I recently came across a study suggesting that part-time working moms generally feel more contented than either full-time working moms or stay at home moms. According to the study by the Pew Research Center, part-time working moms are most likely to say that they spend just the “right amount” of time with their kids. They apparently also find it much easier than the full-timers to balance work and family.
I did a little digging and found that there are quite a few published studies that reach the same conclusion. As a part-time working mom (and researcher) myself, it made me stop and think.
On the surface it would appear that part-time working moms get the best of both worlds. There’s the extra time to spend with your kids and ability to be more involved with their school life. And then there’s the opportunity to have a career, contribute financially and interact with other adults!
In my experience though – and I should preface this by saying that I’m extremely grateful it was even an option for us – the reality has been a little more complicated.
I’ve been a part-time working mom for just over four years now. I returned to work when my firstborn was about three months old and I didn’t feel ready at all.
In England, where I grew up, it’s typical for new moms to take up to a year on maternity leave. I have to admit that I was a little envious of my friends back in Britain who got to spend that extra time at home with their babies. I’ve learned that three months is considered to be a generous amount of maternity leave by American standards, but the transition was still tough.
Now that it’s been my life for these last four years, I feel as though I’ve gained some good perspective on the ups and downs of what it’s like to be a part-timer.
And before I go any further, I should make clear that this is simply an account of my own experience! Other moms may well see it differently.
I’m also not trying to suggest that there’s one right way to go about it. I have no time at all for the “mommy wars” that pit working mothers against stay at home moms, etc. At the end of the day, each of us has to do what’s best for our own families.
With that said, let’s get started on some of the great aspects about working part-time as a mom.
What are the best things about being a part-time working mom?
The major benefit of course is the extra time you get to spend with your kids. Not only that, but I think that you appreciate that time even more than you would otherwise.
I wholeheartedly look forward to the days I get to spend at home or out and about with my girls. My oldest daughter will be starting elementary school in just over a year (a ticking clock always, sending me into a panic!) and I’m doing everything I can to maximize the precious time we have before then.
BUT… and I have to be honest here… I’ve found that my part-time work also provides a welcomed break from the rigors of parenting. I genuinely have the utmost respect for those stay at home moms who do it tirelessly and without complaint!
We’re fortunate enough to be able to afford part-time childcare while I’m working, and on those days, I relish the opportunity to finish a cup of tea or visit the loo unaccompanied. As much as I love spending time with my kids, I’m a classic introvert and there are moments when I need my space!
I think that working also brings with it a great degree of personal fulfillment. It makes me happy to be helping our family financially. My work can be intellectually stimulating. And I feel as though having a job lessens the worry about losing my self-identity to motherhood completely.
Another huge benefit of working part-time is that it affords moms the freedom to keep a foot on the career ladder and stay connected to the workplace. I know first-hand from friends of mine just how difficult it can be to find employment after a long absence spent taking care of children.
At this point you’re probably thinking that this all sounds pretty sweet! And you’d be right. Yet… part-time can have its drawbacks.
So what are the downsides to being a part-time working mom?
First and foremost, I have to say that the mom guilt doesn’t disappear completely. Not in my case anyway. Even with the bonus kid time I get, I still feel bad that I’m not there to care for my daughters on the days I work.
And there are certain times when I feel as though I’m being pulled in different directions and nobody is getting me at my best – neither my family nor my job – that they’re both being short-changed somehow.
It can be tricky to shift that focus back and forth between work and family. The juggling act definitely still exists, even if it is to a lesser degree.
Other challenges emerge from the same flexible working situation that offers so many benefits.
Since my husband works a full-time office job and I work from home, I tend to be the primary caregiver by default. If our childcare falls through, or one of my kids get sick, then I’m typically the one that needs shift things around while making sure that my work still gets done. And that can be really stressful.
My “off days” are frequently spent catching up on all of the errands, housework, doctor’s appointments etc. I made a vow to try to spend that time doing more fun stuff with my kids, but it’s not always easy.
Not only that, but job satisfaction is perhaps harder to come by when you’re working part-time. Corporate roles don’t often lend themselves to being absent from the office multiple days a week, and career progression can suffer as a result.
None of this is intended to sound complainy. As I mentioned, I feel incredibly lucky to be in this position. I’m just not certain that there’s a perfect solution when it comes to balancing work and motherhood, despite what the studies say. I’m sure that many of us struggle with these choices and emotions.
It makes me wonder if there really is such a thing as having it all. I honestly don’t know. It’s certainly an individual matter.
Or maybe we just need to redefine what having it all truly means. Perhaps it’s simply about focusing on what makes us (and our families) happy, regardless of the form that takes.
Do you work part-time or are you considering it? What’s been your experience of balancing work and family life? I’d love to hear from you!