I have worked part-time since my daughter was 1 year old.
In the early years, I taught evening classes, so I got to be home all day with my babies. When my husband came home from working all day, I left him to be the dinner and bedtime parent. It worked out great. When my kids went to school, I managed our family business and taught one or two classes during the day, so I was home for them in the afternoons and evenings.
It was flexibility that a lot of parents don’t have, and I was happy to be able to do it.
Not that it was always easy, or anything. Going part-time does tend to make it hard to gain (or keep) leadership positions in any career. You aren’t given raises, as a part-timer, and you don’t move up any sort of salary ladder. Kids don’t get sick on only the Mondays and Wednesdays their mother doesn’t work. When you get to teach a 3 hour class one night each week when your husband can be home to watch the kids, you take it, even if it means that you start 10 days after the birth of your second child.
(Picture an exhausted pregnant-looking woman waddling to the front of your composition class, sitting down (wincing) on a donut pillow, and welcoming you (panting) to your first semester of college. Gross.)
This spring, I was unexpectedly offered a full-time job at the local university. I hadn’t really thought much about returning to work full time, but full-time jobs are scarce in higher education. After 10 years of part time teaching, I gratefully accepted.
I’m about to lean back in, people, and it is scaring me to death.
I think that most days I will be home before my kids return from school. But that is currently unclear.
I know that two days each week, I will have to leave the house hours before my son’s elementary school starts. I think he can go to work with my husband on those mornings, but again, that is currently unclear.
I am certain that the time I have for planning and preparing meals, cleaning the house, doing laundry, and managing the household finances is about to be cut by approximately 97%.
On the other hand, our family budget will be much less tight. I will have amazing health insurance and a great retirement savings plan. . .things we’ve been sort of muddling through for the past 10 years. I moved out of the office I shared with three other part timers and into my very own faculty office this morning.
The private office might be the most exciting part.
I am proud of my career but worried about the shift in family life and time when my girl is just headed to middle school and my boy is discovering that school really cramps his style.
Sheryl Sandberg’s book about leaning in was great. It really was. I’m cheering for the world she envisions to exist. It would be great if every mother had access to high quality, affordable child care, or flexible hours that did not equal an end to career advancement, or just a life in which kids and career could be perfectly balanced.
But, I mean, that’s not really available right now, is it?
My reality is that I am okay not having it all at once. Life has a lot of seasons. My career has certainly suffered because of the choices I made for my family over the past 10 years, but I don’t regret that. Now that my kiddos are older, it seems like an okay time to give the career some more attention. Wish me luck in finding a new kind of balance.