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Nikki Mark Headshot

Earning Flexibility

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As National Work and Family Month approaches, I can't help but think about some new ways to better juggle life. It's not a new question, but I think it's one that affects more and more of us, especially working moms such as me. How do we know if we are getting it right? Being a mother of two young boys ages 6 and 3, and having a full time executive position, I have learned to pick and choose what's important to me at this point in my life and to accept what I am missing out on.

But I can still push too far. After months of working long hours, I decided to take a break, recently took a vacation with my family and immediately caught a virus for the entire trip. Just when I thought I had gotten it right, my body told me I hadn't. The juggle caught up with me! How do we create a healthy balance? Are we all in it together, or is it up to each one of us to figure it out for ourselves?

What responsibility do employers have, if any, to provide an environment where having a family and a successful career are possible?

Author, Jack Welch says in Winning, "Most bosses are perfectly willing to accommodate work-life balance challenges if you have earned it with performance." For what it's worth, I agree. When we consistently perform, we earn flexibility and create respected boundaries, and it is this balance that I believe managers and their employees must find to achieve success in balancing successful personal and professional lives.

As the only senior executive at our company who is a working mom, I feel a strong obligation to help create a work environment that is conducive for working parents and employees of all types -- including those ready to start families. It's not easy, and there's no work-family formula that works for everyone. While I ultimately believe we all have to choose what's important for ourselves, I have personally tried to lead by example, showing the women with whom I work that it's possible to have a career and a family, and love both. This has been my experience, and I am grateful for it, and I work increasingly harder because of it.

If employees love their jobs they will work harder, and as they put more time into their jobs, the likelihood of career growth and success increases. At the same time, they are earning flexibility to tend to their personal lives, which for many is their family. If corporate leaders show their teams that they maintain a personal life along with their careers, the next generation of leaders will have the courage to do the same. Ultimately, we will start teaching one another how to be increasingly successful with our careers and our family. Inevitably, I think this means we are all in it together.