Job Sharing

Topics

Background

I think the seeds of my thinking on job-sharing were planted during the time I lived in Botswana, when my parents shared a job. They were co-directing the country program of an aid agency called CUSO. It was the first time in our lives that my father had worked less than full-time, and we loved the opportunity to spend more time with him. At the same time, my mom was working more than she ever had, and taking on new challenges that were clearly major growth experiences for her. I learned a lot from watching how she handled the stresses, and watching how my parents worked out an appropriate division of job responsibilities together.

As I got closer to marrying and having my own kids, I thought a lot about how I might have an active role in raising them. I wanted to avoid working all the time throughout my kids' childhoods. How that might work, I wasn't quite sure. I imagined alternating years, with my wife taking off the last bit of pregnancy and most of the first year, and then me taking off the next year. If the kids were spaced two years apart, I suppose it would be possible, given two very understanding employers or a lot of job changes.

When I became involved with the woman who eventually became my wife, my thinking changed a bit. Our qualifications were very similar, including both our academic background and our work experience--so much so that when we met we probably could have switched jobs with only modest disruption. The possibility of job-sharing as spouses was something we talked about fairly early on.

Ultimately we did marry and have a child. We assessed the parental leave situation, and decided that the eight weeks her employer gave at the time was not enough. She decided to leave her job and stay out of the workforce for a year. Because the benefits were better and the job involved a lot less traveling than the job I had at the time, I decided to apply for her job--very much a Daddy-track decision. Largely because our qualifications were so similar, I was offered the job.

A year later, my wife wanted to come back into the workforce and I wanted to get partway out, so we made a proposal to share slightly more than one position between the two of us.

How It Worked at Our Employer Then:

How It Works at Our Current Employer:

Advantages

There are a great many benefits to this system, both for us and the employer:

Disadvantages

There are also a few disadvantages:

Conclusion

We feel the system we have is working well for us, our children, and our employer. It's not perfect, but it's a good compromise. We would encourage others to explore such arrangements with their employers. The more people push for humane, balanced approaches to work and home, the better our society will be in the long run. We need the flexibility to allow some to work full-time, some to be at home full-time, and some to choose paths in between. No one choice is right for all families. Good luck in choosing a path that works for yours!


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Last Updated: 29 October 2006
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