I love Mondays. I know not everybody can say that. But, for me, Monday is the day of the week I get to spend with my son. I work 4 days a week – Tuesday to Friday but Monday is my day “off”. (It makes me laugh when people refer to it as a “day off”!) Mondays are for just me and my son and we can do whatever we want! Some weeks we have a day packed full of seeing people, playing with his friends (aka me also seeing friends and having a range of half-finished conversations..) or finding another farm to visit; other weeks we spend the day with Nanny; and sometimes it’s just him and me and we hang out at home, go for a walk and/or visit a local coffee shop for coffee, cake and a babycino (I still can’t believe I order babycinos!) Sometimes a Monday without a plan can feel pretty daunting, especially during the winter months when it’s not as easy to find something to do with a toddler and the thought of staying in the house all day is mildly more acceptable than heading to soft play! Although over the past year the pressure I used to put on our Mondays has faded, I still feel a huge responsibility to make sure Mondays are fun and toddler-focussed and not taken up with chores, life admin and catching up with work.
I often get asked if it’s hard to switch off from work on a Monday. Thinking about it I think it’s only ever people without young children that ask this.. For me, it’s not really a case of switching off, more that I just don’t have the time or brain power to switch on! Sometimes my work phone doesn’t even leave the house with us, as once I’ve packed the changing bag full of nappies, snacks (so many snacks..), drinks, spare clothes and books and in my other hand hats, gloves, coats and wellies, my phone can often get left behind, and I realise at the end of the day I have the task of working through a day’s worth of emails.
The reason for this reflection recently is that I have a new job. In the time that I have been back from my maternity leave, it is an idea I have flirted with on and off, but never made the move to start interviewing. My biggest concern was my part-time hours. Law firms are not known for being the most flexible employers and I felt “lucky” to be working a 4 day week at my current firm. What were the chances of moving somewhere else on 4 days? Why would someone hire me when they could get someone else who was willing to work 5 days? My thinking for a long time was that I was better to just stay put. I certainly didn’t want to put my Mondays at risk at all.
When I found what looked like a fantastic opportunity to move, one of my first questions to HR was whether the role was open to part-time hours. At the time I thought it’s better to shut down this opportunity now, instead of going their go an interview process and then finding out 4 days wasn’t an option. My husband has recently been through that process with a flexible working request and 3 interviews later, he had to reject the job offer and start again. The response to my question from HR was “absolutely.” In my first interview I was asked if I currently work flexible hours, the partner interviewing me picking up on the fact that I had returned from maternity leave earlier that year. I explained my current work pattern and said (nervously) that I felt strongly about keeping my Mondays. The response “that’s absolutely fine.” It was a never a problem, throughout the whole process, and my contract came through “Tuesday – Friday” (i.e. keep your crazy, busy, exhausting, fun, soft-play and farm packed Mondays with your son!) I was thrilled. When I met the team I found out someone else also worked part-time hours and when I asked the rest of the team how that worked out within the team, someone replied that, as she had been off on maternity leave anyway it was more a feeling of gaining a person for 3 days a week instead of losing them for 2 days. I couldn’t have felt happier.
Again, I feel “lucky” to have found a firm willing to accommodate my requirements. I keep trying to quash that feeling of luck and convince myself that it is absolutely ok to work 4 days a week, and to be offered a new role on that basis. I shouldn’t feel lucky or grateful.. after all I get paid 20% less for doing 20% (or thereabouts) less work!
My reasoning for requiring part-time hours when I returned from maternity leave is the same as it is now – give me my Mondays with my son and my week already feels so much more balanced. 3 days at home, 4 days in the office. During those 4 days I have 2 nursery drop offs and 1 nursery pick-up; my husband does the rest. I’m guaranteed 4 bedtimes a week, including the weekend. The other 3 evenings, I can work late, go to events that I choose to go to (always weighing up in my head and heart these days if the outcome of the event is worth missing a bedtime for) and see friends and colleagues after work. My husband has the reverse. My part time hours mean that I don’t begrudge working late when I need to and I don’t clock watch when I’m in the office to get home. My Mondays keep me balanced. They mean I have more to give on a Tuesday and for the rest of the week.
I am proud that I have made my part-time hours work over the past 15 months in a sector that comes with a lot of opposition to the idea. I was brave enough to test the market in terms of moving and I am extremely happy that I can carry on working part-time hours in my new role – happy, not lucky!