04.19.12 Eating dinner with your family shouldn't be something to strive for as a working mom. It should be a given.
There’s been quite a lot of chatter online about a statement made by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. In a series of interviews with makers.com, Sandberg revealed that she leaves her office every day at 5:30 p.m. to have dinner with her children, saying:
“I walk out of this office every day at 5:30, so I’m home for dinner with my kids at 6:00, and interestingly, I’ve been doing that since I had kids. I did that when I was at Google, I did that here, and I would say it’s not until the last year, two years that I’m brave enough to talk about it publicly.”
Before I had a baby, I worked late most days. In fact, a colleague once joked that I slept at the office because she would see me at my desk when she left at night—and then seemingly in the same spot when she got in the next day. I never really considered how my schedule might change when I had my son. I just assumed that I would work it out when the time came. There were plenty of other moms in my office who seemed to be doing just fine—I was sure I would, too.
After returning to work after my maternity leave, I vaguely remember having a brief conversation with my boss about needing to leave at 5 p.m. to pick up my son at day care. She agreed and, even though I no longer have to pick up my son, I still leave my office every day at 5 p.m. so I can make it home for dinner with him and my husband. I’m lucky that I work in an office that supports mothers—and the extra demands we have on our time. But even in that environment, I still feel like I need to make up for the fact that I leave at 5 p.m.: I am often here before most of my colleagues in the morning; I eat lunch at my desk on most days; and, I rarely leave the office to run an errand in the middle of the day. And on those rare days when my workload is lighter than usual, I still stay until 5 p.m. so it doesn’t look like I’m trying to “cut out” any earlier. So far I haven’t had any complaints. I get my work done—and what I don’t comes home with me at night to be done after my son is in bed.
Kudos to Sandberg for making her children a priority. (And, quite frankly, kudos to her to being the chief operating officer of Facebook, too.) Sandberg’s public “admission” that she leaves the office at 5:30 is a powerful conversation starter for working moms and their employers. But how can working mothers get from admitting we have dinner with our kids to being encouraged to have dinner with our kids?
I'm not exactly sure. Writing about it is a good start. And so is action. I'm going to keep working and leaving at 5 p.m. I hope Sandberg continues to make make it home in time for dinner with her kids—and encourages her employees to do the same.
Do you make it a priority to be home by dinner or before your baby is in bed? How has that affected your daily workday?