I don’t talk about the “day job” here very much. To be honest I try to keep my work life and my home life in separate compartments, and this blog definitely fits into the “home life” compartment. I actually enjoy my commute to and from work each day as it marks my transition between those two compartments. However, sometimes the two compartments overlap a little, so I hope you will forgive me a little work/life balance talk today.
I am fortunate to work for a very large organisation which is very supportive of flexible work options. Before I had any children, during our first round of IVF treatment I dropped my working days to 4 per week – my rationale was that I would either end up pregnant, in which case I was sure I would need a day off during the week, or we’d end up doing another round of IVF, and I wasn’t sure that I or my boss could handle me working full time through that as well. Seriously, I’d been so emotional at times during that first round of treatment that she’d got into the habit of grabbing her box of tissues off her desk to bring with her each time we had a one-to-one meeting! Thankfully the treatment was a success, I became pregnant, and I loved my mid-week non-working day before I finished work for my maternity leave.
Ah, maternity leave. Another benefit of working for a large organisation was that I could take more than a year off work for maternity leave. I went back to work the day after the geekdaughter’s first birthday, and at this point I also decreased my working hours again, to three days per week. This was the perfect work/life balance for me – it felt right to be at home with my daughter for more days of the week than I was at work. I would drop her at nursery on my way into work, and collect her on the way home. Everything was going well.
And then it all went a little pear-shaped. Whilst we were undergoing the IVF treatment that would result in the conception of the geekson, there was a restructure at work. We all had to re-apply for our own jobs, and I failed to get mine. Again the benefit of the large organisation kicked in – I wasn’t shoved out of the door but had time to reapply for other jobs. I found something to keep me busy until I went on maternity leave, but didn’t have a guaranteed job to return to.
Thankfully I managed to forget about this for the geekson’s first year, started looking at internal vacancies a couple of months before his first birthday, and secured a new role which I started the day after his first birthday. The only downside of the role was that I couldn’t negotiate a 3-day working pattern. It was a full time role, and the best my boss could offer me was a compromise four day week. She did come up with an interesting proposition for me though – if I worked an extra hour a day I would complete 8 days of work in 7, so I ended up with an interesting working pattern where I worked four days one week then three days the following week. Initially I liked the idea – one day a fortnight with both kids in nursery and me not working sounded good. But as time went by I found the longer days getting me down. I was starting to leave the house before the geekson was awake (the geekdaughter is an early riser so I always saw her), and often only just getting through the door at bedtime in the evenings. I set myself the goal of dropping to three days per week by the time the geekdaughter started school.
Thankfully I have an amazingly supportive boss, and when I told her I wasn’t happy with my work/life balance she came up with the idea of a job share. If we could find someone willing to do my job for two days per week, I could work the other three and everyone would be happy. To cut a long story short we found someone, and she started this week. One week in and I am already seeing the difference – the shorter working day means I can see the kids in the morning and have some time with them in the evening before bedtime. When I finish work for the week I no longer need to worry about my “out of office” message and who will cover for me – I just forward my phones to my job share partner’s phone and walk out of the door. It’s refreshing.
There’s still work to do, of course. We need to make sure our handovers work well, that we both know what the other is doing, and that the people we work with don’t have to keep repeating themselves to us. We have the additional challenge of being based in different offices – I work in Manchester whilst my job share partner is based in London. But the benefits vastly outweigh those challenges, and I’m really hoping that returning to a work/life balance where I spend more time at home with the kids than at the office will work as well as it did before.
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