How does it work when both parents work part-time?

Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.

My husband and I earn similar amounts of money. We're both hesitant to give up our jobs completely but at the same time don't want to miss out on the day to day raising of our kids. We are contemplating both working 3 days a week. Do you know anyone who's done this? -Jessica

Story time II
Isn't it nice when everyone has time for stories? Photo by Paulo Pace, used by Creative Commons license
[Raises hand.] Me! I'm doing it! My husband and I each work part time, so that we both have lots of time to focus on our son during this, his first year. We're both self-employed, so that's a particular kind of "part time" — truth be told, I probably do work close to 40 hours a week, but it's spread out over 7 days with chunks of time in the evenings and weekends. We do make financial sacrifices to live on what amounts to ONE of our former corporate salaries (living in a small space, not traveling as much as we used to, etc) but it feels really worth it to us to be able to have the spaciousness in our lives to have hours of hangout time with Tavi every day.

But we're not the only parents doing the part-time straddle! Lots of other Offbeat Mamas are living this way, and I've collected some of their thoughts about what makes double-part timing awesome.

Rich in time

When I asked dual-part time families what they gained, everyone agreed: TIME. Christine, whose partner works for the school district as a substitute teacher while she works in corporate compliance, told me:

Which, when you have children, time is the most important thing you could ever hope to give them. My husband and I both have professional degrees under our belts and could go out into the workforce and easily bring home six digits a year…. but all the money in the world won't give us our children back when they're adults and feel angst toward us for all the hours we spent working instead of with them. We made the conscious choice to have children, so we're also making the conscious choice to be the ones who RAISE those children.

Family time egalitarianism

Marlee told me:

The biggest deciding factor for us was just to both get equal time with our son Joel. I took a leave for the first 11 months of our son's life while Joe literally worked his ass off 70-80 hours a week to keep us going. And after a while he was just really frustrated that he wasn't seeing Joel for more than an hour or so every day.

I decided I would go back to work, so now we each both work about 30 hours a week. To make this work Joe had to quit his farther away job that made more money, but with what I make and the savings on gas, we are breaking about even with what we do now.

We are both much more happy and feel better about splitting time up equally, especially Joe. Until we started this in January, he had never been alone with his own son. We love it and it has worked out great for us, and even though we are less financially secure we are much much happier.

Work/Life sanity balance for everyone

Hilary, a part-time Restoration Ecologist, told me:

My partner is a nurse, where 3 12-hour days is pretty normal. Bubba really liked that it would give him 4 days at home with our daughter Aspen, who is 10 months old now.

I love my job, and it was really important for me to go back to work. Even thought she's one of the best things in my life, I didn't want to be someone who became all about the baby. I wanted balance. I'm one of the lucky people who gets to have a job that puts good things into the world, and it just felt like too much of a sacrifice to give up a job that I get so much fulfillment out of.

Your biggest sacrifices: money & couple time

Several dual-part-time families explained that other than financial concerns, the other big issue is that you do a lot of baby-swapping — which means not a lot of time together as a family, or together just the two of you.
Hilary explained:

We both work 3 days a week, so we have 1 day off together a week, and if Bubba is working nights, he spends a lot of that day sleeping. I've actually at times been jealous of people whose kids are in daycare, because they can work on the same day, and see each other when they are not working.

Marlee agreed, saying:

I think we have gained a lot from making this arrangement, even though we hardly ever get any time as a couple.

And of course there is the money thing, but as Christina said:

I don't feel like we have lost, or go without, anything at all. We use cloth diapers on our youngest, which saves a TON of money. We only have one car, which saves a ton MORE money in gas, insurance, and maintenance, and we are very frugal. Not cheap…. frugal. Our children still wear name-brands… we're just really conscious of WHEN we buy.

Part-time for now

One thing to keep in mind is that being a dual-part-time family can be a choice you make for a given period of time. Angela explained,

I decided to go back full time when my youngest started preschool. They seemed ready โ€ฆ they both adjusted very well to preschool and it felt like it was a good time to make the shift. My career had totally stalled when I was part time and I was ready to get back on track. I really like my job and have been happy going back full time.

For me, I was firmly dedicated to part-time work before Tavi was born (I'd much rather have more time than more money!) … but the part-time philosophy felt even more urgent for me with a baby. I'm not one to romanticize low income living, but if you can re-arrange your life to live with less in exchange for a wealth of time with your family … I SAY DO IT.

Mamas, do any of you have experience with both you and your partner working part time? How's it working out for you?

Join our community!

  1. I'm more like Ariel, working what amounts to a 40 hour week but spread out all over and all around – and doing about 3 different things that pay money. My husband is in school full time, which for him is 3-4 days a week. He's in a medical profession so he'll have a 3 12 hour shift type week.

    So far we love it, and it feels great to be equal parents – he's home more sometimes but it all evens out. Of course, we never made much money before – I'm also in school and we're both career building after spending our twenties making rock music, so we don't know any different income-wise!

  2. This article made me feel so good! My husband and I work two part-time jobs each, and I'm pregnant with our first baby. We expect to arrange our schedules so we will only need childcare one day a week. My husband will have to give up one day of work per week, and he has been concerned that we won't have enough money to raise a happy child. But our philosophy is that time spent with the child will be so much more important to her/him than having more stuff. I'm happy to hear from parents who are making it work! Poverty shouldn't be glamorized, but we aren't poor (just lower middle income, I guess), and babies need attention more than possessions.

  3. We decided early on that we didn't want to put our kids in day care – WE wanted to be the ones to raise them. My husband is still in school, so he does that for his "part-time" and I work about 32 hours a week. We live frugally, and we do just fine.

    I would agree with what others have said about not having as much couple time. His classes are all mornings, and Thursdays we won't see him at all. I work 4 evenings, and he has homework. Couple time is on the back burner, but we have plenty of family time, and individual bonding time with our son. I wouldn't have it any other way!

  4. My husband works full-time as a teacher so he is home early and of course the holidays as well. I went back to part-time work (well part-time study/and work) when our son was 4 months old (he is now almost 1). We are really lucky in that we have so much family around to help on those days and that my husband is around more than other fathers we know.

    So far this is working out ok for us, but we think it will change soon. My husband really misses our son and I am sooooo over studying and can't wait to earn some real money so next year when my PhD is finished I plan to ramp up my working hours, probably spread over 7 days so I still have time at home with my boy and man, and my partner will wind down to about 3-4 days. Financially I think we will be better ahead seeing as my income potential is higher, that said we are not really motivated by high incomes, but the financial stress of only one smallish income can be tough at times.

    And again this situation will probably change over the years as we are also planning to mover overseas for a while with my work so my husband will probably be the full-time carer then. Future children? I guess I will be home for a while again…

    So for us it is about balance and flexibility over the coming years. Our circumstances will change and we envisage neither of us working full-time hours with young children. We just love being a family too much! But the comment about baby swapping rings true – we seem to be doing shift change with our baby and finding us two time can be hard.

  5. Thanks so much for posting my question Ariel! I'm really looking forward to all the replies.

    Since I asked this question though, my brother and sister in law have just started this! She was staying home full time and he was working full time but neither were enjoying the arrangement the way they thought they would pre baby.

    They said that they didnt really feel equal in that my bro really missed his son (11 months) and his wife really missed working.

    Luckily my bro was offered a better job that was only 3 days a week, but for the same amount of pay! So now he gets the bub all to himself 2 days a week and sis in law gets to go back to work.

    Its still in trial phase, but they are absolutely loving it so far ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I WISH I could work part time and have more time with my son, but being a single mom and not getting child support, I'm forced to work full time and still live minimally. I definitely have it easier than some single moms…my mom is retired and provides me with cheap babysitting. So my son is with family even when I can't be with him. I lived with my parents for the first 2 1/2 years of my sons life. I've never seen a boy as close to his grandparents as he is! But, anyway, hopefully someday I will find the man of my dreams and be able to cut back on my hours, but until then, this momma is working one full time job and a part time on the side…whew!

    1 agrees
  7. So…after rereading my response, I realized it was just one big cry baby "poor me" post….not quite the goal. In summary, if you can get by financially and only work part time, DO IT. My biggest regret/guilt comes from time I didn't spend with my son. I know I'm doing what I have to so we can both live…and eat occasionally and all that jazz, but if I could work part time and get by I definitely would! Do it if you can, girl!

  8. Oh I wish that I could take that time off, but the way things are going I do not forsee myself or my husband being about to work less than we do now which is both full time. Between affording living, buying a house, and raising a child; anything less than full time seems unrealistic. But I suppose that makes us both realize that though are lives ask for great sacrifice, it is worth it and in the end we must try hard to be appreciative of all the time we have as a family … when that day comes ๐Ÿ™‚

    1 agrees
  9. I'm a parent to be, but this issue definitely worries me for the future. Living frugally has never been a problem for me and my husband as a couple, but earning money has been. If we're both ABLE to get part time jobs that pay our bills I will be tremendously happy, but… I'm awfully worried that we won't. Will I be more stressed working full time and not having enough family time, or working part time and not having enough resources? I guess we all play it by ear and take it as it comes…

  10. Both of my parents worked semi-full time when we were children. I would say they both worked about 30 hours a week.

    The thing that really bummed us out as kids I think was never really being together with our parents. We saw my mom in the evenings and my dad in the mornings. I'm sure that was great before we started school, but after we were in school it basically meant we rarely saw our dad and my mom was tired and cranky in the evenings from working an early-morning shift at the restaurant.

    1 agrees
  11. When our daughter was a toddler and I was not working while earning my MFA, my husband lost his job. We got by on freelancing and the generosity of our families. After the Kid started pre-K, we both worked part-time. I went to work in the morning, Alex dropped the Kid off at school at noon, I picked her up at 3:30 and we were all home together by 5. It worked out pretty well, although we were broke as a joke and had no medical insurance.

    These days, Alex works part-time and takes the Kid to and from school and I work full-time 7-3, so we all get to be home together in the afternoons and evenings. Everybody else has said it, but it bears saying again: the time together is huge.

  12. I love this post about dual part-timing! I'm glad to know my family is not the only one. We are fortunate enough that my husband has amazing full time medical benefits at his part time job. He works Monday through Friday 4am-anywhere from 9-11am depending on the day. I work three days of the week 9-5 (I'm self employed and bring our 9 month son to work). So when my hubby gets off work, he comes to watch and take care of our boy. On days I'm off and he's working, he gets to see daddy the second half of the day. ๐Ÿ™‚

    My hubby had an opportunity to become full time at his job and make more than both of us put together, but the hours were insane (9-7+) and he has an hour commute. So our son would only see daddy in the morning before work. ๐Ÿ™ So he passed the offer so that he could see his family. Plus I wouldn't feel right having him work 50-60 weeks and me be home. I like my job!

    We do have to be frugal, but like others have said, it is totally worth it for the time spent with our children and as a family.

  13. I'm glad I found this article. My hubby and I both technically work part-time (~32 hours/week), although my hours are spread over 5 days. We've found a great balance where, with help from our parents, our daughter doesn't have to go to day care. Our schedules overlap 3 days a week, so our Mom's take turns covering that time. More money would be nice, but I love our family time and one-on-one time with our 2-year-old. If anything comes up though we are hard pressed to make ends meet (example: my car was stolen, lots of time and money to fix it after it was recovered). We only have two weekends off together each month, so we make the most of that time with day hiking or biking trips or hosting dinner parties with friends and family. My husband was recently offered a second part-time job in an area he wants to get into but he decided to not mess with our carefully balanced schedule, and miss out on time with our girl. Right now, we are doing all right. I'd like to find full-time work in my field but it is very competitive and I'd have the most luck if I looked out-of -state, but then we'd miss our wonderful support system. These decisions are hard, so I just try to enjoy each day for now and I'll deal with changes as they come.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.