Creativity and Flexibility Can Help Work-Life Balance

Never in a million years did I think I would want to leave the world of full-time work to be home with my kids.  “Yes, I’ll be back.  I am not the type to stay home,”  I would tell friends and co-workers before my maternity leave.  Well, we all know how perspective can change after having children, right?!

After working in university admissions for six years, I had my first child.  I went back to work full-time, but I started having second thoughts.  I approached my supervisor about a part-time schedule.  Unfortunately, my plan was rejected.

I started to loathe the stress of dropping off my baby at daycare and commuting to work.  I was feeling like my priorities had dramatically changed.  Thoughts such as, “Why am I sitting here at work when I could be hanging out at the playground?” frequently went through my head.

“Morning  Commute – 43:365” by diveoffice

Around that time, I put my head together with a colleague who was in a similar situation and we proposed a job-share.  Through various tweaks, compromises and shifting responsibilities, we convinced our manager that we could effectively implement the arrangement.

With three days in the office and two days at home, I loved living in the worlds of a stay-at-home and working mom.  However, although I felt lucky to have such a fantastic job-share, I still wanted even more flexibility.  After having my second baby, I bumped into a grad school acquaintance who was working as a college counselor.  This career had always been attractive to me due to its part-time flexibility.  She connected me with the company owner and a few months later, I took on my first clients.

“Meyer Gate, Harvard Yard” by Ik T

My first year as a college counselor was a whirlwind.  Not yet ready to leave my admissions job, I was driving to and from Harvard Square three times a week, picking the kids up at daycare, and then going back out at night and on weekends to learn the ropes of college counseling . . . all while nursing a baby.  I no longer had the patience for office politics and my priorities shifted to spending even more time at home.  So, halfway thorough the year, (and with much angst) I let my job-share partner know of my plan to go full steam ahead with college counseling.  Leaving the security of a guaranteed paycheck made me nervous, but my desire to own my schedule trumped my concerns.

Three years later, I have never looked back.

Sometimes, I feel like my life is crazier now.  It was so efficient when my work fit nicely into three full days at the office, versus now having to fit my work into what seems like tiny time slots throughout the day.  An hour of TV for my kids equals time to answer two parent emails and edit one student essay.  Other nights, after spending my whole day as a stay-at-home mom, I have to head out for two student appointments at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., only to arrive home at 9:30 p.m. and get back on the computer.

“@ Work @ Home” by Dylan

Even though it can be crazy, I truly do have flexibility to make my own schedule.  Last week, I volunteered in the lunch room at my kindergartner’s school.  And on a day when my three-year-old daughter’s school is closed, I can take her to a play date and go to work at night.

On top of all of this, I have added another job to the mix.  You see, college counseling is very quiet from January through June.  So, last February, I got the itch that I needed to be doing something more.  I signed up as a Stella & Dot Stylist, which I love.  The beauty of this new gig is that I can put as little or as much time and energy as I want into the business, all while feeling very entrepreneurial and empowered.

Ricki Benjamin with her two children, Sage and Jonah.

Now I have three jobs — College Counselor, Stylist and Mom.  And while I don’t think that I have found the magic formula for work/life balance, I do know that I am never bored, I have work that is fulfilling, keeps me on my toes, and snugly fits into a “flexible schedule,” while spending significant quality time with my family.

About the Author
Ricki Benjamin lives in Wellesley with her two children (aged three and five), husband, and dog.  She would love to connect at any time on college counseling/admissions, Stella & Dot, advocating for a job-share or creative schedule, and finding time to work out with a young family.  You can say hello to Ricki at her Stella & Dot display at Parent Talk’s Winter Marketplace this month.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is the first of a Parent Talk Matters Blog series on parenting styles.  Keep your eyes open for future blog posts that we hope to share from the perspectives of parents who have different approaches to finding a balanced life with kids.

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