When Happy Hour Isn’t an Option… Or Is It?

A while ago, I read a piece in the Wall Street Journal called When Happy Hour Isn’t An Option, Finding Time to Network. The author, Katherine Rosman, wrote that since she lived an hour from her job, she raced home just in time to get her kids to bed. But since she did this every night, she missed out on networking opportunities when her colleagues or people in her industry met for happy hours. She asked for suggestions on how to network during different times.

Certainly, there’s nothing magical about happy hours. In many cases, companies and industries are far too reliant on them, because they’re so easy. Stick people in a bar and voila! You’ve created a social occasion. More creative ideas would include having people meet for lunch, for coffee, for breakfasts, or (my personal favorite) the networking play date. Seriously. If you’ve got colleagues or contacts whose kids are the same age, have them over to play on a weekend!

But Rosman’s article raised a few issues that come up again and again in discussions of how to combine a Big Career with going full-in on the parenting front as well:

* Think long and hard about building a long commute into your life. Yes, you’ll have more room in the ‘burbs, and your money will go farther. On the other hand, if you quit your job because you can’t stomach the commute, or you don’t pursue advancement because sometimes you’ll have to stay late, you won’t come out ahead. I do understand that these days, many people have had to change jobs and can’t sell their houses, or two spouses have had to take jobs far from each other. But it is something to think about in the long term.

* Think in terms of 168 hours, not 24. Your kids do not need to see you every evening. They should see you most evenings, but the situation Rosman described was creating real inefficiencies. She didn’t do the networking she needed to do to advance her career, but she was still only getting a few minutes with her kids before bedtime. Perhaps it would work better to choose two nights to socialize and get home after the kids went to bed. Then another night or two a week she could consciously try to take an earlier train (Fridays are good for that). Or keep the kids up a little later. An extra 15 minutes means more time for stories.

If you have a family, do you ever go to networking happy hours?

2 thoughts on “When Happy Hour Isn’t an Option… Or Is It?

  1. You should definitely think long and hard about a long commute: a study cited by Sheena Iyengar in The Art of Choosing showed that not only is commuting by far the most unpleasant part of the average person’s day, adding just 20 minutes to your commute is 1/5 as harmful to your well-being as losing your job.

  2. I absolutely agree that one does not need to be home every night. In fact, since our children were very young (they are now 9 and 14), I have structured my work so I work 2-3 long days per week (10-14 hours per day, usually).

    I work in health care, so these opportunities are there for me. Also, my profession has been scalable, so that I can work more or less as needed for my sanity. My specialty doesn’t penalize those who flex their work schedules and hours as much as some might; this was not an accidental choice for me, since I began this line of work after I had children.

    The evenings my husband has with our children get me out of the equation, force them to find their own equilibrium, and encourage an individual relationship between each of our children and my husband. Also, I almost entirely avoid the scenario I truly hate: Get home at 5:30, rush dinner, rush homework, rush to bed. Chores/more work/husband time later — maybe.

    Whether the evening hours are spent networking or finishing up paperwork, I think more dual-earner couples could benefit from giving the other partner a pass for one “free” late night a week.

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