Going part-time

Published: 26 Jul 2016

Trying to resolve through the work-and-childcare angst can sometimes result in an opportunity to change the way you work - one way to do it is to go part-time

working part time

Apart from the fact your old career may not allow you as much time as you'd like with your child(ren), there are other reasons you might think of changing job post-baby. Your priorities may have changed and you may want to use different skills and experiences. Once you're on maternity leave, you may realise you disliked your old job.

"If you hate your job, give it up. Enjoy yourself at home, re-engineer your life so that it is more enjoyable, and then work out what sort of job you could do instead that would take the pressure off your partner without making you miserable and tired."

Deciding to go part-time: what to consider

There's full-time work and there's full-time work with bells on. You might be happy with a genuine 35-hour week plus some commuting, but find that in your job full-time really means 50 hours a week or more.

Life with a child can be very tough if both parents do full-time-plus. It means there's no one to pick up the pieces if the childcare falls through, or simply no time to do the family admin which you cannot delegate to paid help.

Many couples come to the conclusion that having one parent working part-time while the other works full-time is a good solution. The part-time worker gets to spend more time with their baby, while still contributing to the family finances and maintaining some sort of career.

The downside is that in many careers, this means one of you ending up on the 'mummy track': not being in line for big promotions, pay rises or other glittering prizes in your particular field. Finding genuinely interesting and stimulating part-time work can also be a challenge. And in some types of work, part-time work requires constant attention on days when you are 'not working', making you feel you're doing two things badly (but then a lot of full-time working parents also feel this way).

Talking to other parents in your field or place of work who are working part-time is a good way to get a feel for whether part-time working really is a viable option.

Working out what level of part-time work is feasible in your job may be key:

"I've just (after about a year and a half back at work) upped my days from three to four and have found it's made a really big difference. It swings the balance back from being all about home with a bit of work, to being more about work with a bit of home, so I am far better able to remember what I was doing from one week to the next."

Many families find that work patterns continue to change if and when more children are born, and as children get older and family circumstances change. Some parents take a break, work part-time for a period or study for a new career:

"I left a job that I knew wouldn't be the same part-time and changed my career after I went back after some time off with my first daughter. I'm not using many of the same skills but I'm using me, which is, after all, what I have worked for all the time - my ability to change and grow. I think it's good to change, it's good to live a few lives. One would be really boring."


Pros and cons of working part-time

Here are some Mumsnetters' reflections on part-time working:

"I am part-time and think it is the worst of both worlds. I feel like I am either trying to mentally prepare for my days off (what we are going to do/where we'll go etc) or trying to prepare for my days at work (checking email at home on days off, juggling two wardrobes, being organised). If I were full-time I'd have more paid help and if I were a SAHM I'd take life day-by-day, I think."

"I went back three days per week days after my daughter turned one and although I dearly wish I could jack it in at times we're better off with me staying here. So many people would kill to have a flexible, well-paid part-time job. Remember your childcare costs will go down as your children age, and you keep your foot in the door with the option of increasing your hours in the future when the children are older and you want to concentrate a bit more on a career again. You are also getting pension benefits."

Looking for greater flexibility about work hours and patterns, many parents find themselves looking at the public and voluntary sectors, possibly at jobs in education and childcare. Some start working freelance, set up their own businesses or do work which can be done flexibly at home.

"If you're fortunate enough to have had a professional job prior to having children, consider becoming freelance. I did it. I now dictate my hours around the kids and now both kids are at school I am able to do drop off and pick up. Earning is at a higher hourly rate for generally fewer hours." 

If you're pondering part-time work, or a career change, and need some constructive advice, get over to the Mumsnet Talk boards. We can virtually guarantee that someone has been there, done that, and will be able to advise you.

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