It is no secret that keeping it all together is hard. Adulthood comes with its challenges and if you are fortunate enough to have kids, challenges are combined with responsibilities (yes I know responsibilities exist when you don’t have kids, but keeping a child alive, fed, happy and healthy is a pretty big deal). A massive part of this is working out an employment situation that works for you, your family and workplace.
For some this means working full-time, for others it means being a full-time care giver and for the rest we are somewhere in the middle as ‘part-time workers’.
I’m very blessed to be in a situation of employment security. I have held down a permanent position in the Australian Public Service for over six years. As part of this I have been able to negotiate part-time hours and this didn’t just start when I had my boys. I actually had a period of part-time work when recovering from a mental and physical breakdown that sidelined me out of work for a year.
Part-time work looks different for everybody. Some it means working a full week and then having a week off, others it means less days but really long hours or working shorter days more often. Currently for me it means three days in the office a week. I work longer hours so it probably is more like 3.5 days a week with actual time in the office.
This arrangement allows my family to have financial security and gives me precious time with my children which are my number one priority. It also allows me to get on top (or at least attempt to be on top of) domestic duties. I know part-time work isn’t an option or a preference for everyone, but for me it is a no brainer. It allows my career to progress by not completely stepping out of the workforce, it is important for my own wellbeing and sense of worth, and a welcomed break from nappies and tantrums. But just like anything, it does come with its own challenges.
These challenges include feeling like you are spread too thin. Like you are not really achieving in either of your ‘two jobs’ because you can’t 100% commit to either. As one of you lovelies put it:
“I find with working part-time I never feel like I am doing anything properly, I’m constantly missing things at work as I have to leave on time, or my mind is elsewhere and I’m not on the ball. At home my kids eat too much take-away, we don’t always get time for readers/homework. Once I factor in all the prep work that goes into going to work (lunches, everything ready the night before, etc) added with when I’m home I’m focussed on time with the kids, I run out of time for things I like to do”.
Then there are the unrealistic expectations and how we often cram in so much into our work days, as another lovely explains:
“Don’t expect to get three days worth of work! That’s a big one. I find I get a full-time load but am expected to cram it into three days”.
There is also the guilt that comes when you have to take leave if one of your little ones or if you get sick. You can’t ask your kid ‘please don’t be sick on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday’. When gastro or Hand Foot and Mouth come knocking they have no concern for your weekly calendar. So not only do you have the self-imposed and sometimes work imposed pressures to get your work done in limited time, you now feel even more behind for taking the leave.
But this post is not about all the challenges without providing some possible solutions and tips to help manage your work/life balance. We are all capable, strong ass-kicking women who just need some advice now and then. Below is a bunch of stuff that has helped others and me. Please leave a comment and let me know how you do it!
Being organised at home
- On a work night make sure school bags are packed and clothes laid out – the kids’ and yours before you watch Outlander. This makes the mornings a lot less hectic.
- Use one day a week to do any preparation cooking. I used to be super organised and it made such a difference to have a few dinners ready to go, I really need to that again! A girlfriend cooks up all her toddler’s lunches and dinners in batches to freeze that last about two weeks, she finds this takes a big load off during the week and she knows that healthy options are always available.
- Do a load of washing a night and avoid the big pile up. I don’t do this personally but a friend swears by it.
- Get on the same page by sharing a calendar. I know some lovelies who do this by syncing calendars with their partners and others who use a whiteboard near the kitchen. However you do it, having one source of truth helps keep everyone on track and picked up from training.
- Sort out the pick-ups and drop-offs. Whether you share this with your partner, child-care giver or your ex, getting this element right is crucial. What works for us is Hubby doing the morning run and I the evening. This allows both of us to work a full working day. I start around 7am and then leave at 4.30pm. Hubby drops off kids bit before 8am and comes home after 5pm. I really feel the squeeze when Hubby works interstate because doing both runs takes up so much time especially as I work on the other side of town.
- Treat your ‘home days’ like ‘office days’. When I had my first son I allowed my home days be fairly casual and not planned out. Now with two I realise I need to give purpose to these days otherwise everything gets on top of me. For example, Thursday is swimming lessons in the morning then cleaning the whole house, doing the laundry etc. Knowing I have set aside a day of the week for particular tasks really helps me.
Being organised at work
- Get your hours right. As a part-time worker you might be able to negotiate how many hours you work in a day. There have been times when I could only work seven hours a day due to commitments but others when I have worked closer to nine hours a day. Getting your hours right is crucial in determining if you feel overwhelmed or not.
- Time management. This is a biggie! For me this means not having long lunch breaks unless it is for a yummy team outing 😉 It also means figuring out what works for you. I was telling my manager recently that I was feeling frustrated because I felt I spent all my time in meetings so was running out of time each day to actually get the work done. She suggested I block out a few hours of each afternoon in my calendar for pure ‘head down, bum up’ work. By blocking it in my calendar I cannot be booked into meetings. This is something I’m going to give a go this week!
- Set your own parameters when it comes to working from home. Some people feel more confident knowing they can check emails from home while others like to have complete separation while not at the office. Hopefully you are in a position that you can dictate the level of access to your work. Last week my team was given iPads to help do our jobs better as we are often in meetings. I’m SO STOKED to have this device but have decided to keep the iPad at the office because I know my personality, and if I have access to emails I will be thinking about and doing work when I should be paying attention to the kids. What is great is that I have this option, so if one of the kids is sick or we have a major deadline coming up, I can work while at home. I also always let my teammates and manager call my mobile if they ever have a work related question, only seems to be fair and I hardly ever get a call!
- Be in a supportive work environment and if you aren’t, have a plan to exit. Life is just too short to be unhappy and if your workplace is not supportive then you and your family deserve better! I know this is easily said than done, and sometimes we just have to stick things out, but your ultimate goal is to find a good fit for you, and these places do exist!
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. I think we can all relate to this one being the superstars we all are. We are trying to be the best and do our best 100% of the time, but what happens if you only have 50% of your time to do it in? My current boss who is the bees knees gave me this advice “you get paid less, so don’t expect you are meant to be doing a full-time service offer”. Smart lady that one!
- Be happy. This isn’t me saying “ignore the negatives, just be ignorantly happy”, but rather make your happiness a priority. If your work situation is making you miserable then ask yourself why and what changes can you make? Does it mean sacrificing the brand new car for one you can afford so you can spend an extra day with your kids? Does it mean enrolling in further study or re-training to get your dream job? Remember, you can’t control a lot in life but you are responsible for part you play in your own circumstances. Don’t be a victim, figure it out and go for it! The reality is that nothing is ever perfect, but I believe we can all become fairly content if we are true to ourselves and our loved ones.
So there you have it, just some things that are helping me along the part-time journey. What do you think? Got anymore advice for me?? Love to know!