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When Office Hours Are After Hours


To attend or not to attend? That is the question plaguing much of our female workforce today. Sure our office hours might be 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but we all know opportunities for professional development often extend past the standard work day. From business after-hours events to out-of-town conferences to grabbing a beer with a coworker, most of us have a hard time weighing the cost vs. benefit of time away from our home and family against an occasion to invest in our work. I venture to guess many readers of this blog are moms, but this is a subject with which most women I know can identify. A brand-new puppy needs to be taken out. There's a load of laundry that isn't going to do itself. House-sitters cost money.

A friend recently recommended the Netflix series, "Workin' Moms," and in the first episode, Kate, who has recently returned to work at a high-powered marketing firm after having her first baby, skips out on date night with her husband to work late and eat from take-out containers with coworkers. A California working mom is living with this tug-of-war in real life and recently reached out to followers on LinkedIn about her struggle with choosing between after-hours professional opportunities and time with her two-year-old daughter. "Are my choices really family or work (how cliche)?"

And the internet does what it does best: gave advice.

Many parents revealed they have no qualms about opting out of the extra time spent away from home, taking whatever steps required to make it home on time and leave work at work. One responder wrote, "I’m not going to forgo time with {my children} outside of office hours unless required. I don’t feel it has hurt my career, and even if it did somewhat, I wouldn’t do anything differently." Another mom confessed she does what's necessary to be home on time, although she admits it may have hurt her career. Still another expressed interest in family-friendly events.

After college, I fell into a job where I traveled across the country to put together events for my company. When I got married, I found in the tourism industry, where travel is literally the name of the game. I racked up frequent flier miles circling the globe encouraging others to do the same. Now, I'm Director of The Source by BankPlus, this growing network of professional women that recognizes the importance of face time with other women in the workforce. Perhaps it's the path my own career has taken, and maybe it's having a supportive spouse, but it's important to me personally to show my girls the value of these professional development opportunities. Or as one mom put it, "I was someone before I was a mom - and that part of my identity matters, too."

The beauty of being a woman in today's professional environment is that we don't have to subscribe to one way of thinking every single time. There will be seasons of our life (or even days, weeks, or months) when our family or our job gets a little more focus than the other. We don't have to figure it all out today. The conversation has started, and the more we talk about it, the more opportunities for support we can encourage and cultivate.