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New Jersey Father Keeping Career on Track

A tax compliance specialist at Ernst & Young, Roger Studwell is the first man in the accounting firm's three New Jersey offices to go on a flexible work schedule.

He decided to cut back his hours 13 months ago, when he and his wife of nine years had their first child. With their combined incomes (his wife is an attorney) they could have afforded a nanny, but they wanted to be the ones to raise their son.

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"We always felt that to have a family, we were going to be the primary caregivers. Otherwise, what's the point?" Mr. Studwell says. "But we both wanted to keep our careers on track too."

So last November, Studwell started working 27 hours a week, Monday through Wednesday; he stays home with their son, Colin, Thursdays and Fridays. During the firm's 10-week busy season, he puts in 55-hour, six-day weeks.

He credits his new schedule with allowing him to bond with his young son, something his own father's career never allowed.

"I read to him; I play with him; we go through colors; we'll do three letters a day," he chimes. "It's been an incredibly fantastic, great experience."

As for his own career, he says he hasn't sacrificed anything, although he admits that partner is probably out of the question.

"At this point in my career, I feel I can be very good at predicting where I would be if I spent 60 hours a week versus 30 hours a week working, and the difference is marginal - the economic gain is not marginal - but that's not the most important thing."

It's also boosted his own job. He says the firm uses him more efficiently now because it recognizes that he's not in the office for endless hours. "I feel more like a hired gun, as opposed to a catchall," he says. He's also more loyal.

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Still, he's had to shrug off underlying attitudes from many of his co-workers - mostly men - that he's not a "fast tracker."

"You certainly get the vibes from some people that you're not a serious player, but I don't care."

On the other hand, he's gotten a few quiet inquires from men who want to know what it's like on a flexible schedule.

His advice: "By all means, if financially possible, do it, because the rewards are so much more for you and your child than for your career for that small amount of time."

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