Career Insights from Mompowerment Contributor, Darien Sutton

Darien Sutton with partner and daughtersDarien Sutton, Manager in DHG’s Winston-Salem office and mom to two little girls, recently added book contributor to her resume with her participation in the book Mompowerment. The book features excerpts from interviews with 100 working women and asks the question, “What if you could work part-time, continuing down your professional path, and actually spend quality time with family?” In the book, Darien shares insight from her own experience working a part-time schedule at DHG.

How did you meet the author and how were you asked to contribute?

I was introduced to the author through a friend who is a professional resume writer. She knew that I had transitioned to working part-time, and she reached out to tell me about the book and that the author was interested in interviewing 100 part-time working moms all over the country. The author and I talked on the phone for about an hour, and she asked, “what does part-time look like for you?” She said that what she had learned in her interviews is that part-time is not one specific number, it’s different for everyone. It can be 90% of the time or it can mean just 20 hours a week.

How have you made a part-time schedule work for you?

Darien's daughters with dog

For me, working part-time is significantly harder than working full time. I have a lot going on outside of work. Because I’m not working a 50-60 hour week, I take on other things away from the office (I am a group fitness instructor at the YMCA, teaching before or after work or during “flex” time). I have to bounce back and forth a lot, and it might mean 30 minutes of work, then take the kids to school, work for 3 hours, and then take my daughter to violin lessons. I’ve learned to be very deliberate and efficient with my time, and I’ve also had to hone in on being present in whatever I’m doing. When I’m at work, I truly try to be at work, which is hard. When I’m in the office, I have a limited amount of time to get a lot done, so when I’m home, my kids and my husband are my focus.

My pre-kid self would have said that’s so nice, it must be such a breeze to work part-time. I hear a lot of people I work with say I don’t have time for this or that; I don’t have time to exercise. One thing I’ve learned is that you have to make the time. I often make the time at the expense of being tired. I get up early and go to the gym; it’s not my first choice, but it’s the time I have. If it’s not a big priority to you to work out, then drop it, but there’s always time. It’s entirely up to you to figure out your priorities and put them in the right order. Whatever they may be.

What is your advice for working moms when it comes to juggling it all?

Picture of Darien's daughters in dresses

Juggling is a tough term, and juggling it all is really hard. The biggest thing for me, and it’s taken me a long time to figure this out, is setting my priorities. That requires me to first figure out what the priorities are and then recognize that they will change over time. I’ve learned that I have to say no to things, that I can’t say yes to every birthday party.

I have the support and flexibility at DHG to figure out my schedule, as long as I get my work done. I also have a partner who is supportive of my decision to work part-time and he recognizes that I often have to work at night which takes away from time with him. With his crazy schedule, it is a constant give and take and we ebb and flow with who takes the lead with the kids. I am very grateful for his support.  I made the choice to work this schedule, but I do feel like people have been very supportive. I hide the challenge that I struggle with to make everyone happy. I don’t think a single client knows that I don’t work full time, I’m still responsive and I never want to let anyone down.

What was the reaction when you first discussed the possibility of working part-time with your supervisor?

My oldest was 10 months old when I found out I was pregnant with my second child. I remember thinking, I feel like I’m already missing a lot, it’s going to be harder with two kids. Every weekend was spent trying to spend time with my kids and my husband, going to Target, running errands, cleaning, etc. I recognized that I couldn’t work 50 hours a week and be nice to everyone else. I remember looking on the Compass to see what my options were. I approached a partner and asked, “What do you think about me not coming back full time after having the baby?” He said that’s an option, as long as you talk to your supervisor about what works for you guys. For a year I worked 90% time, then dropped it down to 70% time. It’s been very well received; I’ve gotten a lot of support from everyone. My team knows my hours, and they’ve been supportive as I’ve been trying to figure things out and as they’ve been trying to figure it out too.

I’ve learned that people don’t know how to ask or are sometimes afraid to ask about a reduced schedule. When you have a kid it literally changes everything. Perspective changes a lot. I don't think I would find anywhere else, where I’d have the flexibility that DHG provides, at least not in this industry. A lot of it is because I’ve stepped up and asked, but if you don’t ask, it won’t happen.

Darien has been with DHG for nearly 5 years in the Winston-Salem, NC office. She is a Manager in Valuation Services, working with the firm’s Financial Institutions Group and helping to lead the model validation practice. Darien earned her B.A in English Literature from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her International Master of Business Administration from the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. Outside of work, Darien serves on the Board of the Piedmont Down Syndrome Support Network and works part time as a Group Exercise Instructor at the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina. In her spare time, you can find Darien hanging out with her family and friends (and dogs, Goose and Maple!). Darien has always been passionate about the outdoors, her family and music. 

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