After Meghan Brindley was born April 4, her dad, John Brindley, went back to work quickly. An administrator at Fairfax Hospital, he could have taken the week off, but "there were important things going on and I just felt I had to be there for them."

A couple of months later, Brindley, sitting in the living room of his Silver Spring home with Meghan and his wife, Margie Brindley, was seeing things a bit differently.

"I know they like me at work and I know they think I'm doing a good job . . . but I guess I'll have to come to the realization that I can't give 100 percent, 100 percent of the time now," he said. "I mean, I can't be a Mr. Mom. But I won't be able to stay late all the time now . . . because Margie has worked very hard at her job and I want her to continue that. I don't want her to be dependent."

Finding the acceptable balance between office work and home life is a delicate task. Margie Brindley, an analyst at the Student Loan Marketing Association, has organized her day so that "every minute is valuable. You find at work that you want to be as efficient as possible. Because I want to get my work done so I can get home, relieve the baby sitter and be with Meghan. Then when I'm at home, I'm thinking: 'Gee, while I'm feeding her, I could start dinner and start a load of wash at the same time.' "

Margie and John, 31 and 32 respectively, grew up in families of four children where their mothers stayed at home until the children were in their teens. They never seriously considered that Margie would not work once her maternity leave was over. The Brindleys, who are homeowners and like to travel on vacation, knew their life style could not be maintained on one salary.

"If Margie didn't work, it would be wicked," John Brindley admitted. Margie Brindley added, "I think both our parents think it would be nice if John made enough money so that I could stay at home. But I like to work, and if I was at home I still would have that need to go out and use my mind."

Margie admitted that she didn't feel quite that confident when she went back to work a month ago. As she began her half-hour drive into Georgetown and John made his daily 45-minute trek across the Capital Beltway into Fairfax, there was no way to avoid the worry of leaving Meghan in the care of someone else.

"There's definitely some guilt there," Margie said. "I do feel that I'm the one who knows what she needs. And somebody else won't be able to do things for her like I do.

"But you can't think about that. You kind of have to say: 'I hate to do this to you, but you have to be with this other person.' "