Magazine article Working Mother

I Feel Guilty When I Can't Help My Colleague Because of My Kids

Magazine article Working Mother

I Feel Guilty When I Can't Help My Colleague Because of My Kids

Article excerpt

Stefanie is a mom who works in an office where many people have flexible schedules. Still, she worries that leaving early to pick up her kids or unexpectedly canceling meetings when a child gets sick isn't fair to her co-worker,

Allison, who isn't a mom. Allison has hesitated to ask Stefanie for help with projects requiring outside-the-office work because she knows figuring out childcare is stressful. Can these two help each other stop feeling guilty?

Stefanie's Side

"I generally work from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but it's acceptable to leave early to pick up my boys," Max, 8, and Michael, 2. The science writer in the marketing and communications department at Michigan Tech also teaches a university class Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. "Whenever I have to leave early, I work from home, if possible, or use sick or vacation time.

"Allison is the only other science writer here. We collaborate on projects and go to interviews together, regardless of who's planning to write the story, just in case we need backup later. Our offices are next door to each other.

"I sometimes feel guilty for leaving early. One time, when Michael's home daycare provider was sick and my husband couldn't get out of a commitment, I stayed with Michael, which meant I couldn't accompany Allison on an interview for a story. The next week, Michael was sick, so I couldn't join her for an interview for a different story. Although both were Allison's projects, and we have an understanding that the other might cancel, I felt bad. Nobody likes to cancel on someone twice in a row. Allison's so great to work with, she's the last person you want to bail on. I worry that I'm making things harder for her. I want Allison to feel as supported as she makes me feel.

"During that time Michael's daycare provider was sick, I had to stop by the office with him to access things that were on my work computer. We were only there for an hour, but I knew Allison could hear him demanding me to sing 'Itsy Bitsy Spider.'

"I try to be cognizant of what kind of colleague I'm being. I don't ever want Allison to feel like she's giving more than she's getting."

Allison's Side

"Stefanie's really good about letting people know when she's heading out. There are two days a week that I leave early to teach a dance class. Inevitably, people schedule meetings that conflict; Stefanie is the easiest to rearrange with. She has also been willing to take on responsibilities for stories while I've been out sick or traveling. She even took me to the ER in a blizzard when I had heart problems, then went back to the office and made sure our embargoed news story we were coordinating with NASA got to the right people and went live at the right time. She has the flexibility and cool-headedness that only a mom owns.

"But I have hesitated to ask her- and other moms in our office-for help with projects requiring outside work. For example, we have an annual Snowmobile Challenge, where colleges and universities from around the world bring snowmobile prototypes on campus and run tons of tests on them. It's an all-day event. We have to work weekends around it and some evenings. It's hard to be gone for 13 hours, especially if you don't have after-hours childcare or your partner isn't available. …

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