julie, texas asked Moyra J. McDill, Carleton University

AddedWednesday, March 28, 2012 at 9:39 AM

Balance Between Work and Family
I have graduated high school and got a degree in nursing but I want to change careers. I really like my chemistry and science courses I took in college an I am thinking of going back to school to become an engineer. I don't personally know any engineers to ask them about their jobs so I wanted to ask is it hard to manage your career and your family life. Do you usually work a 40 hr week?
Related to Work Environment
  • Moyra J. McDill , Carleton University
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 9:39 AM
    Dear Julie from Texas Nursing is a wonderful profession and shares many of the characteristics of engineering through the background in science and the desire and need to work with people and technology to improve our world. You might think about one of the types of engineering that sits close to your existing training - something like biomedical engineering or clinical engineering. There are many ways to find one's way through a career especially when the children are young and in that time, there are ways to keep the hours sane by careful choice of employer and looking for things like flex time and actually seeing that other parents working there use that flex time. A good partner or a good support system and family, friends and loving grandparents etc. can be a huge help when a little person needs a little extra TLC. With that said, the short answer is yes, I work 40 hours plus per week but I will share with you my situation, which is perhaps an important part of this answer. I'm a widow and mother of three and without my career we would have been in serious trouble when my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The medical and leave benefits provided by my employer made all the difference. I love what I do at work but I also love being a mum and as expensive as it is, I do things like take my children along with me to things like conferences because I want the time with them and it gives them a bit of a view of the world. Schoolwork comes with us. Other times, I have to ask family to stay with the children if I need to travel. I kept travel to a minimum when they were small and now that they are teens, I do the same. My three children are older now (14 to 20) and that makes a big difference but I have used over the years: a live out nanny; infant daycare at work (unsubsidized but it meant I could go over to breastfeed at lunch, and for years all my children knew I would visit for lunch several days a week); extended day Montessori school; and before and after school care at the neighborhood school (after school until age 12). Even though my children are older now, I still try, not always successfully, to limit office time to the standard kind of a day. I do work at home, nights and weekends as required, but I also try to make sure I drive them to their activities and things like that. All of this would be much easier with a partner, but you can see that I can do it and have been doing it on my own. Even better, I love my work and I think that must show as my older daughter is also now studying engineering. I wish you all the best, Moyra from Canada
  • Erin Gately , EPEAT Conformity Assurance Manager
    Answered Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 9:39 AM
    Hello Julie, For my entire career I have worked for Hewlett-Packard. I feel fortunate because Hewlett-Packard has a very flexible work policy. They are the kind of company that encourages you to take your vacation and to get your work done in 40 hours. I won't say I have never worked more than 40 hours a week but that has been the exception rather than the rule. As a wife and mother of 3 children, I work part time in a field where I feel that I am making a contribution. I took two leaves of absences with the births of my three children (also a policy supported by HP). I think the key to managing a career and your family life is to find a good company that cares about you as a woman and a person with a life outside the company. Each year there are lists of companies that are the best places to work for people with families. Look into those companies and see what they need. If you can find an engineering career in an area that they value, they will make things work for you. Good luck! Best regards, Erin