David was a successful lawyer at the top of his game, working the long hours his senior role demanded. And then something changed.
After over a decade in a senior executive position, David – a dad of three – decided to cut back on work instead of family time. Here’s his story:
“I’d been struggling with work-life balance and had been thinking for some time that I wanted to take a lesser role at work as the kids moved through primary school, with all the challenges that involves.
I had over the years resented the extent to which work dominated my life and how it was expected to dominate. An example that sticks in my mind was being given leadership of a high profile legal project requiring long hours six and sometimes seven days a week just three weeks after one of my kids was born.
I had generally had bosses who were flexible and understanding about this kind of thing, but the reality was that my job was not always amenable to ‘balance’.
After a particularly busy and stressful year I took a bit of time off and got involved in doing things at school and around the house. I also took the time to do things that I wanted to do –go to the movies, visit the art gallery and take a short course on ancient history (Alexander the Great).
When the opportunity to step back arose I put my hand up (after getting financial advice and discussing it with my wife who was happy to go back to work full-time).
I haven’t regretted it for a second!
My idea when I left was that after a year or two I might come back part-time to a mid-level job, but I never actively pursued that as I was happy doing what I was doing.
I never thought that I had made the wrong decision or that I missed the challenge of work, although sometimes I missed adult conversation.
In the end, it was work that approached me to return and I negotiated a role working 4 days per week, school hours (9.30-2.30), so I could pick up primary school age children, cook dinner, get kids to footy practice etc.
It’s not always easy, but with a bit of planning ahead to make it all fit together I’ve got the routine down pretty well now.
There are challenges. Being part-time is hard for supervisors to manage (it is not possible to involve part-time staff fully in some things that are time critical, or which by their nature will require ‘out of hours’ involvement) and as a result there are times when I do not feel fully engaged. However, this is generally the result of my supervisors being mindful not to overstep the boundaries that my being part-time involves, and their being conscious that my interests are now in doing interesting but lower profile technical work, and not being involved so much in the day to day hurly burly.
Overall it’s a good arrangement and I’m open to what the future holds.”