Any Architect Moms Out There?

Updated on July 05, 2012
E.F. asks from Saint Louis, MO
4 answers

I feel like I am all alone!! I am the only female in my position in my firm and all of my architect girl friends either have no kids or their kids are all grown up. Here's my question - is it possible to be a good project architect if you only work part time? Do any firms allow that? I have 3 kids in elementary school, all involved in before and after school activities and my husband runs his own business. I work 18 miles from home, in rush hour it is a 45 min. to 1 hour drive one way. I am also a runner. I get up around 4:30 every day to run. I regularly run in races, anywhere from 5 Ks to full marathons. I refuse to give up my running because it is one thing that keeps me sane! My husband's schedule is all over the place, so often times I drop off kids in morning and pick up at night. With drive time, kids schedules, etc., I get pinched at work - in order to get 8 hours in a day I have to skip lunch (usually about 4 days a week) and bring work home and work about an hour after kids go to bed. I am seriously getting burned out! I have tried all kinds of time organizing tactics at home but nothing solves it completely. I have asked the 2 owners of our firm if it would be possible for me to reduce my hours to 32 - 36 hours a week - somewhere in there. They basically said NO - and here are their reasons: As a project architect I am in charge of the whole project, including overseeing support people - I need to be here full time to do that (I don't think so, but they do). I would be getting preferential treatment, if they let me do it then they would have to let everybody else do it and then where would our firm be? (I absolutely do not believe that - all the other people here are white males with housewives, they do not need to be there for their families!!! Okay I'm being a little facetious) Nobody would want me on their projects because I would never be here and I would be unreliable. (Complete BS) It's possible projects that I work on would have to get double teamed because I would never be here. - All I asked for was 4 - 8 hours less per week less than everyone else, I am prepared for lesser pay, less vacation, etc. I would even be here every day - I would just leave a little earlier and maybe come in a little later. I believe all of their excuses are nonsense!! Oh they also think this will upset everybody else and they wouldn't want to do that. How nice of them, huh? I know other firms have mom friendly schedules, I've heard bits and pieces of stories here and there. I just don't know anyone personally who has done it. I just want to know if anyone out there is a part time proejct architect and how is it working for you and your firm? I am seriously starting to look for a new job at a different firm, but no one is hiring right now. I know I just need to stick it out until the construction industry picks up. Thanks for listening!!

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So What Happened?

Thanks for the responses - I think I was venting a little in my question also! I have worked with consultants who had flexible schedules - it seems like the medium to bigger size firms are more open to it. I actually work for a smaller firm, I kind of knew the reaction I would get from the owners when I asked them. That's why I contemplated asking for 2 years, and it turned out exactly how I expected! Yes, they are very midwestern good old boys! I think I am just going to suck it up for now, update my portfolio and take my time looking for a new place. I am also considering a career change altogether, to something a little more family friendly. I don't know what yet, but I'm doing some exploring.

More Answers


answers from Los Angeles on

I'm not an architect mom or working mom. But I do know what your life looks like. I was an interior designer in a commercial firm before staying at home. It was clear to me that I could not have any lead roles and be part time because you are expected to be available to all parties involved during business hours. Anything short of full time was an assistant position. I really don't know how working moms do deadline based project management positions (and as you are witness, few do, it really is not a mom friendly career in my observation). Its very demanding. I would say seek out a smaller firm, but this is no time to be rocking the boat in this industry. If you are willing to take a pay cut, your request sounds reasonable. But some bigger firms are really inflexible and conventional. When I went to a mid sized family owned firm, I saw a lot more flexibility for the employees. I know one working mom who was a project manager who got her time cut to 4 days a week to ride out the slow down. I know there are firms who will do it. Unfortunatly, if they are cutting hours, they' re not hiring. So you, like many other moms will probably need to white knuckle it. You could always rep product if you want more flexibility.

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answers from Dallas on

I don't know if I can help, but I am temping at a firm in TX called Architect Search. I believe they do some work nationally. Feel free to contact us

Good luck!

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answers from Honolulu on

Being in your position, no, you cannot work part time. Not as a Project Architect.
Unless you are willing to demote yourself and take other lesser positions.
And sure, even if they let you, yes, it will impact EVERYONE on the team and in the office. And the Owners. And they will need to reorganize their facilitation of projects etc.
It doesn't matter if no one else there is a Mom with kids and they are all white males with housewives. The firm, if they let you do this, they WILL hear it from the other employees and the firm will have to address this.

The Owners run their business. And this is the way it is.
You know other firms that have Mommy friendly schedule... so why don't you apply there? The firm you are in, is not conducive to that nor changing the entire firm's protocols.
If they do allow you to do that, and you are there for 4-8 hours less a week... then that typically causes a domino effect onto the other people. You are the Project Architect, but you will not be there. And even if you believe that projects you work on can be double-teamed... why should the company pay for that/the extra hours/billing/employees? And would you expect the other employees to like/enjoy being slammed with double work loads? To cover for your not being there?
And what about the Clients? You will not be there. Will they be satisfied with that, when they call for YOU and you are not there?

You need to find a position, that is more to your liking.

I used to work at an Architectural firm.
The Project Architect, worked a ton and at times, 7 days a week.
Everyone worked, tons of hours.
Including the Owners.
But times are hard now in that industry.
Firms need all the projects they can get.
If business is lagging at your Company and/or elsewhere, there are not many options.

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answers from Denver on

I'm a consulting engineer - close enough! love those good ol' boys.....grrrr. oh my, I just looked what part of the country you're in - might be a tough road to go down in St. Louis - I started my career in KC - my those Missouri boys are set in their ways! And they sure don't understand why you aren't barefoot at home in the kitchen! ok, maybe I'm being a little harsh, I left KC in 1995 - maybe it's gotten better.

I have been part-time since my first was born (he turns 11 next month). I was 30 hours for the first 3 years. then I was 8-10 hours, more as needed. both of those were with the same firm in Denver, with headquarters in CA - so they were pretty flexible. just switched jobs in January (still in Denver) - now I'm about 15 hours per week. I also know a number of people who do engineering part-time; most at 24-32 hours per week.

I gave up on being a project manager about 2 years after going super part-time. I just wasn't in the office enough to argue/maintain resources (drafters , young engineers, etc) on my projects. however, at 30 hours/week it was very, very doable to be a PM - I was co-project manager as the lead firm on a 100 million dollar treatment plant with a 7-firm consulting team. and the client hired me (oh, sorry, the firm) again - so they must have thought it was working!

here's your arguments back if you want to fight for it:
you will be in the office no less than any other senior person. seriously - senior architects/engineers aren't in the office more than 20 hours per week anyway! so, where's their reliability? wouldn't a set, shorter schedule actually be easier for everyone?
clients are already used to calling your cell. if that is a problem then forward the office phone to your cell.
you are already uber-organized. meaning - you are perfectly capable of planning your work out over the next few days so that you dovetail into your resource work plan (i.e., drafters, etc.) I'm going to guess you already do this.
will everyone else want it? who knows? the firm that I was with when I started down this part-time road had flex time for everybody. we had people training for triathalons and major bike races. we had people who went part-time for a semester or two to tackle a tough graduate course. etc, etc - it wasn't just the moms. but guess what - EVERYBODY was happier and felt more appreciated because their individual needs were recognized and taken care of. it does require good communication skills from everyone involved!
EVERY project should ALWAYS be double-teamed anyway. uh, have they heard of client service? Long before I got married and had kids, I ALWAYS made sure there was at least one person on every project who knew as much as I did - you could get hit by a bus tomorrow! Plus, if you're indispensable, you can't move to a really cool project or get promoted!

Its worked very well for both firms. I'm willing to take my hours up/down so I can take on extra work when things get busy and then drop back down - less need for the lovely hire/fire that happens frequently in our industry.

I'm sure you're wondering...if I'm not doing PM work, what am I doing? Senior technical resource type stuff. I'm the go to for the young engineers. I do a lot of QC review. I take bits and pieces of projects that can be parceled out (I.e., a pump calc, water quality calcs, etc). basically I've acted as an extension for a couple of PMs so they can work 50 hours rather than the 60+ expected in our industry.

this is doable. but it's tough in a lot of firms in our industry. and you can't walk away - more than a year away and you have to start at the bottom again - goodness gracious - you'd think they could figure this out.

you have to be very, very good at saying "no" in a way that doesn't sound like you're asking for anything special. if you keep your workload at 30-32 hours, everyone should be well served - including clients. and you will need to stay flexible - I've always been available for meetings outside of my "normal" hours if it's really needed.

good luck.

1 mom found this helpful
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