I started working part time after our eldest daughter was born 7 years ago. At that point, I was at work (she was at nursery) for 3 days and we were at home together 4 days a week. I applied to work part time mainly because I was uncomfortable with the idea of her having more than 3 very long days at nursery. Also, because of the realisation that working full time with a young family and having to do everything on the list over 2 days at the weekend just didn't seem possible. I didn't want to not work, and at the same time, I just couldn't get my head around the idea of managing home stuff and getting on with the nurturing/caring/educating/bonding baby stuff that comes with the territory, in just 48 hours, let alone scheduling in the fun needed to sustain it all.
I knew something would have to give and I didn’t want my work, my family, my daughter or me (in no particular order) to be the thing that broke. I also wanted my work to realise that although I was still committed to my clients, my priorities had changed. Part time work seemed to be a good way of setting demarcation lines both at work and at home, and it was.
The chief benefit for me initially of choosing to work part time is that it lessened the intensity of the I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time thoughts that many parents have; those I should be with the girls in the park while at my desk thoughts and the I should be getting on with that contract while wondering if the asphalt under the incredibly high bar that No2 is clinging on to, with one hand, is the spongy stuff or not thoughts. When my daughter started school I applied for a change in working hours to accommodate school pick up and now I am still working 9-2 Monday to Friday. Maintaining my work life balance is absolutely one of my priorities. I need it to ensure I do a good job in the office and at home.
I knew my colleagues would be there for me but I really wasn't sure what to expect from my clients when I started to work flexibly. One of the surprising things about working part time was how quickly my clients and lawyers on the other side adapted to my new hours. I don't get as many 4.45 e-mails as I used to. When people know you're in the office in the morning it seems to focus their minds. Most will make it their priority to get in touch early in the day. 5 hours in the office also focusses my mind, I have a limited time at this desk so I need to be as efficient as possible. Sometimes my two worlds do collide. If I have to return a call that just cannot wait until the morning during my daughters swimming lessons, I will. Equally if I have to leave the office 5 mins after receiving a call from the headmistress that there has been an accident in the playground, my taxi is booked. I am still surprised by how flexible the majority of clients are and am still very grateful for their support and the support of my colleagues (although what that client made of the poolside echoey background noises I will never know).
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