Laura Riegel / Posted 4.30.2013
Working with Baby Q&A: Corey Snipes
Nearly two years ago, Susan and Corey Snipes had their first child, Amelie. Prior to their daughter’s birth, Corey was the co-owner of a consulting business. With Amelie’s arrival, Corey chose to reevaluate his work setup and made some changes to improve his and his family’s life.
Corey took some time out of his schedule to chat with Meta Q about what it’s like to be a working parent.
“Amelie was definitely a motivation for me to take a really hard look at how I was spending my time, what I was earning and how much work I was putting in to earn my income,” he said. “It made me look at how happy I was with all the different areas of my life. And I really had to prioritize. I just didn’t want to be the unhappy dad who hates his job. I wanted to be the dad who was willing to make hard changes and structure his life in the way that he wanted it to be.”
MQ: What was your work schedule like before having a baby?
CS: I was working fifty to sixty hours a week. I was the co-owner of a consulting business, and we had a lot of projects and clients I was responsible for. I was getting pretty burned out. I decided before Amelie was born, I actually didn’t like the job I had created for myself. No evening or weekend was sacred. I was literally working all the time.
MQ: What was it like during maternity/paternity leave? How has it changed post-baby?
CS: I took about three weeks off entirely once Amelie was born and then started back at approximately ten hours a week and ramped up from there. Right now I work between twenty and thirty hours a week and vary rarely work weekends.
Weekdays are a pretty complicated set of handoffs between Susan, myself and our nanny. But we do have a schedule.
One other thing that is different now is I have set work hours, and I tend to stick to them. I had to rearrange a lot of stuff in my life to get to this point.
MQ: How else has it changed?
CS: I get to spend most of Tuesdays and Thursdays one-on-one with Amelie. She and I go to play dates, music class and kids’ activities. It’s really super fun, and it is a part of my week I value a lot. I try to work in a bunch of housework those days too.
Another change is I work from home most of the time. I have an office, but I am rarely in the office. I get to put that commute time back into family and work.
MQ: Has your job position or type of work changed since having a baby?
CS: Yes, drastically. Having Amelie was probably the biggest professional shift in my life since starting my own business in 2005.
“I have found the greatest degree of happiness if I feel like I don’t have a lot of other external needs pulling me different directions.”
I split up my consulting firm, and my partner took over most of the clients. I took a really hard look at the work I was doing and shed lots of projects that were either time or money sinks. I moved myself to more or less one project at a time developing and consulting, which was drastically different from what I was doing before.
I raised my billing rates a lot and was able to cut out a lot of ongoing expenses by splitting up the company.
These changes have allowed me to work twenty to thirty hours a week, instead of fifty to sixty. It was hard to pull the new setup together, but it is definitely a key piece of where I am now with my work/life balance.
Also, I am generally a lot more focused. I have found the greatest degree of happiness if I feel like I don’t have a lot of other external needs pulling me different directions from what I am doing in the moment.
MQ: What were your expectations about becoming a working parent, pre-baby? How have they changed after having a child?
CS: I didn’t have a lot of preconceived notions about how it was going to be. I just knew it would be really hard, and I needed to make some big changes. And all that turned out to be true.
Also I knew that having flexible work arrangements would be very important. Susan and I are very lucky in that we have a lot of say over how we spend our time. A lot of professions aren’t setup to support this flexibility. The location and time independence is pretty key, and it helps to work in a field where there is a lot of work too.
MQ: Tell us about a typical day in your life as a working parent.
CS: On my busy days, Mondays and Wednesdays, I get up at six, walk our dog and have coffee. While Susan and Amelie are getting ready, I work a little to prep for the day. Then I take Susan to work and drop Amelie off at the nanny’s house. I then come back home and start my day in earnest. I break generally midmorning to take a shower and eat breakfast and then work till about 1:30, when I go pick everybody up. Once back home, I work from 2:30-5:00. Then from about 5:00 to 8:30 we have dinner, family time and I walk our dog again. Once Amelie is in bed, I go back and work. This is sort of optional work time. It just depends on how much is going on. But by the end of the evening, I am totally wiped out.
Then Tuesday and Thursday I get to hang out with Amelie till mid afternoon, which is super fun. And on Fridays Amelie is with Susan, and I work kind of a normal day. Usually I get out a little early in the afternoon, and I don’t work most weekends.
All said, it is a fairly fragile structure. We are all very interdependent. If there is trouble in our schedule, it tends to throw a lot of things into disarray. But it doesn’t happen that often. So we just deal with it.
MQ: How have you arranged your child care (daycare, nanny, work from home, etc)?
CS: We arranged it through a client of Susan’s. The client and Susan were both on a mailing list geared towards Denver moms. The client put up a post saying someone she had worked with and really liked as a doula was getting into the childcare business; and if anyone was looking for a nanny, they should get in touch. So Susan contacted the nanny, and we really liked her.
MQ: How would you arrange your childcare in an ideal world?
CS: I like how we have our childcare set up. Despite its fragility and feeling like I could always use a couple more hours in the week, it seems like a pretty good balance. I am able to get a lot of work done when I need to, and Susan feels the same. She and I both are able to be around Amelie a lot during the week. And since I get to spend a fair amount of time with my Amelie on Tuesdays and Thursdays (plus all the other family time when I am not working), it is a really good balance for me.
“Amelie is learning a lot outside of us. We aren’t the only people raising our daughter.”
Also Amelie is learning a lot outside of us. We aren’t the only people raising our daughter. She is getting a bit more exposure to other people and other styles of learning. Also her care is pretty individualized. It is either just Amelie or Amelie and one other kid at the nanny’s house.
MQ: How do you try to achieve a happy work-life balance?
CS: I try as much as I can to not overcommit on either side of the family/work equation so I can really focus on what I am doing. When I am with family or when I am at work, I try to set myself up so I don’t feel like I should be doing the other thing.
I have restructured my company and work life to support a really high degree of time and location independence and seek out clients who support these things as well. I have been really lucky. I was able to say, “This is how I want my professional life to be.” And I was able to make it happen.
Dumping my expenses and raising my hourly rate so that I can work less and earn the same amount was pretty key for me too.
MQ: What's one thing you wished someone had told you before you became a working parent?
CS: It was tough for me. I don’t think I had a lot of surprises, but I did spend a lot of time feeling like I was inventing things for myself from scratch. It was really tough for me to find role models or people writing about being a part-time working dad. So much information is geared toward moms with a small but growing body of information for full-time stay-at-home dads.
MQ: Any other words of wisdom or thoughts you would pass along to other future working parents?
CS: Time is the most valuable commodity. Everything that I’ve done that contributes to me feeling like things are working or feeling happy with myself has been primarily about rearranging and maximizing my time and having location independence. The amount of time you are able to take out of things like commuting or hobbies you aren’t getting much out of and instead put towards family and work will go a long way towards happiness.
Print and Web Designer at Q Digital Studio
Laura Riegel is Q Digital Studio's print and web designer, originally hailing from Kentucky. She happily calls Colorado home, as Denver perfectly suits her hobbies of skiing, camping and mountain biking. Equal parts creative and practical; Laura loves the challenges and joys of both designing and coding.