Alternatives to Full-Time Work

by Susie Cortright

More than 72 percent of women with children under the age of 18 are in the paid labor force, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics released in October of 1998, Compare that number to 47.4% in 1970.

The fastest growing segment of the labor force today is women with children under the age of 6. 
In He Works, She Works: Successful Strategies for Working Couples, authors Jaine and James D. Carter discuss the advantages and disadvantages of returning to work after having a baby. Moms who return in just six weeks are faced with a tremendous amount of guilt, but they also, the authors say, have more self-esteem, create a worthy role model for their children and are able to offer more financial opportunities to their growing family. Of course, the mother often feels a great deal of fatigue, as they still end up with 70 to 80 percent of the household chores.

Women tend to view their roles in their family and career as interdependent, these authors say. This contributes to a burdening sense of guilt since they believe that, for them to thrive in the work world, their family world must suffer.

Men, on the other hand, tend to view their work and family as two separate realms...success in one essential for the nourishment of the other.

Soul Searching
Is it time to make a change? If so, take out your journal. (If you have never "journaled" before, read "Journaling: A Tool for the Spirit.") This article will help you with a little soul searching. 

The first step is to identify what is really important in your life. Ask yourself what you really want from your profession and how your ambition may or may not effect your role in the family.

In your journal, brainstorm all of the aspects of the professional world that are important to you.. Here, you are attempting to determine your chief motivation for working, or, as the case may be, for not working. For example, my chief reasons for working are: career advancement, personal ambition, goal-setting, self-improvement, maintaining self-esteem, making a financial contribution to my family, and having more direct control over our finances. What makes you get up each day and go to work?

Next, identify your core professional values. Among the values you might consider: job security; job satisfaction; vacation time; predictable hours; salary; benefits; dispensable income for second home, car or boat; flexibility; stable income; prestige; opportunity for advancement. Now rank these values based on their importance to you in the world of work.

Now, Brainstorm again. Why do you want to be a mother? List all of the aspects in the world of family life that are important to you, and, once again, identify your core values; this time, how they relate to your personal and family life. Now rank these values based on their importance to you in the world of work.
Keep these lists handy as we further explore how you may achieve an existence that integrates all the things you value. 

Exploring the options
Every set of parents that has faced the dilemma of balancing work and family comes to one of four conclusions, in one degree or another. The trick is simply to find the option that best works for you, your personality, and financial situation. . 

Option One: Full-time career woman by day/Full-time mom by night.

Option Two: Full-time career woman/Stay-at-home dad

Option Three: Full-time Mom

Option Four: Flexible Career

The first three alternatives are straightforward. You probably know immediately whether they are the best option for you. But the last option may deserve more consideration. 

While many of women today are given the choice of whether to return to work or stay at home with the baby, some women are trading their full-time corporate lives for a more flexible alternative. An alternative that will leave them time to nurture the child.

Catalyst, a New York based organization that works with businesses to further the advancement of women, reports that women today have more financial resources and experience in the corporate world. This makes them more comfortable taking risks.

Some women choose to put their career on hold while they focus on the family. Catherine Carbone Rogers, a mother of two, is the National President of FEMALE (Formerly Employed Mothers at the Leading Edge). Sequencing is one alternative and Rogers explains, it “allows women to have it all--just not all at once.” 

Sequencing takes many forms, but typically involves a woman spending one phase of her life focusing on education and career, then shifting her path to focus on the family. 

During this family phase of her life, women with corporate experience often need to rally together and stay connected either through support groups, classes, or volunteer opportunities. FEMALE and Mothers at Home have websites to offer support for mothers who choose to take a break from corporate life.

Moms who opt for Choice Four may also consider a flexible job share program. With the proliferation of the Internet, many employees are able to work from home. Some of these women go back to office work part time. Others start their own businesses so they can work from home. Nine million women are business owners. Many are moms. Why not you?