Real parents: Nicole Leung

Nicole Leung
Parents of 18-month-old Dylan
Created more family time by working nontraditional schedules

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Nicole Leung and her husband Steven have found a way to make the traditional 9-to-5 (or 8-to-6, or even worse) schedule work for their family: ditch it altogether. Nicole works from home two days a week and is in the office the other three; Steven is home with 18-month-old Dylan during the day and teaches violin in the late afternoon and evenings. The result is a lot more family time together, but the schedule still requires a knack for organization.

How did you arrange this work schedule?
Steven has always worked at night because he teaches violin. I started to talk to my manager before I started maternity leave. We have several people who are off-campus, so I kind of lucked out. I knew I didn’t want to be gone every day away from Dylan.

What are some of the challenges of this schedule?

Communication. We e-mail each other more so than calling. We have a white erase board in the kitchen. Sometimes things get a little too "tasky" — we’re focused on everything we have to do and not on just being.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we’re kind of passing each other by, but at least we’re in the house together. On Mondays and Wednesdays I come home and we literally just do a hand-off.

One of the keys to this is I have a husband who is a real parent. My husband doesn’t "help out." He is a full parent who can do anything I can do. He started out that way. When Dylan was born Steven took a month off a work.

What are some of the benefits?
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we’re actually in the house together. Sometimes we’ll just choose to be in the house together alone. We sit down and have lunch together.
When I’m home, I can walk the dog. Sometimes I get up early and bike. And Steven gets a break those two days.

What advice do you have for other families juggling complicated schedules?
Set up a communication plan! We both have calendars on our computer. And use your strengths. One of my strengths is I can get on the computer and schedule. One of Steven’s strengths is to be really thorough, so maybe he’ll pack Dylan’s lunch.

Dylan goes to bed at 7:30. When Steven is done teaching about 8:30, we have a conversation about logistics and set things out for the next day.

Right now, we’re scheduling everything around Dylan’s schedule, but we’re still flexible within that. We ask each other to do a lot of stuff. It’s important to have an affectionate "please-and-thank-you" appreciation for each other. Sometimes we can forget that and get robotic.

Want to be featured in real parents? 

We’re looking for real parents — parents who aren’t famous but perhaps should be, people from whom we could all learn a little something. Maybe they’ve faced a challenge or come up with a unique solution or are living their lives in a particularly inspiring way. If that’s you or someone you know, send an e-mail to [email protected].

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