Three Dutch mothers who work part-time share their experiences with balancing family needs and career ambitions. They laud the Netherlands’ progressive policies on maternity leave and the acceptance of part-time work which makes it easier for them to maintain their career while fulfilling their duties as a parent. However, they notice some negative career impacts from part-time work, particularly in more competitive fields. Still, they agree that the benefits of spending valuable time with their children are worth the compromises.
The arts is an industry that professes to be so deep in empathy, but we are failing when it comes to caregiver support. What we’re seeing is that caregiver discrimination still exists because of the lack of universal support, the lack of education about discrimination issues, the lack of HR, the lack of consistency in employment.
In law school, whenever parenthood is brought up (a rare occurrence on its own), parenting is often modeled as something to outsource or minimize. I’ve heard advice like “Get an au pair. Communicate with your boss—just let them know that you’ll be offline for an hour so you can feed your child dinner but you’ll be right back on soon.” Those answers don’t work for me and how I want to parent. I want to be involved and present in my kids’ lives. If that stifles my career growth, that’s a sacrifice I guess I’ll have to make. But at the same time, this is the hill I want to die on: parents deserve more.
Elizabeth Jacox had a prestigious academic career, completing a PhD in genetics at Yale. While she had a meaningful maternity leave, a part-time schedule, and affordable child care, Elizabeth still found herself distracted and missing time with her baby. When she became pregnant the second time, Elizabeth evaluated her priorities and realized that she “didn’t love science” enough to stay. Elizabeth remains frustrated at the lack of social support for care work and winnowing options for scientists like her who would like to re-enter the working world after time caring for young children. Still, Elizabeth is making her own sunshine by connecting with adults through mom groups and church, and by building her own small business making clay jewelry.
Ruth was expecting to lose benefits when she went part time, she was able to retain health insurance, retirement benefits, and paid time off, thanks to a manager who advocated for her. Ruth says, “Recruiters have come to me just this week with offers, and I haven’t considered a single one. There’s no beating what my company has given me.” Ruth’s story proves an important point: when companies take employees’ family responsibilities seriously, everybody wins.
Jennifer Simpson is mother to five children and works as a compliance specialist for the Department of Education in Boston. She got her Masters of Arts in Communications and Rhetorical Studies from Idaho State and a J.D. from Indiana University. In our interview, Jennifer detailed how she always felt that she needed to equip herself to provide for her family, and how that impulse led to pursue her education throughout having her children. Jennifer turns the narrative of “work first, then kids” on its head, having her first child at 21 and entering law school when her youngest started first grade. Though she has experienced some frustrations entering the full-time workforce at 41, Jennifer says that she would not change her choices if she had to do it again. Enjoy this refreshing and eye-opening interview!