I worked long hours — as do many others — in the demanding industry of corporate design and architecture.  The hours were worth it, though, as I was passionate about design and about discovering myself in my career.  Surrounding the birth of my first child, though I welcomed the new role of being a mom, at the same time I didn’t want my pregnancy or motherhood to be construed as a sign of weakness at my job.  


Fortunately, due to years of hard work, my husband and I were both established in our careers by the time we had our son, and were able to afford a nanny.  So I quickly returned to my demanding, stressful career.  


Then a year and a half later, we got hit by a shock: my husband was diagnosed with cancer.  It was a difficult and humbling experience — to say nothing of the fact that I was now pregnant with our second child.  After a long, grueling road, my husband was in remission, at which point achieving balance and quality of life was now more important than anything else.  Just the same, I continued working hard, thinking I was being a good role model for the other women in my office.  But in reality, I was showing them that women had to work long hours, sacrificing time away from home to achieve success and be able to afford a nanny.  The truth was, it was getting hard to keep up.  


So I had to find courage.  I had to approach my boss with a request to work only 4 days a week.  Although my firm had offered this option to other employees in our other offices, no one in management had been granted the flexible hours in our NYC office.  I’d thought of making the request before, when I only had one child, but I was afraid of the potential consequences to my career.  


But now I really had no choice.


Thankfully, my firm was supportive.  They told me they would rather retain good, talented people like myself than hire someone new.  


And to tell you the truth, it’s been amazing!  Don’t get me wrong: I’m still stressed and bogged down with deadlines every day.  But I now have 3-day weekends to spend more time with my family.  And I can honestly say that after being brave and opening up this new path, I feel I’m a better role model than ever for the younger women working in my office.

~ Virginia Castillo
Senior Associate 
New York, NY


Rhoda is the founder of FemininePowerCircle.com.

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