“Why would you want to work part-time?” “Do you think you can take care of your kids better than the daycare?” “Your kids are only small once.” “Aren’t you afraid you’ll waste your education you worked so hard for?” “Your husband makes plenty of money to support your family.” “Don’t you just want to stay home with your kids?” “How can you balance your work and be there for your kids?” These are all questions or statements I’ve heard from various different friends and family members over the last 3 years since having my sons, Corey (2.5) and Nathan (4 months). Everyone I know seems to want to chime in on what I should be doing with my career and family life. So this year, I decided to take the reigns and do what’s best for me. Yes, for ME! You may think that sounds selfish but a mother who’s happy and healthy is all a child can ask for!
Who am I?
So a little about me, I am in my early 30s, I’ve been married for 6 years, have two little boys, and I’ve worked for the last 11 years as an engineer in various different roles and industries. Being an engineer, or really any full time employee, it’s tough to balance work and home life. Some companies make it easier than others. In the most recent 6 years of my life, I’ve done my best to create better work life balance but you can only do so much. I’ve always been a very driven person and want to do my very best at everything I do. I know you’ve heard it before, working moms say, “I feel like I failed at both of my jobs this week.” Honestly, I never feel that way. I’ve always felt like I failed at one or the other that week and the next week it would switch back. It’s a very dark feeling for me. I want to do my very best and when I don’t feel like I have, it takes over me and I struggle with motivation, fulfillment, emotions, being present with my kids, etc. Before I had my second, I thought for sure I would quit and be a stay at home mom. I felt like I needed to give my all to one thing.
Fast forward, 12 weeks postpartum and it was time to go back to work. I thought to myself, this shouldn’t be that difficult. I’ve done it before. Also, about 1.5 years prior I switched to a new job at a new company. I love my new job! So I went back to work, but kept my infant at home still. We kept my first home for 10 months during the heart of Covid so I was experienced at managing work and having the baby home. This time it was different. I felt more attachment to my baby this time because of the possibility of it being our last and I felt more attachment to my job that I love. Additionally, as much as my boss tried to keep my workload low when I got back, he really couldn’t because we are down a few teammates and it’s a small team. I started to think long and hard about what would make me happy and fulfilled. I, for years, have done many things to make others happy but this time I needed to do something for myself! I decided I would ask my manager about going part-time. In my profession, this is almost unheard of! Also, I knew I would need to have my ducks in a row when I asked, because there would be a small window of opportunity. Fortunately for me I work for a manager who gets it! He is a dad of 3 small kids and has worked so hard, at the detriment of time with his family, to get to where he is now. We also have a great personal relationship. I know where I stand with him. I knew going into it that he didn’t want to lose me. I showed him over the 1.5 years I worked for him that I can handle my workload and take on extra responsibility.
I had a scheduled check-in with my boss and decided this would be the best opportunity to propose the part time work schedule. I did a lot of prep for this meeting. I watched a webinar on negotiation, I consulted with a woman who has her own LLC designed to help professional women request flexible work arrangements, I practiced my pitch, I wrote a formal proposal, and I prayed over it. I did everything I could to anticipate my manager’s reservations with the idea and determine my non-negotiables. I started the meeting with my boss on a light personal note. “How’s your family doing?” He asked me about mine. I had a few other work task items to ask him about and then it was time. “Tony, you know I love working for you and for this company. I also very much love my kids and I don’t feel like I get to spend enough time with them since I work full time. I do want to continue to work for you but I need to make a change in my hours. I need to prioritize time with my children and to do that, I need to reduce my hours. I have written a full proposal that I will send to you following this conversation. I’d like to reduce my hours where I will work 27 hours across three days so that I can spend two days with my children. What are your thoughts or questions on this?” He was not expecting it so he couldn’t give me a quick answer but what he did say is, “I get it. And I’m honestly jealous of you!”
For anyone considering asking for part-time work, I have three pieces of advice:
Do your homework
Make the ask
If you never ask, you’ll never know if it’s possible. I’m looking forward to a few extra days a week with my sons but still contributing to the working world. I’m hoping this new balance will help me to feel more fulfilled as a mother and still happy in my career as an engineer.