For the past eight years, I've worked a four-day week. Fridays have been my 'Mommy Day' - the one day each week I could count on full kid immersion, first with M and then later with T. I've loved my Fridays, even if they were not always easy. And so it was a bittersweet day for me about a month ago when I soaked in my last full weekday with those awesome, sweet, growing kids. And now, even my Kindergartener, T, is in school until 2:30 p.m. on Fridays.
But wait...I'm unencumbered!
Yes, I've kept my work schedule as it was. I know this is my chance to return to full-time work (or at least ask to do so). I could even potentially request to change my reduced-hours schedule so that I could work five shortened days and eliminate the minimal after-school program hours our kids attend (about 3 hours a week - enjoyed by both of them). But I've chosen to stick with my plan because having time with M and T during the weekdays was only part (albeit a big part) of my enthusiasm for part-time work. The other part is that foundational element of ESP that we call a balanced life. And I want to keep that balance.
So for the past few Fridays, I've had a built-in chunk of time to take the edge off the chaos of the week. I've done things that help me feel I'm accomplishing much-needed tasks at home - little projects that make me feel good inside for knowing they are finally done (like cleaning out the basement). My secret future plan is to use the time for ESP-related activities so this much-loved part of my life doesn't take up my evenings quite as often as it has been doing for the past few years. We'll see.
The great thing about my Friday quiet-time is that I swear it helps me stay more cheerful and productive during the week. I am motivated to crank out the projects at work, dig into my time with the kids, and take care of stuff around the house because I know I have this little slice of heaven waiting for me at the end of the week. I think it makes me a better parent, worker and partner.
The choice is not always easy, of course. My job could easily subsume the time, and I must admit I have snuck back into the office for parts of these past Fridays just to keep up with the work there. But I know that this is a slippery slope, so I wrestle with myself to stay the course.
When it works though, like many other ESP couples, I feel great about trading money for time and keeping the goal of balance at the forefront. It is the road less traveled, but one for which I'm grateful, thankful, and happy.
I don't have the answer that fits everyone - just me. Marc, for example, has chosen to switch to the 5-day work week (still reduced-hours) this Fall - leaving work at noon twice weekly in order to make school pickup; this option feels best for him, and also serves to even out our opportunities to pick up the kids each week.
What would you do?