

this blog is my water cooler.

Posted by: experienced mom | September 14, 2006 1:11 PM

and babies don't sleep all night. which makes for tired parents. Who need to nap sometimes when the baby is napping for the first six to eight weeks.

Posted by: experienced mom | September 14, 2006 1:20 PM

Thanks, Hey 12:35 pm.

Don't know who the anonymous poster is, but if s/he knows I don't have kids -- something I've not mentioned in several weeks -- then s/he is carrying some kind of silly grudge from awhile back.

Telecommuting in my case is something I do once every couple of weeks, usually because I've got a project that requires lots of space and uninterrupted time to work, but sometimes because I just want to be able to look out a window and watch the birds and butterflies while I'm working. (No window in my office, so I usually don't even know what the weather is like outside!) Of course, I have to plan carefully for these work-at-home days so that no one in my office will have to handle my work in my absence.

I'm really lucky to have this option, as I realize that many do not. Interestingly, when I requested a four-day-week about 10 ago, I was told by the head of our organization that, if I had small children at home, I might qualify for such an exception, but not otherwise. He is now long gone, and I think that both parents and non-parents here get much more equitable consideration.

Telecommuting should be available to everyone whose job situation can accommodate it. As several posters today can attest, it's not a solution to having to be home with babies or small children, because you really can't get anything done when you're caring for them. So, the anonymous poster really doesn't know what s/he is talking about anyway.

Posted by: pittypat | September 14, 2006 1:23 PM

All of a sudden I feel like "The Voice of Corporate America", so I'm going to check in a little more frequently...

Laura - The only "metric" should be whether the job gets done, well and on time; where and how that happens should be an issue only if necessary for the job (i.e., someone's got to answer the phones)."

Laura if you guys are charging clients by the hour, that HAS to figure in to some metric. It only seems right that employees are managed on and evaluated on elements profitability that pump downstream into the success of the firm.

I think that the exception (specific to your industry) might be defense firms that subsist largely on settlement dollars. Regardless of the bad name these folks have as ambulance chasers, they have the opportunity to be very lawyer-friendly places to work, b/c your value can be tied solely to cases/business that you originate, litigate or settle. Worked only one day this week, but settle a class action, and meet your goals for the year. Woo-hoo!

Professional Services firms executing time-and-materials contracts need to incentivize/penalize employees to get the 'time' portion of the equation taken care of. Most other types of services contracts do tie quality or "value" to the overall price instead of 'time', seemingly alleviating the need to pass the burden of hours onto the employee.....until you remember that business areas are staked to revenue & profit numbers and "everybody work more!!" is the most simplistic button to push to accelerate $ to the bottom line.

I hate how I sound right now, but I think the corporate-interest side of this argument has some basic validity.

Posted by: Proud Papa | September 14, 2006 1:23 PM

I wonder about the parents with older kids -- those that are in school say 8:30 to 4. Of any age. How have they solved the after school care? Who picks up the kids from the school bus? Who makes sure homework gets done? Who drives them to the activities? I am looking for answers other than nanny/au pair/grandparents. Does the gov't allow, say 60% or 70% week? As I understand it, the gov't policy specifically prohibits splitting any single day between teleworking and working from the office and realistically teleworking can only be done one day a week or a pay period. Anybody?

Posted by: FT would like to be PT | September 14, 2006 1:27 PM

John, with such a great attitude and interest in getting feedback, it sounds like you will do great when the baby comes! Like most of the other posters on this subject, I found that I simply could get nothing done when I was home alone with the baby for the first few months. Things got better as he got older, but still at age 2 it would be very difficult to get work done for my job without someone else to watch him, unless I wanted to let him watch Finding Nemo all day. But now we can easily get other types of work done - housework, yardwork, etc - as he likes to work alongside us or can entertain himself for a while. In the end, though, it seems to really just depend a lot on the personality of your baby and your parenting style. Good luck!

Posted by: Megan | September 14, 2006 1:27 PM

Proud Papa --

"Incentivize/penalize"? Even the voice of Corporate America doesn't have to sound like this!

Posted by: pittypat | September 14, 2006 1:29 PM

"Laura if you guys are charging clients by the hour, that HAS to figure in to some metric. It only seems right that employees are managed on and evaluated on elements profitability that pump downstream into the success of the firm."

Proud Papa, this is true in a way but if an associate spends 15 hours doing something that could only take 7, that's a lot of extra money to charge the client, which has its own negative implications, both ethically and in terms of client relations. Focusing on resulte - the quality of the brief, the outcome of the case, etc - can bring the client's and firm's interest more into line. For this reason, some in the legal biz are looking towards different fee structures that get rid of the constant tension on the issue billed hours.

Posted by: Megan | September 14, 2006 1:39 PM

Best Buy has been experimenting with allowing people to use a "get the work done we don't care where or how long it takes you" model for the past couple of years. story can be found here:
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1083900,00.html
Telecommuting and such may not work for everyone, but I think that most corporate objections are completely and totally overblown. If someone isn't cutting it at home, you get rid of them just like you do in the office (as if, BTW), and people will figure out what's up pretty quick.
I also think this is something of a generational thing. I once read a quote from an HR person who said, "if you want to motivate a baby boomer, offer them more money. If you want to motivate a gen xer, offer them more time off." Hopefully as more people who value their time move into positions of authority, the management excuses (team building which takes 40+ hours of face time a week?) will come to be seen for the utter crap they are and more flexibility will be offered as the norm. Companies are missing out on a lot of talent and employee loyalty by being so married to an employee unfriendly set of work norms.
My biggest issue with the topic, and I think it is important, is that we will come to have an even more two tiered economy and society than already exists. People working white collared jobs will have flexibility and time while people working in lower paying service jobs will continue to have to shell out for before and after school car, gas to get to and from work and such. I'm not sure what can be done about it, although I think it deserves serious thought. I don't however, think it's a reason to keep those who should have the option of telecommuting, etc from gettting it.

Posted by: Rebeccat | September 14, 2006 1:42 PM

Hey Proud Papa --

Sorry not to be clear (pet peeve, so mine was definitely a one-sided rant). I wasn't saying that billable hours have no importance -- clearly, they do, or our business would go under. But I think some firms focus on that to the exclusion of all else, whereas we value smarts more. Here, if you have average hours and stellar work, you will succeed, whereas someone with average smarts who bills 2200 hrs/yr will not. Part of it is long-term thinking (someone can have a bad year and still be very valuable to the firm). Part of it is just meeting our clients' needs (legal budgets are getting tighter and tighter, so they value the fact that we can answer their questions more quickly and cheaply than our competitors).

I'm not trying to be all touchy-feely and anti-business -- I'm a partner in a law firm, so I know how the numbers work, and we all definitely work hard (not exactly sitting around singing kumbaya all day, regardless of what my last post sounded like). I just think that focusing exclusively on numbers (billables, hours in the office, etc.) is short-sighted, because it loses good employees and doesn't serve the business any good in the long run. The fact is, our clients don't care where we do our work; they just want the right answer in no time and for no money. So there's absolutetely no reason for me to care where and how the associates I work with do their jobs, as long as the work is excellent and on time. And our associates appreciate being treated like the responsible adults that they are, so we have a better chance of retaining the good ones. Then again, I'm sure happy for our competitors to keep working on the old paradigm, as we tend to get a lot of good lateral associates and clients as a result! :-)

Posted by: Laura | September 14, 2006 1:47 PM

Megan,

Your comment about how well I'll do as a parent mirrors what my friends tell me, which scares me a bit considering this is a job which I have very little experience at!

The first few months both of us know will be rough, but my wife intends to --not-- work for at least the first three months, then try and ease back into the office routine gradually. With my more flexible job and leave, I foresee me being the chauffeur to and from the daycare, doctor, etc, unless we come up with something different by then.

None of this really upsets me, though. It's just part of the job description of being a parent, one which I'm ready to take on!

Posted by: John | September 14, 2006 1:53 PM

>>> You are so annoying! You don't even have kids so I don't understand why you would need to telecommute! <<<

Unfair. All employees should be treated equally and fairly. I support single people telecommuting as much as I support breeders telecommuting. It is my choice to have children; I should be neither rewarded or punished for having a child. The same holds true for my friends who have decided to remain childless. Their lives are just as important and complicated as mine.

Posted by: to pittypat | September 14, 2006 1:55 PM

To: FT would like to be PT

My children were in an after-school program right at the elem school so no transportation needed. They offered care from the end of school day (including early dismissal days that were not weather-related) until 6:00 p.m. They also offered full day care at the school for closed days that were not mandated holidays - e.g., professional days, winter break except 12/24, 12/25 and 12/26.

The program was run by the county Dept of Rec and Parks - not by the school system. The program was held in the school cafe with some opportunity to go to the gym for some games, or outside to the playground. They had arts and craft activities and board games. they offered a snack. There was a short period of time where the kids could do homework or play quietly, but homework was not required - they explained that they were a rec program, not a school. They would not 'make' any child do homework, even if the parents requested it.

Although they may not have been exactly everything we were looking for in a child-care program, they were reasonably priced and there was no transportation problem. All-in-all, worked well for us.

I tended to be the homework parent, while hubby did other things beneficial to the family/household. As far as activities, it was generally whichever one of us could get them where they needed to be on time.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 2:00 PM

To hometoday

You described my sitation exactly. Except I work for a government agency and had children almost immediately after coming to work here, so didn't have much time to build up a good working relationship before asking for flexibility. Fortunately it's worked out. I will work on my day off or weekends when required, and in turn my employer is flexible with times when I have to leave early or rearrange my schedule. I also pay for full-time care, so I can have that flexibility when work requires. It's also helpful to have a day care on my day off so I can schedule doctor's appointments for that day and save sick leave.

Regarding gun play - I've still managed to keep my son away from it. He hasn't done it for awhile anyway. But since we have no toy guns in the house, I did see him make one out of leggos once.

Posted by: Sam | September 14, 2006 2:07 PM

Well, I'm completely confused.

Someone calling herself (yeah, I think it's a female) "to pittypat" posted a message telling me that I don't need to telecommute b/c I don't have kids.

Now, apparently another poster, also named "to pittypat," has responded and said that all employees should be treated equally.

Are you two different people, or are you one person with two different personas?

As to the part about my being annoying, you can't even imagine. But only my husband knows how annoying I can truly be!

Posted by: pittypat | September 14, 2006 2:07 PM

"All-in-all, worked well for us."

I forgot to say that the kids loved it. They were in a program with children from their school, and they were able to do activities together for the most part, without being separated into age groups. There was separation when size or skill levels were such that it was best to have groups of K-2 and grades 3-5. This was generally physical games such as kick-ball, basketball, relay-racing, etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 2:08 PM

Seems like someone thought "pittypat" was making the comment "to pittypat"?

Posted by: Sam | September 14, 2006 2:09 PM

Seems like someone thought "pittypat" was making the comment "to pittypat"?

Posted by: Sam | September 14, 2006 2:11 PM

>>> I don't want to burst your bubble but some day cares will only take you on a full time basis. They can't bring in a child for one day off a week. Some will take part time arrangements like 3 days a week or no summers.>>>

Only very expensive day care centers in the DC area will work with flexible work schedules

My day care has several part timers and school teacher children. My daughter's day care is a quality day care but it is not wickedly expensive. I think you just have to ask around.

Posted by: Lieu | September 14, 2006 2:18 PM

I'm digging this today...nut job that I am.

Pittypat you're right "incentivize" is not a word. I should have gone with "incent." ;-)

Megan, you're right that quality should be part of that equation. But from what understand about the way that business works now, market forces handle your scenario. General Counsel would look at his/her bill and declare that the 15 hour brief should have only taken 7. Maybe they keep it in-house next time and your firm doesn't get the business. The firm isn't incented to change until the client forces it b/c payment of the bill is tantamount to approval of the 'time wasting' practice. Not ethical, but hey, 'fixing' the salaries of first-year associates across the market probably isn't ethical either....

Megan, I do agree with your stance. I'm glad you're a partner, as that business needs more leaders who believe as you do. Perhaps then my wife and friends would have some work/life balance! I think the trick is quantifying business value of employee loyalty, morale and retention (kind of the way 'Goodwill' appears on corporate balance sheets) so that hard-liners can wrap their minds around the financial implications of this issue.

The battle between management and labor rages on...

Posted by: Proud Papa | September 14, 2006 2:21 PM

Unfair. All employees should be treated equally and fairly. I support single people telecommuting as much as I support breeders telecommuting.

Breeder is a vulgar term and totally makes any argument you make for equality void. If you want to treat people the same how about thinking about a better classification for people with children other than the term breeders

Posted by: scarry | September 14, 2006 2:42 PM

I agree telecommuting should be for people with children and people without children. One of my good friends telecommutes one day a week and she does not have children. It gives her the solitude to get the work done. I also agree with Scarry. The term breeder is rather disgusting. Also some people adopt their children. Therefore they have children and technically did not "breed" them. Parenting is way more then just merely giving birth to the child.

Posted by: Lieu | September 14, 2006 2:47 PM

Regarding saving on childcare while working at home -- it doesn't work that way. You're either taking care of your baby, or you're doing your paid job. They can't both be done at once. You need child care while doing the paid job, whether it's a spouse or someone else. If one of my telecommuting colleagues didn't have childcare while doing their hours at home, everyone would assume they weren't putting in the hours they claim. (Yes, logging in hours is the requirement for Federal flex time.)

And, whether or not you have children is irrelevant to whether you should get flex-place. The only relevant factor is if you can do your job from somewhere else.

Posted by: Part-timer | September 14, 2006 2:48 PM

Regarding billing for time - when I worked for a law firm, I was told that if a partner thought the associate spent too much time on a project, he or she would take that into account when billing the client. Assuming that was true, an associate who overbilled consistently would not be considered a good contributor, as he or she would be deemed inefficient with no benefit to the firm. If anything, there would be a detriment to the firm, as the hours the firm wrote off could have been billed by the associate to another client. That still doesn't help the work life balance. It just means that, when you work for a firm, there's an incentive to have high quantity of billable hours along with high quality of work and efficiency, as opposed to just high quality of work. You should be more efficient not so you can go home, but so you can start billing another client!

Posted by: Sam | September 14, 2006 2:50 PM

>>> Breeder is a vulgar term <<<

I know, I am one. My childless friends and I use this term as a joke. Apparently, we are the only ones with a sense of humor.

Posted by: lighten up | September 14, 2006 2:53 PM

I agree with Part-timer. Good advice to John and his wife. I fell into that kind of thinking and learned it doesn't work. :)

However -- I work part-time from home (17-20 hrs/wk) and have a sitter in for about half the hours; the others I do on weekends & some evenings when the baby goes down and isn't teething etc etc etc(which I can do in my job). My husband takes our son on the weekends.

So we do save on day care. And I went with a sitter who has all good qualities but not as much experience, because I am mostly home during those hours and so here in true emergencies. So that was a savings too in that she's closer to the bottom of the salary range for now. (That will change.)

You do also save on commuting time and that is a bonus.

But you have to have pretty flexible work to make it work, and you do need to be sure you have enough hours solidly covered that you can always meet your deadlines. Meeting deadlines with a baby anywhere near you means working at least 2 weeks in advance. :)

Posted by: Shandra | September 14, 2006 2:55 PM

it's not funny. I don't call my single girlfriend friend manless.

Posted by: scarry | September 14, 2006 2:55 PM

Actually I prefer "man-free".

Scarry, I think you need to unclench just a wee bit....

Posted by: to scarry | September 14, 2006 2:57 PM

Sam, you're exactly right. But in my experience, writeoffs are rare -- basically, our profit margins are not super high (believe it or not -- we're not one of those shops where the partners make $1M+), so writing off much of anything is a big deal (you pretty much have to go to the managing partner and justify it). So an overbiller here is actually very bad for the bottom line. But even within the bulk of the associates who don't get time written off much at all, there's a noticeable difference in who gets how much done, and how well.

I don't think there's any way to get rid of the pressure to use that "extra" time to do more work for another client -- as Proud Papa points out, that's what makes the firm go round. But at least at our shop, we value the higher quality per hour, even if there's no difference in the amount billed. So someone who is efficient and smart is in a lot better position to push back against that pressure than someone whose primary benefit to the firm is just the number of hours billed.

Now I have to go bill some hours. . . .

Posted by: Laura | September 14, 2006 2:58 PM

Actually I am not the only person who thinks it's vulgar and since we all have to be sensitive to other people's lifestyles in the work place I would also like that to include mine.

Posted by: scarry | September 14, 2006 3:01 PM

In fairness to scarry, blogs are like e-mails. Sometimes something you mean to be funny doesn't translate as well in writing. Unless you blog consistently under the same name, like Fof4, so people are familiar with your posts and expect you to be joking half the time. But now that someone (was it the same person who used the term to begin with?) has said that "breeder" was intended to be funny and that she herself is a "breeder", maybe we can let it go?

Posted by: Sam | September 14, 2006 3:02 PM

Yes, breeder is a vulgar term. What would happen if we all started going around making comments about gays and lesbains and their lifestyle. What would happen then? Or what if everyone started calling the women in the office who didn't have kids the "barrens"

Think before you speak and write.

Posted by: I agree | September 14, 2006 3:04 PM

I don't mind breeder if you don't mind barren.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 3:05 PM

"Breeder is a vulgar term and totally makes any argument you make for equality void. If you want to treat people the same how about thinking about a better classification for people with children other than the term breeders."

I agree. Makes having kids sound like some kind of futuristic, sci-fi activity.

I like the term "child-free" for those of us who don't have 'em. How about "child-full" for those with? Or maybe "child-rich"?

Posted by: pittypat | September 14, 2006 3:06 PM

>>> it's not funny. I don't call my single girlfriend friend manless. <<<

Because of filtering, I cannot post what I jokingly call them. But regardless, we are making fun of stereotypes because they are stupid. Obviously, breeder is insulting.

I had children late in life. I was on the childless by choice side for many, many years. I understand some of the animosity directed towards those of us with children.
But if you can't laugh about it, what can you do?! Just hate each other?

Posted by: lighten up | September 14, 2006 3:06 PM

Hmmm.... If someone told me I was "child-full," I would assume that they thought I looked like I was pregnant with triplets. I prefer breeder over that one!

Posted by: Sam | September 14, 2006 3:07 PM

Hey, how about propagator instead of breeder? It sounds a lot classier. Of course, it won't win any awards for plain language. ;-)

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 3:08 PM

I guess I am cat-full...or cat-rich...or crazy spinster cat lady! hehehe
I don't know, I guess I have thick skin...I also have friends I joke with in the same vein.

Posted by: Missicat | September 14, 2006 3:10 PM

How about just "parent"?

Some of us are "childfree," and some of us are "parents."

Posted by: pittypat | September 14, 2006 3:10 PM

"Parent" - the simplest of them all! Definitely good for the plain English camp.

Posted by: Sam | September 14, 2006 3:11 PM

how about spawnfree?

Posted by: childfree | September 14, 2006 3:11 PM

how about spawnfree?

Posted by: childfree | September 14, 2006 3:12 PM

"Parent" - the simplest of them all! Definitely good for the plain English camp.

Posted by: Sam | September 14, 2006 3:12 PM

When did people start defining their lives through the lack of something? I can understand someone calling themselves a parent. It is a positive term. But to define yourself as childfree seems ridiculous. It seems to me that children who opt to not have children should see themselves as something more than just having opted to not have children. Maybe they love birding or bicycling or gardening or traveling. So choose one of these monikers that signals the presence of something rather than the absence of something. To define yourself through the absence of something seems just sad, as if there were nothing more than that absence.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 3:16 PM

Are you all this serious all the time?! Child-full and parent?!! Good lord, what kind of Stepford Wives lives do you lead? After a couple of drinks, breeders is a hilarious term! As if having a child, was my sole identity. Actually, most terms people apply to a group is narrowed to one aspect to a person's identity. For example, my gay friend are so much more than just gay. Or my husband is so much more than Latino. All of these terms are so myoptic and limiting, which makes them ripe for comedy.

And BTW, I found pregnancy to be a sci-fi like experience. So I can't fault the term strictly on its sci-fi like connotation.

Posted by: lighten up | September 14, 2006 3:18 PM

To lighten up

I never saw "Alien," but I remember it coming to mind the first time I saw my stomach jump up in the air.

Posted by: Sam | September 14, 2006 3:21 PM

After a couple of drinks, breeders is a hilarious term!

hm, perhaps the rest of us just don't start drinking as early as you do...

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 3:22 PM

That you can do your job from anywhere doesn't necessarily mean that just anyone can do your job from anywhere. My job is done from my dining room table much of the time, hotels other times, and the occasional coffee shop when I want to get out, but depends on me--or someone veryvery like me--doing it.

I work for a multinational and run operations in the US. I go to headquarters roughly every 4-8 weeks, depending. I work with a network of people ranging from the West Coast of the US to central Europe.

How can you tell that I am at work?
- I answer emails promptly.
- I send email regarding what I'm working on and bcc our CRM system.
- I answer my telephone. (internationally-capable cell)
- I'm on IM--good for quick questions.

Plus, I talk with my boss regularly and send status reports about every week or two. They know I'm working and not spending too much time posting letters to online news sites (er...).

I also set boundaries about when I am at work and when I am not. While I will check email during the weekend and reply if it's easy or time-sensitive, most of the time I am not available outside a 9-10 hour day. It can be done. I've spent most of the past ten years working like this for one employer or another.

Posted by: CA | September 14, 2006 3:22 PM

Breeder: I seem to remember that the term was used in "A Handmaid's Tale." Very futuristic sci-fi anti-Utopian kind of word. Kind of scary, but I do see the humor in it.

Posted by: Rockville | September 14, 2006 3:22 PM

I just remembered the term "unwomen." The Handmaid's tale is really chock full of great monikers.

Posted by: Rockville | September 14, 2006 3:24 PM

>>> hm, perhaps the rest of us just don't start drinking as early as you do... <<<

That's a shame.

Handmaid's Tale is a great book. (Movie was not as good.) Margaret Atwood is a fabulous writer!

Posted by: lighten up | September 14, 2006 3:25 PM

You're an obnoxious drunk that's why breeder is funny to you.

Posted by: got it now | September 14, 2006 3:27 PM

To Lighten up:

I loved the Handmaid's Tale too. I have not read anything else by Atwood. What else do you recommend?

Posted by: Rockville | September 14, 2006 3:28 PM

"When did people start defining their lives through the lack of something? I can understand someone calling themselves a parent. It is a positive term. But to define yourself as childfree seems ridiculous. It seems to me that children who opt to not have children should see themselves as something more than just having opted to not have children. Maybe they love birding or bicycling or gardening or traveling. So choose one of these monikers that signals the presence of something rather than the absence of something. "

Don't parents have any of these interests? Or did they surrender them to the offspring? ;)

Posted by: Flex | September 14, 2006 3:30 PM

Re "When did people start defining their lives through the lack of something? I can understand someone calling themselves a parent. It is a positive term. But to define yourself as childfree seems ridiculous. It seems to me that children who opt to not have children should see themselves as something more than just having opted to not have children. Maybe they love birding or bicycling or gardening or traveling. So choose one of these monikers that signals the presence of something rather than the absence of something. To define yourself through the absence of something seems just sad, as if there were nothing more than that absence."

You miss the point. For oodles of years, we've been referred to as "childless" -- a term that certainly conveys the sense of something missing in our lives. The term "childfree" indicates that we don't have kids by choice.

And I don't think anyone is defining themselves by this one attribute, any more than a "parent" does so by using the term "parent." In neither case are we establishing our identities. If someone asks me my hobbies or interests, I'm not going to say "Being childfree." If someone asks me what my occupation is, I'm not going to say "Being childfree." But then, most parents asked the same question are, likewise, not going to respond with, "Being a parent."

Furthermore, this is a blog dedicated to balancing work and life. When one is commenting, it's often significant to indicate whether one is childfree or a parent, as this distinction gives perspective to what the person is saying.

So, save your crocodile tears. It's just a way of offering credentials before commenting. To take it as some kind of a confession about people's inner lives is patently absurd.

Posted by: pittypat | September 14, 2006 3:32 PM

"You're an obnoxious drunk that's why breeder is funny to you."

What are you, twelve??? That sounds like something a kid would say on the playground...accompanied by a couple "nyah nyah nyahs" of course...

Posted by: ?? | September 14, 2006 3:32 PM

"You're an obnoxious drunk that's why breeder is funny to you."

Obnoxious is pretty subjective.

Posted by: lighten up | September 14, 2006 3:36 PM

Don't parents have any of these interests? Or did they surrender them to the offspring? ;)

We surrendered them to our offspring. Maybe we will take them up again after our kids leave, but for now, it is all I can do to work and take care of my kids. I'd like to garden, but even more than that, I'd like to read a book occasionally. But time is short and energy is low.

Posted by: A parent of three offspring | September 14, 2006 3:38 PM

Other good books by Margaret Atwood: Alias Grace and Cat's Eye. Enjoy!

Posted by: Missicat | September 14, 2006 3:39 PM

To Rockville Mom,

My favorite Atwood book of all time is Catseye. I love it. It is about friendship among young girls. I would make it a must read for high school girls (junior or senior level).

Posted by: lighten up | September 14, 2006 3:40 PM

Plain English sucks!

Posted by: could I be any plainer | September 14, 2006 3:43 PM

I think Margaret Atwood's books have a lot of hard words in them.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 3:45 PM

"I think Margaret Atwood's books have a lot of hard words in them."

Maybe we should write her and tell her to use Plain English..

*snort*

Posted by: Missicat | September 14, 2006 3:47 PM

I loved the Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, but had sort of forgotten about it in the post-baby blur. I'll definitely pick up some of the other recommended titles.

Lighten Up, I sympathize with your point, I think that type of humor just doesn't translate well on an anonymous blog. Among my good friends, we make many jokes making fun of people who rely on stereotypes, but anyone who didn't know us could easily miss one layer of that humor and think we were horrible.

Posted by: Megan | September 14, 2006 3:49 PM

SCARRY WAS A CHEERLEADER?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 3:53 PM

My job does offer flexibility for anyone that can do it and still do their job. I am an executive assistant and it's very hard to fit in working from home 1 day a week. Even though my supervisor travels frequently, he needs me to be in the office just in case. My commute is the worst part for me. My kids are older (in high school) so I don't have to take off as much, but my supervisor is very flexible and family-friendly so I don't get jealous when others get flex-time and I can't.

Posted by: OlderMom | September 14, 2006 3:53 PM

Yes, Margaret Atwood uses that crazy Candanian English.

Posted by: lighten up | September 14, 2006 3:53 PM

"The term 'childfree' indicates that we don't have kids by choice."

Yeah, the impression I got was that "childfree" refers to people who aren't and don't want to be parents while "childless" refers to people who aren't but want to be parents.

Posted by: Maria | September 14, 2006 3:53 PM

I liked the hand maid's tale. It was quite shocking to think that something like that could happen even if it was make believe.

Posted by: scarry | September 14, 2006 3:54 PM

We should do a book discussion. Can't think of a book about balancing work and family,other than the Mommy Wars right now (and I think we have already done that), but if I do, I'll chime in with it.

Posted by: Rockville | September 14, 2006 3:54 PM

Speaking of breeders...

Is there any truth to the rumor that disposal diapers contribute to low sperm count?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 3:55 PM

What does obnoxious mean? Yoos Plane Inglish!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 3:55 PM

Canadian English? What's wrong with good ol' Meriken English? hehe

Posted by: Missicat | September 14, 2006 3:56 PM

I second a book discussion! Anyone read books by Arturo Perez-reverte?

Posted by: Missicat | September 14, 2006 3:57 PM

Speaking of breeders...

Is there any truth to the rumor that disposal diapers contribute to low sperm count?

I don't know, but believe me, if my husband were wearing disposable diapers, I would be worried about a lot more than his sperm count.

Posted by: Rockville | September 14, 2006 3:58 PM

Yes, Maria, that pretty much sums it up.

Posted by: pittypat | September 14, 2006 3:58 PM

rockville your post just made me laugh out loud.

Posted by: scarry | September 14, 2006 3:59 PM

Rockville, yer fuuunny!

Posted by: Megan | September 14, 2006 4:00 PM

We should do a book discussion

great idea, I'm tired of the 'Mommy Wars'

Posted by: experienced mom | September 14, 2006 4:01 PM

But seriously, tight underwear and hot baths do contribute to low sperm count. Kinda funny to think that cold showers are good for procreation.

Posted by: Rockville | September 14, 2006 4:02 PM

I think the writer is referring to low sperm count in men who wore diapers as babies.

Posted by: Elaine | September 14, 2006 4:05 PM

I think the writer is referring to low sperm count in men who wore diapers as babies.

Thanks for the clarification.

Posted by: Rockville | September 14, 2006 4:06 PM

Boxers?

Posted by: Missicat | September 14, 2006 4:06 PM

This is serious not snarky, what else would babies wear?

Posted by: scarry | September 14, 2006 4:06 PM

Sorry

"Low sperm count in men who wore disposable diapers as babies."

I remember hearing this prediction in 1971, when my son was born. I couldn't afford disposable diapers and there was a HUGE environmental bias against them.

Posted by: Elaine | September 14, 2006 4:08 PM

As all you problem-free upper class mums on the board should know, babies are meant to be dressed in hand-woven paper diapers made of $10 and $20 bills.

Posted by: B. Spears-Federline | September 14, 2006 4:09 PM

"This is serious not snarky, what else would babies wear?"

Well, ok, now that you've asked, we use several varieties of cloth diapers that are absolutely fabulous. I apologize in advance if this is too much info, my experience is that moms who cloth diaper love to talk about it!

There are many great brands of cloth diapers that are fitted and designed much like disposables - no more pins or leaky gaps around their legs! Also, many of them have a layer of micro-fleece that helps wick moisture away from the baby's skin, which keeps the baby drier and also makes washing them much easier - the solids don't cling to the diaper and just roll right into the toilet. No dunking or pre-rinsing required. Washing is easy - do a cold rinse with no detergent first, then hot wash with detergent followed by a hot rinse. Occasionally running some extra cold rinses with baking soda and vinegar can get rid of any detergent build=up that can sometimes hold odors. They seem to be more comfortably for my son - he asks for them over the disposables he wears at day care. Plus, if you buy them when the baby is born, they'll save you about $1500 over the course of the three years most babies wear diapers.

Good brands that we liked:
www.bumgenius.com (my current favorite)
www.fuzzibunz.com (pretty good, don't fit newborns that well)
www.kissaluvs.com (fabulous and comfy on newborns, bulky in the larger sizes. Need a waterproof cover).

OK, that's all I'll say, I promise.

Posted by: Megan | September 14, 2006 4:17 PM

No Elaine I was serious, no need to apologize. I just didn't know what esle you would put on a baby.

Posted by: scarry | September 14, 2006 4:18 PM

Great Megan, That sounds like a good option when babies are not in daycare.

Posted by: scarry | September 14, 2006 4:19 PM

Megan,
Thanks for the info on cloth diapers. I knew they existed, but always thought they would be too much hassle. I will really consider them the next go round (if it happens).

Posted by: Rockville | September 14, 2006 4:21 PM

An alternative to disposable diapers are cloth diapers. In addition to being better for the environment, cloth diapers can be a LOT cheaper (though some people make a hobby of shopping for fancy cloth diapers and spend lots), and since they're meant to be reused, cloth diapers and covers have better elastic than disposables so they fit better too. Better fit=fewer blow outs.

Posted by: To Scarry | September 14, 2006 4:21 PM

Sorry -- and not meant to be snarky -- but I gotta ask --

When you say that "some people make a hobby of shopping for fancy cloth diapers," what exactly are they looking for? What is a fancy cloth diaper? Aren't all cloth diapers pretty much the same? (They were 40 years ago when my kid brother was born!)

Posted by: pittypat | September 14, 2006 4:22 PM

Doh, Megan beat me to it (and was much more thorough too!)

Posted by: To Scarry | September 14, 2006 4:24 PM

Scarry and Rockville -

Always glad to share! They really have been great for us, but Scarry you are totally right that they're probably only cost-effective if they baby's not in day care, as I can't imagine any normal day care could work with them what with health code and whatever. I asked when we put our son in and they just looked at me like I was crazy (I guess i was ;)). Though I guess if you were going to have more than one and could use them for multiple kids it still might make sense even for part time. Oh, and Rockville, you can often get great deals on used ones on eBay.

Anyway, whoever said some moms make a hobby of shopping for fancy ones is right on - it becomes a weird obsession, which is why I was joking about talking about them at all, I think it appeals to the gear-head side of us a little bit.

Posted by: Megan | September 14, 2006 4:24 PM

http://www.drspock.com/article/0,1510,4563,00.html

This is Dr. Spock's reasonable discussion of disposable diapers.

Posted by: Ms L | September 14, 2006 4:25 PM

der, sorry, that should have said, "not cost effective if the baby is in daycare."

Also, pittypat, check out diaperpin.com to see the enormous variety these days - some cost as much as $20 a pop.

Posted by: Megan | September 14, 2006 4:30 PM

I must confess, I'm a cloth diaper nut too! I thought it would be too much trouble but with the more modern cloth diapers (we used Fuzzibunz) it was very easy. We used the same diapers on both are girls so the second child was diapered basically for free. Plus, they both trained much earlier than the average kid (our second started using the potty at 19 months and is now fully trained, even overnight, at 26 months). The reason cloth diapered kids learn faster is that they can actually feel the wetness and make a connection with their elimination. Not for everyone, but it worked wonderfully for us.

Posted by: Ms L | September 14, 2006 4:31 PM

You guys are gonna hate me, but . . .

Is that "$20 a pop" or "$20 a poop"? :>)

Just a late-afternoon ha-ha. Hope no one is offended.

Posted by: pittypat | September 14, 2006 4:32 PM

Pittypat, good one. Today's blog has been very entertaining.

Posted by: Rockville | September 14, 2006 4:34 PM

pittypat, snort snort! that made me giggle too, I'm feeling very slap happy today for some reason. Must be the cold medicine.

Ms. L, so glad to hear you are too! We were hoping for the early toilet training with our son, he seemed to be interested around 19 months, but now he's not. A friend who cloth diapers said her son has just started going in his little toilet of his own accord in the last few weeks, he's about to turn two. I'm still crossing my fingers!

Posted by: Megan | September 14, 2006 4:38 PM

Toilet training at 19 months. Wow! My son became interested, in theory at least, when he was about two, so we bought him a potty and some books on the subject. He liked to read the books, but it was not until he was three that he really wanted to try the potty. We decided to try a weekend without diapers, and amazingly, it worked. As soon as he had cloth underwear on, he never had an accident. It was so easy for all of us. We tried to put disposables on him on Monday for daycare, and he refused. He liked the big boy underwear. The daycare folks had a hard time believing he was trained so quickly, but it was almost an overnight process.

Posted by: Rockville | September 14, 2006 4:50 PM

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 4:53 PM

Boy...I go away for a couple of hours and this blog goes from potty-mouth to potty-training. Definitely downhill. :-)

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 14, 2006 4:55 PM

*Sound of all non-moms running like hell from the conversation*

Posted by: Anonymous | September 14, 2006 4:59 PM

Here's an interesting life-cycle assessment of cloth vs. disposable diapers: http://www.ilea.org/lcas/franklin1992.html

I like the idea of natural fiber next to my baby's skin, but I don't think I can ever convince my husband to deal with cloth. It also doesn't seem to necessarily be more eco friendly, though the assessment mentioned above says it might depend on where you live (drought prone area vs. over land-filled area).

Posted by: JKR | September 14, 2006 5:02 PM

Interesting diaper conversation notwithstanding, I wanted to go back to the original topic of telecommuting.

One of my first jobs out of college was at a big-five consulting firm. It was totally about staying late and logging hours regardless of whether you had any work to do. I hated it and so did a lot of other people-- it was essentially a 1-2 year revolving door for the younger folks. The mangers weren't necessarily the smartest or the best-- they had just managed to tow the line the longest.

In my current work place, I have about 10-15 hours of actual work to do a week because the bosses over-hired but can't delegate (which is driving me batty and which is why I'm contemplating my next move). I totally resent time spent at the office surfing the web (not that I don't love this blog and all :-) when I could be accomplishing something at home. I would LOVE to telecommute in this job (or have bosses who actually gave the people they spent time and money to hire some ownership and responsibility!).

Meanwhile, my husband has been telecommuting full-time for four years. We don't have kids, tho' I'm pregnant now. It happened serendipitously (we moved to a city where they were going to open an office-- they changed their mind about the office, but not about him). At first he missed having colleagues, but now he loves working from home. He has to travel to his office periodically, and travels occasionally to clients, etc., but mostly manages through conference calls, web meetings, remote presentations, etc. He is the most productive person I've ever seen (more than anyone at the two jobs I described above), wastes no time, and gets the job done-- his bosses love him. If he doesn't have a deadline, he can take an hour at lunch for a bike ride or visit to a museum, which makes him that much more happy and productive when he gets back. If this continues after the baby comes, as we hope it does, the plan is to have a sitter/au pair at home so he can keep working... but be able to check in on the baby whenever. He still misses face-time with colleagues though, and says the ideal arrangement would probably be 2-3 days in the office, 2-3 days at home.

Hours worked is an awful measure for productivity. But it requires a good, thoughtful manager to understand how to motivate and supervise employees without micromanagement/clocking-in/etc. Most managers I personally have seen, even exceedingly smart and well-meaning ones, don't put a lot of care and thought into getting the best out of their employees-- they're too busy trying to do their own work and manage their team as an afterthought. Whether you telecommute or spend all your time in the office, good management can make all the difference in your productivity (judging by the length of this blog post, you can guess the situation I am in :-).

Posted by: JKR | September 14, 2006 5:16 PM

Anybody here see the hysterical Eddie Murphy movie "Daddy Daycare'? Great cast. Two dads lose their jobs and start a daycare center in their home. What a riot.

Posted by: CA Mom | September 14, 2006 5:26 PM

Coming in late on the discussion - but I just have to butt in!

John!! Don't listen to all of the nay sayers about working from home and caring for an infant. In can and has been done successfully. Sure, the baby's temperment can make it easier or harder, but learning to multi-task and figure out what works for your baby is just part of parenthood.

The most important tools, in my experience with both working at home with an infant and taking an infant to work in an office:

1. A baby sling
2. The ability to NAK (nurse at keyboard ;o) )

Good luck to you and your wife!

Posted by: momof4 | September 14, 2006 5:29 PM

My comment for John (who does seem to be a good sport):

I think your plan can work if you and your wife are naturally high energy people, and your baby is fairly easy-going. One thing for you to keep in mind on those days your wife works at home with the baby is that she has been working two jobs, not having an easy day-- even if she takes the baby to the park at lunch. Since toddlers need more attention (and get into more trouble) than infants, I wouldn't recommend you get financially dependent on her doing double duty a couple days a week, even if it works early on.

Best of luck!

(NAK)

Posted by: yetanothersahm... | September 14, 2006 5:43 PM

>>> As all you problem-free upper class mums on the board should know, babies are meant to be dressed in hand-woven paper diapers made of $10 and $20 bills. <<<

Britney honey, my baby only wears $100 or Euros. As we all know things from Europe have a higer status among the VLI-buying class.

Posted by: lighten up | September 14, 2006 5:47 PM

>>> One of my first jobs out of college was at a big-five consulting firm. It was totally about staying late and logging hours regardless of whether you had any work to do. I hated it and so did a lot of other people-- it was essentially a 1-2 year revolving door for the younger folks.<<<

My experience was exactly the same! I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I love small privately held companies. They tend to offer a lot more flexibility and sense of team. Flexibility makes up for not having the BEST medical insurance or the BEST 401k, in my opinion.

Posted by: alexandria mom | September 14, 2006 5:48 PM

Telecommuting is the best thing ever! I am a government attorney and I telecommute. However, my job entails meeting a quota of signed decisions on a weekly basis, so there is a very clear way for my employer to judge my productivity. I hear all of you when you lament the lack of flexibility in other jobs. I took this particular job over higher paying ones, because I knew I could get on the work at home program and only have to come into the office twice a week. All that being said, there is clearly an "unofficial" higher standard for those of us who work at home. If you are not producting far above and beyond the "quota", you will get kicked off the telecommuting program. Nevertheless, I am willing to give Uncle Sam a few more hours of production each week in order to stay on the program. I just wish more employers would get on the bandwagon with telecommuting. It has made me an incredibly loyal employee of my government agency.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | September 14, 2006 5:51 PM

Thanks for the latest comments. We'll have to see; unfortunately I have a --lot-- more energy than my wife has, so taking care of a baby AND trying to work may be more than she can handle early on. That's one reason why I cook dinner; she often was too tired to cook after getting home from work (her job often calls for her to work 10 hour days, plus a 40 minute commute each way). I've told her that when (if) she becomes pregnant, those long work days will --have-- to stop, not to mention once there's a baby in the family!

Posted by: John | September 14, 2006 6:25 PM

JKR, that's a really interesting article. Since it was from 1992, though, it doesn't take into account new innovations-- 1)front-loading washing machines, which use a tiny amount of water and much less energy;
2)vastly improved cloth diapers, so we don't use 10 per day like they say.

Also, I found it irritating that the study doesn't seem to account for transportation costs of paper diapers, which has a huge environmental impact.

Anyway, I'm taking things even further off topic... sorry.

Posted by: Ms L | September 14, 2006 7:53 PM

"It seems to me that children who opt to not have children should see themselves as something more than just having opted to not have children."

It seems to me that CHILDREN should not be having children, no matter how they see themselves !!! hahahaha

Posted by: to 3:16 | September 15, 2006 7:02 AM

People who hate plain English are often the ones who think they can write but can't.

Engineers jump to mind first.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 15, 2006 8:00 AM

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