After 12 years of living to work, I have moved into part time hours. If you are old enough to remember Prince circa the Purple Rain era, the intro to Let’s Go Crazy is a perfect description.
“A World of Never Ending Happiness, You Can Always See the Sun, Day or Night”
Well, that might be a bit dramatic. Five years ago, if asked where I’d be now, I would have said in the same place, watching the years tick by, having brief weekend respites, and working myself into complete burn out. Priorities changed, and now I’m in a much better place. Working less means having more time to do things I love, but be lying if I told you that it has been completely smooth. If you are considering the move to part time or, even better, leaving a traditional job, here a few things to consider.
Change Can Be Great
When I graduated from optometry school in 1999, I assumed I’d follow the path of virtually everyone I knew by getting a job and working until in my sixties or beyond. I set out to get hired, worked for a couple of years, then bought a practice. If you are thinking about running your own business, it can be a wonderful thing, but it takes a huge portion of your life.
After my daughter was born in 2007, it killed me to spend so much time at work. I spent three days a week at the main office, always until 7PM at least one night a week. For the satellite office, I drove 70 miles one way over a mountain pass twice a week. I would leave before daylight and get home after dark for most of the year. I was exhausted at the end of the day. I left a sick child in the care of others many times because it’s very hard to cancel a whole day of patients. I grew to loathe household chores. Our debts went through the roof, maybe because I didn’t have time to keep track of things. Maybe it was because I hoped things we bought might fill the void that my work schedule created. While I am grateful to have a career, I was not happy with the amount of time I had to spend away from my family. There had to be a better way.
About two years ago, I started making plans to sell my business. My practice has been very successful. 2012 was our best year ever, but that does not excite me anymore. When I found willing buyers, I knew it was time to move on. While the final sale has been challenging and won’t be finished for a few more months, both buyers are working for me until they can become the owners. Essentially, I am still in charge, but I don’t have to be in the office very much. Right now, I am averaging three days a week between both offices and my contract position at a Native American clinic. To patients, it looks like I am only working one day a week because I am only in each office for that amount of time. I’ve learned that when you don’t work a traditional schedule and you have an advanced degree, people assume you are really rich or just plain lazy.
Questions, Questions, Questions
I am fortunate to have a pretty loyal patient base. These are people that I know and remember, but don’t see often outside of their annual eye exam. When my patients make an appointment, they realize that I am only in that office once a week, and it puzzles them.They are very curious about what I do with my time.
I usually tell them I’m cutting back to spend more time with my daughter. While most see it as perfectly acceptable for ladies who don’t have formal education to stay at home, apparently it is very odd for me to do that. I get very strange looks or the wide eyed nod when I try to explain, even from stay at home moms. If I get really brave and admit that quite a bit of my free time goes into running a financial blog, you’d think I had three heads. Most people cannot grasp that there might be fulfillment or money to be made in non-traditional avenues, especially if your training is in a totally different area.
I asked an employee who works one day a week in my office and stays home the other days if she gets similar questions. She does not. I can only imagine that because my name is on the building that I’m expected to be there all the time. I also think it makes people uncomfortable that someone can actually leave a good, full time job when maybe they don’t feel able to do that themselves.
Suggestions For Those Wanting to Work Less
I honestly believe anyone can change their position if they are motivated enough. However, if you want to walk away from a sure thing, keep a few points in mind.
- Pay Off Your Debts-There is no way I could do this if we still had credit card debt.
- Have a Backup Plan– I still plan to work part time for three separate offices. If one of those positions falls through, I have the others as backup. We also have rental income. Don’t be in a rush and make mistakes. It took two years to orchestrate all the details to make this happen. Don’t quit your job unless you are have extensive savings, a good severance package, or the next payday lined up, preferably with multiple income streams.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different– People generally don’t make plans past tomorrow. They get into debt, and have to work to pay it off. While some love working long hours, many are there just for the paycheck. If you can walk away, proving that it can be done, it makes you odd. Sadly, many people would rather believe you inherited some money or did something illegal rather than worked hard and made plans to live on less.
Of course I could always tell people to mind their own business, but that isn’t my way. My staff and I came up with a rather funny list of things they can tell patients when asked why I’m only there once a week. So far my favorite is that I am training for the next Olympics!
Do I miss working full time and being on top of everything? Honestly, not at all, which tells me the time was certainly right. If you are considering cutting back your work schedule, it can be done, just prepare for some strange questions and get excited about being odd.
Have you ever walked away from a good paying, full time job? Am I being too sensitive, or it there a stereotype about who should stay home?