"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> urbanMamas

Working part-time: Does it ever work?

Everett_truman_working
Given the struggle to balance three little boys, a husband, a career, and a rewarding but insane raft of extra-curriculars, I've lately been watching friends with part-time jobs with interest (mixed with envy). In my ideal life, I'd work 20 hours a week writing and 10 hours a week consulting, and the rest of the time would be truly devoted to my family, house and chickens. (Those poor birds have really been getting the short end of the stick lately.)

Leaving aside the whole health care problem for a moment -- I've got it through my job and, well, no more talk of that, I'll just get angry -- I'm not really in a financial position to quit now, and for that matter, I do enjoy what I do. A colleague has negotiated a part-time arrangement, but after having worked with her it appears to me she does just as much work as anyone else; she's just paid less, and does more of it after bedtime. I've heard similar stories from other part-time mamas.

I wonder, is there anyone out there in a professional-type job who's truly made part-time work? Why are you successful? Is it about setting boundaries, or simply finding the right boss(es)? Do you feel you're missing out on what the full-time colleagues have got? Or are you all just searching for that nirvana, like me, and finding the real world entirely too terrestrial?

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Going part-time after the birth of my toddler almost 3 years ago was a tough call for me. I consider myself ambitious. Frankly, I truly love what I do and worried about the impact my pared down schedule (30 hours vs. 37.5) would mean for my career. But nearly three years and another baby later, I would not trade my schedule for anything. Yeah, my benefits took a whack. But my husband's benefits fill in where mine have left a gap. I feel like I get to spend most of the day (I work mornings -- very early mornings, which is why I am writing this at 4 a.m.) with my kids and that means the world to me. This is why it works for me: my job, even at reduced hours, remains rewarding and generally well-compensated; my bosses rock (seriously, they do not make better bosses than the two guys I work for); and we have very good childcare/preschool for our two little ones for the few hours we can't be with them.
To each his own, I say when it comes to moms and work. But if you think you can make a part-time schedue work and are willing/able to make some sacrifices, you might want to give it some thought. It's the best thing I've done since becoming a mom.

Going part-time after the birth of my toddler almost 3 years ago was a tough call for me. I consider myself ambitious. Frankly, I truly love what I do and worried about the impact my pared down schedule (30 hours vs. 37.5) would mean for my career. But nearly three years and another baby later, I would not trade my schedule for anything. Yeah, my benefits took a whack. But my husband's benefits fill in where mine have left a gap. I feel like I get to spend most of the day (I work mornings -- very early mornings, which is why I am writing this at 4 a.m.) with my kids and that means the world to me. This is why it works for me: my job, even at reduced hours, remains rewarding and generally well-compensated; my bosses rock (seriously, they do not make better bosses than the two guys I work for); and we have very good childcare/preschool for our two little ones for the few hours we can't be with them.
To each his own, I say when it comes to moms and work. But if you think you can make a part-time schedue work and are willing/able to make some sacrifices, you might want to give it some thought. It's the best thing I've done since becoming a mom.

I am a professional, and I set my own hours - the amount, the time of day, benefits or no. As a nurse, I have the luxury of working completely around my family. I make a great salary, do important work, do not have to put my young kids in daycare, and change my status and hours at practically a whim.
After several years of working exclusively weekend nights so I could spend the weekdays with my babies, I am slowly adding more hours in as they get older. We have healthcare through my husband's (reg business hours) position, but I know I can go from per diem to getting benefits when and if I ever need to.

I work 30 hours a week, and it works beautifully for me. In my type of work (research/project management), I don't think I could go to fewer hours and do an effective job because I need to be consistently connected to my co-workers. I rarely work outside of office hours, I just refuse to. It probably helps that i work for a non-profit, but I think we have to set our own boundaries - employers are not probably going to set them for us. This wouldn't work for me if I couldn't get benefits, and I won't be promoted to a management position as a part timer, but that's ok for me while I have young children. I'm seeing more people in my organization push for this kind of flexibility and I'm so glad. the functionality of a group of workers doesn't boil down to a 40 hour work week, it's about the quality of the work and the synergy of the team.

I'm shifting from full-time to 20 hours per week starting next week. But for the last couple months, I've been phasing down my workload as a test. I do software project management, so I will have a blackberry and be "on" during the normal 9 to 5 schedule that the other people in my company are on, but I'm only doing two full-time days per week in the office. (My wife has three days off per week, so we get one overlapping "weekend" playday.) My benefits won't change, and I doubt I'll work more than 20 hours per week except in the rare circumstance.

I couldn't be more excited!

After my second little one was born, I worked it out w/my employer to work part-time and from home! I work 25 hours per week, 9:30 - 2:30 each day and I absolutely love it. My kids go to a little home daycare just couple miles from our house while I'm working and I feel great about them being there. I do development/research/ proj mgmt type work and my team is spread out from Northern CA to Seattle--so even if I was in the office every day, I wouldn't necessarily see them. I have found this to be a great balance for me and my family. All of our benefits come from my husband's job and sure, I miss the full-time pay--but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I try and stick to my 5 hour a day schedule; however, there are days here and there where I need to be available for a conference call or have a bit more work to do than my 5 hour day can handle(which, I'll complete after the kids are in bed), but for the most part, I work, get my job done, and then put it away and move on with my day. I've actually found that I can accomplish more in my very focused 5 hours per day than I ever did while working a full 8 hour day!

I was working full time when our first child came and felt tremendous guilt for the longest time. When we had our second child, I decided at that time to quit and spend the time with our kids plus it was cheaper that way considering day costs etc. But then my employer came to me after 6 mos and wanted me back on my terms. I was so excited because part time was not offered to me before I quit. So now I work about 20-25 hours a week. It works great for me since I can drop the kids off at school/daycare, go get some adult time and then have time to pick them up from school/daycare.

As for benefits, it did not affect it too much since my husband had the whole family covered under his plan. I also made about as much as a full time person without having to work as much. Sure, promotions may pass you up but I think the time being there for my kids is more important at this time.

It's been about 3 years now and the schedule is working great for us. If you can swing it and also live with the sacifices, then I would defintitely agree with Molly and say go for it! It is possible to have a family and a career that doesn't take too much of you away from your family!

It's funny b/c I was contemplating a similar post after all the blackberry in the park conversation b/c often that's the problem. P/T work that isn't really part-time or the part-timer isn't left along on his/her days off.

I worked 40 hours the first yr I had kids, 32 the next three, and now 20. The thing about 20 is if the rest of your office works 40, you're always feeling behind - at least I do. It's great re time working v time with family - pretty perfect, in fact, but I actually like my work and wouldn't mind doing more (and being insured, that's a HUGE factor for us that makes 20 hours/week mighty expensive; if it's offered at 30 it seems silly to lose all those benefits for a mere 10 hours, though they are important hours re school schedules, time spent with kids, etc...).

I'm likely to go back up to 30 because of the benefits. I'm guessing it's going to make our family feel more stressed out, though re who is where and when, and I regret that. A LOT.

I'm watching this conversation closely as I'm in the process of deciding whether I and my family are ready for me to go back to work part time. Before my second baby was born last year, I worked very part time (about 15 hours per week) and it was so perfect. We had a small nanny share going on at my house while I was away at the office a few mornings per week. I got to travel for work a few times a year, and genuinely felt I was contributing at the office, while acheiving some balance in my life as a mom.

Now that my 2nd baby is getting older, I'm feeling ready to get back into the swing of things at work, but I'm finding it more complicated this time. My older son is in preschool 4 mornings per week, so I'd like to work while he's in school and either have a nanny to take care of the little one, or drop him off somewhere for care. I am finding that most care centers are not set up for part time care, or if they are, they want the kids there for a full day a few days a week as opposed to several half days per week. And I'm nervous about finding an affordable nanny whom I can trust and depend on, and who will be able to stick with me long term if it's working out. (My poor neighbor is on her 4th nanny since we ended our nanny share last year!)

The logistical challenges are one thing, and then there's the financial aspect to consider. We've already got preschool on the books for the older one, and so far I'm finding that care for the baby will likely cost more. Although my boss is very generous and understands my circumstances, I cannot justify going back to work to break even! It's a lot to consider for sure, but if you can swing it, I think part time work is ideal for a family with young children, I'm hoping to make it work for ours again soon.

After three years of part-time work (25 hours/week), I'm making the move back to full-time at the end of the year. Working part-time has been an absolute gift and I have mixed feelings about going back to full-time.

So yes, for me a part-time job DID work. I have an amazing boss, and since I had already worked for the same company full time for a number of years prior to our daughter's birth, I was able to negotiate a part-time schedule that all parties were happy with. I doubt that I would have been able to find a new part-time job with the pay and benefits that I've enjoyed, and my employer knew from experience that the quality of my work would still be strong, even at a part-time level, and he knew that I would eventually return to a full-time schedule. Having good professional boundaries also helped a lot - my coworkers knew that I walked out the door at 1:00 no matter what, and on those occasions when I absolutely needed to bring work home I always made sure to give myself comp time whenever the work deadline passed.

I also have to point out that I wouldn't have been able to work part-time without a supportive partner working full-time... not necessarily for the benefits but absolutely for the income his work provided. We've also gotten pretty good at budgeting and living below our means.

I think a big factor in whether or not it works to stay at part-time (workload wise) depends on what type of work you do. I'm a licensed social worker and work in a setting where I go to work, do what's in front of me with clients, and then leave. There isn't any bringing work home. It has absolutely worked for me to be part-time since kiddos. And moving in and out of full-time/part-time is very easy in my field as the value is on experience over time building your clinical skills instead of being focused on promotions to move up. It's a bit challenging to keep my license current having to do all of it outside of work, but that's pretty minimal in the big picture of things. As for the dollar aspect of it, I currently work for a medical staffing service and am paid a very good hourly wage with no benefits. Even when I factor in childcare for the hours I do work and benefits (which I had to find privately for awhile and it wasn't as expensive as I thought) I'm still making a reasonable wage. And I have the freedom to accept/decline work based on my family schedule. Say what you will about the negatives of traditional "women's work" in the healthcare field. In my case it's exactly what this family needs and this mama loves.

I work part time, and for the most part, actually WORK part-time (60%). My job started off as a job-share with a friend after we both had our first children. I went up to 60% when she went out on maternity leave, and now we are together 110%. Together we probably work more like 140%, but I am pretty good about not working too much on my days off (other than checking email - my husband laughed at the recent uM post about whether it is ok to blackberry in the park, as I do it often).

My part time works because my bosses are understanding and I have made rules for work. That said, for several months this winter I worked close to full-time (without extra pay) but it was during a crush in which my full-time coworkers worked 60 hr workweeks. My type of work (health policy) does not lend itself to this kind of arrangement, but my office is fantastic and my coworkers are understanding.

pt has generally worked really well for our family. i work a flex schedule, 2 days a week one week, 3 days the next and have since returning to work when my son was 5 months. i really like what i do, and it's also "women's work" in a health-related field. i echo the above comments about boundaries - i believe that this has been the single most important factor that has made our experience a success. whenever i realize i'm trippin' out, it's always because i've slipped and let work creep into home life. when i'm at work, i'm 100% at work (ok, maybe like, 95%), and when i'm with my son, ditto. bosses and co-workers now know that it's not really negotiable.
ok, so there's always that nagging feeling that i'm not really doing anything to the best of my ability, and that i live some sort of schizo dual life. i think that rings true, though, no matter what your work situation is. i don't worry about marching up the professional ladder . . . there's years and years and YEARS to do that, and wee ones are only wee for the blink of an eye.

pt has generally worked really well for our family. i work a flex schedule, 2 days a week one week, 3 days the next and have since returning to work when my son was 5 months. i really like what i do, and it's also "women's work" in a health-related field. i echo the above comments about boundaries - i believe that this has been the single most important factor that has made our experience a success. whenever i realize i'm trippin' out, it's always because i've slipped and let work creep into home life. when i'm at work, i'm 100% at work (ok, maybe like, 95%), and when i'm with my son, ditto. bosses and co-workers now know that it's not really negotiable.
ok, so there's always that nagging feeling that i'm not really doing anything to the best of my ability, and that i live some sort of schizo dual life. i think that rings true, though, no matter what your work situation is. i don't worry about marching up the professional ladder . . . there's years and years and YEARS to do that, and wee ones are only wee for the blink of an eye.

I'm laughing about this post right now, as I try to send out a press release with two naked boys (ages 3 & 5) literally crawling all over me. Part time is great if your work stays within the time when you have childcare, but ofter for me that's not the case! It's all smoke and mirrors with the client.

Oh how timely your post amyh! I work from home very part time and at one point today, with a looming deadline and another (surprise!) coming two weeks earlier than expected, I just about broke down and cried in frustration. It is next to impossible for me to get anything done with both kids around and yet paying for sitters/daycare takes such a chunk out of my already modest earnings. I guess the upside for me is that I can do much of what I do at anytime, but really, who has the focus and energy for several hours of creative endeavor after 10pm?

For me, at this moment, school cannot start soon enough.

As a nurse I've tried a little of everything (schedule-wise). I am currently working 24 hours/week with full benefits. I work a little bit of an odd shift that works perfect for our family. I pick up extra shifts on the weekends when we need the money and everything is harmonious. When the kids are needing me more, I don't work any extra. When I go home, my work does not come with me so I can be a mom 100% on the other days. I make good money, feel proud of my work and I have no doubt that my work makes me a better mom. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. For me, part-time is the best of both worlds. Not sure why in this nursing shortage we aren't spreading the word that this is an awesome family-friendly career. We can work part-time, carry the benefits and our partners can even pursue self-employment without the added stress of paying for healthcare. Want to hear the best part? When I go on vacation or have a sick-day ... nothing is waiting for me on return! I'm not sure that I'll ever return to full-time. We are strapped financially but I just can't imagine anything other that what we've got. I should mention though that I do pay exactly 1/2 of my monthly income to my lovely childcare provider. BUT, I'm saving for retirement, have the benefits and the all the other good stuff that keeps me sane.

It's interesting how many of these posters are able to part-time because a partner works full-time, providing benefits and income. (I think many non-profits, in particular, increasingly rely on this partner-support for their employees.) Those of us who have this resources are very, very lucky to have the choice of part-timing or not.

How about some good ideas for a part-time at home career path for a stay at home mom? Did that make sense? What do you all do? I know what Sarah does, but how did you get so lucky?

Was this photo taken at Ikea? Just wondering! :)

yes! the photo was taken at ikea. my office is never that lovely and organized... (a post for another day i'm sure)

I appreciate the comment about many mamas able to work a PT or flex schedule due to a partner that either works FT or carries the benefits. One of the things I think about as a single mama is how I feel like I need all my ducks in a row to make ANY work change-forget flex sched or PT. I dont feel like those are really options to me. Forget just the schedule I need to think about how the 401K and 529 look from a single income perspective. And also figure a way to balance my momma responsibilities.

But maybe I am thinking too narrowly. Any other SMs have flex success stories?

I am an engineering professional and I have been working part-time (32hrs) for five years now, since the first of my two was born. I provide full bennies for our family as my hubby is in a service industry that has far less than adequate benefits (another topic, I suppose). He also works part time 2.5 days. My part time schedule has worked really well for the most part because I have set strong boundaries, am not available for meetings on my day off (unless its my project and I switch my day off!), my spouse has a flexy schedule that allows my part time schedule to slop around a bit to accommodate travel once in a while or an important meeting.

Working PT has forced me to be efficient, focus my career on what I REALLY want to do with my time at work, and manage my projects and staff very tightly. I've been promoted several times, and am one of the most senior engineers in our group... you don't have to give up your career path to work PT, you just have to trim out all the fat that gets thrown at you, learn how to say NO (Hard sometimes), and do a good job at the things you do have time to do.

As opportunities or new projects come up I have to evaluate each one and say "Do I have time for this, or do I have to pare something I am already doing out of my schedule? There is only so much time". I have learned that my natural inclination was to DO IT ALL and the way to make PT work for me is to tame that and focus myself on the really good stuff. I have let some cool projects/opportunities go, but I can also say that EVERY THING I am doing at work right now totally excites me and is something I want to be working on. Not many of my coworkers who slog away for 40hrs or more can say that. :)

That epiphany aside, my days are intense and I couldn't do it if I worked at home with kids around, or if my husband worked full time. The fact that we share a lot of the other responsibilities helps me focus on work at work and home at home.

I don't hide the fact that I work part time from my clients. They all know I bust butt when I am there, that I keep my staff churning on stuff when I am not there, and are happy to have someone who has a balanced life and isn't totally burnt out running their projects. I hope more people can make this work so it can become more of a mainstream "thing" in more industries.

I am paid for 20 hours of work. Our set-up is great - I have two "office days" which add up to about 14 hours per week and the rest are "home hours". There are seasons when I do work 40+ hours, but even without the pay for those extra hours, it is done when I can/want, so I value the flexibility.

I work an average of 20 hrs a week - one 10 hour day per week, plus 2 more ten hr days every other week. I work in the healthcare field, for women's health, and do not have to take my work home. It is interesting and fulfilling work, and the situation works for us.

It isn't easy, but the children are with grandma one day and with dh the other two on the weekends i work. That way we aren't paying for childcare and we're keeping it all in the family.

I made this choice so we could begin to homeschool and this gives me the time to do that. I can't afford to not work at all, so yes, we're stretched pretty thin, but its the lifestyle we have chosen. If I worked fulltime I just feel like I wouldn't see the kids at all.

I work an average of 20 hrs a week - one 10 hour day per week, plus 2 more ten hr days every other week. I work in the healthcare field, for women's health, and do not have to take my work home. It is interesting and fulfilling work, and the situation works for us.

It isn't easy, but the children are with grandma one day and with dh the other two on the weekends i work. That way we aren't paying for childcare and we're keeping it all in the family.

I made this choice so we could begin to homeschool and this gives me the time to do that. I can't afford to not work at all, so yes, we're stretched pretty thin, but its the lifestyle we have chosen. If I worked fulltime I just feel like I wouldn't see the kids at all.

I have worked part time 20-25 hrs a week for the last 3 years since my daughter was 10 weeks old, I also have an 18mo. I am a makeup artist which may not be what's considered a typical professional position because it's mostly in a retail setting. It is however the career I've been in for the last 10 years. It pays well but there are no benefits unless I worked full time. My partner works full time and has great benefits so health care is covered for us all. We work opposite schedules and have only used a family member to babysit on rare occasions for meetings that take place during his work day. the only downside is that we don't get to spend as much time together as a family as I'd like but I've never had to pay for daycare and my children have only been cared for my family members. It works for us and I will continue to work part time until my children are both in school full time during the day.
I love my job because it brings in the extra income, allows me to spend the majority of my time at home with out having to bring any of it home, gets me out of the house and back into the world I lived in before I was a mama and fuels my creative side.

I practice medicine as a mid level provider PT which is 2 12 hour shifts. This works for our family. I have worked in several environments and some of them would not work for a part time position. It is about finding an employer that is family friendly. I do find that I bring work i.e. checking labs and calling patients after hours, but this is manageable. I am lucky to work in a field where part-time work is available.
In other clinic setting I worked part-time but it felt like full time and I did feel that it put more work on the physician and other midlevel providers b/c they were having to deal with my patient/phone calls etc. I think in whatever field you work it is important to see how your collegues around you feel about you working PT b/c not only will you feel like you are working more than PT at times they may feel like they are working more than FT b/c they are having to deal with your work load on your day off. This can create tension and hard feelings.
Again it is all about the environment and your collegues.
That being said I love what I do, love keeping my foot in the door and wouldn't trade it for anything!

I work part-time (15 hrs) in the children's department at our local library. I LOVE my job and do a lot of scrambling around to make it work. The hours are split into several small shifts, which is the general need in a library. This makes childcare tough, but so far my dad and husband have filled in the gaps nicely. We have benefits through my husband, like so many commenting here. He has made sacrifices as well for that - staying at a position for the great benefits when he often would like to explore other possibilities. I do feel that I could do more for work (committees, blog posts, reading more of our collection), but the pressure is from myself, wanting to do a great job at a position I love. My bosses are wonderful, understanding and never pressure me to work from home or do more. Sometimes, I practice for storytimes at home or write up a book review just because it is so tough to finish everything in the short time I have at work. I just add the time to my regular schedule for pay. I also have an hour a week paid to work from home but just to tie up loose ends. Looking to the future, I would like to add hours and maybe even work full time someday for benefits. This will all be when my son is older though. For now, it can wait.

I have been job-sharing a full time position at a state job three days a week for the past 4 years. I for sure can say that I often feel like I am putting in a lot more time than what I am paid for, but in the end it allows me time at home. As my son gets older I am considering going back full time and can hardly imagine how we will make it all work. I try to remind myself that most people make it work just fine and so will I. I wish there were more resources to find job-share or part time positions that have some substance and pay fairly well. Anyone have any resources? There is such a huge pool of talented and skilled mom's out there who have much to contribute, but want to balance work (health insurance/benefits) and kids a bit more sanely. Thanks for the topic.

Hi, Sarah!

I work 20 hours per week, freelance, so I can set my own hours and schedule, and it's an awesome arrangement, I hope to keep it going as long as possible. The hardest part is when the baby is going through a clingy stage, he cries when I give him to his dad to work, and we have to be sneaky so that he doesn't see me if I leave my office to get food or something (whenever possible, my husband takes him out of the house.)

I work 20 hours a week as a policy advocate. I love the flexibility. My kids are in a day care now that allows me to pick them up anytime between 3:30 and 5:30 pm, so I can finally do errands and (some day!) go to the gym. I work 4 days a week. Sometime I work more than 20 hours, but I always have a three day weekend, which is great. One thing...because it is non-profit work, I make next to nothing after day care expenses. This is more for other benefits and to keep in the game.

I just switched to a four-day, ten-hour work week at my job as a news writer and producer. While i do not work part time, the shift to having three days to do things instead of two is so wonderful. I just hope that my workplace does not shift gears again anytime soon, and take it away from me!

I just switched to a four-day, ten-hour work week at my job as a news writer and producer. While i do not work part time, the shift to having three days to do things instead of two is so wonderful. I just hope that my workplace does not shift gears again anytime soon, and take it away from me! This is about as flexible and manageable as i can get in this current job, but as a single mama, this works out so much better for me as far as child care costs!

When my first kid was three I went down to a 32-hour week so that I would have some extra time with her in the mornings. At the time I was a single mom and needed benefits, but I was able to hang onto them at 32 hours/week. I was working as an engineer then and my boss was extremely supportive of my request. The reduction in hours made just a huge difference to her and to me, we were both so much happier.

Now I have three kids and work part time (about 15 hours/week) as a freelance engineer and writer. It's working quite well, but I'm only able to do it because my husband provides the bennies. (No, not the drugs, the health insurance -- though some days I swear I need both :-)

I was unexpectedly out of work when I got pg with my first child. Applying for jobs while getting bigger and bigger was quite a trip. But I lucked into a position with a gov't agency doing child abuse prevention work (community organizing) and they waited to hire me until my son was 8wks old. Because of the work I was doing, and my office was located in the public health clinic/office, I brought my son to work and even to a few meetings.

I started at 10hrs a week, then gradually increased to 20 over the next year. As Sam got older we patched together a schedule that included my husband flexing his schedule, some in-home daycare, and one day a week in childcare. When my daughter came along my schedule had increased to 25hrs/week and she was less interested in being at work with me. So that meant more in-home care, more flex schedule, and more working from home for me. Because of the type of work I was doing, many community meetings (often evening) counted as "work" so that helped get my hours in.

I had to attend multi-day conferences a few times a year and I hauled the whole family with me. My husband took days off and came with us, trolling the local shopping malls and playgrounds while I attended the conference. He would bring the babes to me to nurse at breaks, and we would have evenings together in a hotel.

When my youngest was 2, we moved here to PDX and I went to work FT. My husband stayed home, and it has been awesome. He has been looking for work for a year, with no luck, but will start night school next month. We have been very lucky that we've both flexed to make things work, and flexed again when needed.

Although I did not need to spend my entire pay on childcare, there is a benefit to "keeping in the game" as another poster said. Consider it an investment in your future. The very worst thing is NEEDING a job and not being able to find one.

I know that I have had way too many comments on this subject....and the internet is full of lots of trash....BUT, in reading up about Sarah Palin, I could not help find something that was interesting. True I most certainly can not vouch for....but interesting none the less! And actually might explain the "back to work in 3 days" (I mean REALLY, do any of you know of ANYONE who has been back at work in 3 days?)

I don't want to spread gossip or talk trash..but it makes for interesting discussion. If this were true, how do you mamas feel about the possible "cover up", given her strong anti-abortion stance?

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/8/30/121350/137/486/580223

I've been working freelance since my daughter was born 11 years ago. The upsides? Flexible schedule, ability to take on a project or not, depending on the needs of my family, and being generally available for whatever surprises come down the pike (second-grade musicals, flu bugs, last-minute dentist appointments.)
The downsides? Scary tight finances. No benefits except the ones I pay for (which get more expensive every year). No regular paycheck. No safety net of any kind.
It's worth it, though. Whenever I consider going back to full-time work, it just doesn't add up. Professional work, with long hours and long commute, means I'd see very little of my now grade-school-aged kids. Admin work, in which I could leave right at 5, doesn't pay as much as the freelance AND necessitates clocking in and sitting at a desk 8 hours a day, meaning I'd have to pay a babysitter, miss Girl Scout functions, miss being home when they get home, etc. Not worth it either.
For me, then, the flexibility of freelance, despite reduced financial security, continues to pay dividends.

I pioneered part-time at my employer, a huge engineering conglomerate--aerospace industry. That was 20 years ago. After the initial difficulties, I worked part-time for over a decade. I provide all the benefits for the family since DH is in a small consultancy.

I am an engineer in a very male oriented field. The type of field where men would say women had babies to get six weeks of paid vacation.

Once we started outsourcing a lot to India, I made the point that if we were going to trust people across the world, why don't they trust their own people right here? As a result, for the past five years, I've watched telecommuting blossom. I now work from home 4 days a week. My kids are both in college, but I am going to hold onto this schedule because it is environmentally sound and also, I do hope to be a grandmother one day.

The other major 'sacrifice' I made was to not travel. My husband has to travel somewhat for his job, and so I chose non-travel positions. This really lessened the hassle of working, because we have no family here where we live.

Nowadays, whenever I run across someone who is part-time at my company, I feel good that it is still around and available with great prorated benefits and full medical.

Sarah Palin--I don't know about other women, but I could never leave a special needs infant for a 24/7 national repsonsibility as Vice President. Especially when in the first five years of life you can expect complications, including:

Down Syndrome:
Some research suggests that children with Down's syndrome are 56 times more likely to develop leukemia before the age of five, compared with children without the syndrome.

People with Down's syndrome tend to have an increased susceptibility to infection. This means that they tend to get conditions, such as coughs, colds, and chest, ear, and eye infections more easily than other people. It is thought that this increased susceptibility may be the result of an abnormality in the immune system.

If your baby is diagnosed with Down's syndrome, their heart will be carefully assessed so that any heart defects can be detected and treated as soon as possible. In approximately 30% of cases, the heart defect is serious any may require immediate surgery. In other cases the heart can be monitored and treated at a later date, if necessary.

Approximately 50% of people with Down's syndrome experience problems with their ears and, sometimes, their hearing.

I hope and pray family and friends convince Sarah Palin that giving birth is not he same as being there for a special needs child.

I think it just depends on what kind of work you do, how sympathetic your immediate supervisor is, and the culture of the organization or company.

My experience in the non-profit world has been pretty negative. The culture of martyrdom makes any non-traditional schedule a "special request." My pay and benefits are prorated for 4/5 FTE, but I regularly work close to full-time hours because my workload was not changed when I asked to reduce my hours. I have one theoretical day off per week, but I am always asked to do SOMETHING on my day off — even if it's just 30 minutes.

Even though I work in a fairly large organization (over 100 employees), very few other salaried staff have young children, and nobody else has a child with a disability. I have been accused of being a princess and a prima donna for requesting alternate arrangements for evening work and overnight travel. I have a two-year-old with Autism and a one-year-old who is still nursing; both kids still in diapers. It blows my mind that few people at my progressive non-profit recognize that it is an unreasonable hardship for me to not be home to put my kids to bed at night. But most people see my 'alternative' schedule (less than full-time; some afternoons I work from home) as a special request to begin with, so if I ask for any further accommodations I'm asking for too much.

My husband has been unemployed for almost two years, with little prospect of finding work soon, so I don't have the luxury of quitting or working fewer hours. I'm glad to hear that others have had more positive experiences. It definitely makes sense to ask around about arrangements that other employees have negotiated before you. I am not at all surprised by the situation I'm in because I knew the culture I was up against before I reduced my hours.

I just re-read this comment and I sound really angry! I guess this hit a nerve. I know that in many ways I am lucky to have the schedule I have, and to be able to keep my job and benefits and be at home more hours with my kids. I am very aware that in many workplaces, there would be no alternate schedules available at all. But I can't summon up too much gratitude for an arrangement that still falls so far short of meeting my family's needs. It just makes me angry that we live in a country that offers a very different set of choices to some mothers. And although I recognize that I've been given more choices than many, we should be fighting for a full set of options for all.

I work 4 days/week and I both love it (intellectual challenges) and find it difficult ( If fall further behind with home chores and kid time) I think it's important for a working mom to have good support. Our nanny helps with food prep, good nutrition for the kids, and occasional errands and laundry. Paying someone to be my "stand-in" at home is what makes it work for us.

I am struggling with this one right now. I went back to work full time when my first child at about 5 months old. When I was 7 months pregnant with him, I had gotten the management promotion I had been hoping for for three years prior. Going back full time was gut-wrenching, but I still really liked the intellectual stimulation of my job.

When we were pregnant with our second, I knew that two full-time working parents wouldn't work for my family, and went to my employer (large higher ed instution) with a job share proposal. The didn't want to do a job share (they couldn't imagine people having two bosses), so they proposed a reduced schedule, 3 full days/week. The first year, it worked. Now (in my second year), I am not so sure. As a manager, I feel responsible for what happens in my department even when I am not there. So, I find myself checking email and thinking about work even on the days I am not at work. It doesn't take a lot of *time* but it's more the emotional energy it takes. I would still much prefer a job share, because then I could truly leave my job behind when I am not scheduled to be there, knowing that someone else is in charge and providin leadership.

Part of the problem, I think, is the general trend for many professionals to be always "on" no matter what your work schedule.

Anyway, at this point, I am trying to figure out a way to quit my professional position and go to part-time teaching, which would be much less time and responsibility. The numbers don't yet work out for my family, though.

In the end, I think it's always a juggles of roles, no matter what your work schedule.

I haven't worked full time since we had our first child 9 years ago. I don't regret it at all. In fact, I can't imagine working full time...I just don't think I could do all of the juggling. We don't have much money but we get by.

My point of view is a little different. I am a soon-to-be mom and, instead of picking between full-time, part-time or stay-at-home, I chose to work in something where I can bring baby to work with me. I think it's the perfect solution for us.
-Jessica

I've found telecommuting to be a godsend. It completely eliminates commute time and give us time to sit down for breakfast every morning as a family - and we do. It also makes it so I can prep dinner with the kids when most people are trying to get home (I'm already there!) We also have a nanny share in my house so I get to see the kids during "breaks" which I freakin' love and and my nanny tidies the house and gets laundry done during naps. I don't feel bad about it either. It takes a village, right? I try to find time for little things that a stay-at-home mom would do like pick my five year old up from school during my lunch break. I can't do it all the time but I do it enough that he feels my daily presence. Perhaps telecommuting 1-2 days a week might be a great option if you can't work part time. You'd be surprise how much MORE you get done without the distractions of coworkers in the office and how you can make some quality time at beginning and end of the day if you plan well. Yeah, meal planning is KEY. Also, you have to be able to "shut it off". No blackberries after 6pm in my house. I always ask myself "Is there anything I'm going to see on my Blackberry that would make me stay late in an office or go back to an office?" The answer is usually no. If I have something important going on, I'll wait until after the kids go to bed. I don't want them to look back on their childhoods and remember mommy always staring at a Blackberry or on the computer when they're in the room. FYI, I was a "type A" working girl when before I had kids, I quit it to be a stay at home mom for two years with my first child, then I found the full time telecommuting gig which I've kept it through my second. I've been doing this for almost four years now. I have a one year old and five year old and it's an ideal situation for a mother that has to work. Good luck...I thank my lucky stars for my situation every day but also know that I have to run a tight ship, accept help and be disciplined to make it work.

The comments to this entry are closed.