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Less really is more
June 21, 2012 - April Leiffer Henry
Soon after I learned I was pregnant with Baby No. 2, Mike and I began thinking and praying about what my work situation would be after the birth. We crunched numbers, and I looked into freelance opportunities to see if it would be possible for me to work from home, even temporarily.
During my research, I discovered that my employer’s definition of a full-time employee is anyone who works 30 or more hours per week. This piqued my interest, especially when I learned I could still receive full benefits while putting in reduced hours. Losing my excellent health insurance and signing up for Mike’s mediocre medical insurance was definitely a huge consideration when we did our number crunching.
We thought and prayed about this possibility: what if I worked only six hours per day after maternity leave? We could stay on my insurance, and we wouldn’t have to put Elliot in the before- or after-care program when he starts kindergarten in August. Oh, and I would have two extra hours per day with our children. It sounded like the perfect scenario!
So, I nervously proposed this prospect to my supervisor. After some discussions with higher-ups, my request was approved! My supervisor said to me, “If you’re sure this is what you really want, then you need to write me an email officially requesting the reduced hours and stating why you want them.”
I frequently tend to waffle when it comes to making important decisions. Seeking God’s guidance through prayer and scripture is the only way I can even begin to feel confident in my choices. Surprisingly, the 30-hour work week seemed right from the beginning, and imagining a shorter work day and extra time with my children gave me an overwhelming sense of peace. I knew it was the right thing to do.
Granted, this is only my second week back in the office after maternity leave, but I must say, my new schedule is awesome! When I leave work at 3:15 p.m. and head to the day care, I feel as light as air, which is actually quite amazing considering I’m still carrying almost all of the weight I gained during pregnancy.
In this case, less truly does equal more. By working fewer hours, I can spend more time with my children. We actually have time to play before we start the dinner, bath time and bed time race!
Despite this seemingly perfect scenario, the Lord threw me a curve ball not long after Cecilia’s birth – one that required me to make a difficult decision. I was offered a new, exciting position, working in another area communications and marketing department. Their human resources office had kept my application on file from a previous interview, so I received the offer quickly and without having to do another interview.
I was so delighted to be presented this new opportunity. I would be making more money and working for a larger organization – one with a highly recognizable brand too. In addition, I learned the new employer offers on-site child care and tuition reimbursement – although neither of these is available immediately.
I gushed with excitement as I told my husband about the new position I had been offered. At first, he listened without saying much, acknowledging all the positive points I had shared.
Soon, however, I began returning to reality. The new job was a full-time position, requiring me to put in 40 hours per week. What about my perfect 30-hour work week? I quickly stepped down from Cloud 9 and boarded the worry train. I was once again looking at the prospect of having my infant in day care for about nine hours per day (including travel time laden with traffic) and enrolling Elliot in the after-care program at the elementary school where he’ll attend kindergarten. I could feel the knots in my stomach growing exponentially by the moment.
I prayed. Hard.
I discussed the situation with Mike. I called my mom. I texted a couple friends. “I don’t know what to do,” I kept saying.
By the end of the day, I knew the 40-hour work week was a bad idea. The next morning, I sat down next to my husband and asked, “What do you think I should do?”
He hesitated. “You should do whatever you think is best.”
I knew he was holding back his true opinion. “Mike, I really want to know you think. Please, tell me,” I said.
“I think you should turn down the new job,” he began. “Logistically, it’s going to be almost impossible to get two kids to two different locations in the morning, work eight hours and then pick them both up at two different places after work. That will be such a long day for Cecilia. You will never look back and say, ‘I wish I would’ve worked more.’ You’re always going to look back and say, ‘I wish I would’ve spent more time with my children.’”
My thoughts exactly. I knew what I had to do.
But, then, I had an idea. “What if I ask to work reduced hours at the new job? I really have nothing to lose, right?”
Mike raised his eyebrows. “Yeah, I guess that’s true. If you’re going to turn it down, then you really have nothing to lose.”
It seemed like a gutsy request. I had just been offered the position, and now I was going to ask to negotiate my hours.
I immediately began praying, “Lord, if you have chosen this new job for me, please make a way.” I asked a couple others to pray the same thing.
So, I made a call to the human resources office and told the representative way more than she needed to know about my two children, their day care and its rather inconvenient location. I also included that my current employer had granted me a 30-hour work week.
Apparently, in the HR world, requests like mine are not that rare. After speaking with my would-be supervisor and hearing how receptive he was to my possible schedule, I began to feel a peace about the situation. I knew they were going to approve my request.
By the end of the day, I got a call back from the HR rep, who asked, “How many hours do you want to work?” Wow. God is good.
Despite my overwhelming certainty that God had ordained this new job for me, I still had a very challenging task in front of me – breaking the news to my current supervisor. I did my best to explain how difficult the decision was to make, but I knew she was upset and probably felt betrayed.
Life’s choices are hard, but I believe God has used this one to show me (again) that he is in control. I am looking forward to this new adventure that begins on Monday, especially because I know the Lord is going to help me navigate all the new paths I’ll have to travel.
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