I've only ever cried at a job interview once. It was one of the most embarrassing and unprofessional things I have ever done. The reaction of the team interviewing me helped me make the decision to work there after the job offer came through. The way they handled my distress, told me that this was a company that cared.
The company in question was Monotype who acquired our company in April this year. The 'interview' was the due diligence process. The moment I broke down came at the end of two days of very serious discussions. We started to discuss my working hours if the process went in the direction everyone was hoping it would. There was just Mark and I in the room with three of the senior team.
I am not sure why I started to cry. My working hours were stated on my contract that we had shared during the process so it should have been a case of just saying I wanted to work the same number of hours. Thinking back now, it seems so silly but it was the commitment of agreeing to something and of not being able to commit to as much as I'd like to in an ideal world that made me crack. Trying to express my 100% commitment to the process and my excitement for the possibility of working at Monotype but that I could not commit 100% of my time to working there made me feel scared and exposed. Would they still want me/us?
Jennifer, the VP of HR said a number of reassuring things in that room that made me feel so much better about crying but it was when she said that Monotype was a results orientated business and that it was important for me to feel that I was making a meaningful contribution to that (however much or little in terms of hours), I knew that this was right for me. I wasn't really sure how it would work out entirely but I knew then that this was a company that could be flexible and allowed employees to make decisions about their working hours, working processes or office location to suit themselves and deliver their best work.
I've worked part-time since I went back to work a year after our first child was born six years ago. Everyone is different and I don't judge others on their choices, but this was the best thing for us as a family. I've varied my hours over the last five years - I took nine months off completely when our second child was born and I only did a few hours a week at first for the first two to three months after that. Most recently I've been working between three and a half and four days a week now our children are six and three and both in school for at least part of the day. Occasionally I'll work pretty much a full week, either because I'm travelling or just because things are busy and I have to pick up lots of extra things in my evenings.
The reasons I choose to work part-time are varied but centre around what I need, what support my husband needs and what my family needs. When I work more, the balance is tipped for me and things tend to suffer at home. I just can't keep the plates spinning, I don't see my kids, my husband is under even more pressure than usual and I just don't feel right with that. When Mark works more, for instance when he's on one of his many work trips abroad, I often feel like I should work less. It's partly psychological I think but there's also the sheer amount of stuff to do when you are lone parenting and I tend to feel pretty tired after a stint of more than a week. With both children in school, both doing extra curricular activities and being invited to parties etc, the amount of juggling can be daunting. The result of this is I often get stressed, I sometimes forget things and I take short cuts with my parenting (letting them watch tv for an easy life anyone?).
When things are 'normal' I am at my best. I am generally motivated, focused and usually pretty productive. I have to leave the studio or my home office at a certain point to pick the children up so if I faff about and spend too long reading Twitter or browsing industry news or articles, I don't get what I need to done. I hate wasting time and whereas before kids, I would often work late, I am now a clock watcher. The downside of this is that I sometimes have to leave half way through something and my brain won't switch off, so I end up logging back on in the evening to finish it.
The other positive side of this work/life balance is that even though it's hard, I really do have to switch off when I am looking after my children or things go pear shaped. I do get a completely different perspective when I am with them and I generally feel more refreshed when I am in work mode. I am also a much happier mummy because I work. I adore my children and I loved being at home full time when I had them both but long-term, it's just not for me.
It boils down to what Jennifer said to me about making a meaningful contribution. If I feel that I'm making a meaningful contribution to the company I am working to build, I'll be happy. The fact that we no longer own the company we're building is no longer important to me. If I am respected by my colleagues for my experience and expertise, produce helpful and necessary pieces of work and facilitate more collaboration and communication of research, I'll definitely feel fulfilled.