The Secret Lives of Working Parents

A note from Jenny:


The idea of normalizing the conversation about parenting in the workplace is very important.  A recent personal story written in The Atlantic highlights the importance of candor about the realities of family in the workplace and the lengths people go, ineffectually, to hide one side from the other:

“Why would people do this? Why pretend kids are of “little importance”? When work and parenting seem at odds—because our culture tells us they’re at odds—mothers and fathers feel forced to demonstrate their commitment to one (the work side) by minimizing their concern for the other (the parenting side). They do not want their bosses to think they are anything other than 100 percent committed. “

Employees cannot feel afraid of what might make someone else uncomfortable– aren’t they told by leadership to “bring your whole-self to work?” I am the boss and just this morning I was fearful about revealing a personal detail at work– I realized too late that I booked a meeting with a (female) investor too close to my son’s birthday party. I thought about pretending it was a different conflict but then decided to bring my “whole-self” to the conversation. I owned up to the mistake and the reason why I had to reschedule–it felt scary but freeing to choose to make be bold and vulnerable. Ultimately, if the investor didn’t get it then I don’t want to do business with them.

At The Second Shift, we try to create a world where we don’t compartmentalize life and work. I don’t want my employees to waste time and energy trying to figure out how to make it to ballet or to a doctor appointment with an ill parent. Better they just do their job efficiently and are responsible– I do this myself and need to trust them to be grown ups and do the same.

“Put simply, mothers and fathers ought to come clean about the nature of their lives. We can’t fix problems that we pretend don’t exist; we can’t improve the lot of parents at work if we pretend we aren’t parents.”