Sophie knows all about strict division of labour among partners. Around half past four in the afternoon she writes down a few last notes, packs her things and leaves her office at an insurance company in Paris.
In the morning, it is her partner who gets the children ready. Collecting them is her responsibility. And to be able to be there just after school's out she needs to leave early – relatively, anyway. To make up for it, and continue working full time, she is at her desk by 8 each morning.
"I'm glad that my employer allows these flexible hours. Many parents benefit from this," Sophie says. Up until about a year ago, she and her partner had a childminder, who looked after the children in the afternoon and was also there for them in the evening.
But this year, they made a conscious decision to organise their hours at work so that they could spend more time with the children. "Of course it is more difficult, of course you give up time and rest for yourself – and sleep. But we have more of each other as a family, and that is what counts."
Children and career: using free time instead of overtime to be with the children
A clear division of labour between the two of them has been paramount since then: to allow Sophie to leave on time in the morning, it is her husband who sees to it that the children get up, get dressed and have their breakfast. "That is always quite a special time for the three of them, because they see so little of each other the rest of the day. And I only need to sort myself out."
In the afternoon, it is Sophie's turn; she fetches the two kids and they go shopping together. Today, there is a little treat for them, because they waited so patiently when their mum was rather late fetching them. The couple’s efforts to spend more time with their children are helped by France’s statutory 35-hour week. Businesses must make arrangements with their employees for any overtime – usually this involves days in lieu, so-called RTT days.