I’m Leaning Out (Sort Of): On Working Part Time

After an emotionally exhausting adoption process, our newborn daughter was finally in our arms. I desperately wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but our finances at the time did not allow for that. After a 12-week maternity leave and finally securing childcare at the last possible second, it was time for me to return to work full time.

Childcare was expensive. We saw our daughter for maybe a waking hour or two each day during the week. It wasn’t worth it. I turned in my resignation just days later. (My poor boss. I promise it wasn’t planned that way!)

The decision to quit my full-time job, where I carried health insurance for both our 3-month-old daughter and myself, wasn’t the most financially responsible choice. My co-workers praised me and said things would surely work out in our favor. We’ll see about that! I thought.

I was open to part-time work, but didn’t know if or when the right fit would come along. After about a month of the stay-at-home mom gig (which, is no joke), I found a job posting online in my field of study. A local nonprofit was hiring a bookkeeper. Just 10 hours a week, flexible scheduling. I applied, and within a week had a new part-time job.

Mothers in the workforce encounter many unique challenges, and one of the biggest seems to be childcare. Searching for full-time childcare Monday through Friday from 8-5 was incredibly overwhelming – not to mention, incredibly expensive.

But now our situation had changed. I was only working two days a week, and both my mother and mother-in-law were able to watch our now 5-month-old daughter in their home. They got quality time with their new granddaughter, and we could feel 100% comfortable with who was caring for her while I was at work. To be completely honest – this arrangement is a game-changer for my decision to work part-time. I’m not sure if we could have made this work for our family had we not had access to nearby, convenient (and hello, FREE!) childcare.

What does this look like for me today, 4+ years and one more child later? I now work for a different employer, but continue to only work two days each week. For me and for my family, this is a great balance. Leaving the workforce for any significant amount of time could be seen as a downside, but I feel like keeping one foot “in” has allowed me to keep my skills current, learn new things, and be socially and intellectually stimulated in ways I would not be if I were home 100% of the time.

At the same time, I hold this current arrangement with open hands knowing that our situation could change at any moment. I’m a firm believer that what works for me might not work for you, and that’s OK.

About this series: Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In philosophy focuses on the challenges women face in trying to get ahead by taking charge of their own careers. This week on KCMB, our “Lean In/Lean Out” series will look at a number of the challenges associated with deciding to transition out of the workplace. View all posts in this series.

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