Lynnea Culhane, Contributing Writer
While all kinds of decisions weigh heavily on new parents, one of the biggest choices a parent faces is their choice of child care. Prior to having my son two years ago, I worked full-time. Some coworkers teased me that once I delivered the baby, I would find myself torn between wanting to return to my career and wanting to stay at home with my son.
But my decision wasn’t difficult for me — I wanted a balance of both.
Even though I was incredibly excited to take on the title of “mom” — to teach my son new things, experience new “firsts” and activities with him, and devote my time and energy to motherhood — I really wasn’t ready to give up my job, since it defines a huge part of who I am. My career continually teaches me new things, adds to my skill set, and aligns with my interests and education; I definitely didn’t want to leave the workforce entirely.
But I was anxious about finding childcare that had an open slot and included teachers who would care for my infant with the same intent and precision I did (but with surely more knack than I would have as an inexperienced new mom). So I thought working part-time might be the solution.
I recognize that not everyone can even consider this choice for a wealth of reasons — financial, social, health, and a number of other personal and professional reasons. But I was fortunate that my son was healthy and that when my husband and I weighed childcare costs with the benefits that me working part-time would provide our family, it seemed like it would be a good choice for us.
My job existed as a full-time position, so I was apprehensive about asking my supervisor for a flexible schedule; I feared my request would be denied. But after explaining to my supervisor that I was fully committed to my job and I wanted to reduce my hours, I coordinated a part-time schedule. Two years later, my Monday through Friday consists of three 7-8 hour days spent at work and two days at home with my son.
At this point, I’ve developed a great partnership with my son’s care provider so that he’s receiving complimentary care to what I provide during my days at home. And I adjusted our at-home schedule to match with his child care provider’s to avoid too many disruptions for him throughout the week.
One of the simple perks of working part-time was that when I was still nursing, I could take a break from pumping breastmilk at work. For someone who found it difficult to pump, I appreciated being able to nurse my son when I was home with him and limit my pumping sessions at the office.
Ultimately, my biggest reward has been the tempo — I can concentrate my energy on my son when at home and dedicate my focus to work when in the office— but it doesn’t come naturally. Achieving a balance of being a part-time working mom and a part-time stay-at-home mom has involved effort and flexibility, but most importantly, time management skills.
On a daily basis, I face the challenge of squeezing full-time work into part-time hours. The core responsibilities of my job didn’t change even though I now spend fewer hours in the office, so I’m still responsible for completing all my tasks within about 21 hours a week. Despite this, I try to avoid cramming “catch up” work to-dos into the two weekdays that I’m home with my son. I’ve also tried to be cognizant not to fret over pumping or trying to squeeze in household calls when I’m working.
I also try not to squeeze more draining household to-dos into those few weekdays at home with him. It’s so easy to spend the morning before naptime grocery shopping, sorting the mail, researching multiple contractors for home repair estimates, paying bills and reconciling statements, and scrubbing the microwave (only to find that more food has exploded in it again at lunchtime). But I’d so much rather play outside and explore the neighborhood, attend library programs or playgroups, or just read my son’s favorite book that he’s tried to hand me multiple times. When home, I have to regularly remind myself that I’m happiest when I concentrate my attention on spending that quality time with my son.
I hoped splitting my time up in this way would give me the best of both worlds, but sometimes the arrangement has surprised me. There have been days — especially when I had a young infant who wasn’t sleeping — when I couldn’t wait to get in the car and head to work and escape the immensely taxing task of caring for a hungry and clingy baby for several hours. And there are days when I crave logging off my laptop to run out the office door at top speed to hold my son or to take him to the park.
So it’s not exactly a clean split. Like most other parts of parenting, there’s always compromise and adjustment. Some days follow the plan, and others are frantic.
I try to adjust the seesaw that is my part-time stay-at-home mom and part-time working mom existence based on the obstacles and opportunities that appear on any given day. If I’m asked to work on a proposal team at work, I may adjust my schedule to spend longer hours in the office and coordinate additional childcare for my son. Or if my son is sick and my work deadlines are more flexible, I’ll take some leave to tend to him at home or catch up on emails during naptime.
None of it’s easy, and how I split my time won’t work for everyone. But for me and my family, managing and compartmentalizing my time in this way has allowed me to enjoy continuing on my career path as a working professional and embrace my new role as a mom.
About the author
Lynnea Culhane is a tech-focused writer and boy mom to a highly active toddler. When not writing software and cyber documents, she’s navigating the different stages of motherhood (and trying to remain an attentive pet mom to her furbabies), streaming British television shows, listening to alternative and classic rock, tackling her household to-do list, exploring local events, and watching action movies with her husband. Lynnea greatly appreciates skim lattes, English breakfast tea, and diet soda to boost her energy, and she daydreams about warm shore breezes.