From cashiers and housekeepers on up to the corporate office, working moms at Working Mother's Best Companies for Hourly Workers are getting the benefits, training and flexibility they need to succeed. And their families benefit, too. Meet a few women who show us how they make work work for them and their families.
Vanessa Stewart, Rochester, NY
Toddler Room Teacher, Childrens’ Creative Learning Centers (CCLC)
We’ve all had this kind of a day -— ordinary, until a phone call sends you scrambling. Vanessa Stewart, a teacher at CCLC’s school in Rochester, NY, was overseeing breakfast for early-arriving children, when her sister and fellow teacher, Scema, called to say she’d gone into labor. Vanessa, mother to Alaya, 4, and Dante, 2, told Scema to head to the hospital.
“I thought, ‘How am I going to get to her?’” she recalls, but her coworkers were already clearing the way for her to leave. Vanessa got to her sister’s bedside in about 10 minutes and helped her through hours of painful back labor. And when she checked back in with coworkers later that day? “They just said, ‘We’ve got it under control, we’ll see you on Monday,’” Vanessa recalls.
Baby girl Semaj arrived healthy that night, around 9 PM -— a surreal but joyous event neither sister will forget. “I’m the calm head in the family,” Vanessa laughs. “My mom told me ‘I’m so glad you were able to be there.’”
Renee Gregg, Philadephia, PA
Front Desk Associate
In Renee Gregg’s home, the alarm goes off early. She and daughter Jah-nae, 13, are out of the house by 6:30 AM, so Renee can start behind the front desk of Marriott’s downtown Philadelphia hotel. By the time her 10-hour shifts wraps and Jah-nae is picked up from afterschool care, the two have just enough time for dinner and homework before bed.
Although it means long workdays, Renee, 41, says she jumped at the chance to work a compressed schedule (four days on, three days off) when her hotel began experimenting with them in 2008. Two week days off to pay bills and run errands without competing with crowds is great, but her favorite day is Saturday, when she takes Jah-nae to dance class. On Sunday, typically a busy day for hotel check-outs, Renee works and Jah-nae spends the day with her father.
Renee says she values both her employer’s consistency in giving her Saturdays off and her access to flexibility when needed. If something comes up, such as a doctor’s appointment, “95 percent of the time” Renee says she gets the specific shift change she requests, but if she can’t, her coworkers have been generous with trading. “We all work hard,” Renee says, “but we work well together as a group to make sure the pieces fit.”
Laura Misterek, Madison, WI
It takes a village -— or so Laura Misterek, 39, discovered in July, when her regular childcare provider was unavailable and both she and her husband had important work commitments. With no family nearby, the only option left for Madison, 4, and Jordan, now 21 months, was UWHC’s back-up childcare service. (In a benefit that receives rave reviews, the hospital provides 20 hours of in-home child or elder care annually to part-time employees and 60 hours to full-time employees.)
Initially, Laura says she was nervous about leaving her children with someone they didn’t know. But when the sitter called in advance to speak about the children’s interests, Laura’s mind was put at ease, and soon the sitter arrived with dance music that delighted both kids. “It was a huge relief that it worked so well,” recalls Laura. “Madison still talks about it.”
Best, she knows that if her regular childcare provider is unexpectedly sick, she can have an experienced sitter at her home within a few hours.
Stephanie Sanderson, Albuquerque, NM
Clinical nurse specialist, ICU cardiac unit
Clinical nurse specialist, ICU cardiac unit
Stephanie Sanderson raves about how lucky she is to have a “Mr. Mom” at home. Recently retired from the phone company, her husband, Rick, cooks, cleans, walks the dog and carpools their youngest daughter and her teen friends.
“He’s terrific,” says the 43-year-old nurse, who works full-time as a staff instructor in the University of New Mexico’s nursing program and a trainer of new cardiac ICU nurses in the hospital system. “It’s a huge help.”
But life raising three daughters (Meghan, 21, Rachel, 19, and Melanie, 14) hasn’t always been so easy, particularly when both parents worked.
“Sometimes we look at each other now and think ‘How did we ever manage?’” she says. “There was a point where three children always needed to be three different places. The truth is, I don’t how we would have done it without the flexibility we had from my job.”
As she progressed through different career and family stages, UNM Hospitals moved with Stephanie. When the girls were younger and Rick worked full-time, Stephanie compressed her work weeks, opting for 12-hour night and weekend shifts so she could be home after school. Now she works traditional 8-hour daily shifts, which fit her current pace -— and she’s confident her job will adapt to whatever life brings next.
“The hospital respects me and my family,” she says. “There are not words to describe how fortunate I feel to work there.”
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