Friday, June 12, 2009


I have the opportunity to apply for a position that is a step or two up the pay grade from what I make currently. Chances are good that if I applied, I would get the job.

The catch is, I would lose my flex day – the arrangement where I get every second Friday off.

Taking into account the expense of extra childcare days, the net increase would be between $200 and $250 a month.

This is a tough choice. Time or money?

I always knew that should I ever want to be more than just a Data Entry clerk (and I’m pretty sure I do), I would have to bid the flex days farewell. I was one of the last people hired under the old contract that allowed them, and they are being eliminated slowly but surely as those people retire or move into other positions, since you cannot carry them from one position to another. But I thought when that day came I’d be stepping into a job that was more challenging, more rewarding, more in line with my skills and interests. This proposed change brings none of those things. Moreover, the timing sucks. I might be more open to losing that extra time if I wasn’t still reeling from the adjustment of being back to work at all (it’s only been six weeks). I still have not found my equilibrium; still don’t feel “on top of” all the things that need to fit in to every week. Adding another workday to my week doesn’t feel like a great idea.

This has brought up all kinds of other issues that I didn’t quite know were there, lurking under the surface. For example, I am really happy that Gwen spends two weekdays every week with family (Gramma takes her every Tuesday, and Chris and I alternate Fridays). When someone asks me how many days a week she is in daycare, I feel proud that I am able to answer “three”. During my workday, when I take a moment to reflect on where Gwen is and what she is likely doing, I am always a little bit more relaxed and content when I realize it’s “Gramma Day” rather than a daycare day. And it’s not that I don’t trust Denise, or don’t believe Gwen is happy and well cared-for when there. I guess it’s just that deep down, I believe that Gwen should be with her family.

That’s a surprising revelation, and one that I can’t do much about. Of course, the question of whether Gwen genuinely needs more family time, or whether she’d be perfectly happy to attend daycare for 40 hours a week, is anyone’s guess.

But if I am honest with myself, I know that flex days are not all about Gwen. Far from it. Flex days are also my day to “get things done”. It’s a catch-all day for any appointments – medical, dental, even haircuts and so on – because evening and weekend appointments are hard to come by. It’s extraordinarily convenient knowing I can schedule an appointment on Friday afternoon, and that Chris will likely be finished his own work in time to watch Gwen. Not to mention the infrequent but always urgent times when Gwen herself needs medical attention.

In addition to outside appointments, I usually wash Gwen’s diapers and hang them on the line to dry. I do the week’s grocery shopping, often with Gwen in tow. I tidy up the house, dealing with the detritus that accumulates throughout the week thanks to two full-time employees and a busy toddler. I clean the bathrooms. I load or unload the dishwasher, whichever is applicable. While Gwen is napping, I might get some schoolwork done, or just catch up on my photo uploads and my blogroll. Flex days are usually full of activity. How else could I fit all this stuff in?

Chris and I had already been discussing how busy our lives are, and how we seem to have no time for each other, especially now that I am back to school – taking another course towards my BA through distance education. On top of the never-ending cycle of chores around the house, we both have outside commitments as well: Chris goes out to his martial arts class once a week, and I go out to yoga, Weight Watchers, and various meetings for Church Council and Call Committee. Of course, there are also social commitments, invitations from local friends and family, planned travel to visit not-so-local friends and family. And somewhere in there, we have to fit in time to just relax and spend time together nurturing our marriage.

Is it hard? You bet your ass it is. Are we the only family who has to deal with it? No. But there’s still no guidebook on how the heck we’re supposed to succeed at it, so we’re stuck figuring out our own way.

So, time is in short supply in my life and is already causing consternation to both me and my marriage. How about the money piece?

Well, sure, an extra couple hundred dollars a month would be nice. Who wouldn’t want that? The thought that leapt immediately to my mind is that I could spend a portion of that extra money to hire a cleaning lady to come in every second week and take some of the more onerous chores off our hands. It would sure be nice to come home to a clean house for the weekend. Another use for that money would be to take my husband out for a date once in a while – right now we have no money whatsoever budgeted for entertainment or incidentals. We could set up a monthly contribution to Gwen’s RESP. We could even save a bit every month for the golden Mecca of an annual family vacation!

Money or time? It’s a tough choice. After extensive pondering of all this, I realized that money is largely mutable. How much you take in, how much you spend, it can (and does) vary widely based on your choices. However, there will always be only 24 hours in a day. There will always be only seven days in a week. Again, we make choices as to how to spend that time. With both money and time, there are some choices that don’t feel much like choices, items over which we have less control. But there are some we can control, and I think we have the responsibility to make those choices thoughtfully, and own the consequences.

You can use time to make money, but you can't use money to buy time. And isn't that unfair!

But what if I could have both?

After crunching the numbers, here’s what I learned:
Option One: I work full-time at the new position; Gwen goes to childcare every Friday. Net difference in my monthly take-home pay: $211.

Option Two: I work full-time at the new position, taking a day of vacation per month to give myself some flexibility, and Chris does the same. Gwen goes to childcare two Fridays a month. Net difference in my monthly take-home pay: $281.

Option Three: I work full-time at the new position, taking a day of vacation and a day of unpaid leave every month to give myself some flexibility. Chris takes one day of vacation a month. Gwen goes to childcare one Friday a month. Net difference in my monthly take-home pay: $206.

So the way I see this is that I could still have two Fridays off a month, and increase my wages. Naturally, I could stop taking those vacation days/unpaid leave days at any point and bring home even more money, once I feel ready to let go of that time with Gwen, and/or some of my other commitments finish up and I have more free time. (Ha! Does that ever really happen?) We are really lucky to have Denise, who is willing to be flexible with Gwen’s childcare: we can take an extra day here and there and only pay for what we book, rather than having to pay for 4 Fridays a month and only use two or three, and we can change our arrangements anytime. That will all change in a couple of years when Gwen starts preschool, and I think we will all be ready for that change when it comes. But I’m not ready yet.

I feel entirely comfortable making this decision myself, and have already told Chris that whatever money comes into our house as a result of this decision will be mine to allocate as I please. But at the same time, I'm very open to feedback if you think there's an aspect of this I haven't considered yet.


Amberism said...

The idea of still having the same time off (at least monthly, you will lose any chance of having a block of vacation time though) and still bring in the extra money seems almost like a win-win...

Money does seem to quickly disappear though. Not entirely sure how that happens.

Surprised Suburban Wife said...

No matter how much you make, you'll spend/allocate it all, every time!
But data entry clerk sounds, well, kind of dull for someone with your writing talent and all your interests and activities.
The thing with the take the new job and take off Fridays as vacation/unpaid is that it would really have to depend on your supervisor and coworkers' willingness to let you take that time off. And keep in mind that that supervisor could leave/get promoted/whatever and the new one may not be as amenable to the arrangement.
Just make absolutely sure before giving up that 9 day fortnight that you've thought through all the potential consequences and gotten confirmation from the new supervisors of the details in terms of your ability to take vacation...

And let us know!

For what it's worth I would KILL for a 9 day fortnight and am super duper jealous of yours!!!


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