Partly working

Ever since I first went part time, returning to work when my baby bear was 11 months old, I have joked that being part time is a mug’s game. In many ways that’s not a joke. Even in these enlightened days most companies don’t handle part time workers very well. Promotions, bonuses, and achievements tend to be calculated based on a full time load. Occasionally it’s possible to get them recalculated to take working hours into account, but you have to fight for it every time. Workloads tend to err on the generous side – generous to your employer, that is. I once had a boss who tried to argue that my workload should be the same, even though I was officially half time.

Meetings are scheduled without regard to working hours. Urgent emails get sent on your “day off” (and you are fully expected to read and respond, day off or no). Work gets more difficult as you try to schedule things into a compressed format. Many workplaces aren’t good at calculating part time workloads, and it can wind up a constant struggle to draw lines around your home life. You have to fight simply to maintain your on-site working hours, never mind the expectations that you will work at home, answer calls and emails, and generally pretend to be working 24/7.

It’s not easy to calculate a fraction of full time work when these days so much full time work flows outside working hours anyway. The 38 hour week is a laughable myth. My full time teacher friends work hard on weekends and in the evenings. They start early, leave late, and work at home, including during those oh-so-generous holidays. What is 0.6 of “always”??

Somedays won’t end ever and somedays pass on by,
I’ll be working here forever, at least until I die.
Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t
I’m supposed to get a raise week, you know damn well I won’t.

Huey Lewis and the News – Workin’ for a living

Sometimes I wonder whether working is actually worth it. I have to admit, being a stay at home mum did not work for me. As an extreme extrovert, there simply wasn’t enough company or mental stimulation in being home with the kids, much as I adore them. I love my job. It is a vocation, with all the passion and intensity that implies. I am incredibly privileged to work in a place that is chock full of people who are passionate about what they do – and the price I pay for that is to work in a place that is chock full of people who are passionate about what they do. It’s a thrilling and stimulating environment but it can, at times, be a roller coaster ride that’s a little short on balance.

Having a vocation is a dangerous thing. If I give myself to it entirely, my family suffers. It can make me a difficult workmate, as I struggle to compromise on what I believe is important – sometimes, I admit, losing perspective in the process. Add being part time and I find myself feeling guilty about working, and guilty about not working. I feel I should be doing more work out of hours, and I feel guilty about time spent working at home when I should be with my family. It’s a tough balance to strike, and on days when I used up all my patience at work and wind up shouting at my girls, I wonder whether I am doing the right thing.

I carefully divide my time between my job and my family, and sometimes I am so busy making sure that no-one gets shortchanged that I leave myself bankrupt. Being part time is a mug’s game. But as my husband said to me last night: “Can you think of anything better?”


4 thoughts on “Partly working

  1. I feel your pain, Linda. Part-time is certainly a mugs game, unless you can slip off into an alternate dimension between work stints. I’m hungry for my old work at the moment, and it may fit your requirements – sessional work. Make your mark as a More Knowledgeable Other. Sure, it lacks the regular income cycle, but you get to be wild and interactive for the time you’re working and then the knife-switch sparks and you’re home again. You’d have a raft of things you could specialise in – you could make your writing pay, easily.

    1. lindamciver

      Thanks Scot. I’ve tried making the writing pay, and it doesn’t really work for me – for the most part because writing is a solitary pursuit, which really doesn’t work for me! And you of all people know how hard it is to actually make it pay!

      The truth is I adore my job and my workplace. Right now I’m at a low ebb, ‘cos it’s been a real mongrel of a year. Maybe when we’re qualified and fully registered life will get easier, eh? I can dream. :)

  2. Two workplaces, one private, one public, said something similar to me – that because of the additional work for them when I was working part time (or full time with one work-from-home day), I should work faster and longer hours when in the office, and be always reachable when away from my company desk. I was expected to come in on non-work days for important meetings, because the ‘overheads’ in recording or taking notes cost the businesses too much.

    In one 30 hour part time week, I worked 80 hours to prep, drive to Portland and back, and deliver a few 12 hour days of training, after management and IT finally decided on a software platform 2 days before the training date. It was insane, but the training was well-received.

    Is there a job/industry in which part time is really part time?
    IT, writing and teaching certainly aren’t!

  3. Uh huh, point taken. We shouldn’t make any career decisions, or even pay too much heed to rampant thoughts after about week five of any given term. The workload is cumulative, isn’t it? The stressload certainly is. I only suggested writing because you talk straight, have a big heart and don’t mince words. They’re prerequisites. Write copy for Amnesty , GetUp or Greenpeace. Maybe you could wrangle a travelling show?? Visit schools and deliver your unique slant on the world. ‘Can you think of something better?’ is a worthy mantra.

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