A few years ago I decided to leave my full-time, pretty well-paid job and take on a completely different role. A part-time role. Perfect, I thought. The idea to make a change had crossed my mind as I was squeezing my postpartum self into an interview suit 6 months after the birth of my 3rd daughter.
Feeling the discomfort of my mammaries inflate and leak all over my blouse left me feeling mortified, incompetent and angry that I even had to do a stupid interview. There must be a better way I thought.
I have never followed a linear style career. I have always jumped or meandered from one job to the next and travelled and studied while so doing. So, change doesn’t frighten me. But not being able to meet my mortgage repayments does. My finding “it all too much” and wanting to take on something part time didn’t raise an eyebrow. In fact, it was seen as the sensible thing to do. Sure, it’s crazy with three kids, people told me, once you pay for the childcare and do the drop offs. You’re working and racing every hour and will get burnt out and resentful. No one is gaining.
But what I found is that working part-time is not part-time. I work part-time outside the home and double time inside the home and carry the majority of the mental workload. When I left full time to go part-time a few years ago, I was under several illusions. The first being that I would have lots of extra time, less stress and more quality time to spend with the kids. Also, that I would have more time to cook nutritionally dense food for them and watch them eat it with moreish looks on their lovely clean faces. Hah, I laugh at my naivety.
I am now that person who is up doing mental rotas for school pick ups and bowel charts in the middle of the night. My partner also works. And sleeps really well at night. He works long hours and has a very linear progressive type of job. But there are times when I feel a little envious about the fact that while he is climbing along up his career ladder with each new promotion and bonus (and work away trip) I will remain on the same part-time salary with not much scope for promotion. We are a team, I tell myself. What’s good for one may well be good for all. And it’s worth it with the flexibility, isn’t it? Isn’t it?
Working part-time gave me options, options my partner was at times slightly jealous of. I could explore something different in my time outside of an all-consuming full-time career like returning to college in the evening. I had enough head space to start a business (which I did), a blog, open an online shop. I met lots of women who were using motherhood and this change to try something exciting, creative and different.
Anyone who knows the stress of being stuck in traffic already 10 minutes late for a school collection knows what it is like to be on the clock as soon as you wake in the morning. And I suppose that is what I feel with working part-time, that I am always rushing. I am very happy to be home supervising homework, hearing the news from the schoolyard, asking the “Who were you playing with today?” and “anything funny happen in school today?” questions.
I used to miss those chats when I worked full time and as my children are getting older I realise more than ever how much I want to be around for them and how much they want that right now. And I also realise that I am very lucky to be in this position. But I do wonder if I am somehow getting this wrong? Am I missing a trick that other part-time working Mums and Dads are doing that I’m not? Because I am chasing my tail. A lot!
Or should I just feel grateful that I have the opportunity and psychological adaptation to change jobs and career as and when I do, knowing that adaptability is itself a skill? And one that I am more than acquainted with.