From Full-Time to Part-Time
Job Title: Strategic Accounts Manager
Length of Maternity Leave: 14-weeks
Temporary or permanent part-time situation: Temporary, with the option to reevaluate in 6 months
Child's name: Peregrine
"Be honest with your employer. The worst thing that could happen is that they say no. I think it’s helpful to come to the table with solutions around logistics of how part time would work for you. How can you help manage your workload? How would your schedule work? Is this a temporary or permanent solution? Try to get ahead of their questions."
Tell us about your experience returning to work from maternity leave
I think like most women, I really struggled with the thought of leaving my new little baby all day. My husband and I have a small business together that affords me the privilege with the option to work or not. Having the choice almost made it more difficult because I just thought - how can I NOT choose my daughter?
Ultimately I did really miss the adult interaction and all the people that I worked with. I missed the organization and the predictability. I told myself to get through one month before making any big decisions. After being a stay at home parent for 14-weeks, I needed to see what the other side was like as a working mom.
What motivated you to explore the opportunity of a part-time work schedule?
After one-and-a-half months of full-time work, I was still having a hard time with only seeing Peregrine a couple hours a day. My husband was watching her full-time and our small business was starting to hurt because of his absence. Honestly it felt like I was going through an existential crisis: to be full-time or to stay at home. Some days I would feel strongly one way, and other days another.
A friend of mine mentioned that I should talk to my boss before making any big decisions and see what they had to say. I’ve always held a good relationship with the co-founders of the company so I decided to take one of them out for coffee and be transparent with my feelings.
Describe your work situation - the industry, culture, and whether or not part-time work had been historically available at your company.
I work at Eight Bit Studios, a digital agency of about 50 people in Chicago. When I started, the company was much smaller and I have been along for the ride over the past four-and-a-half years while they’ve seen significant growth. While there have been a few new fathers in my time there, I was the first female employee to become pregnant. They had no parental leave or benefits in place, and brought me to the table to help make policy decisions. I was grateful to be included in those conversations and that work/life balance is such an important part of the company.
They put in place a 14-week parental leave for the primary caregiver, with 8-weeks fully paid and 6-weeks half pay. While I was on leave, they also built a nursing room with comfy furniture and a mini fridge. For the co-founders, it was never a question of if they would support a new mom, it was just a matter of how.
In the beginning of my position at Eight Bit, all employees were contract. After a year, they were able to offer 30-hours/week or 40-hours/week salaried positions. They don’t offer the 30-hours anymore, and have never offered 20-hours to full time employees.
How did you approach making the ask for part-time, and why do you believe you were successful?
I scheduled a meeting with my boss and suggested we take a walk to grab coffee. He’s a father himself, with an 18-month old at home and another on the way. All three male co-founders are fathers so I think any of them would have been receptive.
I approached the conversation being honest about my feelings of distress not being with my baby for more time each day. I kept thinking of it as an “all or nothing” decision and asked him if there were any opportunities that Eight Bit would consider. We talked about what a potential part-time schedule would look like and he went back to the partners to see what they could do. My deal breaker was full benefits, without that part-time would not work for our family.
A few days later, they asked how long I’d like to be part-time and how quickly I wanted to start. My answer was 6-months with the option to reevaluate and ASAP. The change was put it writing and I gladly signed it that day. The best part is that they rolled out a 6-month part-time option to all employees for reasons like caregiver, bereavement, etc. I’m proud to think that I’ve helped pave the way for not just new parents, but others in a difficult position.
My boss told me their goal was to retain me. Not me personally, but me as a new mom. How amazing is that?!
What are some of the best and most difficult elements of your new part-time work situation?
The best part is the balance. I spend my mornings being productive at work and feeling like I get some “me-time”. I feel refreshed and energized when I come home to Peregrine. We have afternoons for play dates and activities. She’s in daycare two days a week since my husband and I split up days. (This also gives me flexibility with important afternoon meetings on those days). More often than not I pick her up early so I can hang out with her. I am so grateful and so lucky to have this time with her while she’s little.
The most difficult part has been feeling left out of conversations and decisions at work. Because my schedule is so tight, I’m often not invited to important meetings. I find that there is often more than 20 hours of work on my plate and I’m forced to prioritize tasks for the week. I can never give my whole self into my job anymore, but I think as a mom that would happen regardless of a full-time or part-time schedule.
Although going back full-time feels like a looming shadow in the distance, I’m staying focused on the present and enjoying what I’ve been afforded now.
What advice would you give to someone considering making a request for a part-time role?
Be honest with your employer. The worst thing that could happen is that they say no. I think it’s helpful to come to the table with solutions around logistics of how part time would work for you. How can you help manage your workload? How would your schedule work? Is this a temporary or permanent solution? Try to get ahead of their questions.