A wish-list for mothers working ‘part time’ this year

A wish-list for mothers working ‘part time’ this year

Having a part time job that enables you to spend time with young kids is an absolute luxury, isn’t it?

No, it’s a job. And employers aren’t generally in the business of creating luxuries, without expecting considerably more than they’re giving in return. 

This year, thousands of new mothers will work part time for the first time in their adult careers. Other mothers will continue their part time careers, while negotiating daycare and other caring arrangements on the side. Other women again will continue working part time while their kids are in school, in order to deal with school hours and holidays that are so conveniently nothing like traditional office hours. 

Time is the most valuable, precious and precarious thing these working mothers have.

Indeed, a sudden shift in available time is one of the biggest adjustments a new mother faces — one that shifts again if and when she returns to work. As Anne Hollonds, director of the Australian Institute of Families Studies calculated back in 2016: Becoming a mother sees women jump from spending an average of two hours a week caring for others to a massive 51 hours per week. 

It’s not just the hours of caring that mount up, but also the hours on housework, which rise from an average of 16 to 25 after having children, according to Hollonds. These trends in hours spent on caring and housework have hardly shifted in the past two decades, despite more mothers being in the workforce.

This lack of time, concern over time, and fears of further time restrictions, is a good reason why so many working mothers feel ‘lucky’ and ‘privileged’ to have a part time role or flexible working conditions

So lucky that many such women don’t want to risk their current set up on a promotion or opportunity elsewhere — meaning they can often find their careers parked for years. 

So lucky again that many such women also don’t want to rock the boat by requesting a salary increase, or even that they get paid for the five days they’re actually putting in, despite only making it to the office on three.

In recent years, we’ve witnessed and covered the positive trend in more employers offering genuine flexible working arrangements, particularly large employers who are moving away from expecting that staff are in and out of the office at certain time.

These trends have been excellent shifts forward. But they’re not enough.

The good majority of part time working mothers don’t work in such organisations. They’re working in small businesses, medium-sized companies, organisations that haven’t necessarily gotten their HR, technology and other processes sorted out in order to enable or understand the benefits of remote and flexible working.

They’re often working in businesses that are benefitting from the significant advantage of having part time working women — the segment the workforce identified as the most productive, according to 2015 research by EY.

The real revolt or shift in employers and others finally seeing the true value of part time working mothers may need to come from such mothers themselves. 

So in 2018, I have a number of very simple hopes for mothers working part time.  

They’re hopes that urge you to shift from the, ‘I’m lucky to have a part time job’ mindset to, ‘They’re lucky to have me’ one instead. They’re hopes that ask you to participate in a revolt of sorts (in all that spare time you don’t have) to finally be appreciated, acknowledged and compensated for the work you do.

And they’re hopes that are really for all women: Mothers or not, working part-time or full-time, flexibly, in the home, or in your own business.

That you’ll get paid the salary you deserve. Working part time — and having some flexibility on your ‘day off’ — is no reason for your employer to pay you for three days when you’re actually putting in the equivalent of five. Consider the tasks you’re completing compared to those working full-time around you, take notes on what you’re getting done, arm yourself with facts and figures. Build your case and re-negotiate your salary.

That you’ll take time to manage your health. I’m not going to call this ‘time for yourself’ because that’s bullshit. I’m talking time for your health: to walk, run, spin, swim, twist, lift, jump, dance or do whatever movements you can. I wish doing this was as simple as typing these words, but I know all too well the painful logistics required to find get to a gym, or even get out in the morning for a run. The time can not be ‘found’ it has to be created, and often that means negotiated, with the support of others. I urge you to note the importance of this time, to demand it, to see carving it out of your week as a lifetime habit that will ultimately assist in clearing your head, keeping you sharp, being on top of your game and living longer. Everyone benefits from that.

That you outsource, what you can afford to outsource. Maybe it’s a cleaner once a fortnight, perhaps it’s getting your kids to do more housework, or ordering a kid’s birthday cake from a bakery instead of spending the hours thinking, worrying and then actually creating some masterpiece from the Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook.

That if you have a partner, you share the caring/outsourcing costs. It’d be great to also share the load, but let’s at least start with sharing the costs. I’m sick of hearing mothers in dual-career households deducting the cost of childcare — or even a cleaner — from their own personal wage, and then calculating (and despairing at) what little they have left. Childcare is a household or family cost, NOT a women’s cost alone.

That you voice concerns over wasted hours. Many of us see the productivity drains sucking the hours out of our work day, but don’t necessarily speak up about them. These are the meetings that run longer than necessary (and the follow-up work associated with them), the reporting procedures that could be done differently, the legacy technology that fails to acknowledge the many simple and inexpensive tools available to make more businesses productive. Find these drains, speak up about them, suggest ways to change them. Your employer will be better off (and so will you).

That you get back time (even just minutes) to talk, share and learn. Avoid being an island as much as you can. Make the space to connect with people, ideas and other things around you that are outside of your immediate family and the person sitting next to you at work. It’s a couple of minutes to call a friend, to meet a former colleague for a coffee, to listen to a podcast. It might be a date night with your partner, a meal with a couple of friends, or even taking up an online course or something on the side. This time is about creating lifeboats to something else. 

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