Of Pumpkins and Glass Slippers: The Magic of Working Parents

For your average working parent, glass-slipper time is pretty much a daily occurrence. It’s the bewitching hour by which you’re required to take off your work hat and turn back into a mom or dad.

Halloween always brings to mind visions of trick-or-treaters, superheroes, and candy (especially candy).

It also makes me think about pumpkins.

Not just the big orange ones that have been carefully carved into grinning decorations for front doorsteps, but the kind that turn from coaches back into giant squashes when the clock strikes midnight.

For your average working parent, glass-slipper time is pretty much a daily occurrence. It's the bewitching hour by which you're required to take off your work hat and turn back into a mom or dad. School bell? Car pool? Child Care deadline? Pumpkin time doesn't wait; either leave the ball (in this case, one's desk) or risk the despondence of a stranded child or the wagging finger (and penalty fees) of a late pickup.

Working Parents, Managers, and the Modern Family Index

It's been years since I experienced this particular brand of fairy tale. My children are both grown and my days are no longer guided by the whistles of soccer kickoffs, or the upheavals of parent-teacher conferences and half-days of school. But I remember it well and my newfound independence hasn't dimmed my appreciation for my working-parent colleagues who are currently running the race.

Look at any working parent and you'll see someone who's mastered the art of efficiency. With every day already bookended with immovable forces like school buses on one end and child care pick-ups on the other, there's no stretch on either side. That means every minute is densely packed; zero air in the middle for expansion. More work, fewer hours, every ounce of productivity squeezed from each working minute. It's a myth that working parents contribute less. My personal opinion has always been that working parents are the best bargains in business. Our recent Modern Family Index says managers think so, too.

Flex Time and Productivity: A Magical Pairing

So the magic of working parents is all the zigging and zagging to fit all that in. And, as a modern construct, experts say parents have the right idea. Such flexible models of efficiency should be a template for the modern workplace. Yes, their time in the office may be stunted, but face time is overrated anyway. As author and Harvard B-school lecturer Robert Pozen pointed out in the New York Times some years ago, while many bosses still recognize quantity as the indicator of hard work - weekends! Nights! Marathon 15-hour workdays! - it's quality that should get the nod.

Speaking from experience, it's true. Recognizing work done "on time" versus "on the clock" frees people (parents or not) to assemble the work/life pieces to fit their particular puzzle. In my office, all personal responsibilities are created equal, meaning flextime extends to school holidays, soccer games, parent-teacher conferences, bad colds, or even sick cats (guilty). Some weeks we could use our own app to keep track of the in/out migration. But the ground rules are static: once-a-week staff meetings; deadlines delivered. Nobody begrudges time off.

The reward is that oft-sought-after efficiency. I can't remember a single time anyone in my department - parent or no - has failed to come through, and on time. And not a single glass slipper is ever left dangling behind.

So Brava/Bravo, my working-parent colleagues! Makes me wonder what other great magic you can bring to the ball.

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.