How I Came to Work Part-Time – and Why it’s Not All it’s Cracked up to Be

When I was in high school I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do when I finished university. I knew I would attend post-secondary. I knew I would work in an office doing something in the business world. I didn’t exactly know what I’d be doing but I saw myself carrying a briefcase and wearing power suits.

After my Bachelor of Arts degree and Public Relations diploma I started working in marketing in the financial industry and never looked back. Then I got married. Then I had my kids. I went back to work after both my maternity leaves and juggled crazy projects, meetings, two young children and a husband who’s schedule was not the traditional nine to five, Monday to Friday. Which meant mornings on my own getting the kids and I ready and out the door in time. It also often meant being on my own around dinner. Both critical times for everyone and hard enough on the easiest days.

It became too much for me. When I was at work, all I could think about was what I had to do when I got home. At night, I would be thinking about the things I needed to get to when I first got into the office. I became trapped in just getting things checked off my list when I was at home and I wasn’t enjoying my family the way I wanted to. It wasn’t what I envisioned my family life should be and I felt like I wasn’t really doing a good job at either.

So I quit.

I’d had enough. I wanted to focus on my family and my kids first. My husband supported me 100%. And so began my four years of being a stay-at-home mom.

I knew I would not be home forever. When I had the opportunity to return to work part time – an ideal situation for my family and me – I jumped at the chance. It really provides the best of both worlds for me. I am available to parent volunteer for school trips, attend afternoon performances and take them to activities right after school.

But here’s the deal. I still feel guilty. Not so much about not being there for my kids in the way I want but for feeling like I’m not contributing my share at work. Don’t get me wrong. My co-workers are AMAZING. I’m very lucky to work with such strong, intelligent and kind women – yes women.

Here’s some of the reasons why working part time is not all it’s cracked up to be.

  1. You’re overlooked. For projects, for information, for meetings. I feel like I have to regularly remind people that I’m still a contributing part of the team, especially across different departments.
  2. You feel guilty. I start my day early, before most of the office arrives and leave earlier as a result. Although I’m putting in a full day like everyone else, it appears like I’m not. And perception makes a difference.
  3. You’re out of the loop socially and on projects. When you are not there you miss out on meetings, conversations and updates. That means I sometimes have to play catch up, rely on my coworkers to fill me in or work a little differently to fill in the blanks.
  4. You feel like you have to work twice as hard. When I’m at the office I need to be uber organized and maximize my time. That means coordinating my schedule for meetings, following up with people in the hopes of getting the information I need so that when I’m there, I can keep on top of timelines.
  5. People think you live a life of leisure on the days you’re not in the office. My time away from the office is not filled with leisurely afternoons of reading my favourite book or eating bon bons while watching my soap opera. Far from it. It’s spent running errands, getting groceries, doing laundry, cleaning, cooking, making and getting to doctor and dentist appointments, paying bills and so on. When you think about it by the time the kids get off to school, there’s six hours before they are home again. Yes, I could spend my weekends doing this but this is one of the reasons why I work part time. To keep my weekends for my family. There’s a sense that I need to justify my time away from the office.
  6. You feel inadequate. I work predominately with women and I am constantly amazed at how smart, articulate and put together they are at work when many of them of young families of their own. I often wonder how it is they are able to be so effective when I just couldn’t seem to do it. I have to constantly remind myself that I made a conscious effort to work part time and that this was the right decision for me and my family.

I could go on. I think it all boils down to whether I feel like I’m good enough. As a parent, a wife, a coworker or an employee. It’s a constant battle to overcome my self-doubt and recognize that I am doing a good job at home and at work. Like I tell my kids, as long as you’ve tried your hardest and given 100%, you’ve done a good job. And keep trying.

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