Your Most Pressing Work Questions Answered

Balancing Work and Family

Q. I'm the only one in my office with a baby, and I fear my coworkers are envious of my flexible schedule. Add in the fact that I rush home at 5 instead of going out to happy hour with everyone like I used to, and I feel totally ostracized. Does balancing work and family have to mean losing office friends?

A. Do they also scream when you get a blue cup and they get a red one? Oh, wait, that's the kids. Coworkers don't care so much about cups, but leaving at the stroke of 5 p.m. to pick up the baby at daycare can definitely incur their petty jealousies. What they might not realize is that you've actually done them a favor by breaking the ice about flextime in your office. They could need the same benefit in order to care for an elderly parent, take a college course, or even get home to a child of their own someday. "When the time comes and you can give them advice on how to negotiate a flexible schedule, you'll see resentments melt away," says Nancy Glube, of Human Resources Consortium, a management-consulting firm in Atlanta. In the meantime, consider the possibility that they're not upset -- and that it's just you feeling self-conscious and disconnected. Of course, to maintain good relationships at work, the most important thing is to make sure you keep pulling your weight. Having a baby isn't an excuse to dump stuff on other people. But it wouldn't hurt to invite coworkers out to lunch now and then -- or even arrange for someone else to get home for the baby so you can join in at the occasional happy hour, just like you did in the old days.

Originally published in the April 2009 issue of Parents magazine.

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