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The Part-Time Dilemma

So, you all may have gotten a hint from my posts that I struggle with this issue that is commonly referred to as “work-life” balance. Currently, I am trying to figure out ways to mitigate this problem.  This wasn’t an issue before I had a couple of really cute, sweet kids, that I would love to spend more time with.  In addition, after our move to Houston, our commute times have gone up drastically – from 15 minutes to 45 minutes plus.  Unfortunately, living close to work isn’t an option. We can’t afford the nicer parts of town, and we don’t want to raise our kids in a slum, just to save commute time.  Really, our house is quite affordable, so the issue is just the commute – added on to 9 hour workdays (plus lunch) that are standard in the petroleum industry.
Right now, this is how it looks — Mr. SSC drops the kids off at daycare at 6:30am, and usually gets home at 6:10pm.  I leave at 5:45am, get home at 4:30pm, quickly prep the kids dinner, walk/drive to daycare at 4:45pm,get the kids home, throw food in their mouths. Daddy gets home a little after 6, just in time to play with the kids for ~15 minutes before we start getting the ready for bed. I mean, baby Marie sometimes falls asleep by 6:15. Not a lot of quality time going on with the kids during the work week.  We didn’t have kids so that we could spend a gazillion dollars a year to pay for someone else to take care of them, but that is how life feels right now.  I think my kids are cute and fun… I want to hang out with them!!!!!  But, how can I do this and continue on in my career?
I work in a male-dominated industry. There are only a few part-time women.  Most women are young, or old, and I notice a lack of mid-career women…unless they are childless, or like a few friends, have stay-at-home-husbands/dads.  Most managers I have had, have stay-at-home-wives, who take care of everything. They get this confused look on my face when I have to take time off to take the kids to the doctor…its something they never worry about.  Heck, one manager was surprised when I was talking about how we have to plan every meal, because we only have the chance to run errands on the weekends, so only one grocery trip a week.  These are things it seems like many men I work with never worry about. For instance, right now, I am trying to figure out if I have time to stop at the grocery after work because the kids are running low on milk. Seriously – this is a major issue in my brain… it may seem like such a trivial matter to most, but for me, its a real dilemma. I can always pick the kids up 15 minutes late – but its something that I try to minimize. Its funny- every holiday season our daycare sends out notices to remember to pick your kids up before daycare closes, because so many parents have to squeeze in time to shop for presents.  I just find myself wondering if this is how I want to live my life – scheduling 95% of my waking time.  I like to be efficient, organize and optimize – but this is getting to be too much for me!
One solution I’ve thought of is working part time. Technically, HR at my company offers it.  I would love to just work 1 less hour a day, but the most part-time hours they offer is 30 hours, and while I would love 35 hours/week that is a 25% pay reduction… if I could get management to approve it – which, unfortunately, isn’t even a guaranteed outcome. There are a few women where I work that have been refused part-time hours.
But, let’s assume I could convince management to let me go to 30 hours a week.  Doing some simplified math, this would add on another 11 months, before we could FIRE.  Is it worth it? 6 years as opposed to 5?  In some ways it seems ridiculous, as most of my peers are looking at 25-30 more years of working.  Looking at the differences in “time with kids” — part-time would give me an extra cumulative 276 hours with them over the next 6 years.  But, one year of being FIRE and not working at all would give me 368 more hours per year.
This week, Mr. SSC and I have been able to finagle our work schedules so that we could ‘test’ this part-time schedule.  He’s been going in at 5:45am, and getting home at 4:30. Meanwhile, I’m dropping the kids off at daycare and getting home around 4:30.  It gives us time to bike together to daycare to get the kids, and with Mr. SSC around dinner time is easier, and I even had time to lay on the hammock in our backyard and cuddle with baby Marie as we stared at the sky and pointed our airplanes and birds.  It was a lovely way to end my day.
I still don’t know what I’ll do… do I stay full-time and get and retire a year earlier, or go part-time now, and get a little more free time each day to spend with the kids for the next six years?  It’s a tough decision.  What are some ways that you all find ways to get some meaningful time with your kids while working long days?

7 thoughts on “The Part-Time Dilemma

  1. Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom

    I’d just like to point out that in 5 years your kids will all be in school and you won’t get to hang out with them during the day on weekdays. So, I’d say take the time now to enjoy them! But I’m a stay at home mom and love it, so I’m a pretty biased opinion (I’m guess all opinions on this one will be pretty biased!)

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      That is a great point, and something I’ve thought about. Now does seem like the right time to get the opportunity to spend more time with them, and I could always go back to full-time work in a few years when they start elementary school

  2. Mrs. Maroon

    A post after my own heart. We have debated similar ideas over and over. I have the luxury of working from home right now. While I forego relationships with my co-workers, it does allow me to avoid a commute and take care of little things around the house. I started back at half-time last week when Mini Maroon 2 was just six weeks old. I can keep her here with me and get in my time before picking up Mini 1. But the plan is to start her to childcare also and return to full-time in January. So while I don’t have an opinion to offer you, I’m very curious as to what others have to say…

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      I wish more companies would allow working from home, especially in combination with a longer maternity leave. Sometimes I think that even working from home once a week would be a great benefit to many employees. My current manager is a bit old-school and hates the idea of employees working from home, I think he is of the opinion we would just slack off. Heck, I might even end up working harder if I was working from home occasionally! Alas…

      1. Mrs. Maroon

        I think a combination of home and office would be ideal. Split the days 2 / 3 between home and office, either way. A combination isn’t feasible for me because we live 250 miles from the office. But the situation has worked out very well. It does take the right kind of person to work with a trusting boss. But I’m also of the opinion that in a professional field, if your boss doesn’t trust you enough to do your work without being there to watch you do it, why does he even keep you employed??

        1. clara

          I cant imagine what type of office job you have that cant allow 1 hr per day to be done on a laptop in the evening after kids are in bed, allowing you to do 7 at work. One of the sacndianavian countries has just passed a law where employer has to allow tele comute unless they can prove it is essestial not to….

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