What I’ve Learned Working Part-Time

I dream of being part of a really cool community of part-time working moms who occasionally get together for coffee and conversation about their experiences and how they make it all work. In reality, I don’t know many moms who work part-time, despite efforts to meet them.

So, in case you’re a part-time working mom who also feels a little isolated from the full-time SAHM conversations AND the full-time working mom conversations, I’ll initiate and share what I’ve been learning along this journey…and I’d love to hear what has worked for you!

What I've Learned

1. I’ve learned to define my own success.  

I recently stumbled on this fabulous video with personal examples of what I’ve learned over the last 2.5 years—that “success” can (and should) have a very personal definition.

To me, “success” in this stage of life means being with my girls most mornings and afternoons, taking on projects that excite and challenge me yet have fairly predictable project timelines, building skills and relationships that will help me transition to increased employment in the future, achieving a certain profit margin between my childcare expenses and the work that I take on, and achieving a certain yearly income. “Success” right now also means only taking on projects that are 90% portable and able to be done from home (or the beach, or my parents’ house, or wherever the fun flexibility of SAHM life may take us…yes, I’m spoiled!) 

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To someone else, this vision might not seem very “successful.”  To another person, it might seem overwhelming.  But for me, it’s perfect, because it’s my version of success.

2. I’ve learned that God will give me enough time to do the things I’m called to do.

God does not call us to lives of frustration and striving—He wants to equip us for the tasks that are ours.  I’ve learned over the last 2.5 years that the things that matter most (from God’s perspective!) WILL happen if I prayerfully surrender my time to God and let Him assign and direct my steps.

Letting Him assign my steps means that I recognize that I’m not in charge of what I take on—that I have a running dialogue with God about what tasks are actually “mine” and what should be someone else’s.

Letting Him direct my steps involves a lot of short prayers about my priorities each day, praying that He will let me know what is most important in that day, in that hour, in that minute for me to do.  I pray that He can help me focus and work productively and energetically on what is most important to Him.  And then I try to listen for His voice of “this is important now” or “this isn’t important now” and actually obey.

3. I’ve learned to accept that sometimes the house wins, and sometimes work wins. 

It has been critical for me to accept that some days/weeks/seasons are more work heavy and others are more house-and- family-needs heavy, and that I can’t hold myself to a standard of perfect balance between the two.

I also can’t expect myself to do both roles perfectly.  I am not a full-time housewife.  I am not a full-time worker.  My attention is divided because of the roles I have chosen.  I’ve had to accept that, and part of that means that I have given up on trying to be outstanding at both domains all the time.

I try to let whatever is most important win—not what is most pressing.

Sometimes, this means relaxing my standards for house cleanliness or what constitutes a healthy meal, working through all of the “relaxation” time in a weekend because I have a work project, or barely parenting for 20 minutes.

Photo on 9-22-14 at 8.18 PM8:18 pm.  If you aren’t going to sleep, you’re going to watch me write a grant.

Other times, this means putting a project away before it’s “perfect” to drink a glass of wine with David, folding laundry instead of taking careful notes while on a conference call, or saying no to a speaking engagement because the event is being held during Zoe’s swim lessons and I enjoy watching her swim.

I don’t always choose the right domain to focus on.  But I am grateful to have both, and try to steward both well.

4. I’ve learned to own—and learn from—my choices.  

If I get stressed or aggravated with the balance of a certain time, I remind myself that each season is the result of my choices.  I’ll lean into whatever needs to be done and finish it up—but I also pay attention to see if I can learn anything.

For example, I worked with a client who has great programming and a good reputation.  It’s easy to win grants for them (in 15 hours of work, I helped them win over $75,000). But it was hard to write grants for them because they ignored project timelines and gave me information last minute.  Their work style (which I could not change) resulted in me spending multiple afternoons working while Riley sat in an Exersaucer fussing and Zoe watched TV (this is NOT my parenting style).

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It was tempting to stay on the client, because winning grants builds my reputation and shows that I am “successful.”  But I didn’t feel successful at my other, more important role as a mommy when I worked with this client.

I recognized that I was choosing stress by choosing to keep working with this client, so I passed them on to someone else who could accommodate their last-minute work style.  I now ask more questions about a client’s work style before accepting them as a client.

I have learned that I don’t operate in a vacuum.  Every time I accept a new project, I’m choosing a little extra stress and maybe some time away from my family, and so I have learned to think carefully about the project to make sure it’s worth it.  Sometimes, it is, and I say yes and own the choice I made and its implications.  Other times, I say no and remember that I’m not “losing” them—I’m choosing something better—and own that choice.

I’ve also realized that by working part-time, I end up missing out on a few opportunities.  My girls miss playdates and parties sometimes because of my work schedule, and I can’t always relate well to the conversation topics or stressors of full-time SAHMs or working women or feel understood by them.  But again, I recognize that this is a result of my choices—choices I am blessed to have.

5. I’ve learned how to schedule work time.  

Right now, I work 10-12 hours a week & have childcare 6 of those hours.  I’ve played around with different levels of childcare and different times of day for the childcare.  I’m pretty fond of my current 2-5 pm twice a week, because honestly, 2-5 is my least favorite time of day with my kids and they’re probably better off with someone else twice a week during that time.  I get to do all the fun morning activities with them, and then leave them in someone else’s energetic arms.  No guilt in that!

2 pm isn’t naturally my strongest work time, but I’ve learned to make it so (and coffee helps).

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Also, since I do about 50% of my work in hour-long spurts during the girls’ naptime, I’ve learned to leave good notes for myself about where I stopped and where I was headed when I end a work session.  I keep a master deadline spreadsheet and do some weekly planning each Sunday to map out the week’s work tasks.   Each naptime and work session has a task and a list of back-up tasks, which (mostly) keeps me from puttering.

6. I’ve learned to savor this wonderful gift.  

I am very grateful for the opportunity to do meaningful work, both with my girls and with students and clients.  I am thankful that our world has evolved enough that I can contribute to it beyond my role as a mommy.  I am proud and thankful that my 2.5 year old does this:

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and that she also sets herself up at my desk and says:

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“I work like mommy.” 

This is a beautiful life.

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