Recently, there has been a huge influx of women in the workforce, particularly for moms entering the workforce. According to the US Department of Labor, the labor force participation rate of all moms with children under the age of 18 was 71.5% in 2018. That’s huge! So, in the honor of Mother’s Day this past Sunday, I wanted to sit down and talk to my Mom about her personal experience going from working part-time to full-time, all while raising 4 kids.
When I was in elementary and middle school, there was a specific routine that my family followed on Tuesdays. Tuesday was when my Mom had to go into the office of the company she worked at part-time. On those days after school, my brothers and I were picked up either by a babysitter that my parents hired or by our grandparents. They would look after us until our parents returned. We followed that routine for many years until I reached my freshman year of high school. My Mom surprised me and my siblings with the announcement that she was going back to work full-time. From then on, our schedule grew more hectic. Once I learned to drive, I was picking up and dropping off my brothers every Friday and at whatever practices my parents asked me to. It was a dramatic shift, but it was what worked for us, and to this day, I can’t imagine going back to that part-time schedule.
My Mom’s career has varied over time and I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing this firsthand. She started out as a part-time Risk Management Consultant but now works in Business Development around electric cars for an energy company full-time. Since she started working full-time, her paycheck has tripled and she qualifies for benefits like health insurance and a 401K plan alongside my Dad. And I’m so proud of her.
When it came down to working part-time versus full-time, my Mom always wanted what would work best for our family. When my oldest brothers and I were born, it would have been too expensive to put 3 kids in daycare while Mom worked full-time. Part-time was just easier. But my Mom still worked whenever she could. “I would check messages in the car line to pick you guys up at school,” she told me, “I don’t know if you remember but you guys would be swimming in the pool and I would be working.” For my Mom back then, this was what worked. But over time, circumstances changed. By the time my youngest brother was in Kindergarten, there was an aftercare system implemented in the school that all my brothers could attend. I had after-school activities in high school that lasted until someone could come to pick me up. My Mom had an opportunity to start working full-time and she took it.
But being a mom in the workforce has its own share of challenges. Home life and work life can clash easily. My Mom told me that, “Usually it’s a little bit crazy trying to figure out how to care for a sick child…when you have responsibilities at work.” Sometimes you have to leave early for doctor’s appointments or to meet a teacher and “Trying to explain that at work is harder because there are people who don’t have those kinds of responsibilities and they think you’re just leaving early or something when you’re not,” my Mom explained. All the working moms she knew would go home at night and work to make up the times they had to leave early.
Working moms can also deal with prejudice. “There’s definitely two different sides and people can treat you very differently based on prejudgments, and that’s unfortunate,” my Mom said when asked about this unfair treatment, “But I don’t let that really affect me unless I truly value their opinion.” Some people think that you need to stick to a 9-5 workday to e successful, but jobs are changing. For instance, now you can work from home or work more hours to make up the ones you missed. Having moms in the workforce is even beneficial to companies. “The companies that have a diverse workforce end up being more profitable, (which) studies have shown over time because they bring more skills to the table and they problem-solve and they work together as a team,” my Mom said.
But despite these challenges, my Mom still works full-time. In her opinion, “It makes you better as a mom to have a job because it helps you prepare your kids for the world that they’re facing.” She considers status as a working mom something that makes a, “…More well-rounded person who understands not just putting yourself first all the time caring for others and working within a team.” Working full-time has had a huge effect on my Mom’s life, but she’s made it work. “Your Dad and I, every day, talk about what the schedule is and who is covering what. And we both love that because its really fun,” she reflected, “That being said…it gets really tiring so you do need a good support system.”
When I asked my Mom if she thought working full-time was worth it, she took a few seconds to think. “I can get more done. I got less done when I stayed at home,” she said, which was not the answer I was expecting. My Mom elaborated further, saying, “I think it was just because I wasn’t challenged in the way that I’m challenged at work, I didn’t have the interactions with kind of people that I get to have, and that makes a difference in how you feel and your sense of accomplishment as a person.” “So,” she said in conclusion, “I (know) it was worth it.”