Over this pandemic year of being furloughed and then laid off, I have done so much personal reflection.
I have had informal conversations with moms and done a personal intake to learn more about what the “magic” formula is for career, work, or purpose when you have a young family.
I have now experienced several phases and categories of this working mom career formula.
>> I have felt the emotional roller coaster of being furloughed in a pandemic.
>> Then laid off in a pandemic.
>> I worked full-time with two young kids and a long commute.
>> I’ve been a stay-at-home parent during a pandemic and also worked full-time (which is not the normal set of challenges).
>> I have also experienced staying at home with the kids. And, I’ve also experienced starting a business after the new year.
There are different formulas that working parents engage in to figure out what works for them in their daily lives. The categories are:
>> Full-time work out of the house
>> Full-time work remotely
>> Part-time work
>> Freelance work and stay at home
>> Stay at home fully
What I’ve come to find out for myself is that I enjoy working part-time. Something like 15-20 hours a week so I can devote the rest of my time to my family. I will share with you why this formula works for me. There are a few things that I value in my life.
2. Free and unstructured time to explore and enjoy life
3. Having a purpose that relates to my fulfillment
These things may appear pretty simple to you, but I will share this with you—working women all over try to figure out what the formula is that works for their family, and it is not a black and white situation. I’ve spoken to moms who 100 percent love their job and career. If that is the path chosen, then oftentimes, there are other areas of your life (like family or other activities) that may get a smaller percentage of your time.
Part-time work also has its challenges. If we look at a 35-40 hour week, you will need to have childcare coverage and a disciplined schedule to “commit” to those hours and then align your schedule and other time for family, and so on. With part-time, you often don’t receive benefits, vacation time, or contributions to a retirement fund through an employer. That also means something. While you’re giving more time to your family in the short-term, you are sacrificing other benefits that come with participating in full-time work—each has its own unique challenges.
If you are self-employed and have decided to leave the corporate workforce due to schedule and flexibility challenges, you don’t get maternity leave paid. So these are additional costs that you and your family need to account for. When I’ve spoken to working families throughout these years, I’ve heard a lot about “making it work.” I often didn’t really understand what that meant. I live in one of the most expensive areas of the country in New England, and what I’ve come to find out is that, generally speaking, one partner has to make over 100k if you own a home, cars, have bills, and loans and expenses (including day care) for the other person to be able to take on part-time or freelance work.
Of course, I’m making a generalization for owning a home and my personal perspective of a family of four with two kids, it’s not far off from what I’ve seen. Most of my friends and colleagues in this area have chosen to work full-time, and I don’t believe most of them have the choice. Maybe they do. Our lives here are expensive and driven by capitalism and many needing or wanting stuff. The working mom career formula is individual and will always be one that each mom has to evaluate deeply for herself.
As someone who worked full-time, had a long commute, and has seen the rhythms of how that plays out on a daily basis, I’m happy to report that is not me living in my highest purpose right now. I don’t think that lifestyle lends to clarity in my brain, and it doesn’t allow for space to grow, be present, and live at a pace that works for me. The rat race ship has sailed for me.
I bring this up because when you choose to work full-time and also have young children, there will be many sacrifices that you make with your time, your energy, and your mental health. You have to weigh what is important and works for your capacity. Stress and overwhelm can creep in on the sheer amount of logistics and caretaking you are doing to make your household run.
There’s a simple formula to solve this: it’s taking on less.
The working mom formula can be simple. It can be prioritizing your family and finding work that fulfills you as well. You need not be in struggle or guilt to figure this out any longer. It can be as simple as choosing a well-lived life—one that brings you joy and can also pay your bills.