Navigating the Road to Part-Time Work (with a few bumps along the way)


Louise Summers, founder of @GuiltyMumsHub tells Inspired Mums how she succeeded in navigating the path to greater flexibility so that she could achieve the work-life balance she craved.

When I returned to work back in September 2015 I planned it meticulously and carefully eased myself and my family back to some kind of routine after a year with none. I used every single day of accrued annual leave and worked 3 days a week, then 4 and eventually 5. I look back now and realise that despite a few tears, it really wasn’t too bad. A one year old is actually fairly compliant and the transition from home to a childminder was seamless. In fact, he coped better than I did.

I slowly got used to the chaotic mornings, feeding and dressing a toddler while hopping around putting my tights on (usually laddered by the time I left), wiping weetabix from my shoe before it set like concrete and only attempting to throw on some make-up once he was safely strapped in his car seat.

As my professional responsibilities grew and my hours got longer I realised that full time working wasn’t for me and I wanted to spend more time at home. I completed all the required paperwork for a ‘Flexible Working Plan’, discussed it with my manager and HR, and we agreed a trial run of 4 days a week. It was a relief to start with and for a period of time it worked well. However, last summer, while supporting a big project, my hours started to increase and I felt I was doing more like 5 days in 4, working evenings and weekends. It seemed crazy to be doing all the extra hours but not being paid for it so it was agreed I’d return to full time work temporarily. Lets face it, the extra money would be really helpful. I appeased my feelings of guilt with the fact we could now afford a really nice holiday which would somehow make up for the lost days at home (but I knew deep down that nothing would ever replace those lost days).

At the end of last year I had to make frequent business trips to Europe culminating in a week long trip to San Francisco just before Christmas. I think it was this last trip that finally broke me.Although I loved to travel and got a real buzz from the work I was doing, the guilt became overwhelming and I spent much of Christmas in tears. Until then I hadn’t had time to stop and fully appreciate the impact my work was having on both me and my family. The two week break gave me the space I needed to see what family life could be like and the person I could be when I wasn’t fretting about work. The new year came and the anxiety levels and moodiness grew but I spotted a vacancy on our internal job page for a job share and all of a sudden it felt like the stars had aligned and I’d found my perfect solution to a work-life balance. I could continue at the same level in the organisation but could reduce my hours to 3 days a week. I still had to convince my boss and complete an interview, but I finally knew what I wanted and threw everything I had at getting this job. I’ve been in the job for 5 months now and can’t believe the difference to my life compared to 12 months ago. I currently work three days a week, study for one and have one precious ‘Mummy Day’ with my little boy. It truly feels like the perfect work-life balance for me and my family.

When I look back I wonder if life would have been any easier if at the first attempt at part-time working the expectations had been better managed by myself or my manager or if I’d been stronger in pushing back. It’s been a bumpy road but navigating the road to part-time work has taught me to fight for what you need. There is no one size fits all flexible working solution you have to find your own way. Speak to your boss and discuss your options with other working parents, or engage with a career coach and find your own way #WorkItMyWay @GuiltyMumsHub.

Share this Article