This weekend we went to visit our friends in New York. (I will spare you from any whining in this post about how much I miss New York. I promise. But I do, a lot.) Invariably we got into a conversation about work and how we all work too much, are sleep-deprived, don’t see our kids enough, don’t go on enough vacations, and so on. You know, the usual working families discussion fare. And then the mom said something I think so many of us can relate to: ” I like to work, I like what I do, but I just want to be able to do less of it — to work less than full-time.”
I certainly fee this way. I’ve always worked full-time and in my previous career in investing, full-time meant more than 8 hours a day. I’m pretty open on this blog about the fact that running Work It, Mom! involves working around the clock and usually putting in 10-12 hour days. I rarely complain because I LOVE what I do and I feel lucky to have the opportunity do create something that I think benefits other women. But I am exhausted and sleep deprived (which is starting to affect my health), I don’t see my daughter, my husband, or my family and friends as much as I’d like and I’d love to work less.
The thing is, I can’t. I can’t do what I do and do less of it — it’s the nature of a start-up for the founders to work this hard (or even harder). In my previous job I could not work less and no one in that industry works part-time. (There was a woman in my firm who asked to work 4 days a week after having twins. They let her, for about four months, after they made life so difficult for her that she quit.) My friend whom we visited this weekend can’t do her job part-time either. And I wonder how many of the almost 80% of working mothers who say they want to work less than full-time can actually make it happen.
I am not a career expert, but I do believe that there are some jobs that can’t be done part-time. You can’t be a part-time CEO, you can’t be a part-time company founder, you can’t work part-time in industries that require full-time presence and continuity of work. I have a friend who runs a company that helps create job shares — where two people share one job, therefore each working part-time. I think in many ways it’s an ideal solution because it creates an opportunity for two people to have a good job on a part-time schedule. But job sharing is not widespread and it has its own challenges. (For example, what happens when the two people sharing a job have conflicting ideas about something that’s to be done? This creates tension and angst for them and the employer, making this a more complex — and therefore less desirable — arrangement than just having one person do the work.) I hope that my friend and many others like her can help educate employers and employees about job sharing so that it can be a real in the future, but to be honest, I think this will take a while.
Part-time work is not without it’s issues, of course. Many part-timers say they end up working almost full-time for less pay. Some have to forgo health and other benefits when they work part-time, which creates its own set of issues. And many part-timers don’t get the same level of respect from colleagues when they work part-time. An option many of us want might not be as great as we think.
I look forward to hearing your comments on this topic: Do you wish you could work part-time? Can your job be done part-time? Do you work part-time and feel it’s not as great as it might seem? Do you think more part-time work will become available as more workers, including men and women, focus on work-life balance?