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Mommy Wars: Do Moms Who Work Part-Time Have It All?

Updated on June 6, 2013
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Can women have it all?

Discussions of the “mommy wars” often focus on Working Moms and Stay-at-Home-Moms (SAHMs). But, there is an emerging group of moms who fall in between the two: moms who choose to work outside the home part-time.

When my first child was born, I was lucky enough to be able to choose to work part-time. I thought I had the best of both worlds: I would be able to spend gobs of time with my kids, but would still be able to continue with my career. I thought I would fit in with both Mommy camps, setting up playdates during the week with my SAHM friends and talking shop with my working mom friends.

What has emerged five years later is a different story. What I have found is that my closest friendships have developed with other part-time working moms. My vision of closing the mommy war gap, or somehow being the middle ground that would fit in everywhere, has not come to pass. Instead, I have found myself in an often unrecognized, often revered, third group: Part-Time Working Moms.

Do women who work part-time outside the home have it all?

A common response to hearing that I work part-time is: “How wonderful! That’s the best of both worlds!” I have always nodded and smiled, but with a bit of unease that I could not explain.

Then, one day someone responded, “Ugh! Poor thing. Working part-time is the WORST of both worlds!” Without meaning to, I let out a sigh of relief. Somehow, that reaction was a validation of the conflict I had always felt in trying to keep up a career in half the time as many of my colleagues while also trying to be a super mom, engaging in fun activities with my kids, being highly involved in their schools, and running the household. Somehow people telling me I had it so good, suggested that I had it easy and invalidated my struggles as a mom who works outside the home.

In many ways women who work outside the home part-time do have it good. We get to spend more time with our children than women who work full-time, and we also get to advance our careers.

At the same time, even as we stay connected to our professions, our careers often stagnate or advance more slowly than those of our full-time working mom counterparts. On the home front, we get to spend more time with our children, but we are often also the default caregiver when childcare falls through, a child is sick, or we need to meet with teachers to discuss a problem, often at the expense of our jobs.

Why Do Moms Gravitate to Others that Share Their “Working” Status?

As I look around and see that most of my close friends also work part-time, I wonder why this is the case. What draws us together? As I’ve gotten to know my fellow part-time working moms, I see that we face similar issues and struggles in our lives, careers, and relationships.

Working part-time is not the only factor, but it is an important one in determining how we operate in the world as mothers, wives, and friends. Childcare issues, succeeding in the workforce, finding time and energy to maintain our homes and relationships, and wanting to have it all makes us masters at examining and reexamining our situation. After all, in many cases, we chose this. Shouldn’t we feel settled and happy?

Implications for the “Mommy Wars”

Women today have a super-abundance of choices. This is an amazing advance in our society and a wonderful thing. But, it also leaves many women wondering whether they have made the right choices for themselves and their families. We are often left looking at others with resentment or envy, seeing what they have and wishing we could have it too.

The bottom line is, no matter what professional lives women choose, most of us are in some level of conflict with our decisions. For better or worse, this personal conflict fuels conflict amongst us. We all have made our own choices for individual reasons (financial, professional, cultural), and we all struggle with the realities of modern motherhood. In that, at least, we are all in it together.

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    • Erin Trefz profile image

      Erin Trefz 3 years ago from South Dakota

      I agree completely! I also notice, as I work four days a week, that people think that is working part time. Many times, I take short lunches and actually work 34-36 hours a week. That and two young children hardly seems part time!

    • Johanna Bergstrom profile image

      Johanna Bergstrom 4 years ago from Fuengirola, Malaga, Spain

      I really loved your article.

      "no matter what professional lives women choose, most of us are in some level of conflict with our decisions"

      How true. I work part time from home, my toddler goes to nursery three times a week and stays with grandparents during one other day. The rest of the time my husband and I look after him together.

      Yet I still feel guilty, even though my son loves nursery and even though he gets to spend time with his grandparents... and even though I am making necessary money for our family.

      Are women hardwired to feel guilt around their kids or what?

      Thanks for a great hub, I found it very insightful and useful.

    • LauraGT profile image
      Author

      LauraGT 4 years ago from MA

      Cate, thanks for your comments. I think most of us struggle with figuring out the right balance. Hopefully, we get it some of the time! Thanks for sharing. :)

    • profile image

      Cate 4 years ago

      Yes I agree I think it is harder actually on you, but much easier on the child, and that's what matters in the end isn't it? I work 5-6 days per fortnight, shorter days too but with a long commute of over an hour each way. My husband works ft and does not help with the housework, only loads the dishwasher, or really any other care for our son, because in his mind, I work half as much as him! So yeah on my working days, getting home doing the dinner, bath, story, bed more housework thing is exhausting but at least I have held onto my career, have advanced actually which is a blessing and more important than anything we have 5 'mummy and me' days every fortnight together, so ultimately I feel very lucky. But sometimes I just feel so guilty about not having stayed at home full time....

    • LauraGT profile image
      Author

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      ChristinS: Thanks for sharing your experience. It does seem like we all put lots of pressure on ourselves, right on top of the pressure (direct or unstated) that we get from everyone else! I'm glad you've found a happier place for yourself!

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 5 years ago from Midwest

      You echoed a lot of my feelings in this hub. With my first son, I gave up my career entirely to stay home. I didn't regret it at the time, because I was convinced he would be an only child and I wanted to savor every moment. Financially, it was difficult, but worth it - I thought. Fast forward 9 years and I had my second child and then I found it harder - I wanted to work and I wanted to be a mom both. I had an ideal vision of being a WAHM and best of both worlds. As it turns out, much like you - people think I have it so easy lol and that is not the truth. It is hard work (even at home) to balance work and home life and it puts a lot of pressure on moms to try to be the "best" at everything. In the last year or so, I finally realized it was time to give up that mindset and just do the best I can and forget what anyone else might think :) - I've been much happier since. Great hub!

    • LauraGT profile image
      Author

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      AdT70: Thanks for reading. Yes, there has been a lot of news about the challenges of trying to "have it all" and much of conversation has hit on some of the points I was trying to make in this hub! I think trying to be in a senior level position while also trying to focus on family is a real challenge.

      I commented on Anne-Marie Slaughter's recent Atlantic article on this topic in this hub:

      https://hubpages.com/politics/More-Reasons-Women-S...

    • AdT70 profile image

      AdT70 5 years ago

      very timely, seems to be in the news a lot lately. you have a good way of summarizing the issues. thanks!

    • LauraGT profile image
      Author

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      TXmom, thanks for commenting, and I'm glad this resonated with you. I think most moms end up feeling guilty about something - either they feel like they work too much or too little, they don't feel that they're spending enough time or quality time with their kids, or they aren't keeping up their homes as well as they would like. I think we're in a very betwixt and between place right now!

    • profile image

      TXmom 5 years ago

      Thanks for writing this hub! I often feel guilty about not being totally happy with my situation because everyone says i'm so lucky. Thanks for getting my feelings down in words! I could have written this myself!

    • LauraGT profile image
      Author

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Lauren: thanks for commenting! Another interesting perspective. It would be interesting to learn about who has the least "mommy guilt." I bet we'd be surprised by the findings!

    • profile image

      Lauren 5 years ago

      Thanks, Laura! This reminded me of a conversation we had in the kitchen at work, when I commented that nearly all my friends are also working moms. (I am also one of those rare -- I think -- moms who has not experienced conflict or "mommy guilt" because I never really perceived my choices as choices -- just like my father did, I go to work to support my family. Though as we have discussed it is more complicated than that.) It is good to get lots of different perspectives and I really appreciate yours. I do believe that as mothers, we all have more in common than we sometimes acknowledge, and I wish it didn't feel like we were at war!

    • LauraGT profile image
      Author

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Thanks, Erica. Glad it resonated!

    • profile image

      Erica 5 years ago

      Well done Laura -- I saw myself in this!

    • LauraGT profile image
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      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Thanks Brainy Bunny. It definitely sounds like we have similar situations. My job is somewhat flexible (which is great when I need to make a doc appointment or want to volunteer at school), but it also means I have to be flexible, so sometimes get drawn into way more that my 20 hours/week worth of work. Again, pros and cons!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      I'm yet another permutation -- a work-at-home mom. As a freelancer, my work is sometimes nonexistent and other times 50 hours per week. And yet I am still in charge of carpool, sick children, afterschool activities, dinner, and all the other household chores that I haven't hired someone else to do. My husband works even longer hours, and is often on call even when he's home, so unfortunately it mostly falls to me. I think your insight is on the money -- my best friend also works an unusual schedule as a part-time lawyer, and we often commiserate about how much easier it would be to have the choice to be one thing or the other, rather than trying to have it all. But that's what we've chosen, out of a combination of need and desire, so we're trying to make the best of it!

    • LauraGT profile image
      Author

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Thanks Vicki! I'm glad you enjoyed reading and that you've come to relative peace with your decision.

    • profile image

      Vicki 5 years ago

      I have no regrets & only envy my SAHM and full time working mom friends Occasionly...as I have opted for the middle.

      We definitely do face unique challenges, as you said.

      Nice thought provoking piece.

    • SimpleGiftsofLove profile image

      SimpleGiftsofLove 5 years ago from Colorado

      Every generation has its own woes for sure! great job of presenting the current ones!

    • LauraGT profile image
      Author

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Thanks Denise. I'm glad this provides a new perspective. I do think this generation of women face new and interesting dilemmas in child-rearing. Thanks for the feedback.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Interesting dilemma and a perspective I had not looked at before. My kids are raised and have kids of their own which they are now experiencing the same conflicts of being torn between home and work. Good job, interesting and useful.