If you're an exhausted working mom, it's easy to look at friends working part time jobs and think they've got it made. The world of part time jobs, you think, would let you finally have enough time for your family, household management and a career.
But before you jump into a less-than-full-time position, think seriously about the negative side of part time jobs. Part time jobs can end up being a trap, where you lose the respect and advancement of a full-time position, earn less money and end up working almost as many hours as your 40-hour-a-week counterparts. Not every negative listed below is true of every part time job, but being aware of the downsides can help you avoid them.
You earn less per hour. Believe it or not, many employers give workers in part time jobs disproportionately smaller pay and benefit packages. They figure the flexibility of being able to fill a part time job outweighs the hit that you take as an employee. First of all, many employers don't give all health, retirement and other benefits to part time workers -- which costs you. Moreover, you often step off the path to promotions when you take the mommy track, which also reduces your earning power. Ultimately, you feel the hit through a lower per-hour package of pay and benefits.
The hours creep up. Any modern-day professional knows that work is hard to contain to the 8 hours a day (or longer) that you're in the office. For those working part time jobs, this challenge is compounded. Your colleagues forget that you're not at work on Wednesday and call your mobile number for help. Or you take home a project, aiming to put in a single hour, but end up working all night. It's difficult enough to squeeze a meaningful career into 40 hours a week -- much less into 16, 24 or 32 hours. Before taking on a part time position, be brutally honest with yourself and your supervisor about how many hours will truly be needed to get the job done right.
You miss or turn down opportunities. Perhaps the most obvious negative of part time jobs is losing out on high-profile projects, assignments or trips. Sometimes superiors take you out of the loop -- which you can combat by seeking out these opportunities and making it clear you'll still do a first-rate job. But sometimes the most exciting professional challenges simply aren't compatible with the schedule and lifestyle you've chosen. Console yourself with the thought that after your children are grown, you can return to the hard-hitting career you loved. And discuss with your supervisor a path to promotions and advancement that is compatible with the current metabolism of your work.
Child care may not fit your needs. If your child is a baby, it may be hard to find a daycare center or provider willing to work part-days, when you have to go to your job. But if you have an older child, you may also face difficulty finding work that fits exactly into your child's school schedule. Then there are the inevitable school closings and sick days to juggle. Bottom line: the timing of child care can be difficult for part time workers, leaving you either paying for more care than you use, or scrambling to fill in the gaps.
You straddle two worlds. One of the biggest complaints of part time working moms is that they don't fit in with the working moms and they don't fit in with the stay-at-home moms. Yes, you do have more free time, but that doesn't mean you can volunteer for every school project and chaperone every field trip. You still have job responsibilities -- and likely more child care duties than the average working mom. On the other hand, you may catch resentful glances from full-time working mothers who assume that your life is easy and stress-free. Take the time to educate your friends and neighbors about your situation, and chip in when you are able. Don't allow yourself to be talked into more volunteer work than feels comfortable.
Ultimately, when decising whether to work part time, you must weigh the pros as well as the cons. But don't get too enthusiastic without knowing what you're getting into!