Working for a 'great' corporation vs. working for yourself- which leads to the better quality of life? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
I'm one of millions of parents raising a child with special needs. Working for myself has been essential. Unfortunately, many corporations don't offer the flexibility that people in similar situations need, and they're losing out on great workers.
About 14 million children -- -- have a special healthcare need. Often in these families, someone drops out of the workforce to be a full-time caregiver. One report puts that figure at .
It doesn't have to be this way. As a column in the Washington Post , "Parents of special-needs kids assume they're less desirable employees. They're wrong." Caring for your child in particularly difficult circumstances can teach you all kinds of workplace skills, including planning, creativity, resilience, multi-tasking and more.
My results at work (my own legal practice) show that I still get my job done. I just need to follow a very unusual schedule and avoid the insane hours that too many lawyers, and too many workers in some other fields, are expected to follow.
Our son Matt was diagnosed with , a rare genetic disorder that includes tissue overgrowth and "vascular abnormalities." The first two years of his life were incredibly tumultuous. My wife and I traded off taking him to more doctors than we can count -- who, in turn, put him through more tests than we can count.
We carried around an enormous blue loose-leaf binder with Matt's medical history, broken down by specialty (since he had to see different specialists for various ailments). This required traveling all over New York City, which in and of itself takes a big chunk of any day. We also travel to Boston several times a year, where we spend several days at a children's hospital so he can undergo even more tests and procedures. (I've written about this in more detail in my book, )
Still, I've kept my career going. Consistently, judges and opposing counsel have been supportive of my requests for a continuance and rescheduling court dates. I always do my best to reschedule things quickly so that my clients won't be upset, or left hanging.
Many times I've noticed that I'm able to make things work in ways that would be unheard of at a large corporation. Once, I had a long-awaited trial set to begin, but Matt suddenly had a new procedure that I needed to take him to. Everyone involved was so forgiving and gave me the time I needed. No one asked for proof or medical records. They just trusted me.
When I've shared that story with some friends who work in major law firms or serve as in-house counsel for big companies, they've said they can't imagine things working so smoothly for them. Often in those environments, after the first one or two times that an employee needs this kind of flexibility, it becomes "too much" for the business. There are workplace pressures to prioritize business needs over those of your family.
Numerous studies have found that women and men who work part-time or seek flexible schedules often face a . It's one of the reasons many women of the workforce. It's also why in traditional work environments around the world are able to build the kind of work-life integration that they seek.
My wife, Lauren, is fortunate to work for someone who gives her the flexibility she needs. Her boss, a podiatrist, is a long time friend of her mother's. So Lauren has had more support than she might if she were working for a stranger.
To be fair, some businesses are making strides in this effort. Working Mother companies that are developing all sorts of support services for parents in similar situations. Steadily, things may be moving in the right direction.
Still, we need a sea change in support and acceptance of flexibility and part-time work. Until that happens, working for yourself may continue to offer not just a better quality of life, but the kind of life that allows you to be the person -- and, in cases like mine, the caregiver -- that you want to be.
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