First, let me clarify: bringing my baby to a job interview was not my idea. I didn’t wake up that morning and think, “This interview won’t be stressful enough. I should up the ante by bringing my highly unpredictable six-month-old with me.”
Here’s how this unusual situation unfolded: I’d had a great first interview with my potential supervisor, Kevin, and was asked to return for a second interview the following day. When I explained to the recruiter that my husband wasn’t available to stay home again with our son, she said, “Just bring the baby!”
Doing my best to contain my horror, I again requested another date. “Kevin really wants you to come back tomorrow,” replied the recruiter. “Don’t worry. He has four kids and won’t mind at all.”
And so, I arrived for interview number two with extra copies of my resume and a baby in a stroller. I’m pleased to report that said baby sat quietly while the adults talked, and I received the job offer later that day. I was thrilled that the office was just minutes from home, and I was able to negotiate half-day Fridays. Looking back, I realize that the invitation to bring my son to the interview was really an invitation to craft a professional life that would allow me to prioritize family.
During my six years with the company, my son had his share of health issues. There were a couple of surgeries, one unexpected sleepover at the hospital, the onset of asthma, the discovery of multiple food allergies, and a few trips to the ER. Kevin never once made me feel guilty about putting my son first. I was never expected to choose work over my child. And when my second son joined the family, I was able to create a flexible work schedule around his feeding times. In return, I worked incredibly hard at my job to show my appreciation for the tremendous support I received.
Having a family-friendly employer so early in my working-mom journey helped me establish expectations and boundaries that guided me as I furthered my career with other companies and eventually launched a business of my own. Integrating career and family is challenging even under the best circumstances, and it can be impossible with the wrong employer. As a seasoned working mom of two teens, I would like to share some insights:
Don’t hide your family or pregnancy from a current or potential employer.
It’s best to know up front if family will be an issue. If you think you need to hide your status as a parent to get a job offer or a promotion, chances are it’s not the right opportunity.
Apply to family-friendly organizations.
Many job search websites identify telework, freelance and part-time opportunities. Also, start sending resumes to companies that have received awards for their family-friendly policies and programs. It’s amazing to see just how far some companies go to embrace and support working parents!
Negotiate flexibility up front.
Once you accept a job offer, it’s very difficult to go back and request an additional perk like a condensed work week. Decide what you need and ask for it during your salary and benefit negotiations, prior to accepting a position.
Don’t fear change.
Perhaps your job takes you away from your family more than you’d like, or your nightmare boss has you so stressed out that you’re screaming at your kids. There are better situations out there. Do yourself and your family a favor by finding one.
Be worth it.
If you’re fortunate enough to enjoy family-friendly benefits, show your appreciation by being a productive, professional, responsive team player, whether you’re in the office or sitting at your kitchen table.
If you’re ever asked to bring your baby to a job interview, go for it. It’s not a crazy request. It’s simply a sign that the job will enable you to be your very best working-mom self.