A tight labor market increased sharing of parental responsibility, and an enormous generation of Millennials in their prime childbearing years are forcing the corporate world to take heed of the needs of working parents, especially mothers. Not every business has embraced the new employment ethics, but many see the vast pool of talent available who are ready, able, and willing to work on their terms. There’s never been a better time to search for part-time employment that works with a mother’s often unpredictable and crazy schedule.
Why work part-time?
The list of reasons arguing against working part-time center upon two main objections: 1) no benefits and 2) low pay. Just like your crazy, family-focused schedule, part-time hours vary and may require you to work weekends. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor issued its final rule regarding overtime and eligibility and various states enacted minimum wage laws more generous than the federal minimum wage, which resulted in many companies reducing their employee rosters to avoid having to pay overtime and accommodate the newly mandated higher wages. Less stringently regulated than full-time employment, part-time employment offers companies more opportunity for exploitation. In short, the company holds the upper hand.
The reasons in favor of working part-time also focus on two main advantages: 1) avoiding an employment gap on your resume and 2) earning extra money. What doesn’t get mentioned with any sort of frequency is the mental stimulation of adult conversation. Let’s be frank: after a few days spent playing peek-a-boo with your baby, your mind starts turning to mush. Moms love spending time with their children, but they need adult interaction, too. Part-time employment helps maintain sharp minds.
The Balance also notes additional advantages in working part-time: flexible hours that work around mothers’ family schedules, opportunities to explore different fields of interest, and possibly even opportunities to take employer-paid job training courses.
What to do?
Once you decide to pursue part-time employment, you must decide what you want to do. Conventional wisdom urges job seekers to find employment in fields of interest, citing passion as a path to job fulfillment. Actually, says The Muse, following your passion is bad advice. The Muse notes that the mantra to pursue your bliss has two main drawbacks. One is a lack of a roadmap to turn your passion into commercial success: how are you going to make a living doing that? The second is that following your passion sounds deceptively easy. Let’s not beat around the bush: it takes hard work, dedication, courage, and long, long hours. Aren’t you already putting in long, long hours as a parent?
When looking for part-time work, first seek something available during those hours when you’re available. If you have school-aged children, then a job that can be performed during those hours works perfectly. The next decision is whether you want the responsibility of working as an employee or whether you prefer to be your own boss. Both offer advantages and disadvantages.
The main advantage of working for an established company as an employee—not as a subcontractor—comes at tax time. The employer not only undertakes the responsibility of scheduling your hours of work, but also ensures withholding of income, Social Security, and other taxes. The W-2 form you receive early in the calendar year not only shows the hours worked, but the total amount earned pre- and post-tax.
Part-time self-employment poses both challenges regarding maintaining a viable business and the freedom from “the boss” telling you what to do and when to do it. Popular options for part-time self-employment lend themselves to the gig economy. Meticulously record all expenses and revenues to ensure that you pay all necessary taxes.
The following jobs listed by MotherWorks offer a mix of regular employment and self-employment options that can mesh with a stay-at-home parent’s availability. The latter site offers pay ranges as a gauge to evaluate potential income.
1. Substitute Teacher/Tutor
The attraction of being a substitute teacher is obvious—you work during school hours. The drawback comes from being subject to summons at very short notice. Related to working as a substitute teacher is tutoring. As a tutor, you not only help children understand the material with which they struggle, you can determine the subjects which you know best.
Courier companies, florists, and restaurants all need people to transport stuff, but the hours can vary widely. Make sure peak times coincide with your availability. Another variation of the courier/delivery job is running errands, sort of like an on-call personal assistant for business professionals chained to their desks, factory floors, or job sites.
After decades of business-hour emptiness, stores are seeing a slight uptick in customers who, like you, now have flexible schedules. The plethora of stores in most communities enables part-time workers to find employment with businesses that feed their interests. Of course, most retail stores operate evenings and weekends and see a large influx of business during holiday seasons, so be prepared to work extra hours when the shop needs you.
Many busy, full-time professionals resent the time housework and yard maintenance take away from family during those precious weekend hours. Residential customers typically schedule house cleaning during business hours; offices prefer evenings hours after office workers have left for the day. If you don’t mind manual labor and enjoy seeing a floor sparkle, this option may work for you. Check with local cleaning companies to see what they have available.
5. Personal Chef
Personal chef service of cooking meals for full-time workers while they’re on the job offers another variation, but may only be sustainable in affluent neighborhoods.
6. Massage Therapist
For those interested in this hands-on aspect of healthcare, massage therapy requires training and a license for professional practice. Rules vary by state. However, flexible hours and lucrative rates make this a top choice for part-time workers.
You’re already watching over your own children, so why not watch over other children, too, and get paid for it? Many states require licensing, so check for regulations pertaining to offering professional childcare services in your home.
8. Pet Sitter/Dog Walker
Especially if you live in an urban area, dog owners often hire people to look after their beloved pets while they’re at work. If you love these four-legged companions and seek to get some daily outdoor exercise, this job option makes good sense and can pay quite well.
9. Customer Service
Fewer and fewer companies operate call centers. Many customer service agents now work from home, and many companies will offer training in problem resolution to ameliorate customer complaints and retain callers as customers.
10. Secret Shopper
Retail stores need actual people to shop their locations and render honest feedback. Secret shoppers evaluate product displays, on-site customer service, shop cleanliness, and other factors that affect the consumer experience. Secret shopper assignments tend to be low paid, but if you’re going shopping anyway, then why not use the excursion to earn a few extra dollars?
The right decision
The legend of the “supermom” grew with a vengeance in the 1980s with the rise of double income households to maintain standards of living and women hammering at the glass ceiling. Perfume and fashion advertisements advocated that women could “have it all” and remain active, social, employed, and sexy. A few decades later and despite ample evidence to the contrary, we know that the supermom is nothing more than a myth. We also know that the double income household is here to stay.
The truism that inflation continues to rise while real income remains stagnant fills newspaper articles and editorials, especially with discussions regarding tax cuts mainly benefiting households in the highest income brackets. The economic reality, however, is that modern Americans work fewer hours than did their ancestors to purchase items and services of similar value. In his article “Standards of Living and Modern Economic Growth,” John V. C. Nye states, “Whereas a one-hundred-piece china set would have taken 44 hours of labor income in 1895, a twenty-first-century American would need to work 3.6 hours or less for it. The numbers are 28 versus 6 hours, respectively, for a gold locket; and 260 versus 7.2 hours for a one-speed bicycle (taken from De Long 2000, based on prices in the 1895 Montgomery Ward catalog).”
Unfortunately, that’s little consolation to someone wondering how to put food on the table or pay the rent, if only because many of the necessary goods and services purchased now were not available a century or two ago.
Making the decision to stay at home with the kids carries a significant financial impact. Monster warns stay-at-home parents, “Part-time work also has long-term career benefits not afforded to women who leave the workforce completely. Taking one year off results in about one-third less pay over the course of a 15-year career. … And Jill Miller, CEO and president of the advocacy group Women Work!, says trying to return to work after time away is enormously difficult because employers first look for recent paid employment.”
The outlook isn’t all doom-and-gloom. Part-time employment does help fulfill those financial and career needs by bringing home necessary income and keeping the résumé up to date with paid employment. Finding work that pays well, interests you, and accommodates your schedule is no longer a pipe dream: it’s today’s reality. Businesses are vying for good employees and offering increased wages, benefits, flexible hours, and perks to attract workers. Take advantage of their need.