Family friendly work-life balance may mean working odd hours

I often wonder about what a family-friendly work-life balance is. I perceive it through certain practices and policies as well as through tacit and explicit assertions and exhortations. Does it mean never sending a work-related e-mail outside the Monday-Friday, nine to five envelope? I have colleagues who adhere strictly to this practice. Others who don't. 

Now, I work in an educational institution. I have a family and kids. Nursery and soon school will be setting the social clock and calendar. And, I make other choices: commuting to work by bicycle (environmental transport policy) and doing something approaching my fair share of nursery runs, cooking and other domestic duties (equality and diversity policy). This means the time available to me Monday to Friday is more like 10:00 to 4:00 with a 40 minute cycle ride either side. I do need a lunch break to refuel. So at most, Monday to Friday, nine to five I can put in about five hours of work a day. This could leave me something like 10 hours a week short of my contracted hours.

I enjoy a working environment, line management and colleagues who are not clock watchers. I do not work all my waking hours. But, I do work in the early mornings, evenings and weekends as well as on the weekdays. However I do also sometimes feel that there is pressure to conform more closely to social norms: that it is somehow wrong or inappropriate to do work that is time-stamped outside the nine to five. Should I go online now and look at the developing conversation on the VLE? What kind of signal do I send if I post a message at 11:00 p.m. on a Saturday night? Will people think I have just rolled in from the pub? Actually, my partner went out. I was with the two boys. One of them woke up at about 10:00, crying. It took 20 minutes to settle him. So should I log on now?

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