You have indeed been unhappy for a while it seems. Are you a person who has "status quo bias"? how have you made other big decisions in life? is the pay cut such a big deal given you will have another class year bump coming up?
Unhappy? I wouldn't say I'm unhappy. I like my work, I love my family, we live in a friendly neighborhood, we have financial security, everything is pretty great except for this one problem. But it wasn't until I recently went back and looked through my blog archives that I realized how long I've been feeling this way.
Do I have "status quo bias"? Let's see. According to Wikipedia, status quo bias is "an irrational preference for the current state of affairs." It includes elements of "loss aversion, existence bias [if it exists, it must be good], endowment effect [you value something more if you already have it], longevity [maybe the longer a situation goes on, the harder it is to change?], mere exposure [frequent exposure = good], and regret avoidance."
Yeah, I have that. I need to be convinced that I'm unhappy before I can believe that another situation is likely to be better.
How have I made other big decisions in life? I think about them very carefully, over a long time, and then I make a plan and act on it.
Is the pay cut [if I go part time] a big deal? Not to me... if part time is real.
As I see it, there are three alternatives:
1) Try to rearrange my work schedule to fit in my other priorities.
Maybe If I worked really hard at managing my time, accepting that some days or weeks are going to be terrible and then taking advantage of the other days or weeks to be out of the office and spend more time with my family, it could work out... but I don't think I have the discipline or control over my schedule to do this on a regular basis, and my kids are too young to take a long view and say, "Well, we haven't seen Mom all week, but she'll be around next week."
So, while at times I still think that I could make it work if I just tried hard enough, I'm starting to believe that this is impossible. The numbers of hours just don't add up.
2) Work part-time to have more hours for non-work priorities.
I'm willing to try this. I think it's probably the next step I will take, if I can get JW on board. But, like many commenters, I'm skeptical. I think it will be just as hard to draw boundaries as it is now, and I'll end up basically having the same schedule for less money and more hassle (because I'll be constantly explaining about my schedule and pushing back). The possibility of a true-up if I hit the full-time billable minimum is nice, but it's not the point. To me that just means the part-time scheme failed.
3) Leave and get a new job with less demanding hours expectations.
Here's where my status quo bias kicks in and I question whether a new job will be any better, unless it has significantly less responsibility. In addition to the other aspects of my current job that I like, I have a pretty easy commute and a lot of flexibility when I'm not crazy busy. Like, yesterday I had an 8 p.m. conference call, so I left at 3:30, picked up the kids, and then sat back down at my laptop at 7:45. I didn't have to clear it with anyone because I don't have a boss. I just let the people I'm working with know I wouldn't be available during that time. How can I find a job that will give me that kind of flexibility?
Of course, I imagine doing that kind of a thing a lot more often that I actually DO it, because something always seems to come up. But I do take regular advantage of the flexibility by coming in late after dropping off the kids, leaving early for pickup when JW is traveling, and running the occasional weekday errand. Which makes me go back to considering #1.
I guess there are actually two more alternatives: (0) do nothing, or (4) leave and be a SAHM. (0) is what I'm doing now and I think something needs to change. (4) we can't really afford, JW would hate it, and up until about two weeks ago, I had never in my life had the slightest desire to be a SAHM. But then I started to envy the other moms at kindergarten dropoff, who would let their younger kids run off to the playground while I left mine at daycare. And I would really love to be there when K gets out of school in the afternoon. Still, I think I'm romanticizing being with the kids more. In reality, sometimes our time together is golden and perfect and filled with love and laughter, and sometimes I long for my quiet office where I can focus on something I think is interesting without anyone whining about snacks or wiping something sticky on me.
In a way considering any alternative under than "do nothing" feels like failure. Not because I couldn't hack it, but because I feel like I SHOULD be able to make this work if I just tried hard enough.