Is there anything better than being a mommy? Most mommies would shout NO! However, for something that’s so wonderful, it sure does come with an endless list of sacrifices.
There are simple sacrifices – the things you don’t think twice about giving up. Then, there are considerable sacrifices – the things you didn’t realize you’d have to decide to give up. And when you do let them go, in favor of what’s best for your family, it can still feel crushing.
One of the most prominent of these sacrifices, undoubtedly, is career. For decades, tired women have found themselves asking the same tired question: should I sacrifice time with my children for professional development and a meaningful income, or vice versa? There is no right or wrong answer, both come with renunciations that are difficult to give up.
Then there’s the concept of finding a happy medium: by spending part of your time at work, and part of your time at home. It’s a compromise of sorts. And though it’s nice to experience both sides of the coin, it can also feel like you’re stuck in some sort of limbo – one in which you straddle both worlds, but can never fully step into either – making it feel as though you’ve settled for half.
For those of us fortunate enough to have this fifty-fifty reality available to us, we are grateful for the freedom to have this choice, as we know this reality isn’t viable for everyone.
However, with this balance comes a whole other question of sacrifice: If we only ever partially prioritize either world, are we, in turn, actually holding ourselves back in both?
If you happen to fall in this half/half zone of being a part-time working/SAHM mom, below is likely how it feels:
As far as working, you can preserve a basic level of career involvement and earn a modest income. By staying in the game, you also don’t risk falling further behind (just ask the stay-at-home moms who have attempted re-entering the workforce, after years of raising their children, only to find that employers expect them to start from scratch). By continuing to participate in the working realm, you’re more or less holding your spot, but likely not moving forward in line.
This is for two reasons: 1) career advancement is usually preserved for those who can commit more time and energy than what you’re willing to dedicate, and 2) career advancement is not a priority for you, anyways.
When you work part-time, it’s likely because you need to earn an income and you’d like to participate in something meaningful beyond your home life, but you don’t want to sacrifice a significant amount of time with your family.
This only leaves room for a certain amount of options. Career advancement becomes secondary to more important things, such as: flexible working hours, reliable health benefits, investment opportunities, decent pay and reasonable vacation time.
There’s also no guarantee that your job will be within your preferred line of work because there are only so many part-time positions available. If you’re fortunate enough to work within your desired field of profession, then consider yourself lucky.
One thing remains clear: when you chose to work part-time, you need to have a position that allows you to prioritize your family, not your career.
Also, even though you’re earning an income, it’s heavily offset by childcare expenses. What makes this reality even harder to swallow is that those expenses only exist because of your job. It can feel like you’re working just to pay others to raise your children.
You often question if there is a true purpose for working when you’re not significantly benefiting from it, career-wise or financially.
As for time with your kids, you’re able to preserve a satisfying level of balance. Family dinners, feeling caught-up (ish) with housework/errands, and leisurely weekends are probably some of the perks you enjoy by working part-time. Furthermore, it puts a little extra cash into your budget.
It’s also nice to have more time with your kids, but not feel the pressures of full-time momming. There is nothing more draining than child-rearing. By having some time “off” from full-time parenting, you are better able to stay “on” when you are parenting. Working part-time is a great way to neutralize some of that stress.
However, your kids still probably spend the majority of their time with their childcare provider. You may have extra time with them, but it’s still laden with a down-to-the-minute weekly routine. While you don’t feel all the same pressures as a full-time working parent, you still experience most of them, and they can take away from some of the freedoms you’d enjoy if you weren’t working.
You also have to use your sick days, personal days and vacation time with absolute precision, which is difficult for all working parents to manage. It can feel like an impossible math equation while trying to divvy things up between yourself and your spouse.
While being a part-time working mom comes with some obvious perks, it, too, comes with a set of sacrifices. You may be playing both games, but it sometimes feels like you’re playing against yourself. What’s more, is neither side can win – it’s like an endless back-and-forth rally that never goes anywhere, but it’s still tiring you out.
As someone who’s been in this situation for almost 5 years, I’ve thought about it endlessly. It can be difficult to watch others soar through the career ranks while you continue to do the same thing year-after-year. It can also be difficult to watch others enjoy their time with their young children, completely unrestrained, because they stay home with their kids. They get the best of one world, while you get half of both.
However, if this is the reality you live within, there is another way to look at it.
Once you’re able to accept your middle-of-the-road existence, and appreciate the mediocrity for what it truly is – ease (the holy grail of nouns for parents) – then your perspective shifts from feeling sub-standard to feeling grateful.
As parents, one of the main things we seek is convenience, because anything that makes our lives easier is a major win. And, when you float between the worlds of working and staying at home, convenience is one of the most obvious gifts you’re awarded.
Sure, you may not have the whole pie on either side. Heck, you may not even have the best piece of either pie. Yet, you do have slices of both pies, and that absolutely counts for something. Having it all is either and illusion or a perception, and it’s up to you to decide how to look at it.
So, save your career aspirations for when the time feels right, because your kids will grow, and that day will come. Until then, try to enjoy the best of both worlds.