Part-Time Working Mom: Is It Really a Good Choice?

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A working mom holding a baby.You live, and you learn. And now that my kids are grown, I can look back and clearly see the mistakes I made over the years while raising them.

In the moment, it’s tough to make sound decisions. You sort of fall into taking on certain commitments because you probably didn’t think things through thoroughly. Who has the luxury of time to think straight? After all, you are so busy raising your kids, in my case four of them, that you can only manage to stumble into bed by day’s end. Thankful nobody ended up in the ER, and everyone had at least one “good” meal for the day, preferably not processed and prepackaged.

Seek, and you shall find, was always my motto. Since I had a business degree, finding part-time bookkeeping jobs was relatively easy, especially 36 years ago when my oldest was only one year old. My mom watched my daughter a few hours a week after she came home from her full-time job, but we were living with her, and it worked.

I continued working several part-time jobs, even after we moved to our own house, with three kids in tow over the next 18 years. I primarily relied on close relatives to watch them and occasionally my husband when he wasn’t working in the wintertime.

Flexibility was and still is key to managing a job when raising kids. But the level of flexibility depends on your employer and the type of job you have.

Thinking back to all the places I was employed, the one part-time bookkeeping job I had on and off raising the first three kids for 20 years was by far the best and most remembered with fondness, despite the fact I earned the least of all other positions I later had. The advantages of working there could not be monetarily quantified, but to me, they were probably more important than the amount of my paycheck.

First of all, the small moving company I worked for was less than a mile from my house, so virtually no time was spent commuting, and my employer knew right from the start that my family came first. Raising a child with asthma and another with numerous ear infections, just for starters, didn’t make working outside the home very easy. So whenever that was the case, I stayed home from work and took care of my sick child.

But I probably made up the missed work time in other ways, running errands for my boss, which I could do most of the time with my youngest while the others were in school, such as a run to the post office and the bank. There were no emails to respond to, no logging on to the computer, no communication with coworkers and a boss other than the phone, or leaving post-its on desks.

The simplicity of the workday was remarkable. And I did put together invoices to be mailed in the car with my baby napping in the car seat at times. Did that qualify me for working remotely? I think it did, but it was called, simply put, getting the job done without relinquishing full-time mothering.

I didn’t miss a doctor visit, school meeting, school event, tending to a sick child, or cooking dinner most nights. But I also did not qualify for paid medical benefits, pensions, PTO, or competitive pay, for that matter.

And looking back at all this now, I set a precedent for my husband and others who relied on me along the way, the message being I could do it all and still sneak in a part-time job with only occasional help.

So was it the wrong decision to work at all, especially part-time, while raising three kids without measurable financial gain and powering through without the power? Of course, age was on my side. I was running ragged in my prime, having had three kids by the time I was only 33. It was physically doable.

If I had to do it all over again, I probably would’ve made the same choices. And I’d like to think living my younger days in such a hectic way only prepared me for raising my fourth child in my 40s. I had gained the confidence, knowledge, and skills to do the parenting thing again because I had already been doing it for years, mostly alone.

Things were different back then, but were they better in some ways? In the ways I needed them to be, they were, so my experiences as a part-time working mom were invaluable, setting me up for successfully parenting a teen and helping raise my grandchildren. Ultimately that’s really what counts.

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Fran was born, raised, married, and still lives in Mount Kisco, NY. She has four kids, including a teenage daughter and two precious grandsons, whom she babysits a couple of days a week. She also works part-time as an accounting clerk, helps run her husband’s excavation business, and lastly aspires to finish writing her book one day. Despite her crazy, busy schedule, she cooks almost every night for her big family and tries her best to keep up with the dishes! She truly believes spontaneity is the spice of life, and sometimes the very unexpected happens, but it’s usually all for the best. Enjoy her many tales of raising kids over 20 years; what an amazing journey!

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