Thursday, April 11, 2013

Leaning Out

I’ve always chosen to stay away from being too specific when it comes to writing about work on ze blog (said in a French accent). While I don’t actively attach my full name to this blog or go around promoting it to my co-workers, I also don’t hide it, and I’m smart enough (dumb enough?) to know that it can be found. And really, it’s just good sense to not bitch about work in a public forum like, um, basically all of the Internet. The repercussions aren’t worth it.

Anyway, I’m not here to bitch. I’m just here to tell you what’s up. Three weeks or so ago, I presented my boss with a proposal to switch to a part-time schedule.

I’m lucky that The University has some pretty generous work-life balance benefits, including the option to go part time for an extended period without losing your full-time status. I am also lucky to work in a division of The University where work-life balance is valued. My boss, as well as many of my superiors and peers, are the mothers and fathers of young children. They get it. They know it's hard. No one is watching the clock. No one is working 12-hour days. Time off is never questioned. Flexible work arrangements are often granted. The general attitude is “as long as your work is getting done.” As far as workplace cultures go, for a new parent, it’s pretty close to as good as it gets in our country.

The problem with my request is that it comes at a time when my department is in flux. We acquired some new positions. We have had a couple of people move on. And my boss has the opportunity to reorganize. I knew this when I asked, but no plans for our department had been finalized. I figured this could be a great time to be asking (not really), or a bad time to be asking (yup).

I also knew that making this kind of request would remove any chance for a promotion or step up in responsibility that a reorganization could make possible. And, when I finally sat down with my boss, my suspicion that something to that effect was on the table was confirmed. In other words, when I should have been “leaning in,” I was asking to drop out.

Yesterday, I mustered the courage to gently inquire as to the status of my request, and the response was basically no response. This was the source of my anxiety last night.

Maybe, my boss wants me to quit.

I can be a bit melodramatic (say what?), so I’m sure this isn’t the case. My boss is, in all likelihood (if past precedent is any indication), attempting to make it work. And I hope it does work out because going part time at my current job is sort of the easy answer (and maybe a bandaid?) to one of the two major issues I keep coming back to. The first-- wanting to spend more time with the babe and having a better balance at home--is the one I’d like to address right this very minute, and the second--trying to figure out what I want to do what with the rest of my life--is the one I tend to avoid. I go part time, I get more time with the babe; I keep avoiding the question of what's next. Status quo achieved!

But if it isn’t an option, and it doesn’t work, where does that leave me? MM and I have already begun the discussion of me quitting and possibly attempting to start a freelance business. But straight up quitting scares the shit out of me, and rightfully so, for all of the above reasons plus the major leap of leaving the workforce for a lot of unknowns, like money, future job prospects, possible current job opportunities, and the big question, “Can I even hack it as a full-time stay-at-home mom?” because if you’ll remember, I really really really wanted to go back to work.

Ultimately, I know that being scared does not equal being the wrong decision. I also know, at this point, that I’d like to keep one foot in the work world--whether that means staying at The University or not. It’s a lot of decisions to make and while none of them are easy and they all come with unknowns and fears, I realize that there likely isn’t a right answer (and flip side, there also isn't a wrong one). But at some point, one will have to take a leap of faith.

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