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As the fragrant scent of Mother’s Day roses begins to waft through the air, let’s think of a different kind of bouquet we could offer our hardworking mothers. Imagine: a bouquet of flexible work options wrapped in velvet petals of understanding and empathy. Now it’s a gift that keeps on giving!
The amazing state of motherhood
Last state of motherhood report from Motherly, with nearly 10,000 mother respondents, paints an interesting picture. The number of housewives almost doubled from 2022 to 2023, rising from 15% to 25%. The pendulum of motherhood seems to have swung back towards its norm, staying in the typical range of 24% to 28%. The past year has been an outstanding, remarkable blip on the radar, with significantly fewer housewives.
Why? Because mothers were armed with the magic wand of flexibility at work. As more companies push their employees back into the office, some mothers find themselves in a quandary. With no other choice, they take on full-time care of their children, which leads to running away from work.
According to Jill Koziol, CEO and co-founder of Motherly: “In 2022, mothers were on the wave of flexible or hybrid work schedules, holdovers from the pandemic era. It appears that with the abrupt return to office work, the bill has been sent directly to the mothers’ address.”
That’s what I say my clients who decide whether to have flexible or inflexible back to office plan: If they don’t offer mothers flexibility, many will leave their jobs. This is an inevitable consequence of a top-down mandate.
Related: You should let your team define your approach to hybrid work. The Behavioral Economist explains why and how you should do it.
Who paid the price?
In our quest to return to “normal,” we may lose sight of the cost of such transitions. The Motherly poll tells the tale of a quiet but impressive exit from work. And the numbers don’t lie. As many as 18% of mothers changed jobs or quit completely in the past year. Some may read this statistic and shrug their shoulders, but let’s dive into why.
For 28% of these mothers, the driving force was the desire to be at home with their children. At first glance, this seems like a personal choice, and it really is. But underlying it is a complex web of factors, including a lack of flexible work options.
For 15% of mothers, the lack of childcare options was the deciding factor. This is not a minor inconvenience. This is an obstacle that slows down the mother’s career, often with long-term consequences.
Related: Why Employers Forcing Back to Office Lead to Workforce Growth and Unionization
And yet, the solution is not as elusive as it might seem. A Motherly poll found that 64% of housewives would return to work if they were offered flexible work hours. Being able to work flexibly is not in itself a bonus or a perk. This is a powerful lever that can significantly change the situation with the employment of mothers.
Imagine the impact. Thousands of mothers are returning to work, sharing their skills, perspectives and ideas. Thousands of families receive additional financial support. This is a win-win situation and all it takes is a change of perspective, a reassessment of our rigid working structures.
An alternative approach is to increase the availability of childcare services. More than half, 52% of the mothers surveyed, would return to work if childcare was available at affordable prices—less than if they were offered flexibility, but still a large proportion. The current system, in which the cost of childcare often eats up a significant portion of the salary, is unsustainable for many families.
But this is not a problem that individual families should solve alone. Employers, politicians and society as a whole have a role to play in finding solutions. This may include employer-sponsored childcare, subsidies, or policies to help reduce the cost of childcare. So individual employers who don’t want to be flexible should offer childcare support: they won’t get the full benefits of flexibility, missing out on 12% of working moms, but they will get most of the benefits.
Of course, most companies will not be able to afford such expenses. So here’s a radical idea for Mother’s Day. Instead of the usual gifts, let’s think about giving mothers something that will really make a difference: flexible work. It doesn’t cost the company more money – instead Flexible work saves money, up to $11,000 per employee. This is not a gift that is given once and forgotten. It is a gift that continues to give day after day, month after month. It is a gift that recognizes the realities of motherhood and the value of a mother’s contribution to the workforce. Let’s make this Mother’s Day the start of a new era. An era in which we not only pay lip service to the importance of work-life balance, but actively create the conditions that make it possible. The era when flexible work is not the exception, but the norm.
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