Do You Work Past 5:30?

Apr 20, 2012 by

When news broke this week that Facebook’s chief operating officer (COO), Sheryl Sandberg leaves work, daily, at 5:30 to have dinner with her kids, I felt a vast array of emotions.

My initial reaction was similar to that of Pamela Stone, isn’t it horrifically sad that a mother leaving work to have dinner with her children is newsworthy? Isn’t it normal to eat dinner with your children? Shouldn’t working mothers or working fathers have the option of eating dinner with their children on a regular basis? Is this how desensitized our society has become to normalcy?

I was upset at the obviousness of the situation, but then after reading additional articles and listening to some of Sandberg’s quotes, I felt thankful to her for being brave enough to come forward and to be honest and open about her situation. I do find it sad that she admitted to reporters that it was not until she was COO that she actually felt comfortable enough being honest about her work life balance. As Pamela Stone accurately summarizes,

“It’s hard to imagine that Sandberg, a woman whose career has taken her from Harvard to Treasury to Google to second-in-command at Facebook, is easily cowed. She may not be every woman, but her fear of the consequences of being found out is shared by far too many working moms. Unfortunately, their fears appear to be well-grounded. Sandberg is the exception who proves the rule.”

As a part-time working mother, I sometimes feel stigmatized and even criticized by my fellow colleagues. I shouldn’t have to feel this way and no working mother should feel guilty about leaving work to take care of their family. In my current position I work a reduced schedule, but I have not reduced my work load, since cutting my hours. Hence, my employer pays me part-time compensation for full-time work. As happy as I am to have extra time off to be with my children, and the flexibility to drop off and pick up my children, I often look at economics of my situation…am I the only one benefitting?

Often, working long hours and putting in extra time is associated with competence and ability. Hours clocked doesn’t always equate to quality of work, commitment to the organization, and dedication to your profession. I’m not sure what it will take for employers to fully realize this and release the outdated professional theory that “long hours and constant availability” ensure quality employees.

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Sarah Bourne Perillo

Sarah lives with her husband and three daughters in the greater Farmington Valley area of CT. Aside from her most important job of being a mom, Sarah works for the Connecticut General Assembly as a budget analyst and serves as the President of the UCONN chapter of Pi Alpha Alpha. Aside from her family, Sarah derives great joy from visiting Vermont (her native state!), running, reading, having dinner and drinks with her girls (not her daughters), and riding alone in the car with the music uncomfortably loud. She hopes that this blog will affect new mothers, working mothers, stay at home mothers, stressed mothers, and perfect mothers, positively.

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  • Gabby

    Ugh! This brings back flashbacks of my job before I started my own business. I was a Design Production Manager for a furniture company. The way I was expected to be on call, you’d think I was a neurosurgeon! The corporate culture there caused resentment instead of inspiration among employees. When I finally hire employees, I will emphasize the importance of balance. You can’t be at your best when you’re overworked, unappreciated, and never get to have dinner with your family.

  • Melanie

    I’m in the same boat … I signed up for a part-time work deal that really does result in me putting in almost the same amount of hours, and getting paid a whole lot less to do so. I should have seen that coming. I don’t know what it will take to change things, short of a revolution of mass scale refusals to work as hard and long as possible for as little as possible. I routinely leave the office as late as 7:00 or 8:00, sometimes much earlier, but sometimes much later.

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