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Should You Scale Back at Work?

When you're focused on succeeding, taking a step back can feel unnatural. Yet some time-crunched parents are doing just that, taking cuts in pay, responsibility, or title to spend more time with family, says John Drake, author of Downshifting. If you're considering it, ask yourself the following:

? How will your finances change? Don't forget that expenses like childcare, dry cleaning, and takeout may decrease and that your tax situation may change. "Some people find their net income isn't much less, due to reduced taxes," says Drake.

? Are your expectations realistic? While spending more time with your child is gratifying, you may pine for the fulfillment, challenge, and authority of your old job. Will more time with your family compensate for that?

? Is your partner supportive? Will he resent being the main breadwinner? Will he expect you to do more than your fair share of housework? Make sure you're on the same page.

? Would you want to stay at the same company? If so, you'll need to get your boss on board. Research whether there's a policy that applies, and whether any coworkers have taken similar steps. Nail down specifics for a proposal: Which tasks are you hoping to drop or keep? Is the shift temporary or indefinite? How will you meet performance goals with the new arrangement, and how will it benefit the company? (Reduced salary costs and greater productivity, for instance.)

If you decide to leave: Expect prospective employers to ask why you're taking a step back in your career. Be up front, but make it clear that you left your previous position because of specific features of the job, not because you were unwilling to work hard. You might say, "The hours were inflexible, and my family was suffering from my absence. I tried to work out a different schedule, but it wasn't possible. I give every job 110 percent, but I'm seeking a more manageable routine."

Check out the Working Mother 100 Best Companies list to see if your employer made the cut!

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