Can a flexible work schedule help you stay in the workforce after having children?
Yes, it just might be the key. Your job is the foundation for general financial security, including retirement. In addition to providing you with a steady salary and valuable employee benefits, it typically brings with it the ability to save in a tax-advantaged employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k), and if you're lucky, a pension. It also allows you to start qualifying for Social Security retirement benefits.
Women and men may start out on relatively equal financial footing in their 20s. But when children come along, women are much more likely to take time out of the workforce to care for them.1 A common refrain is "my salary would just go to daycare costs anyway, so what's the point?" This is often true. But it's really not fair for one parent to assume sole responsibility for child-care costs; it is a shared financial responsibility that both parents should take on.
Many women want to keep at least one foot in the workforce after having children, not only for financial reasons but also for career mobility and personal fulfillment. If you'd like to keep working but can't accommodate the traditional, 40-hour-per-week, in-office schedule, consider requesting a modified schedule if your job allows it. This could mean telecommuting from home one or more days per week, having a flexible work schedule (such as 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.), working part-time, or some combination thereof. In many cases, a flexible work arrangement can be the difference between staying in the workforce or having to leave it, so consider exploring this possibility before you exit prematurely.
Think about what your ideal work arrangement would be and request a meeting with your manager to discuss your well-thought-out proposal. This plan should include a trial period after which both sides can come back to the table and evaluate how things are working. Employers are increasingly recognizing that flexible schedules are key to having a diverse, gender-neutral workforce. In the end, asking for a flexible schedule might just allow you to keep that steady salary and continue saving for retirement.
1) U.S. Department of Labor Blog, Women and Retirement Savings, March 2017