Family Friendly lines of work?
September 3, 2008 5:46 AM   Subscribe

What fields are kind[er] to working parents?

I've read through this question, but am still wondering which fields might be more family friendly than others. It's rather obvious by my previous AskMe questions that I won't stay in my current field of mechanical engineering (at least in defense work), and I want to give myself a couple of years' head start to build up expertise in a new field before having kids. But I also want it to be a field that won't eat my personal life - I have no interest in climbing corporate ladders of any sort, and a greater interest in just remaining challenged on a professional level while raising a family. Fittingly, a big pay cut is fine if I can save on child care/commuting/wardrobe/other work costs.

While I know this is something that will vary based on company and circumstances and that it might be The Mythical and Fabled Perfect Setup, are there any particular fields or setups you've seen that worked well? Bonus points for desk-ish work, flexible hours (part-time is okay), and things that utilize a science/engineering background.

Thanks! I've always found AskMe to be really good for these sorts of questions, and I'm hoping this is no exception.
posted by universal_qlc to Work & Money (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You might consider doing consulting or contracting work - you have more control over your time and will earn what you do now. You will, however, not have health insurance.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:41 AM on September 3, 2008

I've enjoyed working in higher education and find it relatively family-friendly (at least compared to what my corporate friends say). The pay isn't what you'd make in the outside world, but it's relatively low-stress most of the time. Without a PhD you wouldn't be able to teach, but there are lots of non-classroom opportunities, especially at large universities (student advising, grants and contracts, recruiting, community outreach/programming are just a few). As a woman in a male-dominated field you might also consider working for one of the non-profits that promote math, science and technology to girls and young women.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:52 AM on September 3, 2008

Not really what you've been doing, but there's a shortage of Nurses in the US, and the time is generally pretty flexible. One of my parents worked 8-4 (engineer) and the other worked eves/nights (RN) which in the end meant we didn't have too many baby sitters. There are other medical technical fields which would also have that sort of shift-work ability.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:54 AM on September 3, 2008

Creative positions tend to be more flexible, in my experience.
Also, any job that includes a large amount of time out of the office...field work, etc. Generally, anything that includes a large amount of autonomy tends to be more family-friendly.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:06 AM on September 3, 2008

Response by poster: D'oh, I had meant that I had read this question.
posted by universal_qlc at 7:13 AM on September 3, 2008

Instead of changing careers entirely why not continue to use your engineering skills for a family friendly company? A CMA I know was tired of the long hours at his work and so took a small paycut (but a big vacation boost) to work 9-4 for a social services agency. Working Mother magazine has a list you can look at.

I have worked in a family friendly field (education) and while most of my experience was really positive and my principals were VERY understanding of work-life balance I did work in one school that was awful. You really don't want to hear what my principal said to me when I asked for a day off to attend my daughter's funeral.

If you were up for it, maybe a change in culture would suit you. Every developed nation except the US has paid maternity leave and stronger protection for working mothers (as do some developing nations, especially former communist statesl) . Personally, I work in public libraries and my husband is on a nine month paid parental leave from his library (I just had five paid months off). I choose to work in libraries because it is family friendly. Paid parental leave is a federal programme in Canada so almost all employees get it (not the self employed though).
posted by saucysault at 7:25 AM on September 3, 2008

Teaching grade or secondary school. You'll have essentially the same schedule as your school-aged kids.
posted by orange swan at 9:41 AM on September 3, 2008

I will just second what Sweetie Darling said above about higher education. I am a university professor and it is the most family friendly job I know. Yes, you would need to get a PhD, but in a lot of fields you are paid (although poorly) to do this. Plus, in some fields (like business and engineering) faculty salaries are quite good.
posted by bove at 10:12 AM on September 3, 2008

I am a university professor and it is the most family friendly job I know.

Really?! The university professors I have known work insane hours. I'm told the divorce rate among professors is really high.
posted by orange swan at 12:59 PM on September 3, 2008

I think being a professor is a family friendly job because of:

a)the flexibility of your schedule and workplace. Other than the time you are actually in class, you are in complete control over when, where, and how much you work.

b) the benefits. Universities generally have great benefit packages. I also was able to add a year onto my tenure clock due to the birth of a child.

You still have to work hard, and tenure pressure may be what is causing what orange swan is referring to, but I love this job. If anyone wants to talk more about this, just MeMail me.
posted by bove at 1:32 PM on September 3, 2008

Bove, in America university professors are often required to attend many meetings. Some professors have suggested that the frequency of these meetings is ridiculous.

To answer the OP, I would have to say that family friendly jobs for men are relatively easy to come by. A man tells his boss/coworkers that he needs to pick the kid(s) up from daycare and most people think that's cute. A woman needs to pick up the kid(s) from daycare and she's "got a sense of entitlement, doesn't she realize we stay here till 5, everyday?"

Allow me to suggest a perusal of any book by Arlie Hochschild. She has a lot of great Sociologist insight on this topic and may provide some suggests for what to look for in a job. Also, how this cultural expectation that men bring "more than one person to work" and women bring "less than one person to work" affects each half of a pair bonded couple. (Men generally have someone at home to do the washing/ironing/cooking/diapering of babies. Women generally are the ones doing those tasks in addition to their work tasks. So men can focus on work when they're at work, but some part of a woman's mind is allegedly "always at home.")
posted by bilabial at 2:56 PM on September 3, 2008

Second what saucysault said about Working Mother magazine. I work for a company on the list, and I have to admit that they have been the most family friendly company I have worked for.
posted by kenliu at 8:48 PM on September 3, 2008

I work from home as an independent consultant. My costs are very low and I write off business use of home and vehicle. I have two small children who are not in daycare or with a nanny. I make a good living, given the time I have available.

Where I live, two kids in daycare cost $30k. A nanny is $40k. So, if you split the difference, a parent at home has an economic value of $35k right away. (Where I live, childcare is tax deductible, so I'm not deducting that.) A parent at home does not have commuting costs. Depending on your situation, that might be worth another $5k a year (before tax). A parent at home may also be in a better position to shop sales, make healthy meals, grocery shop or clean the home. (I have a house cleaner and I pay for grocery delivery.) A parent at home may have lower clothing, grooming and drycleaning costs. This might be worth yet another $5k before tax.

So, let's say that same parent generates $20k a year in income. The income ends up all being written off. I don't know what the tax rate is where you are, but it's about 33% marginal tax rate for someone earning $70k or so where I am. So take the $35k childcare + $5k commuting + $5k costs = $45k + (20k/.67)=$30k. Thus a parent at home earning $20k is really worth more like $75k in income. And that's just someone earning $20k and it doesn't even begin to touch on all the other benefits that might be achieved.

And that's with just $20k in income, which is pretty modest. (I make more than that, so I see it as modest, anyway.)
posted by acoutu at 9:43 PM on September 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

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