Today we publish the results of our poll on part time work, with the news that 44% of mums believe three days a week is the perfect number of days to work as a mum.
Many of you said that three days provided the right balance between your work and family commitments. We wrote when we launched the poll that we believed there was no perfect number and for most families, it depends on such a complex set of circumstances, not all within their control. Our needs change from time to time as well.
There were no votes for extremes. No one voted for one day a week as the perfect option but only 3% of you voted for five days a week as your ideal.
Our guest posts on part time work from Juliet, Tamara and Kellie inspired you all, with feedback that it was helpful to know how others mums went about making their decisions and how they negotiated arrangements with employers, families, carers and children along the way.
So how many of you aren’t working your ideal number?
Did you see the news that there has been a 50% increase in the number of people working flexibly and an increase of 30% in those who are working from home during the Olympics to avoid travel issues?
According to the research, millions of workers will work from home for the first time this month.
Apparently, eight in ten employees say they will work flexibly at some points during the festivities, varying their hours to travel later or earlier than usual. Four million people will work from home at some stage over the Olympics and a similar number will work flexibly on specific days during that time – with around 1.5 million working from home on any given day.
It is estimated that one in eight companies across London is encouraging or has arranged working from home or flexible working practices for its employees.
As one of the researchers says;
This week we’ve truly become a nation of mobile workers. For huge numbers of people, where they work doesn’t matter if they are productive – and employers have embraced that philosophy. The technology now means that people can be in touch with the office, each other and their clients whenever and wherever they’re located. That trend has really come into its own during the past couple of days and it will last for the next couple of weeks – as the traffic shifts from the transport network to the country’s mobile and broadband networks.
I have just one question.
If Londoners can do this to ensure business runs smoothly during the Olympics, why can’t we all do it to ensure all workers can balance their family responsibilities all of the time?
Here’s hoping business and government’s realise that flexible work is indeed possible and that productivity gets even better when you allow people to work in a way that helps them meet their other responsibilities! There’s no need for this trend to last just the ‘couple of weeks’ that the researchers have predicted.
Kellie is a teacher and mum to Kiara, nearly seven and Tia, four. Today she’s continuing our series on part time work.
About 3 months after having Kiara, I returned to work as a teacher half time where I worked I worked 3 days one week and 2 the next. I felt out of the loop at work on two days week so increased to three days after about a term.
I then changed schools so went back to full time- and was pregnant again by the end of that year. When Tia was born, I opted for three days a week again, having Mondays and Fridays off.
When I changed schools when Tia was two, I was asked to work four days a week and I was not ‘allowed’ to reduce my fraction of time until 1/2 way through Term 1. I worked four days a week for the next 25 school weeks. And have been working full time since.
Unfortunately my current school principal has grown children interstate and eats, sleeps, drinks, and breathes work and just doesn’t understand the way other principals I have worked with seemed to. I also get dinner time and late night or early morning calls about work. Aargh!!
My employer definitely got ‘free work out of me’ when I was being paid to work four days a week. I would take my Friday load home with me, only to return to post it notes all over my office door, computer, chair, pigeon hole and what seemed like everyone wanting to “just catch up with me for a minute”!! That usually turned out to be a minimum of 7 minutes.
My pay decreased but my load was the same. I was doing my full time job with less pay- which was partly when I made the decision to return to full-time.
In the past I changed my work time and patterns according to how I felt I was going! I think teaching is a perfect career for part-time work, especially when you can share a class with another mum. They understand and don’t mind swapping days when appointments have to be made on work days. It’s truly sharing the load. 🙂
I loved working three days a week. I loved the fact I could be a mum and a professional.
I could do my work at work, my mum and home stuff on my days off and weekends were time for all of us without the thought and stress of washing, ironing, cleaning etc.
Tia particularly loved my days off last year. She said only today, “We don’t have Fridays together anymore do we mum, cos you have to go to work now.” She shook her head “All cos of those naughty kids!”
I often spent my Friday afternoon helping out in Kiara’s classroom. She loved that.
I am sure they will never thank me for going to work, earning money and buying them ‘things’. They have and still do, thank me for the time and things we do together. That is worth way more to me than any pay I have ever received. ❤
Luckily for us mum and dad live close by and are happy to help out with caring for our girls. This enabled me to return to work, knowing my babies were being loved and looked after.. I knew they would be cuddled if they were sad, upset, hurt, sick or just because any of them wanted to. Now Mum and Dad drop Kiara at school and Tia at kindy. And I know the same 🙂
My day off last year did fit with Mum and Dad having a day to themselves, which they spent it volunteering for Meals on Wheels.
I understand why those that have family looking after their kids say they are not they would have gone back if I had to put my kids into childcare centre. This is true for me but I didn’t have to think differently, so I’ll never know!
I have friends who say the same about leaving their kids with family rather than childcare!!
It’s never perfect. I beat myself up mentally for EVERY thing I think I miss- assembly, concert, sports day excursions… Or when they are sick and I can’t stay home. I do the same when Tia is having a ‘mum I just want you day’.
When work creates the pressure, I just get to the work things when I can, prioritize! I am very organised at work, and work hard. I leave home at 7:15am, drop the girls at mum and dad’s place, then drive 45 minutes to work. Sometimes when I get there ‘people’ want to give me a hard time about arriving at 8:30am, which is when I am officially supposed to start. I get the same sort of reaction if I leave at any time between 4:30 and 5:00pm – which is not very often! The Department of Education says we can leave from 4pm onwards except staff meeting night which is 5pm, so this is pretty unreasonable.
Three days a week with Monday and Friday off was ideal. I loved the fact I could be a mum and a professional…. My perfect solution!
Do you think employers get lots of ‘free work’ from mums who work part time?
Tamara Kudiarskyj-Latham is a mum to Nikolai, 3 and Aleksandr, eight months
Tamara worked Saturdays when Nikolai was four months old to save for a holiday, but after six weeks decided it wasn’t worth it. Her work on Saturdays was providing respite care for parents of an autistic child. She returns to work today after the birth of her second son last year.
The real reason I started working Saturdays after Nikolai was born was that my husband Mark had been asked to be best man at one of our dearest friend’s wedding and the location was Bali.
How could we say no? But we had no money with a new baby. We had saved for being on maternity leave but not enough for a holiday. We made the decision quite selfishly. We really wanted to go and this was the answer. We didn’t feel that I would be losing time with Nikolai as I wasn’t working through the week and so, yes, the extra money was worth it.
The first few weeks were fine and it worked for us because each week we stayed focused on the fact that Mark was going to be spending quality time with Nikolai and developing a father son relationship with him, and I was helping families with children who had a disability and using my work brain again, but it did become hard work. Weekends were when we spent quality time as a whole family and what ended up happening was that I would work all day Saturday therefore Sunday would be ‘chores day’ – shopping, cleaning washing. I did start to feel extremely guilty being ‘the mum’ and it did bother us, so after about six weeks I was able to find a replacement. Fortunately we did go to Bali and had a wonderful time as a family 🙂
We are in a trickier situation after having our second son Aleksandr. I was supposed to be returning to work three days per week (we had financially budgeted for this and it is what I worked on returning to work after Nikolai). However a month ago the Director of the Childcare Centre told me there was only a spot for two days and if I wanted it, I had to take the place four weeks before returning to work. This means a drop in pay and having to pay for the 2 boys to attend child care on only one wage. Hmmmm, the ruthlessness of child care!
So once again finances (unselfishly this time) have become an issue and the talk of working weekends has come round again. Yes, I have spent hours on the phone to Centrelink finding out what the maximum hours I can work before we start to lose benefits. You have to, and I think it’s amazing we get what we do to support mums to return to work. Yes, we’ve talked about how difficult it would be for Mark after working all week and then having both the boys at the weekend, and yes, we’ve looked at it as a blessing in disguise as I will get to spend precious time with Aleksandr whilst Nikolai is at daycare for the extra day.
So here we are again. This time we are both unsure of how it will go with working a weekend but we may not have a choice. Whatever we decide we will just do what we have to and make it work.
As for the perfect number of working days, I don’t think there is an answer with so many situations to take into consideration but I would love two days. With that combination, you still have the work balance of exercising your brain, talking about things other than your children and knowing after one day of work, only one more to go. The difficult situation especially in my job is can I get my work done in 2 days? Probably not. And is it financially viable? Well we will see.
Juliet Hudson is a mum to Ruby, six and Charlotte, four. She works in marketing four days a week. Today she shares her tips on part time work with us..
I know that for many working mums the sum of the parts don’t always add up. But I believe I’ve got it pretty good. Working part time, four days a week, in a role that’s interesting and has super-flexible work conditions. Stress levels are really low and I get to spend quality time with both children.
We moved to Australia on a dream of cutting back work hours and stress to enjoy an easier lifestyle. But with a three and one year old, no support network and a husband still working long hours, there was only one solution – return to work, at any cost!
My goal was to work fewer than the 40+ hours I was accustomed to, which would mean I could do at least some things well rather than lots of things badly.
Here are my tips on what to look for in a part time job.
1. Don’t take just any job
Despite holding down a senior role before becoming a mum, finding a part time job a was actually not as easy as I thought it would be. The first recruiter I saw said that because I was a mum returning to work I should expect to return to a much more junior level for longer hours! She promptly sold me an awesome marketing assistant role in dog food with a one hour commute each way!
2. Set your criteria for success and stick to it
Don’t convince yourself that dog food is a good thing. For me, a job has to be easily reached by foot or public transport, be three – four days a week, and have flexible start and finishing times. The work must be interesting, be in the area of health and offer development opportunities.
3. Number of days and total family wellbeing
I originally focused on three days allowing two days at home when the girls were home. This year only one day off is taken up with mumming and the other day off I have to myself – a blissful pleasure. Next year both girls are at school so five days is a real option. And for the right job, I’d seriously consider more hours. But I’m definitely convinced that five is too many and three – four days is best for our total family’s wellbeing.
4. Accept that often the numbers just don’t add up.
We don’t qualify for any childcare tax rebates. When the girls were younger, there were no places available at any of our local childcare centres so we hired a full-time nanny on the days I worked.When all my work related costs were added up, I barely break-even. Now we have an after-school nanny so the hard yards cost-wise are done!
5. That goes for hours vs. pay too.
Often my hours at work exceed hours paid, and my employer definitely benefits. I enjoy my work and take pride in doing a good job. I’m happy to do what’s required to ‘get the job done’. After all, I often worked overtime in my full-time employment. I have received some holiday time in lieu for extra workload. It’s important to agree the scope of a part time role and review regularly with your manger. Occasionally I agree to working extra days for the extra cash, but usually only for a set period of time.
6. Childcare has to be viewed as a fixed cost.
It’s a cost of living that we factor into our joint household budget much like electricity and weekly food shop.
7. Talk through and agree finances with your partner. Getting the monthly budgeting sorted is essential.
There just has to be some $funds available for your own reward and pleasure, no matter how small.
8. Being in control
For me this means smiley happy people at home, having a 100% capable and reliable nanny/afterschool care, having a hands-on partner, being home in time for book, bath, bed routine, having food in the fridge, having some real down-time, keeping up personal exercise and social calendar and completing major work projects well.
9. It’s about quality time not quantity time for myself and for the family
I’m definitely a happier mum and a happier partner for working part time. The girls understand that I will attend the really important school dates but not every school event – there are a lot! They’re fine with that. It also means that after four days at home, I’m rearing to get into the office. Thursdays are date night when I meet up with my partner after work (Like we did in the good old days) for an adult discussion, a drink and dinner. And you just can’t beat a Friday at the beach with a book and coffee!
Do these tips help you? Do you have any others? Don’t forget to vote in our poll!
There’s no perfect answer, but everyone has an opinion. For most families, it depends on such a complex set of circumstances, not all within their control. Our needs change from time to time as well.
Every family is different but it’s a challenge we all face, so we’re presenting a series of special guest posts on part time work over the next week. We’ve got some mums with really different stories to share, so there will be something for everyone.
We’re not trying to show any ideal situation – in fact the opposite – but by asking mums to share their stories and what worked for them we can probably all learn something. Those with young children can think about what they might need when the school years start. Those with one or two children can think about their plans if their family expands. And all of us can think about what can be done to make life easier for those of us juggling it all. I’ve written elsewhere about ideas for the childcare rebate and public transport, but there’s no single answer, so please share your ideas.
I’m certainly no expert on part time work. I work full time. This wasn’t a deliberate strategy, but when I got pregnant I was in a job that was simply impossible to do part time, so when my baby was nearly one, I applied for another job with more flexible hours, less travel but still full time. I had an agreement with my new employer that I would develop a proposal to reduce my days when I could tell them I’d found a way to get the job done in fewer days. Two years later, we’re still waiting. This is partly because my employer is great about so many things. I work from home one day a week, and I can often take time off for the important things when it’s needed.
It’s also a bit selfish because I think I’d still get calls on my day off if I had one, and I hear too much about mums who are paid for four days but actually work five. If I’m going to do that, I’d rather have the money and the flexibility that working full time brings, like having a cleaner to help keep things ticking along at home.
We also want mums to take part in our poll. We know that the answers are more complex than just a number of days but please give us your answer and tell us your story in the comments.
The more stories we can share the easier it will be for others 🙂
According to a survey of 365 working parents in the UK, almost two thirds of working mums think men are discriminated against with regard to flexible working arrangements.
According to a Workingmums.co.uk survey for International Women’s Day, 65% felt men were not given a fair hearing over flexible working.
The survey also found that;
43% felt they did over 75% of the domestic chores and childcare.
Around 40% of working mums had taken a step back in their career since having children.
Only 29% had progressed in their career.
The rest had stayed at the same level
Women were concerned about the lack of flexible new jobs. A third felt trapped in the job they went on maternity leave from because they could not find a new job which gave them the work life balance they needed. A massive 89% had considered working for themselves to get a better work life balance, although 43% said they couldn’t afford to.
Meanwhile, in Australia, the union movement is currently conducting an independent inquiry into insecure work in Australia.