My kids are knocking on a bit now – Molly’s nearly thirteen and Eddy will be ten next week – and as they get older and are becoming more self-sufficient I’m finding that increasingly, it seems to be less acceptable for me still to be working part time. I’m quite sensitive about this issue, it’s something that I think about a lot and regularly discuss with Pud – particularly as he’s working less hours with his new job and I don’t want us to be struggling financially.
My real problem though is other people’s reactions to my choice of working hours. Here are a selection of comments that have been made when I tell people I don’t work full time:
‘You work part time?’ Pause. ‘How old did you say your children are?’
‘Blimey, you must have a REALLY rich husband!’
‘How do you afford that then?’
‘So, what do you do with all that spare time you have?’
‘I wish I could have two days off a week and be a lady of leisure like you’
I could go on but I’m sure you get the idea. Now I’m not asking for sympathy here. It’s my choice to work less hours and I’m incredibly lucky to be in this position and fortunate that my employer allows me to work the hours I do. My point is this though:- I don’t judge colleagues or friends or strangers that I’ve met for the first time when they tell me that they work full time. I could say to them:
‘Ooh, are times a bit hard? You must really need that extra money eh?’
‘Full time? I bet you miss seeing your kids though don’t you?’
‘Don’t you have a life outside of work?’
‘Can’t your husband support you on just his salary?’
But I don’t. Because it’s none of my business.
Of course I worry about the financial implications – every year when I receive my pension forecast my heart sinks – but I have a cunning plan. Eddy is adamant that he’s going to play professional cricket for the Indian Premier League when he’s older so I’m sure he’ll lend me a few bob at very reasonable interest rates. Pud isn’t excessively rich but he’s careful (some might say tight, I couldn’t possibly comment) with money and we don’t buy what we can’t afford (well, Pud doesn’t haha). I wouldn’t call the days I don’t work ‘days off’ because I don’t actually get paid for them and I don’t spend them sitting on my arse, watching Jeremy Kyle and eating pies. And as for being a lady of leisure, well I work darned hard the majority of the time so why not enjoy a coffee with my friends or family from time to time?
I sound defensive here, I know I do. Perhaps there’s a small element of guilt about not quite being ready to commit to working more hours just yet but more than this, I’m simply a little tired of feeling like I have to justify how I spend my time when I’m not at work.
Something happened last week though that confirmed that I’m still making the right choice for me and my family. Molly had invited two of her friends to come round from school before they went off to cheerleading training. It was a two hour session so I thought I’d make them a little snack to provide some energy in preparation for all that ‘jigging about’ as Pud calls it. In true Kerry-style though I got a bit carried away and before I knew it I’d spent a good hour or so preparing a selection of tempting goodies including an exotic fruit platter, ham, cheese, fresh bread from our local bakery and ‘legit’ butter as Molly calls it (as opposed to the cheap, own-brand sunflower spread that normally frequents our breakfast table) and I completed the proceedings with table settings and a string quartet as they walked through the door.*
And as I fussed over them while they tucked in, one of the girls said to me ‘Oh wow, this is really great……you’re so cool for doing this.’ And coming from a thirteen year old girl who is more glamorous and probably already more wordly wise than I could ever hope to be, this was praise indeed.
I may never be ambitious or career-driven. I’m certainly not cool. But one thing I am pretty good at is providing ‘legit’ butter and being there for my family.
And that’s why I work part time.
*I’m exaggerating of course…..I didn’t set the table.