Why I asked to work 4-day weeks

A lovely shot of Andreas and one of his children at the beachWhen my wife and I were expecting our second child we spoke about how we planned to balance work and family life.

Growing a family is one of the most fulfilling things for us, equally it can be a logistical nightmare. 

On a few post-its I wrote why I chose to ask for a 4-day week:

For myself

Through maternity leave my wife has spent 9 months with our new baby. Through that she already had plenty of bonding time and has earned his trust in a very special way. As well, she has learned how to deal with the daily quirks, much better than I did, hands down.

Although it is tempting, I found it too easy to hand the kids over to my wife each time they started to cry or another problem arose.

I felt that I need to step up as a dad to earn the same level of trust from my kids. I wanted to form the strong attachment and bond that comes with tackling the daily challenges together.

For me this is the best, most transformative experience.

 Childs picnic items

For my wife

I met dads who can’t bring their children to bed by themselves, are not able to calm them down in the night, or stay with them for a few days while their partner is travelling.

While it may be flattering that the kids always want to be with one person [Mom] it creates an unfair dependency for my wife.

We see couples slowly moving into very traditional roles, against all their intentions. Some of them take on even more rigid models than their parents had.  

We have both chosen jobs we love and having kids was an equally conscious and wholehearted decision for both of us.

For us this means sharing the responsibilities and having a shared understanding of the challenges of parenting.

What I found astonishing was that for men reducing work time to look after a young family seems surprising. At the same time it is rather expected from women.

We aim to balance our family responsibilities and joys on equal terms.

For our kids

Our new baby was 9 months old when my wife's maternity leave ended and we felt he was too small to go into childcare 5 full days a week.

Both my partner and I now work 4 days in the office, which gives our kids 2 additional days with us each week.

Our little one starts to walk. Our 3 year old starts to develop a great sense of humor, imagination and relationships.

For us these are the most precious moments. We can share their passions and be around them for that extra day.

 Picture drawn on playground floor in chalk

Financial impact

The idea that both partners would earn 20% less salary was a shocking thought for us.

Luckily I came across a campaign from the Dutch government and Women.inc encouraging parents to spend more time with their kids by demystifying the cost of working part time.

The campaign website holds the financial loss of working part time against the possible tax benefits and the money the family would spend on childcare for the 5th day.

In the UK childcare is less subsidised/more expensive than in most other European countries. So this example was even more striking for me.

Surprisingly, or should I say shockingly, it became a zero-sum game, if I want to earn less and spend the day with our kids or earn more and spend the extra income on childcare.    

Three scenario tables of comparison source: https://www.womeninc.nl/werkzorgberekenaar/over-de-werkzorgberekenaar/

Since then...

My partner and I have both worked 4 day weeks from March of this year, and have been promoted in our roles in the same time.

Our employers recognise that we are no less engaged in our projects and personal careers. It certainly added to the commitment as well.

The decision to work part time has not cost us an arm and a leg nor our careers. It has been one of the best decisions we have made.

Many companies want to create equal career opportunities for women and tackle the gender pay gap. A great step in this direction is to encourage more men to take time off to be equal parents.

If you have or expect kids I'm curious to hear how you balance your work/family life and what works well for you. I’m looking forward to have more of these conversations. andreas.conradi@red-badger.com

Andreas youngest playing with a mini foosball table

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