My husband and I have purposely saved as much of our money as we can over the years. A manager at one of our first jobs gave us some great financial advice including reading Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover. After reading that book, we started saving as much of our income as possible (upwards of 30%), paid off our debts, and max-out our retirement savings accounts each year.
Having this savings cushion allowed me to have a choice on whether or not I would return to work after my baby was born. I was changing my mind everyday on my plan: I going to be a stay-at-home-mom, I was going to do contract engineering work from home, I would continue full or part-time at my current engineering job, I would work from home in a completely different career (such as graphic design)…
Then my son was born and more perfect than I ever imagined. I didn’t know I could love so freely, deeply and unconditionally until I met him. He made me a better person and I hope everyday that I’m doing the same for him. I enjoyed every minute of my 12 week maternity leave with him. During my maternity leave I realized I couldn’t leave him all day everyday, but I also couldn’t leave my job. I’ve worked long and hard to get to where I am in my career and I liked what I was doing at work, so I wasn’t ready to let it all go.
I’m in a very unique situation. I work in a small office with a manager who I’ve known and worked with for most of my career, so he knows my work skills, attitude and potential. My job as a reservoir engineer is one that can be done from anywhere as long as I have a high-powered computer with internet access and a phone. Full-time work had allowed me time to work special projects and expand my work to other reservoirs, but these things weren’t required for my day-to-day job. I was sure that I could fulfill the basic requirements of my job with a part-time work schedule.
I came up with a plan and practiced a speech to pitch my part-time work schedule to my manager. I scheduled an appointment with him about a month into my maternity leave and gave him my proposal: part-time work divided into a few days in the office and the remaining hours worked at home. I explained how it could work: I was sure that I could fulfill all my basic day-to-day job requirements in less hours, but I’d do fewer special projects. I knew that I would be more productive and efficient at home and in the office because I’d have limited time to get the work done, so I’d make the most of it. I would plan to schedule meetings and technical discussions to happen on days when I am in the office, and do more of the technical work and emails at home.
I was pleasantly surprised that my manager was very receptive to my proposal. He said it sounded like it could work and he’d talk to HR and get back to me. I was so nervous waiting for the final decision, and a few weeks before I was scheduled to return to work, he finally he let me know I could do part-time work as I proposed!
It seemed too good to be true and almost is…My work schedule was going great until I realized I often work a lot more hours at home than I originally agreed to (especially during reserves and business planning cycles). I know it’s normal to work more hours than expected for salaried workers and I always have, but now the extra hours are cutting into my time with my son…So I try to find a balance: if I go to a play date for my son and don’t work as much one day at home, I don’t worry because I know there have been and will be days where I spend a lot more time working than playing with my son at home.
Now that my son is older and more active and wants more attention from me, working from home is becoming next to impossible. As I discussed in my first post Part-time dilemma, I can only work before he wakes up in the morning and during his nap time. I’m still trying to figure the work-from-home with a toddler piece out. Right now, my work has slowed down a bit for the time being so I am keeping up with my work load just fine. But I might have to give up the work-from-home days and go for another full day in the office if things get busy again. It’s always hard to balance work and family, and these days it seems harder than ever. I don’t know how I can decide to give up one more day at home for a day in the office without missing my son and feeling some guilt.
Have you had to make a similar choice? How did you decide on the great work vs. home debate? Are today’s tips helpful?