Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Bloomin' part-timers: maintaining a 'work-life' balance.

I am currently sat in the garden, in the sun. It's a Wednesday. The post man has just come and slated me for being lazy and joked about how 'some of us have to work hard for a living'. I looked at him and smiled. Of course he doesn't know I was working until 9pm last night, but lets face it, mothers get a bad rap for getting too much 'free time'; watching daytime TV; going out for coffee and sunning themselves in the garden.

I could have afforded to work part-time before I had my son but that would have been ridiculous, right? Try asking your boss for less hours when you have no real reason whatsoever, other than the fact you'd like to have a more balanced life. Besides which, it never really crossed my mind that I would do that because I had already bought into the 'rat-race' mentality, working my way up the 'career ladder'. Once I'd had my little boy I was suddenly given the option to cut down my hours and this made sense to me, both in terms of spending time with my son and not having to bust a gut to have the life I wanted. It's not that I'm not a career minded person, it's just that I feel ten times better at my job when I'm not stressed; when I'm able to recharge my batteries a little; when I can get creative inspiration from other things.

Unfortunately being home with a child is far from a recharge of batteries. Treasured moments of sitting in the sun are few and far between and I'm torn between building lego bricks, cooking fish fingers and checking work emails. My life is far from 'balanced', just busy. I 'work' three days a week, look after my little boy the rest of the time and then do freelance projects on evenings. I also write and create illustrations and try to sell my work. Personally, I think I'm entitled to a lunchtime cocktail every now and again. It got me thinking how different my life would have looked if I had worked part time in the first place.

But part-timers will always be told that they're not working hard enough; they will always be looked at oddly if they turn down extra hours. We have developed a culture where it is looked down upon to sit in the sun on your lunch break, or to work less. People ask me if I'm busy and if I say 'yes', they say 'good'; because that's what we all want; to be busy, right?

The problem lies when you are actually serious about your ambitions; when you do take your career very seriously. People make you feel like you can't be committed if you decide to have children, or work part time (despite the fact that I feel I do more work in a week than I ever did when I worked full time). The preconceptions of others can be extremely limiting. Admittedly, I was very lucky that I could afford to go back to work part time and I had that choice - I don't take that for granted, but a lot of people are often too quick to conclude that they can't afford to do something when actually they can. I've had to cut down on shopping and nights out; I've had to be more cautious with choosing holidays. My work-life balance does not come without sacrifice, but I wanted to treasure the time with my little boy and not work all the hours God sends, is that okay? Besides which, I certainly don't feel like a 'part-timer', I just work extremely hard on lots of different things. Those different things may or may not make me money but they are important to me, I don't see why I should be penalised for that. So call me a 'bloomin' part-timer' all you want, I wish to sip my lunchtime Pimms and Lemonade in peace, thank you very much ;)

Are you a 'part-timer'? I'd love to know your thoughts on work-life balance, especially if you have to juggle looking after a family too.