What moms really want on the job

White tulips on pink with mothers day card

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Mother's Day is coming up and I, being a dutiful daughter and daughter-in-law, have ordered flowers for all the mothers and grandmothers. Is that what they really want? (Well, probably not. What they want is for me to bring the grandchildren over, but they'll have to wait for summer vacation for that.) In fact, while flowers are nice and (in some cases) expected, what moms want on the job is very different than an occasional bunch of blooms.

Glassdoor.com collects employee reviews of companies (among other things). So, I asked them the question, "What are working moms saying they want in a company?" It's not flowers. Here are the things working moms want:

  • Paid maternity leave
  • Flexible schedule
  • Option to work part-time
  • Sick and vacation days
  • Medical/dental/vision benefits
  • Overall company support for the working mom
  • On-site childcare
  • Child care reimbursement
  • Flexible location - work from home options
  • Private room for mothers who are breastfeeding

With the exception of a room for nursing mothers, I think all of these things apply to working fathers as well, and most apply to every person with a job. When my oldest was two, my husband's job offered onsite daycare, so that is where my daughter went. It was reassuring to know that if anything happened, dad could be there in two minutes.

Flexible schedules and part time work have also benefited me greatly during my career. Now, if I'm going to work part time I do so with the full understanding that I won't climb the corporate ladder at the same speed as those who are willing to devote every waking hour to the company. I'm fine with that. And, I believe many more women would be fine with it if companies would only offer the opportunity.

When you have a good, reliable employee who wants to work part time, as yourself, "Is it better that she work here part time or not at all?" In many cases when you allow someone the flexibility or part time schedule she wants, what you gain is an extremely loyal hard worker. Who wouldn't want that?

Some of these things are not publicly available at companies, but can be arranged if you ask in the proper way. When I wanted to work part time in a job share situation, my coworker and I wrote up a 3 page document on how it would benefit the company. It took the bosses a month to decide but, in the end, we got what we wanted and they kept two high performing long term employees even longer. It wasn't an official policy to allow these arrangements, but we asked anyway.

HR departments do benefits reviews every year (as a general rule). Let your HR manager know what things would be helpful to you. No, they can't build a daycare on site easily, but they can evaluate health benefits, add flexible spending accounts for child care and other things that might be helpful for working moms (and everyone else). They don't know you want it if you don't ask for it.

You may say, "Hey, it's obvious that we all want 12 weeks of paid maternity leave!" Well, of course it is. But, most women will have one or two children while in the workforce. If there's not great gobs of company money lying around, would you prefer better vacation or better dental care that will cover your entire career than a maximum of 24-week benefit? It's something to think about.

Moms, if you could pick the work place benefit that would help you the most in balancing your family and work life, what would it be? Does your company offer it? Have you asked about it?