What is the perfect work/life balance?

(25 Posts)
princessx Tue 11-Jun-13 11:52:36

I'm negotiating part time working at the moment and I've asked for 4 short days. I really found in my office if you weren't physically there you lost a lot of influence. So much of the job is about building and managing relationships, rather than just sitting at your desk cranking work out.

It would be nice to work only 2 or 3 days, but I think I would struggle in the office, even though I'd be having a nice time with the kids.

Also on a related note, to make myself feel less guilty, one colleague went straight back to work after her children were born. But then took a 5yr career break to help them through gcse's and a-levels, now all dc are at Cambridge!

Just interested in everyone's thoughts about how to make it work.

janey68 Tue 11-Jun-13 18:47:49

I think the answer will be different for everyone as to what is the 'perfect balance'; there are so many variable such as how much you enjoy your work, and also factoring in whether you get a good pension deal.
However, I'd be very wary of anyone who feels they need to take FIVE years off work to get their kids through GCSE/ A level and into university. What's she going to do once they're at Cambridge? - accompany them to lectures, write up their notes and oversee their revision?!

Goingdownthegarden Wed 12-Jun-13 09:03:33

I ended up in a similar situation. I went back to work part-time when dd was a very small baby because I thought I didn´t really have any other option (I don´t live in the UK and didn´t have that maternity leave). A few years later I left work for a combination of reasons but partly because I had finally got to a situation at work where I could leave and have time with ds before he went to nursery. Now I´m still out of work two years later. I feel like I made a complete mess because of not realising what my options were in taking time off when the kids were small babies.
I still wake up at night beating myself up about how I left dd (admittedly with her father) when she was so small.
Try not to be too harsh on people who take what turn out to be bad decisions going back to work too early - and then do crazy things to try to turn back the clock afterwards. We can never turn back the clock but suffer enough just with that knowledge.

Llareggub Wed 12-Jun-13 09:07:46

There was something on radio 4 last year about people who work 24 hours a week have the best of both worlds. I do 21 hours and am a senior manager and do miss out on some things.

My DCs are both in school so I manage my working hours around commitments at work, so try and get to crucial things. Last week I went it the office every day, this week I've done 2 normal days, will work from home today and over the next few days. I am very lucky to have this flexibility, I know, but having worked part time for a few years now I find it works best for my employers. Our SMT meets on a Friday and our BOard on a Tuesday so once a month I know I will work these fixed days. Other than that I flex to fit.

princessx Wed 12-Jun-13 18:16:45

Oh thanks for your replies. I've actually requested 24 hours. Didn't realise that was the optimum, it felt like I would still be working too much. Although my children are still very young.

goingdownthegarden it's hard to get it right. I regretted going back to work after dd1 so I quit then I regretted that too. Hope it all works out for you.

Mandy21 Wed 12-Jun-13 21:21:13

I think it depends on what you do, your firm's approach and how flexible they are in how the work is done. I work 21 hours in 3 days (although that is my contracted time, I work more hours than that), but have quite a long commute each way and I have to be in the office - my line manager is very inflexible about working from home.

As others have said, visibility is very important in my career - definitely out of sight, out of mind (and overlooked for promotion etc). Its a really tricky one. Good luck smile

somanymiles Fri 14-Jun-13 05:32:05

I have worked p/t since I had children - nearly 14 years now! I have never worked less than 25 hours a week, which was fine. I found 30 hours to be the optimum, bearing in mind I had very short commute at the time. Now my DH is very keen for me to return to f/t work, although our youngest is only 2, and I am scared! I think 24 will be fine, though.

KristinaFranziska Thu 20-Jun-13 17:10:46

I feel that each person has their own unique "optimum." Our children are different, our circumstances are different, the level of support we get from spouse, family, friends varies. Also we have different demands: looking after a child with special needs and and an ailing relative is different. Having children at different schools. Training to join an expedition to the Antarctic has different goals and requirements than choosing to home educate. Our health is different. Our energies are different. Our personalities can determine what makes one person find something easy and another finds it challenging. etc. etc. etc.

I wouldn't base my own life on someone else's optimum, but rather seek to find my own best place. Know what it is from life that you want, not generally, vaguely, but specifically.

Know what matters to the unique person that is you.

PoppyWearer Thu 20-Jun-13 17:13:30

I used to do 24 hours a week and it was bloody brilliant, absolutely perfect balance. And then I got made redundant. bastards sad

Metalgoddess Fri 21-Jun-13 10:45:33

I'm trying to decide a good what a good work/life balance is myself. I'm going back to work on 2 days per week (15hrs) and think this will be ok, lots of time to spend with my children, do chores etc however I really would like to be a SAHM and might be if it doesn't work out. I definitely wouldn't work more than 3 days per week and do feel lucky that my manger has allowed me to do this.

I intend to never work more than 25hrs a week even when the children are older and independent as I hate the thought of working full time, only having 2 days off, I've done it before and as far as circumstances ever allow I will never do it again! It's a trade off between time and money and time to me is a luxury.

NickECave Fri 21-Jun-13 15:09:40

When first DD was a year old I had a really good job which was 18 hours over 3 days and at the time I found this to be the perfect balance. I now have two DDs and work 11.5 hours a week but some of those hours are at a weekend (to avoid childcare costs) and the balance is definitely wrong. I'd rather work more hours (up to about 25) but do them during the week so we get family time at weekends. However, needs must and at least I'm (sort of) keeping my hand in until kids are older.

Babyroobs Fri 21-Jun-13 16:17:52

I do an average of 24 hours a week, although it is shiftwork. I think it's a good balance although I do feel like I miss out a lot when I have to do weekend shifts. I can usually juggle things to be at school assemblies/ show/ sports days. I have 4 DC's and have always worked part time since they were 6 months, Fortunately due to the nature of my shiftwork, I've only ever needed to leave them with familyor childminder for short periods of time, and my husband had them the rest of the time.

BikeRunSki Fri 21-Jun-13 16:23:08

Interesting Llareggub. I work 22.2 he's officially, but record 24 hours most weeks. Basically, 3 days a week of an organisation that does a 37 hr week. I havevalways said I think I have the bestcof both worlds. It was perfect when I had a job share forvthe rest of the week.

Notsurewhattodonext Sat 22-Jun-13 23:59:37

I currently do 28 hours and it is too much. I used to do 20 and it was perfect although, I agree that about 24 hours over 3 -3.5 days would be perfect for our family

fossil971 Sun 23-Jun-13 00:04:29

I do 3.5 days (26 hours). It is a good balance although at the moment it's a bit "chip on both shoulders" - work busy and full of pressure, home busy and full of pressure grin. It depends on your job, your DP, your travelling and your childcare of course, but for me it definitely helps to be in the office at least 3 days a week to keep continuity of projects, but be able to do a few school runs too and have my precious day off.

BackforGood Sun 23-Jun-13 00:16:03

I think Kristina has it spot on.
Difficult for any of us to project what is ideal for you - all sorts of things influence it.

Murtette Sun 23-Jun-13 22:01:07

I currently do 3 days but they're split across the week rather than in one block and I think its brilliant as it means I'm never away from the DC (or the washing machine - keeping on top of the washing seems to dominate my life at the moment!) for too long but nor do I have too much time with them. At the same time. I'm never away from the office for that long.
However, I'm hoping that once the DC are at school, I can change to 4 short days instead, when I'll try & take a Wednesday off I think.
I also have colleagues who have reduced their work load once their children are teens.

blueshoes Sun 23-Jun-13 22:55:58

I find my job more interesting and engaging when I do it fulltime. My colleagues also respect me more as a member of the team. If your work is client-facing (you mentioned buidling and managing relationships), I think it would be more difficult to make your pt arrangement work.

When my dcs were younger, I did 5 short days. I am now ft but working flexibly one day from home whereby I only work in the morning. I make up for the afternoon hours by compressing them onto the other 4 days. This allows me to drop the children off and collect them from school once a week and do playdates and meet the other parents at the school gate for intelligence gathering.

One of the reasons I went back to ft was because I decided to retrain in another area and did not have the bargaining power to ask for pt. But I found ft seems to work - my children were 7 and 4 then.

You can always adjust as you go along. Your employer will probably insist on a trial period anyway.

BackforGood Sun 23-Jun-13 23:09:32

really ?
I find my colleagues respect me (or not!!) and I them, because of the quality of the work we each do, not because of the % of the week we work hmm

blueshoes Sun 23-Jun-13 23:39:55

BackforGood, I have worked pt and ft, so can see both sides.

There is a qualitative and quantitative difference between someone who works 24 hours and some who works fulltime. It is not just the quality of work. There is also the facetime and availability, which in OP's case is important since her job is building and managing relationships. Just the fact that I am working from home one day a week means some face-to-face meetings cannot be held in that time and have to be re-scheduled to suit me. Conferencing in to a meeting where the rest of your colleagues are face-to-face does not cut the mustard.

Of course companies will adjust to suit their pt workers. But it does not necessarily mean they are seen as valuable as ft workers, though valuable no doubt. The standard line is to denigrate ft workers as unproductive (water cooler chats and all) and pt workers focused and productive. Well you have workers of both kinds, ft and pt.

Wishihadabs Sun 23-Jun-13 23:55:52

I do 24 hours a week and I think it is pretty damn perfect.

princessx Tue 25-Jun-13 15:54:48

Well just to update you all, my request was well and truly rejected!

Not going back for a while so I'll see how I'll feel about full time then. But I can't see how it will get better when kids go to school as I don't want to be coming home at 7pm then either.

Wishihadabs Wed 26-Jun-13 08:43:42

Princessex I wouldn't discount going back ft in the short term. IMO it puts you in a much stronger position when asking for reduced hours/flexibility later on. I know it's difficult to leave little ones, but patenting is a long distance race not a 100m sprint. I know this is massively unpopular to say but they need you even more later as a very wise female boss once said to me "anyone can change their nappies, but only you can help them with their homework".

princessx Thu 27-Jun-13 20:43:43

Hmm thanks wish it's tempting to throw in the towel and say I don't need to work. But then I don't want to be back at square one when I do need a job.

I was thinking of going back full time if needs be and being really positive and hard working then asking if I could just freelance for them or something.

I actually asked for flexible working when I got the job and they said no, now I've asked again and they 'said no. So I'm not allowed to make another request for a year.

KristinaFranziska Mon 08-Jul-13 23:01:04

I suggest you start looking at other opportunities.
We have one life only, this is it.
The "now" that you were in when you started reading this post is already gone and can never be reclaimed.
Think in terms of time...your most precious resource. How can you best protect that?

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