I’ve spent the day with two lovely women. One a make up artist and one a photographer.
All of us work part time and/or run our own businesses.
We all started to do this when we had our kids. Before that we had all worked full time, doing the career woman bit.
I think that if I hadn’t had kids I would never had had the courage to leave the comfort of a ‘secure’ job to go part time. I did it because I wanted to be home with my children and when they started school, I wanted to be at the school gates to meet them. Doing it to be with them gave me the confidence and the desire to step off the treadmill
Now Eldest Son is at secondary school, I more than ever feel the pull to be at home to meet him as he has so much homework to do and there feel like there are many more things to organize and remember.
- What are the various demands on you life?
- How do you balance them?
- Have you got the balance right?
It wasn’t so very long ago when women were expected to leave work as soon as them married, and for my mother’s generation, child care was more scarce and fewer mothers worked. How things have changed.
My generation of women, were brought up to have it all and do it all, so we did. My school friends and I all got good jobs and at one stage we were all the main wage earners in our relationships, a number of us supporting the men we lived with.
I remember my mum rolling her eyes at one of my feminist rants and saying ‘you wait until you have children’ as I lectured on about equality in all roles including parenting.
Of course she was right, as soon as I had children I knew that I wanted to be there for them as much as possible. I didn’t want to pay someone to look after them all week while I went out to work to in order to pay them. I wanted to go to carol concerts, school plays, sports days and play dates, and the only way I could manage that was by working part time.
This too was the case for the women I worked with today, we’d all made decisions to make our work fit round our kids, rather than fit our kids round our work.
If you have children and work full time:
- Does it work for you?
- Does it work for the kids and your partner?
- Is there anything you would like to be different?
- If so, what are you assuming that stops you doing things differently?
Not only would I not have had courage to ask to go part time without having had children, I probably wouldn’t even have thought of it as an option. After years of study I was well trained in working every minute that I could. It seemed that you either had a career or you had a job and jobs were dead end, mindless and only a means to an end and I didn’t want one of those. I never imagined that you could have a part time career that you love and feel challenged by, but which doesn’t consume you every waking hour.
I doubt very much whether my employers would have agreed to my working part time without children in the picture. Because I want to’ didn’t seem like a good enough reason. The law was on my side because I had young children, my employers had to do what they could to facilitate part time work and they did.
If you don’t have children:
- Are you working the right amount for you?
- What are the things and people that you value in your life?
- Does your work pattern support your values and dreams?
- What would life look like if you worked less?
Some employers see part timers as less committed than full timers which does us all a disservice. Part timers are committed when they are at work, they just aren’t at work all the time because they are also committed to their families.
I shared lunch with a stunning German woman who as worked part time for 25 years since her daughter was born. Her daughter has now left home and instead of returning to full time work, runs her own business and spends the rest of the time doing things she enjoys with people she likes.
She explained that in Germany it is perfectly normal and reasonable for anyone to ask for a part time contract and not just to have children, but to study, pursue their interests and travels or to do another job too. It is normal for people to have contracts of 80 %, 50%, 75%. How sensible. Life experiences enhance us as workers, they don’t diminish us. I take experience from one part of my life into the other areas so they cross pollinate, the don’t dilute.
If you run a business or organization:
- Do you employ part time staff at all levels of the business?
- What is your experience of part time workers?
- What are your assumptions about part-timers?
- How could part time staff enhance your organization?
In career terms, since going part time,I have been an adviser for the local authority, delivered workshops nationally, worked for a number of universities, run my own business, written a book, trained and worked with a huge range of people, completed postgraduate training in coaching and got a distinction and completed my PhD. These are things I could never have done working full time for one organization.
In terms of my personal life it has meant I can have whole days out with friends and partner while the kids are at school, at the moment I am spending time with horses again, I’m writing, I have massages and I’m keeping fit. This and I have time to sit with my kids to do homework, hear about their day and meet their friends.
I’m healthier than I would be working full time and less stressed as I have fewer conflicting demands and the working mother guilt is less. I’m also happier.
Healthy, happy, unstressed people are good for business, good for our children, good for families, friends and communities and good for the future.
The thing is that we are all different and none of us know in advance how having children will change our lives. Don’t assume that having kids will wreck your career or that your career after kids needs to be the same as before you had children.
When I was thinking about having children I thought that it was an either kids or career choice. It wasn’t. My career is not the same as it would have been if I have come back to work after children and worked full time; it’s much more interesting, diverse and fun.