work/life changes

January 16, 2017
at work this morning.  I do enjoy the fresh clean slate of a Monday!

I am working today, as our office is open even though it’s MLK day.  I love the idea of making this day a “service holiday” as suggested here; maybe someday this will come to fruition in FL.  But apparently not yet.  I had mentioned yesterday that I wanted to share some of my thoughts on work/life balance, and where things are now.

I am now 3.5 years out of fellowship.  Annabel is in pre-K, 3 months away from turning 5.  Cameron will be 3 next month.  I remain undecided about future offspring (leaning towards pro).  
My work hours are currently 8:30 am to 5 pm, 5 days per week plus call, which is 20% of the time.  On my call weeks, I round on the weekend in the hospital and am responsible for any phone calls that come in to our emergency service during those 168 hours.  We have no fellows in our program, so that often means speaking directly with parents in the middle of the night, just like in training.  I also have a 20 mile commute, which takes ~35 minutes each morning and 35-50 minutes each night.  I am away from A&C from approximately 10 hours most days.
Josh is an amazing husband and father.  His job however takes up more time than mine does.  On most Mondays and Fridays, he doesn’t have to go in until close to 9, which is fantastic!  But the rest of the week he is usually out of the house by 7, and doesn’t come home until somewhere between 7:30 and 9 pm.  Sometimes it’s later.  His weekend calls are pretty all-consuming; he’ll be gone by 8 or 9 in the morning and hopefully home by dinner.  Overnight cases are not unusual.  His call is ~1/4 with some extra vascular backup shifts thrown in there for good measure.
All of those details are provided to illustrate that — well, the two of us combined work a lot.  This is NOT in any way designed to show that our lives are hard.  In fact, I will freely admit that they are the opposite.  We are really really lucky to have great jobs, to live near family, to have a wonderful nanny.  We outsource a lot — mostly so that we can spend more time just being with A&C.  We are definitely not flush with extra cash but are managing to save some.  We could easily continue our current routine indefinitely.
I took an objective look at things, and decided that I didn’t want to.  I asked some questions that I previously wasn’t bold enough to ask.  And so, as of April 2017, I will be working 80% time — 4 days per week.  I will get one less commute and one more day of being a mom*.
I am not doing this for A&C, who seem to be doing just fine (C still hasn’t made it to the potty but I’m pretty sure it’s not related to my work status).  I am doing this for me.  Because I was tired of feeling time-starved, desperate for a quiet moment, always behind on my lists.  Because I feel like A&C are growing up far too fast, and I am missing too much — I want to come on field trips, take them to some of their activities, just BE THERE more.  Because I want to love and enjoy my life, and I think I can still do the things I want to do AND be happier (and more rested) with this change.
Things absolutely may continue to evolve.  Maybe I’ll change my mind in a few months — who knows!?  Maybe someday my percentage will go even lower (though I don’t think so at this juncture).  Please know that I realize that I am incredibly lucky to have been able to make this choice.  That said, I didn’t feel there was any reason not to share.  
So there you have it.  One major change underway in the new year, and it has been warming my heart for some time now just to see those days on the calendar.  I will absolutely keep everyone posted about how things go!
* I haven’t figured out exactly how I will change our nanny’s schedule, but I think we will probably swap some of these days with weekend call coverage


  • Reply Erica March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Oh I’m so excited for you! This sounds great considering your weekend work responsibilities. I’m lucky in academia and my schedule is so flexible that I can leave mid-day or a bit early if I need too, without any major issues. But if I ever have a less flexible work situation I think a 4 day work week sounds amazing, even just to get random errands like trips to the post office and home projects completed.

    We outsource a bit, like house cleaning and home repair projects, and I think our next outsourcing will be yard work, even if it’s just to some teenager in our neighborhood.

  • Reply omdg March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Good for you! My backup plan of my backup plan of my backup plan is private practice three days per week and do what I want with the other two. Primary plan will always be academics with OR 2x per week and research the rest of the time. I love my job but am so much happier and more engaged when I have time to tickle other parts of my brain.

  • Reply Marissa March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    I don’t think you’ll regret this decision one bit! So happy for you. Being a Mom to young children is hard & add a demanding full time job on top of that & it’s A LOT. I’m currently a SAHM, but plan to work part time once my kids get in school but are still young. I, too, want to be there & take part in birthday parties, special events, etc. I think part time is perfect while having little ones, even though you’ll still be working more than what’s considered part time. Hope you enjoy & please keep us updated!

  • Reply Irene March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    I am so happy for you. Congratulations.i don’t think you will regret this for a second. Good for your practice for allowing you to do this.

  • Reply Marci Gilbert March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Congrats to you and your family! You will feel like a better person, mom and wife!

  • Reply Emily March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Congrats Sarah! I have an 8 month old and live in Canada so still am on parental leave, but will be returning to a long hours job in a few months. 80% would be amazing but virtually unworkable in my chosen field. I love that you made this choice for you and your family and am rooting for your #3!

  • Reply Heather March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Congrats, it sounds like a good fit for your family! I’ll be interested to hear how it goes–I have some friends (all lawyers, incidentally) that did that (opted for the "mommy track" BLECH hate that term) and ultimately they felt like their day off wasn’t respected enough to have justified the pay cut (i.e., still working a lot, just for less money). I think maybe Laura V wrote about it in one of her books too? I imagine it would be a bit different with medicine, given that most of the work is "in office" though!

    How did you and Josh decide that it would be you that took the time cut? I must admit I’m always a little saddened when I see my (women) friends opting out or downgrading their hours when something has to give–never their husbands. Not in a judgmental way, just in a–ra ra lean in sheryl sandberg sort of way. But I know everyone does what works best for their families.

  • Reply Ali March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Congrats! I hope you enjoy your new schedule. I work (albeit in a completely different field) at a 50% schedule and have done so since going back to work after my oldest was born (over 4 yrs ago). Here are my only "words of wisdom" (feel free to ignore): 1. Don’t let yourself take on too much at home. I get stressed trying to act as if I’m at home all the time (putting pressure on myself to cook, go to all kids’ appointments, etc but also act as if I was working full time at work. It sounds like your home life is working with outsourcing–I say, stick to that! 2. Learn to say no at work. I struggle with this a LOT. At my 50% schedule, I’m still logging 30-35 hours during our busy time of year…it is just a struggle. That may or may not be applicable to your job but is my #1 struggle. As I tell people all the time–working on a reduced schedule is both the best and the worst of both worlds, but overall has been a blessing for our family. Best wishes!!!

  • Reply Monica March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Sounds like a good plan. Hope things go well. Enjoy.

  • Reply Lindsey March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Congratulations! This will be great. I’m excited to see how you like it. When I switched jobs this summer, I thought about asking to go part time. But as others have posted, 80 percent as an attorney is either mommy tracked or you get to leave at 4 but log back in each night but get less interesting work and less money. Thankfully, law is more flexible in some ways because you don’t have patients. So I can duck out for two hours for a holiday concert, or come in at 10 after a de. Appt. But on the flip side, you have to respond to clients etc… In the evenings (not just when you are on call).

  • Reply Susannah March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    You sound happy about this–it comes off the page. So I am happy for you! xoxo

  • Reply Solitary Diner March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Congratulations! I think it’s important for all of us in medicine to protect ourselves and make time for the things we love.

  • Reply Sara March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Congratulations Sarah! It sounds like you have thought about this a lot and it sounds like a good option for you. I realize it’s a privilege to be able to outsource things (cleaning, yard work, etc) and I resisted doing it for a long time because we are somewhat frugal, but then I think it really clicked after I read I Know How She Does It that I had the ability to balance my life better if I chose to do so and pay a little more for things vs always looking for the least expensive option. It’s an investment in myself, my family, and my career (which, without my career, my earnings/wealth potential drop significantly – an important point that many die hard budgeting Moms seem to miss…) I think my Mom would roll her eyes if she knew how much I spent on stuff like this (she was a SAHM), but it is important to think about how you want your life to look and prioritize your spending accordingly. We still save a lot, although not nearly as much as pre-kids, but I’m (mostly) living a balanced life and enjoy my job, so I think that’s OK 🙂

  • Reply Chelsea March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Congrats for having the conversations that made this change possible. I can imagine some of them were difficult to initiate, if not have. One thing that causes me a lot of stress (and I’m in a flip 80% childcare, 20% work situation) is when I don’t feel like I have a set time each week to do "my stuff" – whatever that is: go to the running store and get new shoes, plan an upcoming trip, write a longer blog post, etc. I’m always trying to do those things around everything else, which makes me feel less present when I’m with the kids or working. My mom nearly always watches Will on Thursday mornings, and having a dedicated chunk of time (not subject to the whims of naps or early waking or late bedtimes) that I can plan and control makes me feel so much less stressed. So I hope that this change gives you some head space, too. It’s like your own personal 20% time at Google (though I’m not sure they still do that anymore)! And as you wrote, you can always do something different later if it doesn’t work out as planned. My other 2 cents: Don’t cut back on your outsourcing unless you absolutely have to. Seems like having your nanny swap Fridays for call weekends is a good idea. Or maybe there are some other household things she could do for you on Fridays to free up time on the weekends?

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

      Thank you C! Ha, if only my workplace had that rule – then I could do it without the pay cut 🙂

  • Reply Sarah March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Wonderful!!! I am a NP with a similar schedule to you, and decided after my son was born (he’ll be 3 in March) to return to work at 80%. Like you, I know I am incredibly lucky to have this choice to make, and it is a pay cut, but for the past 2.5 years, I have never ONCE regretted my decision. I feel more present when I am at work, (and honestly still feel full time!) but I’m now able to spend dedicated one on one time with my son, including classes and activities we would otherwise have to squeeze into already busy weekends. We currently don’t outsource any housework, which was a concious decision, but it works for us. I love my Tuesdays and still look forward to them every week! I’m curious to see how it works out for your family. ‘ò∫

  • Reply Cbs March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Oh that’s great! A lot of my senior colleagues work an 80% schedule and while in research, it’s hard to draw those boundaries, having a day that you can "protect" is really helpful. Plus here school Fridays are a half-day which can be a childcare challenge.

    Really appreciate your posts and sharing these things – I’m quite a few years behind you (finishing up PhD, albeit in social sciences) and baby is still cooking but it is helpful to see someone else’s thought processes / how they manage their life.

  • Reply Angela March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    that is so wonderful!!! you are so gracious and appreciative of the blessings in your life, it’s a beautiful thing to witness, and motivating as well.

    Wishing you the best : )

  • Reply Brittnie March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    So proud of you for listening to your heart. Our Dr does the same, works 4 days a week! I admire you so much – the way you pursue both jobs so well – your career and motherhood. It’s a balancing act I’m sure but you’re such a good example.

  • Reply Ana March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    This is great. I would absolutely do this if I my work day was as inflexible as yours, because I need a little wiggle room in my schedule. With the kind of work I do now, I KNOW i’d be doing the "100% work for 80% pay" thing, so I’m not planning to drop from full time (plus we NEED the $$), but I think it’ll be really good for you guys. You just need some time to breathe and get stuff done. I try to work from home on average twice a month, and use my "breaks" to do stupid but necessary stuff like go to the post office to return things.

  • Reply Emily March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    This is wonderful news, congrats, Sarah! I think 80% would be my personal dream, especially if I decide to have a third kid! I don’t see a whole lot of families with three kids where both parents work demanding full time jobs and maybe for a lot of people #3 is kind of a tipping point where the family needs a little more flexibility. (I know there are probably a lot of exceptions but I’m just talking about families I know personally)

    I would love to see the results of your before and after time tracking!! Would be very interesting.

  • Reply Amanda March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    I am so SO happy for you and I think you’re going to love this change for exactly the reasons you cited – extra time so you don’t feel rushed constantly and the ability to be there more for special events for the kids. My daughter is 16 months and I negotiated from being the VP of Ops for a 100+ radiologist practice to being their manager of clinical quality – a position that previously reported to me. I, too, work 4 days a week and find it’s just enough to make the week feel productive and I also feel like I am continuing to grow professionally. (I am still working on interesting, innovative projects, etc) But I also have that day to meal plan, enjoy a daytime activity with my daughter (like a swim class) that is not completely swamped with the parents who only have weekends off. It’s really the perfect combination. You are going to love it! Congrats!

  • Reply Stephanie March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Congratulations!! My kids are slightly younger than yours (3 and 1) and although I toy with the idea of going to 80%, sometimes I really want to spend more time with them, and sometimes…. not. The younger one is just fatiguing at times. The 10 to 18 month old phase is just not fun for me. I’m wondering if you were more clear about this decision when your kids reached a certain threshold age of enjoyability?

  • Reply Sneakers March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Congrats at thinking this approach through and figuring out how to do it. I don’t think there is ever a perfect solution on balance children/life/work but this sounds like a great try for you and your family. I myself (we have a 6 year old) am planning for a summer break between jobs (current company is doing a mass layoff sometime this spring) – and it means I don’t start looking for my next job until September, and that’s ok.

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