Part-time work means I earn less, but I live more

May 1 | Guest post by Anneke Van Dien
By: Tax CreditsCC BY 2.0

I never want a full-time job again. There. I've said it.

I'm not a lazy person. In fact, I love working. When I work, I work hard. I get shit done. But I've decided that having one job to go to every weekday, all the time, is just not for me.

Since I started working at sixteen, I could never get comfortable with typical working life. You rent yourself to someone so they can make a bunch of money. You go home drained every night, eat a quick dinner, watch some TV, then get up and do it again. Two weeks of the year, or three if you're lucky, your employer lets you free. You dread going back to the slog at the end of your sliver of time off. They expect total commitment, but can throw you out whenever they're done with you. It was sucking my soul. It made me sad.

But I did it for a long time. I had jobs I hated and jobs I liked. I had jobs that paid crap, and later jobs that paid better. I worked with people I hated and people I loved. But the feeling never changed. The feeling of being stuck in a life where I belonged more to my employer than to my own self.

Maybe I can't leave behind my teenage anarchist ways. Maybe I'm a beatnik stuck in the wrong time. Maybe I just can't hack it. Or maybe there is a better way for me.

So here's the plan. Work part-time. Always. Forever. I'll do two part-time jobs that will add up to full-time. One that brings in the bucks and one that I love — Photography, creative woodworking, art, small entrepreneurship? It'll give me the variety that I need to stay engaged. I've learned that I'm the kind of person who gets bored being in the same place, doing the same thing every day.

After having my son, it took me almost two years to find the right employer who'd let me work part-time in an industry that isn't used to women, especially working mothers, or part-timers. I now work three-to-four days a week and get to take care of my toddler the rest of the time. I save a fortune on daycare. At this point if I went back to work full-time, I'd actually make less because of the cost of full-time daycare.

There have been times I've been close to giving in and just going back to work full-time. It's been hard to find part-time work, and it's been nearly impossible to find quality part-time daycare. The world just isn't set up for this. But it is possible!

Yes, I'll probably make less money this way… unless I can make a success of whatever I do on the side. If I do end up making less, I can make up some of it by using less fuel for commuting, having time to prepare cheaper meals, and combing thrift stores instead of running to the big-box store because I'm crunched for time. I find that when I'm working too much, I bleed money because I can't keep up with life.

While my son is young, I'll use my extra time to see more of him. Later, I'll use the extra time to try to make money doing what I love. I'll work my ass off. But the difference is that on those days that are mine, I'll be working my ass off for ME.

Of course, when I need it, I'll use my days to read a book, help with school outings, take short trips, cook, volunteer, clean the house, educate myself, or go to the doctor or dentist without having to beg for time off.

Funny thing is, I actually feel more committed to my current part-time job now than when I worked full-time. It can be hard to keep up sometimes — I feel like I have to achieve the same amount in half the time. However, I don't feel so dragged out that I lose my motivation and start hating my job. It works out pretty well for my employer too. When it gets busy I put in a little more time, and when it's slow they don't have to keep me as busy as a they would with a full-timer. I think they save a little on taxes and premiums as well.

Imagine the possibilities if more of us could get by working part-time, or could do some variation on the typical work week. (Four-days-a-week, ten-hour-a-day schedules are becoming popular among some companies and government agencies.) We could do important volunteer work. We could be politically active. Instead of eating pre-packaged food, we could participate in a community kitchen or tend our own gardens. Consume less, live more.

My decision, at least for now, is to sacrifice a little on the work side for a better life and a better me.

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