Full-Time Mother, Part-Time Employee
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 4, July-August 2005, pp. 176-177
"Staying Home Instead" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
I was a full-time stay-at-home mother for years. Now my youngest has begun preschool and I'm fortunate to have found a part-time job that will fit nicely into our new schedule. I'm surprised, though. I feel caught between two worlds: I'm not really a full-time employed mother, but I'm not full-time at home anymore, either. Is there any way to bring these two worlds together? Am I at home or not?
I often hear the phrase, "Stay at home mothers versus working mothers," and I wonder, "Versus what?" A mother who stays at home and a mother who goes to work are both mothers and they both do what they feel is best for their own family. As mothers, we can come together to support one another instead of drawing dividing lines in the sand.
It sounds as though you can bring these two worlds together within your own family and that is all that matters. You are very fortunate to have found a job that fits so nicely around your daughter's schedule. I recently started to answer the phones at the gym one day a week while my daughter does gymnastics. Although I don't receive a paycheck, I consider it work! I have really found that the stigma with working is more with my own thoughts than others'. It is all in how you approach it. I approach all mothers the same, working or not. They love their child and I love mine. We are on the same page!
I returned to work when my daughter was three months old. I am lucky enough to have a job where my hours are flexible and I can work nights, days, or evenings. My daughter does not attend day care because her father is at home while I work. I also only work one or two shifts per week, depending on his schedule. So I understand your situation as I don't work full-time and I'm not full-time at home either.
I refer to myself as a full-time mommy and a part-time nurse when I'm asked. Often my patients will ask if I'll be back tomorrow. I tell them, "No, this is only my part-time job. My full-time job is at home." People usually smile and that leads to questions about my favorite subject, my daughter, who is now a happy two-and-a-half-year-old. I think that it's the perfect mix. Even though you are not at home full-time any more, it is still your full-time job. Enjoy your new role.
Rochester MN USA
I can see where you are coming from. Your children are used to having you home all the time, and other stay-at-home mothers are used to being able to plan get-togethers any time, yet there are now times that you are unavailable. On the flip side, full-time employees are used to having access to other workers all the time during working hours, yet you are only available to them certain times or certain days. I can think of a few approaches that might help you enjoy your employed hours to the fullest while keeping your family time productive and low-stress.
First, make it abundantly clear to your co-workers when you are available to them and when you are not. For example, you might include a signature line that is automatically added to the end of every email that lists your working hours. When others discuss scheduling with you, kindly but firmly remind them when you are available and when you are not. "Remember, I'm only part-time, so I'm not here after 2 pm," or "I'd be happy to complete that project tomorrow since I'm leaving work in just a few minutes."
For your home life, playtime with your children will help you feel more in touch with them and less guilty about telling them to occupy themselves while you accomplish household tasks. You might plan something fun to do together each day, such as a park outing, a visit to a child-friendly restaurant for lunch, or a game. A regular weekly playgroup or play dates during your home hours might allow you to feel more in touch with other parents of young children. When they invite you to join them for an activity during your working hours, you can respond that you are not available at that time, then give them a specific time during which you are available and interested in getting together.
I imagine another major hurdle is getting household chores accomplished. The family still generates as much dirty laundry and as many dirty dishes as ever, yet you have fewer hours around the house to ensure that the housework is being dealt with appropriately. A system of home organization, such as that espoused by The Fly Lady (www.flylady.net), might be the answer. Simplifying, de-cluttering, enlisting the help of your children as much as they are able, and making household chores a daily habit could really pay off.
Brookeville MD USA
Why do you have to be one or the other, a full-time mother or a full-time employee? It sounds like a part-time job fits in perfectly now that your youngest child is in preschool. It's actually a nice transition if your goal is full-time employment once your children are in school all day.
School age children need their parents to be available just as much as younger children. When mothers help at school or go on field trips, it shows children that school is valuable and important. Parents need to be available to go to school and pick up a sick child or stay home with a sick child. Maybe our biggest "job" is keeping family life a priority, regardless of where or how much we "work."
Pleasant Lake IN USA
It sounds like you have found a job that allows you to live the best of both worlds. I am in a similar position. I have been working part-time for four years, and my job is flexible. I can bring my children with me when there is no school, or their dad is able to be with them. Many mothers at my children's school have similar situations. They work hours that do not conflict with their children's school time. It is difficult, if not impossible, to identify the mothers who work outside the home. And, really, there is no need to. The primary thing I have learned from LLL is that I need to be able to meet my children's needs and handle separation from them in a flexible manner that respects all of us. It sounds like that is what you are doing. Yes, you work and yes, you are at home. It is possible to do both!
Perhaps you are concerned about how other mothers will classify you. But they may not be as concerned as you think they are. One book that has had a profound influence on me as a woman who was once a full-time professional is Sequencing by Arlene Rossen Cardozo. My LLL Leader suggested this book to me when I was pregnant with my second child. I was worrying about how I would ever manage to get back into the work force if I chose to stay home full-time. It was eye-opening and helped me understand that, like many things, work hours range on a continuum. There are few women who are easily categorized as full-time at-home mothers or full-time working mothers.
Sara Dodder Furr
Lincoln NE USA
You don't have to bring these worlds together. When you are home, you are home, and when you are at work, you are at work. When I went back to work part-time I learned quickly to set limits and prioritize effectively. For the first time in my life I left a messy desk and work unfinished to complete the next day.
It can be difficult to make the mental or emotional switch from work mode to home life. I suggest stopping at the gym or for quiet time at a coffee shop before you go home. This will enable you to truly be present for your family and not too tired to be up for all the "mommy tasks" that await you at home.
Colorado Springs CO USA