Sunday, 1 October 2017

Part Time Prejudice

Before Aoife was born, I worked full time in a twenty four hour contact centre for an airline. My shifts would range from 7am to 11pm, seven days a week. I enjoyed my job and had a tight knit team of whom I had developed friendships with over the three and a half years that I had been working there for.
When we decided that the time was right to try for a baby, the cost of child care never occurred to me; my partner was in a very well paid job overseas and we were in an extremely fortunate position.
Once Aoife was born, I was still adamant that I would return to work full time; so I put in a flexible working request for me to return to work full time on a Monday to Friday, nine to five basis in order for me to collect Aoife from nursery. This, unfortunately was rejected due to business needs. At the time I was genuinely disappointed, but looking back it really was a blessing in disguise as we couldn't foresee my husband quitting his job to return to the UK.
When Aoife was five months old she started attending a private nursery one day a week. At almost £150 a month for one day a week, I soon realised that realistically, even with my husbands job, childcare was going to cost a lot. That, added to the fact that my nine to five request had been rejected and I would be working shifts, part time started to look more and more appealing.
I soon was able to put a new working request in for part time hours; this again was rejected by my department but approved by a different one. To cut a long story short, after six months of heightened anxiety in my new role, I was finally able to return to my old department on a part time basis with more desirable hours.
Even after all of this, I still find that I feel awkward and a bit of a cop out when I tell people I work part time; the last time I worked part time was whilst I was at university and due to this I feel that people expect me to say that I'm studying in order to have a valid reason to justify my decision.
When people realise that I work part time and don't study on the sidelines, I instinctively feel judged; as though they think I'm a "kept woman" whose husband gives her a generous monthly allowance to spend how she pleases so that I don't need to work. I've had people ask "so what do you actually do?" or comment on how I "must love all of the free time I have". I also get asked "why? Why do you only work part time?".
Whilst I don't believe that anyone should ever have to justify their life choices to anyone, I still find that I constantly do in all aspects of my life.
To those who ask "what do you actually do?"; I'm an employee and a colleague for three days a week. For the rest of the week, I'm a mother, a wife, a cook, a cleaner, a makeshift nurse, a friend, a daughter; the list is endless. Even whilst at work I can't allow myself to switch off - I always make sure that I answer my phone to a withheld number incase it is the nursery, trying to figure out what to cook for tea, worrying if Aoife is okay in nursery after she has had a rough night of teething.
Of course, let's not forget all of the free time that I have! Four days a week to do what I want, when I want, right? Believe me, noone wants to be having a bath and washing their hair at 4:30 in the morning (the only time when both of my kids seem to be asleep at the same time recently!). My days off start at around 6am, sometimes earlier (hence my dawn bath time!), after I stayed up late so that I could watch a show or read a book in peace. 
My "free time" consists of soft play, parks, screaming toddler tantrums, nappy rash, attending to injuries and illnesses, forgetting to respond to friend's text messages, and endless hours of that damn Peppa Pig on repeat. Also, for the last six weeks a newborn has been thrown into the mix which usually sees me not sleeping for more than two hours at night. I find that I tend to be winning at life if I have managed to brush my teeth that day.
When it comes to why I only work part time ... before I went back to work, I'll be honest, the decision was made due to childcare costs. If Aoife had gone to nursery full time, I would have been looking at over £700 a month in fees. Once my own bills had been paid, it wouldn't have worked out financially beneficial at all for me to return full time. That, added to the fact that my shift work would have made nursery pick ups impossible.
However, now I have seen it in a different light. My kids aren't going to be this little forever; with my husband only home on weekends, I do feel that I need to be at home for them, to do things that they would miss out on if I was working all week. I don't want my children to spend more time with their nursery key worker than me; I want to be the one to witness their first milestones, to encourage them, not someone else.
It won't be long until they're old enough to not want to spend time with me, their independence will soar and they will be off on weekend breaks with the grandparents or to sleepovers with friends.
When people think that I have the best of both worlds; a work life and my own life, I have to remind them that I don't. I have my children's life - my whole agenda revolves around them, even when I am in the office replying to emails.m 
Time will fly so quickly to a point where I'm not needed as much, but until then I plan to savour every minute of the days I do have outside of work.
Whilst I do think that I will always feel judged for not returning to work full time, I know that I made the right choice for my family. So before you question a parent over why they decided that part time work was best for them, please stop and think of all of the reasons that made them come to this decision. But also realise that a reason isn't needed to want to spend as much time with your children as you can.
It won't be forever, but for now, it's perfect.

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