Let’s be honest about part-time working
I’ve been feeling like I needed to come out for a while. But I was embarrassed…maybe even a little ashamed.
I think I’m ready now.
So here it goes:
I work part time.
That shouldn’t be a big deal, right? And yet I almost never admit it to people. When people ask me what they do, I tell them the truth – that I’m a digital content designer. Most people nod politely, because they have no idea what that means, or say something vague like, “Oh, so you do websites?”
“Errr…yes. I do websites,” I say. But I never mention that I do it part time.
Despite being a vocal advocate for flexible working, I’m hesitant to tell people that I only work four days a week. A small part of me feels like it makes me look like I’m not terribly serious about this whole ‘working’ thing. I imagine other working mums tutting to themselves and saying, “Oh, you only work FOUR days a week? God, it must be great having all that free time, right? My kids are in full-time nursery because I’m far too important to go part time. You’re lucky to have such a low-pressure job where they don’t need you around that much.”
It’s a stupid thing to imagine, because most other mothers aren’t a-holes like that. Besides, I work with several other mums who work part time, and no one has ever questioned their skills or value to our team. I certainly don’t. So why the shadiness about my part-time status?
Maybe it comes back to this idea that women can – and should – have it all. The idyllic family life. The high-powered career. The perfect figure. The tidy house. I push back against those sort of pressures, at least publicly. But privately, I chastise myself for not being a good enough mother, for not being more ambitious in my career, for eating half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting (I’m not sure it’s physically possible to eat less), for not being able to remember the last time I changed the sheets.
People often describe part-time working as giving you the best of both worlds – maintaining a career while also getting more family time – but it doesn’t always feel like that. I often wonder if I’ll ever be able to get a more senior job as a part-timer. I still only see my kid for a few hours each night most weekdays. I make less money now than when I started with my employer 10 years ago.
I don’t have it all. I have a bit of some of it. And sometimes that doesn’t feel like enough, but I know trying to have it all would feel like too much.
If I worked until 7pm every night and then came home and tried to bake organic toddler-friendly muffins or whatever, I would end up stress-eating all of the muffins on my own while hate-stalking fitness enthusiasts on Instagram. So instead, I work until 4pm four days a week, then come home and dance around to the Grease soundtrack with my toddler.
My choices may mean that I can’t give everything I have to either my career or my kid, but I think I’ve found the right balance for me, at least for right now.
So from now on, I’m going to own the part-time label. I like hanging out with my kid, but I also like getting away from her sometimes so my brain can think about adult things. I also like being able to say, “As much as I’d love to stay for this meeting about the meeting that we had last week to recap our conference call about that email you sent, I need to go pick up my daughter.” And there’s no shame in that.