I have been thinking this week about the dilemma mums have going back to work after maternity leave regarding whether to go back full time or part time. I went back full time, partly for economic reasons, partly because I was concerned about impact being part time would have on my career.
Having gone back full time though I often long for a couple of extra days at home with my daughter (in fact much of my annual leave is used for one off days where I just need to have extra time with her) and think how lucky those mums who have that are. However, after talking to a number of my mum friends who did go back to work part time it seems that part time working has huge disadvantages as well.
It seems that what happens, particularly in the corporate world, is that mums end up trying to do 5 days’ work in, for example, 3 days, and all that happens is that they are being paid less to do the same amount of work.
The other thing that seems to happen is that the level of job satisfaction goes down because a) you are treated differently from full time workers and b) it makes it more difficult to complete tasks. You often have to pass off work for someone else to complete which is incredibly frustrating when you have been working hard on a project.
In fact some of the mums I know are so frustrated with this that they have decided to go back to working full time and sacrifice the time at home with their children (which is already being sacrificed because they are having to work longer and harder than they should be anyway, just for less pay).
So how do we fix this dilemma? The ideal scenario would be part time work, which has no impact on your career with a fair distribution of work for part time workers. The first point I believe is to do with the perception from your full time worker colleagues which should be challenged. The perception is that if you work part time then you are not as dedicated to your career as they are, which is often not true. We were all hard working, career minded women – we had a child, but we still have ambition, drive and aspirations for ourselves.
The second point is where you need to push back to your employer if you are being asked to work beyond your hours. This is extremely difficult when you are trying to prove that as a part time worker, you still have the same career aspirations as a full time worker.
The answer isn’t to be taken advantage of. You should not be being paid less to do the same job. This just isn’t right. Decide what you can achieve in the time you have agreed to work and set clear boundaries with your employer and if you feel that you are being side stepped because you are ‘a part time worker’, then make sure you challenge it.
Flexible working does not mean, the company gets more out of you for you getting less in return.