Like many women, I created it. In 2015, I left my corporate job after eight and a half years job sharing to start the first US business dedicated to the spread of job sharing—one of the least-known, most innovative flexible work practices. Job sharing is a partnership between two people to share the responsibilities of one full-time position. Work Muse works with employers to create job share programs to retain and recruit diverse talent and people to create successful job share arrangements.
I was fortunate to job share, but the truth is, it was part luck and part planning. After college, I worked in radio sales and learned about job sharing when our female GM greenlit the first Austin media job share. I left to co-found and run a film company for five years and decided to return to radio when I married and began planning for a family, knowing job sharing existed in the field. I felt if I could prove myself, I had a shot to job share, but there was one problem—the managers were all middle-aged men with stay-at-home wives who liked the traditional 9-5. My manager repeatedly told me I'd quit after I had my baby when I was pregnant, and I worried my client list (and income) would be stripped. I made him sign a contract guaranteeing it wouldn't. There was a company buyout and I returned from leave with all new management and an innovative company with job share policies—it was night and day. My new manager had worked with top-performing job shares and actually proposed it to me. My baby was 6 months old and working full-time with the demands of motherhood and a fast-paced job left me feeling like an utter failure at both – running and gunning, pumping and racing through work and life. Job sharing was a game-changer for our entire family. It allowed me to be a top-performing leader while working three days a week with a partner.
I wish I'd had Work Muse – there were no job share experts, training, or support. I had several partners and learned what made for successful job sharing through hands-on experience resulting in years of happy job shares, but it took time to get there. Despite the challenges, I never wanted to work any other way. I learned so much from each partner, and the structure of job sharing allowed us to be more productive and efficient, with a synergy that brought clients better results than we could ever achieve alone. On top of that, I had four heavenly days off a week where I could fully unplug and engage in my life, with my children and husband, while my partner handled everything.
When I started Work Muse, my goal was to spread job sharing for everyone. It was the elusive win-win-win for career-self-family that nobody seems to be able to snatch in our 24/7 work-world and nobody had heard of either. There are many ways that job sharing can benefit our workspaces, but I now see with clarity that flexible work—and specifically job sharing—can also directly affect change for gender equality in the workplace by preventing women from falling back or dropping out mid-to-senior level when they become primary caregivers, whether to children or aging parents. 90% of caregivers to aging parents in the US are women, so caregiving affects practically every woman and the choices they need to make about their careers. Job sharing kept me from falling back or dropping out and sacrificing my career or benefits, and that's my hope for other mamas.
It's kind of a loaded term, right? I think it means having a life that works for you, where you're able to bring your whole self to work and/or life and feel free to be true to who you are. Support in life from your spouse is vital and if you've got it from friends and family, you've got the village. We're not only our careers, or parents, or community members—we are all of those things and the skills we've developed in each area of our personal lives bring value to our work environments. Last year, I heard Ann Marie Slaughter's husband on a podcast talking about the concept of lead parenting—that as a couple, they made the choice that when one would step up their career, the other would become the lead parent, and they would take turns. That seemed ideal to me in terms of two parents wanting to be involved in their children's lives and also wanting to have satisfying careers. I realized that the structure of job sharing meant that my husband was the lead parent three days a week, the daycare pickup/ dropoff parent and the parent called if there was a sick kiddo—and I was the lead four days. I had my children in daycare four days a week, so I actually had three days to focus on work, one day for myself, and three days to totally engage with my kids for going to the zoo or park or grocery shopping at the farm. So, that was my "having it all".
My main advice is to advocate for yourself and ask for what you need to do your best work and be flexible to shift your plans at different stages in your life. I went back to radio knowing I'd have a fast-paced, fun job working with clients with built-in creativity creating campaigns, but it was also a pragmatic choice. Money earning potential and benefits were a huge factor as we started our family, and job sharing a huge draw. I was a commission employee and we worked so efficiently as a team, that I made nearly as much as I had full-time, with benefits, and the support of my job share partner.
It would be job sharing, hands down; it truly allowed me to find work-life balance. My biggest challenge in balancing career and motherhood is now: how to balance the demands of starting an industry from scratch, while keeping up with soccer schedules and the growing emotional demands from of my kids. One thing I purposefully chose was to work from a modular office, conveniently located in my backyard. It's been a lifesaver being within minutes of their school and after-school program and my husband's business. They walk home on Mondays from chess club, peek into my office, and go inside the house to read books for the next hour until I'm off work. It's really lovely; we're in the sweet spot, when your kids are old enough to get themselves in and out of cars, to not drown in the bathtub, and get themselves ready. I know I'm about to be kicked out as soon as middle school gets here, but I'm looking forward to navigating that stage too. It's all good.
I'd have to say, my mom! She created her pro mama life, starting a child development center when I was five that gave her built-in flexibility to be very present for me and my brother. She had an assistant director and was able to work a nine-to-three schedule while owning her own business and picking us up from school every day. There were lots of afternoons spent at the swimming pool and playing after school in our own wooded backyard, thanks to my mom's foresight to find a way to pay the bills while doing meaningful work and spend time with us. It was a great example to me and helped make me who I am today.