The Perils of Part-Time.
by Anne Tergesen
Sometimes, I feel like a machine: the laundry, the blog, the email,
the homework, the grocery shopping, the birthday party planning, the
research reports--and that's just what I've done since I arrived home
at 6:30 tonight.
I think most working parents can relate. I used to look for ways to
carve out a little free time (generally, by going to bed way too
late). One of my sisters, the mother of two young boys, recently
called to complain about the constant demands on her time. Between
work-work, housework, and volunteer work in her son's school, she's
feeling petty burnt out and resentful. My advice? Get used to it,
resign yourself. Sure, as the kids get older, they're able to
entertain themselves and take care of their basic needs. But life
also gets more complex--and she'll have to find time to shuttle them
to and from activities, oversee homework, and figure out what they
and their friends are up to on the computer.
I also told her that while she and I are lucky to work part-time,
such a schedule can make free time an even more elusive goal. Why?
Part-timers have the illusion that we have time to "do it all:" host
playdates, visit our parents, and work extra hours on our days "off."
My typical routine on Wednesdays, a day at home, is a case in point:
While the kids are in school, I cram in a quick run, answer email,
write this blog or conduct an interview or two. I do laundry. After
school, I take one child to chess, while hosting a playdate for
another. I check my email. I do more laundry. I unpack groceries. I
make phone calls to plan future playdates. I try to figure out what
to cook (or order) for dinner. I finish my blog. I oversee homework.
I try to read the newspaper. I might even outline an article or read
a research report. Often, serious work gets deferred until the kids
are in bed at night.
Rest? Relax? Downtime? Sister--dream on!
Anne Tergesen, an associate editor for Business Week, writes
about personal finance and investing. She joined the magazine in 1998,
when her oldest child was seven months old. Prior to Business Week, she
was a fellow in the Knight-Bagehot program for mid-career journalists
at Columbia University and worked as a reporter at The Record in
Hackensack, N.J. and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Anne is based in New
York, where she lives with her husband and their three boys, ages 7, 5,
and 3. During her career at BusinessWeek, Anne has worked both
full-time and part-time.