Cloud has an awesome post about work-life balance with a couple of great points:
1. If you don't ask for it, your boss won't know what you need
2. Everyone is entitled to work-life balance, not just moms or parents
Go read it and then come back.
About once a month, I get pinged by someone at work who wants to know how they can set up a part-time schedule. My short answer? I asked for it.
The longer answer? I knew it was a priority for my family, and I didn't back down. Returning from maternity leave, I would have quit if I had to go back to working the 45+ hours a week, 5 days in the office plus more-time-from-home schedule I had before I left.
The first answer I got was "I don't think we can make that work." So I went home that day prepared to start cleaning out my office. And then the next day, got an email saying that they could, in fact, make it work.
Note that I didn't threaten to quit during the first conversation. I just laid out what exact schedule worked for me.
But in order to do this, I had to stop being afraid. I've got a huge fear of failure. It's probably one of my worst traits (aside from the inability to stop eating stuff that's bad for me). I'm a Type-A perfectionist who wants her gold stars.
I liked being GREAT at my job and being needed. I loved the high review scores, big bonuses, promotions and special awards. I was the rat who figured out how to press the lever to get the little food pellets. That's what made me happy.
Until it didn't anymore. My life changed completely when I had T. I considered becoming a SAHM, something I had never given a single thought to before. In a few short months, my entire life focus shifted to something even more motivating than those shiny gold stars.
And that's when I realized I was no longer afraid. What if they turned down my request to work part-time? Well, then I wouldn't work. And we were ok with that. If I absolutely HAD to work, I would have worked full-time.
Each year, the familiar nervousness creeps back around performance review time. Did I do well enough to get the rewards? By working part-time I've chosen to make a compromise in this area. Since I'm working less, I get compensated less. Since we're "graded on a curve", my coworkers putting in 60 hours are getting better rankings than I am.
I can't rant about the unfairness of that, because they have chosen to make work "their thing". I used to be very afraid of getting a "bad score" and I still stress out about that. But what if I do? The scenario that plays out is not really the end of the world.
The worst possible case is that it's so low that I'm asked to leave. But that's unlikely as it's a very small percentage of folks who get that score. If I did, maybe the job or team is not a good fit for me. Any other low score would mean a small or no bonus, which is a bummer, but not a tragedy.
Fear just gets in the way of doing great work *and* having the life I want. If I'm too afraid to ask for a flexible work arrangement, one is not just going to miraculously drop from the sky. If I work harder and longer hours to assuage my fears of getting a bad review, I'm going to miss out on the other things I like to do, and I'm not respecting my own priorities. Fear makes people do a lot of things they don't truly WANT to do and that is really no good.
I have a hard time sympathizing with people who SAY they want flexibility but then don't assert themselves to get it (this happens a lot). Yes, it takes balls to do this. But the upside is pretty great.
Once I stopped being afraid of hypothetical "bad things" happening to me at work, I felt a lot more free to find work I wanted to do, a team I liked, and just plain happiness. Who can argue with that?
So, how bad do you want it?