Working Mom Part-Time Dilemma

Part-time Dilemma

I’ve noticed myself feeling jealous of men lately and it all has to do with being a working mom who has a part-time dilemma.

The vast majority of men (there are always exceptions) grow up learning that their job in life is to be a provider. They know as they seek out their trade or career that their job is to support their families. Even when a dual income is needed, how often do men feel guilt about going to work? I think it can be attributed to two distinct reasons. The first is that our society is set up to understand that men work and second men are not wired to feel guilty about going to work. It seems to be more of a biological instinct for them to go out and provide. Women, however, feel a biological instinct to mother their children. So, what do we do when we either have to go to work or want to go to work and still feel guilt? How do we find a balance?

Lately, I have been daydreaming about working part-time. I have found that many companies in Corporate America are not favorable to this and frankly… it sucks.

As a quick reminder, I currently work full-time for a Fortune 100 company that I have been at since I was 20. I am in my 9th year and I received my MBA while working full-time there. I have climbed the pay grade ranks in a pretty typical manner, nothing extraordinary. I am now in a fairly comfortable position. I make decent money for where I live and I am able to work from home two days a week (but not with my daughter at home). I think I know enough about the company to be valuable to them. When the idea of part-time crossed my mind, aside from all of the personal/family issues that need to be addressed to make it work, I found out that I’d have to take a huge step down.

Why is that fair? Why does time at my desk equal productivity?

I know enough about myself to realize that keeping one foot into the professional world is important to me. I read an article posted here on WMAG last week that addressed what a SAHM does once her kids go to school. I honestly do not judge any woman who chooses to stay out of the workforce but I am confident that person is not me. I also know that if I leave completely for 5-6 years that it will take me well into my 40s (I am only 28) to get back to where I am now and I am not even where I want to go yet. I know not working is simply not an option even before we take into account money.

Part-time really seemed to be the answer to all my problems, until I laid out the facts.

  • I would have to go down four pay grades at minimum, somewhere in the neighborhood of $10-$15 less an HOUR!
  • It is considered a demotion
  • Fellow professionals tend to view part-time female workers as moms first and caring about their careers last “it is just a paycheck to her”
  • There is no way to advance
  • More is expected out of you at work and home– often times women find they have to do the work of a 40 hour week in 25 hours while being paid less and contribute more elbow grease to the household (after all they are home more often now!)
  • There are no benefits (though for me this is not an issue because my husband works at the same company)

Let’s stop there. My maternal instincts are screaming at me that my career is not worth losing all this precious time with my daughter! Now the guilt seeps in. How many men are dealing with this dilemma? What if men wanted to work part-time and spend more time at home? Would society adjust and make it easier for them?

The only thing I am certain of is that this decision has been agonizingly difficult for me and I wish I could find the magical answer that I felt in my gut was right for me. If it’s not full-time, part-time or stay at home, what is it?


12 thoughts on “Working Mom Part-Time Dilemma

  1. Stephanie Tsales says:

    Monica – I think all working moms have had this dilemma. We want to be home more, but we don’t want our careers to suffer. I have a good friend who dropped down to a part-time schedule when her new baby was born. This shift in responsibility/workload came with a decrease in compensation to reflect a 30 hour work-week. Seems fair – right? But what happened as the weeks went on is she found herself consistently working more than 30 hours a week. She was pulled into meetings during her “off hours.” She was responding to emails and calls during off hours. Next thing you know she was working practically full time with less compensation than she was receiving before stepping down.

    I say all of this to say that one big factor to consider when thinking about decreasing hours, work-load, or responsibility is your own comfort with saying no….something I’m personally horrible at. That said, I’ve known other moms who are great at establishing solid boundaries who have carved out great part-time careers. In the end your gut will guide you to the right decision – Good luck!

  2. Monica, I want to let you know that this conversation is exactly one I have with my friend and business partner, Liza. We own a PR agency together because we wanted to create a space where we could be productive, professional and successful without having to rely on the typical company mindset where “if you aren’t at your desk, you aren’t working and therefore not of value to the company.”

    I feel so many good companies lose great employees because they don’t consider the benefits of being flexible – and many times force mothers to choose between their jobs and their children.

    We love the fact that we don’t have to justify to anyone how many doctor’s appointments a newborn has in the first year, if a child is sick and has to stay at home, etc. But even now, there is a guilt factor that creeps in. (I’m currently on bed rest until maternity leave and am feeling very guilty about not physically being there for my team.)

    Just wanted to let you know that you are not alone – best of luck in finding out what is right for you. Kim

  3. Pingback: Do companies lose their best assets when women become moms? | The Mama Village
  4. Monica, great piece! I’ve looked into going part-time as well. Financially, it isn’t feasible for our family at this time, but even if it were, it would be pretty much full-time work with part-time pay…totally unfair. While I miss my daughter during the workday, I try to remind myself that it is the quality of the time we spend together, not the quantity. Good luck to you!

    1. Absolutely Kristi, I agree! I try to make every second I am with her count 🙂

  5. Working and being a mom is hard. I make the decision to work second shift for not much money in order to be home with my kids during the day. I am struggling everyday with things like wanting to own our own home or go on vacations or not being able to buy the kids things they want. But I need to remember that our life here is not about earthly things. My kids don’t care about where they live as long as they have a home. When you change your focus and realize your duty as a wife and mother it gets a lot easier. What means more to you and your husband. I looked at what I was really gaining and what I was really losing.

    1. I appreciate your insight. I do realize my duty as a wife and mother, working full-time during the day does not make me less of either.

  6. It totally sucks how part time moms are viewed in the workplace…if they are allowed to do it at all. I left the corporate world to start my own business, so I’m a WAHM which has its own challenges but so far feels like the right choice for me!

    1. That’s awesome Michelle! I’d love to work for myself but don’t know how to do that when I still need a steady paycheck. Good for you!

  7. I Don’t Have This Issue THANK GOD Because I’m A Stay At Home Mom & Work Part Time But With Flexible Hours & Can Bring My Kids If Need Be. I Give You ALOT Of PRAISE & CREDIT & BOSSES Should Do The Same I Just Don’t Get It!!!! XO

  8. Maura Keane says:

    Monica, its been about two months since the previous comment, so im not sure if you found any solution to your dilemma? If not, have you ever thought about starting your own business?

    I am now a stay at home mom with two kids under two (22 month old boy and 4 month old girl). Previous to the birth of our second, I worked at a local business. After having many of the same conversations with my husband (he is also self-employed) that it seems like you are having, I decided to leave my job to start my own business designing and engraving personalized picture frames and wall hangings –

    While this was such a big risk in losing a good amount of residual income, I am now able to stay at home with both kids while being able to pursue my own startup, which as crazy as it is with two kids under two and starting a new business, is more satisfying than just bringing home a “regular” paycheck.

    Any thoughts? I am interested to hear an update!

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