There’s a group of part-time professionals that flies under the radar a bit. Couples who both work part-time.
Once you chat to more of them, you realise they might be living the way of the future.
(Before we go further, yes this article is about couples, but part-time is for anyone, it’s not an exclusive club!! This is just one version of the experience. Anyway, as you were.)
Here are some of the things we learned in our chats with Fiona (Technical Writer, 4 days/week at illion), Rhonda (Pictured, Content and Corporate Social Responsibility Specialist, 3 days/week at Eclipx Group, many side projects) and Alex, (Change Communications Manager, 4 days/week, small business owner).
There are as many reasons for part-time as there are people
For Fiona and Tim, it was their third child that started the ball rolling.
“I was against it and he was for it!” explains Fiona. In the end, a deal was struck. If Tim would take 6 months off work and then return part-time, Fiona would agree to having another kid.
A few years and one more child later and they’re both now working part-time. Manager support at both companies is vital to this arrangement. (As it is for all the people we spoke with.)
Rhonda says part-time is simply a reflection of how she and her partner Evan liked to work, even before children. “My career is a big part of my identity while he’s more lifestyle focussed.”
“I’m also not a full-time, 9 to 5 job person,” says Rhonda. “I love diversity.” Part-time enables her to keep things interesting with a job she enjoys, volunteering, a position on the board of local charity Fix it Sisters Shed and an interview series with people who inspire her in the Corporate Social Responsibility world.
Alex felt like he was missing out when his first child was born. “I wanted to be around to witness his development milestones first-hand,” he explains, “as well as support my wife Veron (a Beam team member!)”
Now that his children are a bit older, part-time means he still has flexibility for his family and can also grow his side hustle and passion, Accelerate Football.
Part-time couples are intentional
For the couples we spoke with, part-time wasn’t something they stumbled into. There was a conscious decision to approach work along pragmatic and passion lines, not gendered ones.
We were “very strategic about developing our careers to get to this point in our lives,” says Rhonda. “We were always gunning for it, even before kids came along.”
She and her partner Evan formalised the arrangement with an “awesome career coach, Jo Green.”
It turned out that this was important to make sure they didn’t give up on their ideal as it took both of them a while to hustle their way into great part-time roles. For Evan, “1 out of 10 recruiters would get it” — before he sourced a real estate role through a contact.
Having a clear mindset going into negotiations was important for Alex. Initially, he didn’t feel confident making the request as “not a lot of fathers in the workplace were working part-time and my manager was sceptical.”
Eventually, however, he formed the view that “my time is worth more than money and if it was a problem for them than maybe the organisation wasn’t for me.”
The finances can be a challenge — but there are also some wins
People might worry about earning less with two part-time professionals in the family. But the financial downsides aren’t always what you’d expect. Yes, one partner might be earning a bit less than if they were full-time, says Fiona, but your tax rate can be lower if work is spread more evenly across a couple. And two people continue to earn super.
You also tend to save on childcare costs because two people can cover the child minding and school runs. “And we feel equal because the childcare is divvied up between us.”
For Rhonda, though, the financial challenge is “definitely the hardest bit”. But she sees it as part of a longer game plan, calling it a “conscious financial hit” in the short-term.
“I take on freelance gigs to boost this area,” she says. “We’re fine, but we’re not getting ahead. This was intentional — to spend more time with the kids.”
You might never go back
Once the kids are grown, “I can’t see either of us working full-time,” says Fiona. “Before we had kids, working full-time, everything did feel like the rat race. Part-time allows that breather to organise your life and feel like you’ve got more control.”
Rhonda feels the same.
While she and Evan will probably scale up their work once the kids are at school to increase their financial means, their ultimate goal is to “have the same day off so we can hang out”.
Image: Rhonda, Evan and a couple of their favourite reasons for working part-time