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Is working ‘part-time’ really possible when you’re a parent?

So, you’ve had your child and been at home for a little while and now you are ready to return to work. You explore the possibility of returning to the same job but on a part-time basis.  Is working ‘part-time’ really possible when you’re a parent? A million women out there would tell you not. Or at least not at the same level you were working at before.

When you become a parent it is a chance to relook at how you structure the way you work. In many cases, mums looking to return to the work-force after having children, need to think about how they will juggle child-care and work and, looking for part-time options is often preferable for a family. The reality is, however, that returning to a job or a level you had previously on a part-time basis isn’t always possible. And…chances are if you are lucky enough to have a company happy to offer you your old job or a job at a similar level ‘part-time’ – in reality it is probably a full-time job squeezed into 3 or 4 days a week and ends up being more stressful as a result.

Real Mum’s Experiences

When writing this article I spoke with several women who had all returned to the work-force (or attempted to) ‘part-time’.

One woman who was working just four days a week, took a folder of work home with her every Thursday night without fail. Another would work late every night that she was in the office just to enable her to have her 5th day a week at home.

A third lady I spoke to is in the process of actually resigning from her job. She has been working 3-days a week for several months and has 3 children – all at different ages and stages. She gets phone-calls and emails from colleagues constantly on her days off and nobody seems to understand that she is unable to complete those tasks when she is at home. As a result she puts a lot of pressure on herself when she is home to still do work and – as she has two very young children at home with her on those days – she ends up throwing the children in front of the living room babysitter (aka TV) and shouting at her kids. She is so stressed that she feels it is easier to just make-do with a smaller income and to forget about work completely.

Another girl I know is working 3 days a week but has to travel often which means that actually, by the time she returns from overseas it is incredibly late and in reality – not worth her while – especially as she is only getting paid for 3 days a week.

What about ‘school-hour’ jobs?

I have also spoken with women who have gone back to ‘school-hour’ jobs. They too are not satisfied with their lot explaining that the problem with a school-hour job means that they are, in effect, working 2 different jobs – one they get paid for and the other as soon as they pick up the children from school. Their biggest complaint is that work don’t understand how stressful it is trying to get everything done and get out the door by 2.30pm and the others mums at school don’t understand how much they have raced to get to the school in time – and of course the children have no idea how stressed mum is at all!

Does part-time work mean going backwards?

Other friends I know have accepted that they have to go backwards in order to secure a part-time role – one good friend who went back to work school hours took a job 2 levels below the job she’d had prior to having children. She would get exceedingly frustrated watching colleagues around her doing a really bad job of something she knew that she would be able to do so much better. Another friend who had been a high flyer in advertising went back to the same company as a receptionist so she could work part-time hours around her child. She really missed her old job and her new job wasn’t paid half so well, but she realised that she couldn’t juggle being a single mum with a full-time job and children at the same time so it was a compromise that was worth paying.

Attempting full-time work as well as being a parent

When I first had my son, Jack I was determined I would go back to my same job in advertising – full-time. And I did…but even I had to admit that it was a hard juggle without grandparents on-hand to help out. Especially in the event of sickness. When I had my second child I realised that to juggle two with work would be harder still. For me it was better to put work on hold for a while rather than to try to juggle squeezing my job into a part-time situation. When I did finally go back last year – it was to a full-time job.

This year I have taken a ‘part-time’ role – 20 hours a week….WELL….that’s not quite true. It was 20hrs a week to start with but with the growth of the business and my own role within the company, it is damn near impossible to squeeze it into those hours. In fact even my ‘I’m not going to compromise on Friday’s – I WILL have Friday’s off’ has gone out of the window lately.

Is working part-time really possible when you’re a parent?

SO, this is what I believe. I believe it is possible to return to the work-force part-time – as long as you have a job that you are not fully involved with on an emotional level. If it is anything that requires a lot of client-liaison or strategy or planning or senior management or anything that you are emotionally a big part of the company, well…better look for another job or suck it up, baby!

Related Reading from Amazon

Here are some books you find interesting, on Mums going back to work.

The Milk Memos: How Real Moms Learned to Mix Business with Babies-and How You Can, Too

What Happy Working Mothers Know: How New Findings in Positive Psychology Can Lead to a Healthy and Happy Work/Life Balance

Balance Is a Crock, Sleep Is for the Weak: An Indispensable Guide to Surviving Working Motherhood

Written by

Jacqui Lockington is a working mum. Jacqui works full-time for an advertising agency in New Zealand and juggles life at work with being mum to two young children, Jack and Sasha. Jacqui is married to John and has published her first book with co-author, Nat - If Only They'd Told Me. She does public speaking and regularly blogs and records podcasts. Jacqui trained in journalism in London and worked in radio, newspapers, public relations and advertising before moving to New Zealand where she currently lives with her family. You can contact Jacqui at Jacqui@ifonlytheydtoldme.com