The Atlantic Monthly recently profiled a study called “Why Many Moms Work Even If They Don’t Have to“. There’s been a lot in the media recently about how moms who work part-time tend to be the happiest, more so than those who stay home or who work full-time outside the home.
The study, from the University of Louisville, found that:
“Most of the participants said they would work at least part time even if they didn’t have to. Both married and single mothers said they found more fulfillment and self-confidence in paid work than in parenting, and many believe that these personal benefits accrue to their children.”
First, I should state that the study was comprised of 40 working women so I’m not sure how meaningful these conclusions are. But the main take-away, that most women would prefer to work part-time and would be happiest doing so, appears to be supported by other studies.
This topic is of particular interest to me because I recently made the decision to go back to work part-time and technically, I didn’t have to. So I am one of the women that this study (and others) is speaking of. I chose to work part time for some pretty straight forward reasons. I wonder, lacking the specifics from this small study, if my reasons mirror those of other women who have made similar choices.
The economy sucks.
My husband is the primary bread winner in our family and his employment appears to be secure. I am confident that he could find another job that could pay our bills fairly quickly if he were laid off. And so said the thousands and thousands of other people in my exact same situation, until they did lose that critical income and months went by without being able to find another job. At this point, the idea of turning down paid work seems like a very bad idea.
I must be practical.
I am happily married and my spouse and I are both healthy. But the world is uncertain place. I sleep better knowing that I would be in a position to help support my family if something catastrophic were to happen to my husband, our marriage or his ability to continue to be the primary bread-winner.
Finding good part-time work is really, really hard.
The last time I looked for part-time work as a new mom and a professional with 10 years of experience under my belt, it took 11 months. And I ended up going back full time because the part time opportunities either didn’t pay enough to cover childcare, gas and parking or all the good slots seemed to be reserved for women who were looking to go part-time from their current full-time positions.
I respect employers immensely who are willing to work with families in that way, to accommodate parents by reducing their hours or sharing their positions, etc. But as a new employee those opportunities are rare. So this time around, when a good part-time opportunity presented itself I jumped, fully aware that another chance like this might never come.
My kids are getting older and I need to plan for when they’re in school full time.
Right now my youngest is 3. I know that very soon (sooner than I want) she will be a big kid and off to school full time. For our family, and many others, that year when your youngest child starts kindergarten also marks the time when you begin to play financial catch up. Whether it’s catching up on years of daycare (that is often as expensive as private school tuition) or making up for income that wasn’t earned while staying home with your kids, it’s a chance to start rebuilding your bank account and working towards being more financially stable.
I need it.
I have been primarily a stay at home mom for 7 of the last 9 years. For 2 of those years I worked full time. For another 2, I worked part-time. But my primary role has been to take care of my family. I had three kids in five years and I am so grateful that I have been able to be at home. That being said, it’s not an easy gig. I found myself socially isolated, chronically exhausted and approaching a state of depression. I needed to get out of the house.
The women interviewed in the study stated that their paid work made them feel more fulfilled. I think that’s valid, but it was not my experience. I felt better as a person when I did both, not because working was more fulfilling but because the confidence and intellectual engagement that working gave me carried over to how I parented.
Plus, working meant that I consistently got a few minutes by myself every week. And you know what? Ten minutes of peace and quiet twice a week is a very fulfilling experience, indeed.
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