I was interested to read today about the latest Netmums survey and campaign regarding mums and part-time work.
Netmums surveyed 1600 mums who work part-time. 70% of the women surveyed chose freely to work part-time and 93% of those had worked full-time before having children.
However, half of the women reported that they had taken lower skilled jobs when returning to work part-time.
Part-time work tends to be concentrated in low paid and low skilled jobs, where opportunities for progression may be limited. Many mums complained about being held back by working part-time:
This certainly matches my own experience. I was fortunate after my first child to be able to return to work part-time on a freelance consultancy basis. I worked as part of a senior advisory teaching team for the local authority, the pay was good and I had the opportunity to spend time with my daughter. However, it was not without its pitfalls. The other members of my team worked full-time and on permanent contracts. This meant that many of the perks were not offered to me (including much coveted trips to Reggio and the Forest Schools in Denmark). I didn’t get a local authority email address meaning my emails often didn’t reach the people I needed to contact and no mobile phone or laptop like the rest of my team. The biggest drawback however was the lack of maternity pay – as a freelancer I was only entitled to statutory maternity pay.
Okay, so many of these disadvantages were because I was a freelancer but I see my desire to remain part-time as a big disadvantage. Since having my 2 youngest children I haven’t returned to work. The freelance work dried up with the budget cuts and I find myself in a difficult position. I could take up a part-time classroom teachers post or become a supply teacher but I would see this as a step backwards. With my experience and qualifications I would expect at the very least to be a Foundation Stage Co-ordinator or a Children’s Centre Lead Teacher. The difficulty is that once you begin to look at senior/management positions it becomes difficult to share that job with someone else and work on a part-time basis.
I don’t think this is uncommon. I meet talented, well qualified women all the time who work on the checkout at Waitrose. Those that try to work full-time or cram 5 days work into 4, only to end up feeling like inadequate mums. Some even give up altogether. I met a mother who had recently achieved a 1st Class Law Degree. When looking for jobs she was told that as a single mum she really needed to question whether this was the right profession for her because of the long unpredictable hours.
I find myself in a position of frustration that all my experience and knowledge is not being put to good use. I chose to be a mum, but I would like to strike a balance between being there for my children and having something fulfilling for me, without feeling like my years of study and experience have been wasted. If I didn’t feel this way I could get a low skilled, low paid job but it would be difficult to pay the childcare for 2 under 5’s .
Am I being unrealistic in my expectations? Do I need to bite the bullet and make a decision to return to work full-time or work part-time in a less fulfilling job?
I’d be interested to hear what other mums think.