You've heard the saying
Women are expected to work like they don't have kids, but be a mom like they don't have a job?
That is the short answer to why I lied.
The longer answer is more complicated.
I was a new-ish mom. I had small kids, both in daycare and I constantly felt as if I was failing. I was at the mid-point of my career with dreams to climb the corporate ladder, but I constantly felt like I was falling short.
Every day I would get up before the crack of dawn, and work out, pack daycare bags, get myself ready, get my kids ready, and hustle to the car. There was no time in the morning for snuggles or waking up slowly. From the moment the alarm went off it was straight-up CHAOS.
Then it's the commute. Love it or hate it, it was often the only quiet time for me during the day. I could listen to podcasts, music, or books on Audible. It was, however, close to 2 hours out of my day that I would never get back. Every day. Because of the commute, I had to be diligent about what time I left the office. Those of you with kids know this, but if you are late to pick up, you get charged by the MINUTE. You also get shamed. No one wants to be the mom that speeds into the parking lot on two wheels with the angry teacher waiting at the front desk, with the entire daycare shut down with the exception of your kid sitting cross-legged on the floor, backpack on, waiting to leave.
From there, it's back into the CHAOS. It's dinner, bath, and bed. In between dinner, bath, and bed, it's starting the laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, packing up the backpacks for another day, and walking the dog - what feels like all at once - and ends with collapsing into the bed in full exhaustion.
I always coveted the 10-15 minutes of reading books in bed, because it seemed like the only true quiet time with my kids that I got to enjoy during the week. My husband? He was in there somewhere, helping with the laundry, dog walks, and bath times. But time alone with him? Forget it.
My hero used to be "Inspector Gadget" because he had gadgets that allowed him 6 different arms. Man, how I could have used those 6 arms.
I found that if I could leave work just a little bit earlier, I could miss the crazy traffic, and have just a little more peace and tranquility in my life. I felt just a little bit less like a failure of a mom. I found time to play games, hear their stories from school, and sit down to eat, rather than scarf down food in between chores. It allowed the atmosphere in the home to move closer to CALM than constant chaos. Leaving work just a little bit earlier, made me more confident as a mom. It allowed me to be more present.
Leaving work just a little bit earlier, also got me sideways glances. It wasn't said, but it was implied, that it didn't matter if you showed up earlier, you stayed till 5 pm. Ya'll. I could be reading People magazine news articles on my computer - providing NO VALUE to the organization, but that butt in the seat made everyone else FEEL as though I was working.
I felt the constant pressure to either sneak out or lie to my boss about why I needed to leave early. I would say I had a Dentist appointment or had to take my car in for a tire rotation. Of course, I had to get creative, and I couldn't overuse my excuses. But if it meant I could leave the office without that sideways glance, I would take it.
I never talked to my boss about it. I think if I had, things might have been different - but I didn't feel as if I could. I didn't feel as if I would be taken as seriously or considered a hard worker. I felt as if it would affect my performance reviews, and affect my pay. So I stayed quiet. And continued to sneak out when I could, and lie when I needed to.
My beliefs were confirmed when I was told by a superior that "people were noticing" my early departures and felt I wasn't "all-in." At this point, I had already made the decision to leave, but this "feedback" solidified my reasoning. There was no "how can we support you?" or offers for flexibility. There were only warnings filled with shame.
I tell you this because culture matters. Words matter. And support matters.
If you want to have an inclusive culture, you must provide options to your people - especially your working moms who are held to the highest of standards from society to be the best employee AND the best mom. Reach out when you notice them leaving early, and ask how you can support them. People earlier on in their career, like me, may not have the courage to ask.
Today, I take the PERSON FIRST approach. You need to leave early for any reason, it doesn't need to be explained to me. As long as you are getting the work done, and you are doing good work - you DO YOU!
When you support the PERSON before the organization, everyone wins. When you focus on antiquated "rules" that serve no one but yourself, no one wins.
Find yourself a leader and an organization that supports the PERSON. Black-and-white policies don't work because people are complex. Their needs differ across all facets of life. Meet them where they are at, and support them in any way you can. Because without good people doing the work - you got nothing!