After Maternity Leave: Is Part-time the Way?
New mothers often feel caught in a tug-of-war between family and career. Is a part-time schedule the answer?
It's hard not to envy Judy Tick. She loves her job, she's privy to exciting developments in her field -- and she works just three days a week. On the two remaining weekdays, she's busy at her other job: caring for her infant son, Jacob. Tick, a health educator in Oakland, CA, knew before Jacob was born that she wouldn't want to part with him five days a week. So she turned a demanding full-time position into a manageable part-time one. "I have the perfect balance," she says.
What's the attraction of a reduced schedule? "Working part-time is the only solution that allows you to avoid the either/or choice of giving up a career you love or giving up time with your family," explains Cindy Tolliver, coauthor of Going Part-Time. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 25% of employed women -- or 17 million -- work part-time. A report by the Pew Research Center revealed that among working mothers, just 21 percent say full-time work is ideal for them. Six in ten say part-time work would be ideal.
If you think the move might be right for you, there are issues to consider before approaching your boss. First, do some calculations to see whether you can afford the pay cut and possible loss of benefits (workers often lose their eligibility if they put in fewer than 30 hours a week). You may decide that the advantages outweigh the financial difficulties -- especially when you factor in reduced childcare costs. Next, consider your goals. Focus on what you want out of your career. Also decide how important going part-time is to you -- will you quit if you can't do it?