Yesterday, I got a phone call from a woman who is back to work from maternity leave after having her second baby. Let’s call her Michaela.
Returning two months ago to her full-time job as a computer systems analyst, Michaela has since decided that a reduced workweek would be a better schedule for the work-life blend she wants.
After her first baby, Michaela had switched to an employer who walks the talk of flexible work arrangements (she regularly works from home), so she expects little resistance to her proposal for a reduced workweek.
Michaela’s call to me was driven by this key concern: “How do I convince my husband to agree to my working a part-time schedule?”
I shared the essential tactics for addressing competing concerns (in this case, maximizing their retirement savings vs. maximizing their kids’ emotional development) on the path to mutual agreement.
Beyond that, Michaela and her husband clearly needed to have a few more conversations around this sensitive topic.
Then I Remembered…
Years ago, when I first started advising working moms on flexible work arrangements, I’d developed a wife-husband discussion checklist specifically for this purpose.
(An aside: this was in the early ’90s when flexible work was mostly a women’s issue. We now know that workplace flexibility appeals to virtually all employees and that business, individuals, families and communities benefit when flexible work options are adopted into the employer culture as a smart business strategy.)
So I dug into my archives, surfaced the checklist and emailed it to her. Today, I decided to post it for anyone to use.
Going Part-Time: The Discussion Checklist for Spouses
If you’re married, your decision to change from full-time status to a reduced work schedule is not an independent one. As with your boss, there’s some convincing to do. But unlike the work setting, at home, you have the advantage of emotional intimacy and interests as a couple, which can foster deeper discussion.
Pick the right time, place and mood for productive (and calm) conversations. Start with a topic and focus on listening. Let your husband express his opinions, concerns, and ideas about your plan. Share yours. This process can help you develop a mutually-agreeable plan and the support you’ll need for ongoing success. Use this checklist to guide your discussions.
We’ve discussed what we would like to improve in our marriage and family life.
We’ve discussed each of our goals and roles in fulfilling that vision for our family life.
We’ve discussed how the quality of our family life is affected by our hectic or materialistic lifestyle.
I’ve explained to my husband how my working fewer hours outside the home would enhance our marriage and family life.
We’ve discussed the shift in priorities that may be necessary as we make financial adjustments.
We’ve discussed how to deal with any power shift that may come with one of us bringing in less income.
We’ve worked out a household budget and spending plan that we both can agree to.
We’ve discussed whether or not my husband might feel added pressures as the only full-time worker and how we might deal with it.
We’ve discussed the benefits and advantages of reducing my work schedule.
We’ve discussed how long I anticipate having a changed work schedule.
We’ve discussed how our long-term financial and professional goals might be affected by this change.
We’ve discussed our plans for having (more) children and how we would adjust to that situation.
We’ve discussed expectations and changes related to household roles (e.g., housework, child care, bill paying, etc.).
I’ve shared my completed flexible work proposal with my husband as a way to demonstrate how I’ve carefully worked out a plan.
To reach mutually agreeable terms, we’ve made modifications to my plan based on our discussions.
We’ve translated the my plan and proposal into a time line that we both agree upon.
We’re both committed to doing our best to make the plan and proposal work.
As in any goal, mutual support between marriage partners can help make a flexible work arrangement successful.