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Working Mom Or SAHM? You Don’t Have To Choose Anymore

Photograph by Getty Images

What if the working mom vs. stay-at-home mom battle became a thing of the past, as antiquated as say, car phones or cassette tapes? Well, get ready, because it's happening. Over the past five years, a handful of new companies have opened for business with a common mission: to connect professional women with flexible, freelance, or remote employment opportunities in their industries. There is no question that the economy is beginning to shift away from the traditional 9-5 workday and single company career paths. It is moving toward a future where part-time employment, project work, flexible hours, and work from home will be widespread and accepted in almost every profession.

What took them so long?

Millions of new moms face this gut-wrenching choice every year—although it often doesn't feel like a choice at all. Do I return to full-time work, continue my career path, accept the demands of my job and daily separation from my baby, while earning income that might be crucial for my family? Or do I stay home, become my child's primary caregiver, and walk away from the years of education, experience, salary and career goals that have been a major part of my identity?

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Gina Hadley, co-founder of The Second Shift, believes women shouldn't have to make that choice. Gina created the company in 2014 with fellow mom Jenny Galluzzo to match women who had left careers in marketing, finance, and PR with companies looking to hire consultants and freelancers. The response from women has been overwhelming. Thousands are currently waiting to undergo the company's vetting process for membership. And employers are starting to appreciate the vast, highly experienced pool of talent among busy moms that is virtually untapped.

Gina doesn't sugarcoat it. "Having children sidelines your career." Even with a few large U.S. companies starting to offer more generous maternity leave, taking time off to nurture a baby or young child inevitably takes women off the track. Uninspired by the "Lean In" doctrine of Sheryl Sandberg, thousands of women are still leaving the workforce every year, refusing to spend long hours in the office, which studies have shown promotes less productivity, less employee retention and more stress.

Soon busy moms looking for work that makes sense personally and financially may be able to simply shift into a slower lane instead of heading for the off ramp.

"It's a crime that so much education, so much experience is going dormant," says Gina. "Everybody should be able to work in the way they feel is best for them." The millennial generation completely agrees with her. In fact, what millennials—men and women, with and without children—seem to want most is work flexibility and a better work-life balance. Many recent surveys have noticed this trend, including a 2015 global study by Ernst & Young.

Not surprisingly, mom entrepreneurs are taking the lead in making that desire a reality. In 2014, Katharine Zaleski and Milena Berry founded Power to Fly, a company that connects women around the world with jobs in the tech industry that can be done remotely. Zaleski famously published an "apology" essay in Fortune Magazine where she expressed regret for having harshly judged and disparaged her female colleagues with children while working at The Huffington Post and The Washington Post.

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Zaleski's essay urges young women in hiring positions to help "pave the path for their future selves," to stop undervaluing mothers' professional contributions, and "start acting like allies rather than deniers." With employers discovering the efficiency of flexible workers, as well as struggling to attract and retain younger talent, it looks like denial is no longer an option.

Start-ups like The Second Shift and Power to Fly have focused on narrow slices of the workforce, but we can hope their success will bring more and more options for women who choose not to be defined as either moms or professionals. Soon busy moms looking for work that makes sense personally and financially may be able to simply shift into a slower lane instead of heading for the off ramp.

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