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

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 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.

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

  1. I wish I could’ve done this in the USA, but where I lived (the DC metro area) it was just not possible. I needed to work full-time, whether that was hourly or salaried, just to make rent & bills (no car, no cable, no landline – back when people still had landlines, no new computer despite really needing one), and it barely supported me. I lived on inexpensive produce, rice & legumes with few occasional treats and “weekends out” were “I can afford one beer” or “entree but nothing else” events. I had fairly cheap rent, and as such, a very long commute. Basically, there was nowhere to cut to minimize my lifestyle…I just about made ends meet with some savings, and that was working full time.

    So…part time would’ve been a pipe dream. Not possible. That would have just about paid my rent and food costs, and nothing else.

    And that’s sad – in a world where one full time job barely supports one person, how are families supposed to figure out what works for them when they have to support more people than there are jobs? How are people with obligations (think caretaker or single parent) or health issues supposed to have any job at all that supports them? It’s sad that we don’t have a system in which a full time job can support a small family, and a part-time job can support one person. So many of us have to work ourselves to the bone just to make ends meet.

    I now have something more akin to a part-time job, because living in Taiwan with permanent residency (no more visa issues! Yay!) I can afford to do that. It’s opened up so much for me in terms of cultural experiences and hobbies…the upside is a pretty good lifestyle on pretty minimal hours (and we have socialized health insurance over here…ha haaaa). The downside is that it’s hourly, so no paid vacation.

  2. The reduced work load is one reason I stay at my current job although there are similar jobs where I could make twice as much – plus I love the topic I am working on and the colleagues.

  3. THIS!!! All of this. Thank you for putting my thoughts and frustrations in words! I love you!

  4. My senior year of college was heaven. I “worked” at my classes Monday – Thursday, cleaned my house Friday (I can’t relax if it’s not tidy) and had the weekend for living!

    I miss that. I feel like I am constantly rushing now. Never caught up. And I feel guilty when I sit down to read!

    Perhaps I will bring up the idea of 4 – 10hr days to my boss. Thanks for the convo guys!

  5. YES!

    I went from crisis counseling while pregnant (and with a newborn-8 month old) which is virtually a 24/7 business to a 4 day work schedule that splits between teaching a college class 2 days a week (9-4) and advising college students (8-4:30). I have Fridays and 2 months in the summer off, as well as a negotiated Winter Break. It’s amazing. I feel so refreshed and able to spend time with my son, afford daycare, enjoy my breaks, and put in a lot of energy to work when I’m there!

  6. This resonates with me, even though my situation is different. I’ve never been an employee except for training gigs in college, I’ve always been self-employed and LOVING the shit out of it.

    But as much as I love what I do, it can be hard to simply say “stop” and have a normal full-time activity, rather than a 60-hours-a-week-activity.

    This year, I decided to work better: to choose better jobs, which usually means better clients, with better deadlines and a better wage in the end. This way, I still work full-time, but a mere 40-hours-a-week full time, and I have improved my quality of life. This means not being stressed out all the time, having time to cook healthy meals, spend quality time with my husband or give my time for others. Of course, there are times when being self-employed is tough and you don’t get to choose your jobs at all, you just have to earn something so you can eat and pay the mortgage. But most of the time, I find that working less means living more, and I’m glad I understood that.

  7. I totally agree with you. I had a part time job as an after school teacher. And I taught drama and various clubs. I also put on school plays and I loved it. I felt totally fullfilled, but I had to quit and get a full time job to pay the bills. I also love my being a pt hair stylist. I love being my own boss, but I have to keep my ft job to pay the bills…

  8. I work part time and I love it! I am a ICU nurse and I work Friday/Saturday nights. We don’t have to worry about child care, since my husband would be home Saturday/Sunday anyway. I have worked full time (3 12 hour shifts) and it is so draining, plus the fact that it requires we have to put our kids in day care. I’m pretty committed to working part time, at least until the kids are in school full time. I love it!

  9. I love the idea of working part-time but anything less than a full-time salary wouldn’t make ends meet. I see how it can work well with a partner also working, but as a single person living in an expensive region of the country, part-time is a pipe dream for me.

  10. After being made redundant twice (and narrowly missing a third time) i’m trying to work for myself and its so refreshing. Hard to not be doing the 9-5.30 and getting a regular pay check but so much better for me physically and mentally. Its a scary leap to take to make the change, being pushed helped but it is possible.
    Little things like working in my garden and having veg growing to help feed us not only helps save money but helps keep me fitter and healthier than slouching behind a desk all day. Β£35 a month saved on gym membership and money saved off our food bill too. πŸ™‚

  11. Totally get this! I quick my full-time job a few months back, it was with a non-profit that did good work, but it was completely wearing me out and left me burn out and with no energy left for what was really important. When I started having panic attacks about going to work, I knew it was time to go. I temped for a while, and now have a contract part time job that gets me out at noon, they’re flexible about me taking time off, and so I can focus more on building my music career, which has always been my goal. The idea of being stuck in an office again all day doing something I wasn’t meant to be doing just makes me feel ill. I have to give credit to my husband, who is amazingly supportive and without whose income and health insurance I’m not sure how we would manage. I feel really luckily that I’m able to be doing what I’m doing.

  12. I have been working part-time since graduating from university for this exact reason and I have no intention of ever being employed full-time. I’ve found it very difficult in ‘real life’ to find other people who feel this way (or who realise that it’s ok to feel this way and that it IS possible to survive on a part-time salary!).

    In fact, from the end of this month, I’m halving my employed hours (from 28 to 14) so that I can put more time into my new self-employed business. I can’t wait!

  13. I agree. I just made the decision to go back to school full-time so that my dream of working half-time for an employer and half-time for myself can be realized. The more I am in my job, the more I realize the workplace in the U.S. is still a horribly misogynistic place. Even though I work in finance, most of my co-workers refer to me as the “secretary.” I have a co-worker who thinks it’s totally okay to fly off the handle and start yelling at me. I reported him to my supervisor as well as the head of our department. The first thing I was asked was, “Well, what did you do?” I’m not even fucking joking. I can completely understand why people opt out of the workplace; by in large the demands placed on workers are unreasonable, especially in contrast with the actual benefits we reap. And let’s be honest; if you’re a woman in America, you’re pretty much going to be treated like a novelty or pity-hire, regardless of your level of competence. So why should we even bother putting up with that? We should just go into business for ourselves and save ourselves the aggravation.

  14. Interesting. I just went back to work on a full-time but temporary basis. I get health insurance through my husband’s work, so right now I’m getting a paycheck till summer, when I’ve told my temp agency I’m done. In the fall I’ll see what I feel like then – but frankly, if I don’t have to work for benes, there’s no real reason for me to take a permanent job unless I really feel like it. It’d have to be really effing awesome to make it worth giving up summers with the kids.

  15. I have done the life sucking full time 40-80 hour work week thing… It seemed like work was my life.
    Then I started working as a server in a fine dining restaurant, and found I could make the same kind of money working 25-30 hours a week, more some times and less some other times of the year.
    It’s so fulfilling to have more time for my life.
    I save so much money not having to spend hundreds of dollars on work clothes or bringing lunches (or eating out)….

    I have the freedom to travel often and take days off whenever I need them. I’m love that my schedule is different all the time. I like working nights some times and days sometimes. I have the freedom to write and take classes and do yoga and spend more time on me!

    I also work occasionally as a performer, which I would hate to do full time, it would suck the fun out of it for me, but it’s a great side gig. I also teach workshops and do energy healing on the side.

    I am planning on being self employed one day, teaching classes and writing full time, but I am letting that happen slowly, naturally so the transition is as painless and gracefull as can be.



  16. I think the pressure to not only work full time, but to have a desire to do it and also enjoy it, is just another example of unreasonable expectations being placed on women. The expectation that women “do it all” and like it is, in my opinion, just as damaging as the retro expectation that women just throw in the towel and become stay-at-home moms/wives and like it. I of course realize that not everyone has the option to be so flexible with their career, but for those of us who do, choosing to have priorities that rank higher than our career shouldn’t be something we have to sheepishly admit to like it’s some kind of “strike” against our feminism or whatever. The last thing on earth that women need is one more thing to have to feel socially guilty about!

    My motto is work to live; don’t live to work. I don’t think that makes me (or anyone) lazy/immature/weak/etc. Live your life, and own it with pride πŸ™‚

  17. Yes! I recently went down to part time. This country does not value a work life balance. I enjoy life more with more free time and less money than I do with less free time and more money. I get to spend time with my husband and daughter, pursue personal interests and really do the things that make life worth living!

  18. This post means so much to me. Thank you! As an actress I need a job that has a good deal of flexibility in order to allow for my ever changing theater schedule. Some of my acting gigs pay, some do not. While it would be ideal to make a decent income on performing alone, that is not why I do it. Consequently I tend toward more part time or seasonal jobs, and lately I have started feeling a little guilty about that choice. Am I being naive or spoiled to forgo a “real,” “adult” job in order to pursue my art? Is it irresponsible? Or am I simply daring and choosing to a less traditional live life on my terms so that I may live more fully? I have no aspirations to be famous from acting, so its not likely I will ever “make it big” in New York and be able to quit my “day job” for good, but when I manage to shut out the world of “9 to 5ers” showing or telling me what a job or career and being an adult is “supposed” to look like, I’m actually quite content with my lot in life.

    I will not lie. There is a lucky set of circumstances that have given me the opportunity to afford the way of life I’m settling into, and I don’t have to pinch pennies as much as others might have to due to luxuries of my past and a few still in my present. I still work hard, however, and sometimes have to take a break from theater every now and then to earn a little more cash to keep myself afloat…but to hear all these stories about maintaining only part-time regular work is quite validating and encouraging. Thank you.

  19. This echoes one of the reasons I’ve considered staying a substitute teacher forever, the freedom and ability to just leave work when you need to, take a day off if it’s required, it is so freeing and makes me feel in charge of my own life.

  20. I love this! I’m 20 years old and have been working full time for a little more than two years now, and I feel exactly the same as you do! My only problem now is figuring out where to find two good part time jobs so that I can enjoy life a little more, have a little more variety, and still be able to survive. It’s not an easy search, but I’m excited to see what I find! I dread working in the same thing every day for the rest of my life so much that I think I would rather die than have to live the typical life. At least with part two part time jobs the days won’t be such a drag, although I’m not expecting it to be easy. If anyone has any advice on this topic, I would gladly take it πŸ™‚

  21. I have felt the exact same way as you since graduating 5 years ago. I hate working 40 hours a week! I started doing an awful HR job, stressing myself out while contributing nothing to the world. I took a big risk and paycut and began working with children in museums. Enjoy my job very much BUT…I still don’t want to give 5 days out of every 7 day week to doing something I’d rather not, or something I don’t have a choice over. So come January 2015 I will be going down to 3 (4 days every other week)…This has admittedly been made possible by some inheritance I received, which has allowed me to purchase a small cottage in the countryside with a small mortgage. But it’s my mission in life to make sure I and my girlfriend, and our future children, live our lives by our own terms as best possible.

  22. My fiancΓ© works part time and I work full time. Some people think it’s weird because typical gender roles are swapped (barf) but it works for us and we’ve always split bills 50/50.

    Honestly I’m a little jealous. I hate office life, and I would much rather do a bunch of other smaller jobs. Like teach summer camp and freelance. Even working at the coffee shop down the street to fill the gaps would be better than sitting in a box for 8 hours.

  23. I can identify with this pretty well even though I do currently work full time. I work 4 days with longer hours (which I don’t mind, and the 2 hour lunches are nicer than I thought they’d be!). It’s kind of amazing the difference a 3 day weekend makes compared to a 2 day weekend. I often don’t do much with that extra day, but the day is MINE, and I can do whatever I want with it. Meanwhile, I still make enough money to pay all the bills with a little bit extra for the occasional fun thing. It would especially be great if my husband could get a job with a similar schedule once he gets out of school

  24. I completely agree…after working full time for nearly 20 years, I was affected by a layoff…and I cannot fathom going back to work full time again. A few of the normal concerns do not exist (health/dental insurance through my husband, easily covering the bills with pt income and my “side business”…which is rapidly becoming closer to ft work), thankfully. And my severance is a great buffer in case I ever find the need to look for a ft job…of course, I would rather spend it on a new roof and vacation, but time will tell. πŸ™‚
    my stress level is much lower, I have time to take care of myself (once I make that a priority), and I love spending time in the home we bought while I still had a job. ..luckily we closed before the layoff, as the mortgage is completely under my name.
    The new schedule works better for my physiology (I have always been a night owl), and I enjoy my freedom. πŸ™‚

  25. Hey, I love this article! I totally agree. When I worked full-time, I always felt crappy – like something was wrong. Then I finally realized it’s cause I felt like I was “owned” by the company. I had too many times of missing important occasions because of a job I didn’t even like. When I missed my dad’s 60th birthday because I had to work, I finally realized enough is enough. I’m applying for part-time work now so I can do the things I love to do, on the side. Most people I know who say you need a full-time job to earn enough money, just spend that money on ways to de-stress from their job πŸ™‚ I love that more and more people are waking up to the fact that life doesn’t have to be the way we’ve been told it does, i.e.: get degree, get job, buy house, climb corporate ladder, live a life of stress and being tied to your mortgage, retire, die. I’m looking for another way that doesn’t involve sleepwalking my way to death! πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your story.

Read more comments

Comments are closed.