Daddy's Little Tax Deduction Takes a Tax on Accountant Mommy Both at Home and at Work

I heard from a working mother accountant yesterday. She works at Ernst & Young and has wonderful things to say about EY's treatment of working mothers. Just to give you a taste of how flexible EY was with maternity leave -- when she told them that she had decided to quit the firm rather than go on maternity leave because she wanted to take more time off to spend with her newborn than the existing maternity leave schedule permitted, the firm said, "Don't quit. Just take an extended leave of absence for a year and come back then."

So she did. She took a year off. Of course she did not get paid a salary after the normal maternity leave time period expired. But she was able to keep her low-premium medical benefits during this time so long as she paid the premium -- which was a great benefit.

When she returned after her time off, she worked out a reduced work schedule with the firm for reduced pay. Though difficult, the managing partner and other partners are very supportive in helping her stick to the reduced schedule. Hats off to EY for such great treatment of working mothers.

But despite the great efforts of the firm and its partners to accommodate working mothers, being a part-time working mother takes a serious tax on the enjoyment that a working mother would hope to get from her career. Here's a list of some big concerns:

1. Mid-level management. While the managing partner and other office partners are supportive of the working mother's reduced work schedule. Senior staff and managers just don't seem to get it. When they watch the working mother shut down her laptop and leave the office while it is still daylight outside (to go retrieve her toddler from day care) they stare and feel like she is playing hookie -- even though she is getting paid far less than the full-time workers. They see her leave early. They don't see the small pay check (which is barely enough to cover day care expenses). And they judge.

Often times, managers and seniors come to the working mother just as she is about to leave the office and say they need her to take care of something before she goes. They don't get it. Kids have to be picked up from day care by the close of business or you are in big trouble. There is little or no flexibility here.

A similar event occurs when the seniors and managers ask the working mother to come in to the office on the day that they know is her day-off. It is not like she spends her day-off alone sipping lemonade on the beach while reading Twilight. That's the day she does the laundry, cleans the house, and tries to spend some time with her child. And her day off is also the day care lady's day off. What is she supposed to do with the poor child if she can't take him to day care? Leave him with the creepy old man next door?

2. Lower Review Scores. Because the working mother is giving baths and cleaning up cheerios off the kitchen floor, or hunched over her laptop in a make-shift home cubicle, and not at the office in view of other team members on those late late nights, the team does not see the working mother as an equal contributor to the effort. Come review time, the very high review scores that the working mother used to get are reduced to just "average" because the review committee can't justify giving her higher scores when she didn't put in as many hours at the office as the other accountants at her level.

3. No Over Time Pay. The working mother tells me that if she goes far beyond her normally scheduled hours, she doesn't get any overtime pay. That does not make sense, as I know other working women on reduced schedule at other firms who do get overtime pay. Part time mothers are part time because the remainder of their schedule is spent taking care of children and is inflexible. If working mothers are forced to put their kids in day care longer so that they can work longer hours in the office, they should be compensated accordingly in order to cover the costs of day care.

4. Short-Term Deadlines. Most projects in the accounting world have a very short deadline. A 30-hour project often cannot be spread over the course of a working mother's 30-hour work week. The managers and seniors want it done in two days. The problem is that children's schedules are not real flexible. They need someone to feed them, bathe them, change them, and sing them to sleep every night, not just once every three or four nights. Consequently, short-term projects are killer on the working mother, who ends up staying up until 4 AM time and time again just to take care of simple projects with very short deadlines.

Anyone have any tips or advice to help our working mother?


  1. Anonymous2:59:00 PM

    I don't have any advice because I am not a working mother. But I plan to be one soon. Which firm really has the best policies toward working women?

  2. Depends on your jurisdiction, but most CA students are exempt from getting overtime, so point 3 usually doesn't count & working longer hours is not the secret to better review scores if you work for an intelligent office. Of course, if you have a bunch of idiots glaring at the working mother then they have a poor understanding of "flex-time" which they too could take advantage of, if not a complete reduced-work arrangement and they may disqualify the concept of theirs being an intelligent office. If it's just something low-key she should hopefully be able to defuse it herself by talking to them directly, or with the right people to support. The right coach/manager/mentor should be in place to support people who feel uncomfortable tackling an issue like that themselves.

  3. Anonymous7:05:00 PM

    I don't see why the firm should be expected to bend over backwards to accommodate working mothers. If you want to be an accountant, be an accountant. If you want to be a mother be a mother. Don't complain because it's difficult trying to do two things at once. I would really like to go on flex time as a working surfer . . .

    1. Anonymous5:05:00 PM

      Thats a very insensitive and black and white statement to make. Your comment regarding "if you want to be an accountant be an accountant" suggests to me that you currently not a parent nor do you plan to be one in future. That said, I am a mother and work full time. I consistently work beyond my contracted hours and then go home to be a mother. Several of my colleagues do not have children so by your logic should I be complaining that my colleagues are lazy and should be working harder as they do not have additional responsibilities. If firms are not willing to accomodate staff with children they should make this very clear to potential staff....but they don't. The main reason for this is that is unethical and it would tarnish the reputation of the firm.

  4. Anonymous4:03:00 PM

    It's interesting that no one took a moment from their own agendas to suggest something to help the working mother (your colleague in a sense)! Which to me is the whole cause of the problem the mother is facing the selfish people she works with who aren't taking a moment to put themselves in her shoes!! I'm at PwC and I hear this phrase almost everyday in relation to clients but what about to each other!

    My advice (may not be the best but my 2 cents)is to stop looking for comfort in your workplace accept that the people you work for are young and self-absorbed (as they probably should be it's part of the joy of being young) and take solace in the fact that you are being brave enough to have it all... I hope she has a good family network to lean on, talk to your sister/ cousin/ mom at least 2x a day and take your moments to remember why you are doing what you are doing.. in short be proud of yourself and forget the assholes...

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  40. Anonymous1:03:00 PM

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  41. Anonymous1:15:00 PM

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    1. Anonymous3:23:00 PM


    2. Anonymous3:26:00 PM

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