full or part-time dilemma

(7 Posts)
TaytoCrisp Sun 05-Jun-16 23:36:23

I would appreciate any advice to help me decide whether I should change from compressed hours (5 days over 4) to part-time (4 day week).

I have 2 DDs (5 yrs and 1.5 years). I look after them one day per week (which I am keen to do). I work from 8:15 to 5 and then from 8:30 til 10:30 or 11 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; then do a long day on Thursday to make up my full time hours. I check my email when I'm off on Friday and respond to anything urgent.

I came to academia after an initial career in another area and I was 36 when I got my PhD. I worked as a teaching fellow for a year and then went on maternity leave. I just missed out on funding for a post doc, but while on maternity leave got a research job in a different but related field. Because of these changes I feel I had to start over again in terms of developing my knowledge in this new area (my job is part researcher / part research manager). I had my second dd during this time so had nearly a year off, which again has slowed things down in terms of developing my research career.

I am ambiguous and am keen to do well in my field but I sometimes struggle to get things done even with my compressed hours. Because of the management side of my job I spend a lot of time in meetings, which holds me back from spending time developing my own ideas and applying for funding. I'm in my early 40s now though and feel I need to get a move if I want to start doing some good work with broader impact. However I also feel tired with the full-on hours, and have no time to get our household admin work done (eg naked bulbs in hall after nearly 2 years in new house!). My DH is an academic and does 50 per cent of household tasks, but sometimes I feel that the whole week revolves around work and home. I dont want to look back in 20 years and think I should have taken things a bit more easy and had a better quality of life (tho I do have a good quality of life apart from being tired a lot!). Or perhaps I will look back and wonder why I didn't work harder and stay focused to do as well as I could in my job?. I think I'm at a cross roads in deciding what to prioritise - move to 4 days part time and become more home focused, or keep up the current routine and try and use my time to do some good work. Of course there is always the fear that one takes the 4 days but ends up doing the extra hrs anyway (unpaid!).

I guess the part time would only be for 2 years til my younger dd is in school, but as I'm in my early 40s I feel I need to make the most of my time now to get on.

I'd be grateful for any advice. Or feedback on how you manage these competing dilemmas. My situation may be slightly different as I am employed by a charity as opposed to a university.. But I see myself primarily as a researcher and am keen to progress on that career path.

Thank you in advance for any advice.

OP’s posts: |
fluffikins Mon 06-Jun-16 07:33:25

I'm about to come back off mat leave and not going part time. My reasoning is that my department will give me the teaching and admin of a full timer anyway, leaving me with little time for research and being paid less. I think my strategy in your situation would be to stand firm on research time. Block it out every day and don't compromise. If that means not attending meeting and being arsey with timetabling about teaching timeslots then so be it.

TaytoCrisp Mon 06-Jun-16 23:35:00

Thank you fluffikins. It's good to hear that and be reminded of the need to prioritise research.

OP’s posts: |
OldLagNewName Tue 07-Jun-16 10:08:56

I've always been part-time since my kids were born (now 10 and 7) and it works really well for me. I used to do 3 days and since the youngest started school I've done 4. DP also works 4 days a week, which helps a lot with juggling everything. And both our commutes are only about 15 minutes, which also helps. I have always only worked my paid hours (with a bit of flexibility for deadlines obviously). I don't look at work email when I'm not 'at work' (Twitter is a bit of a grey area though!). I was like that when I worked full-time before I had kids too though (more so, because Twitter didn't exist), which most academics aren't, so I suspect there's personality stuff in there about how you like to manage and conceptualise your job.

I find 4 days much easier to manage than 3. The other things that help me are a very supportive line manager (who was part-time herself when her kids were younger), a permanent contract, and quite a transparent workloading system where I do genuinely get allocated less teaching than full-time colleagues. I've also had to develop skills in saying 'no' and being strategic with my time. It really works for me - I love my job, but only doing it four days a week really helps me to stay sane from the madness of academia - a day off next to a weekend is much the best for this, because it gives you three days away from thinking about work. It seems to work fine for my institution too - I got promoted and have management responsibilities. Of course my career (research especially) has not progressed as fast as it would have had I been full-time, but it is still progressing and I'm claiming the 'slow academia' movement as my home! And I feel confident that when I look back from my deathbed I'll be happy with the choice I was (privileged enough to be able to make) not to prioritise my career over everything else.

Hope this doesn't sound smug! I'm very aware that the way this works for me is the result of lots of lucky breaks and privileges, which just aren't there for some other academics, especially early-career ones. I think this essay was just me responding to the thing I often hear and see where people say that you can't be a part-time academic. I can and I do.

Totally agree with fluffikins that you have to be arsey about research time, and indeed your time generally!

NeverEverAnythingEver Wed 08-Jun-16 12:57:05

I've done 3 days a week since my children were born. I like it - though some days it feels like I've rush from one job to another ...

Career - erm... I wasn't very focussed on that when the kids were younger. I didn't progress much but now I'm picking up the pace.

My department is very supportive. I don't have too much admin (probably linked to slow promotions!) or teaching. Research wise I get to do whatever I like, though I guess I could always spend more time on it.

I don't want to go back full time!

googlepoodle Wed 08-Jun-16 19:02:31

I think your workload at the minute sounds awful. Every minute of your working days are filled with work and children. There is no down time except for your day off. I would suggest 4 normal days until your youngest is a bit older and then see how you feel.
I'm another who thinks and experiences that it is entirely possible to have a part time research career ( although I work solid when I'm in, no idle moments). The last year I've gone from 3 days to 4 and I much prefer 4. You can get more done and not the pressure to squeeze it into 3 days. My kids are older though.
I would definitely change your current working pattern - it sounds awful to me

murmuration Fri 10-Jun-16 09:07:14

I'm a bit confused about your hours - you do 8.75 daytime plus 2.5 hours nightime 3 days a week (so 33.75 hours) and then work a 'long day' to make up full time? What is full time? 40 hrs? 37?

I must say I've stayed full time and work 37-45 hrs only over 4.5 days (but the half day is for health reasons - I cannot work more than those hours). I'm doing so much less than I did before my health problems, but still full time plus, so see no point in going part time. I've never checked email outside of working hours except in extraordinary circumstances, either. Unlike oldlag, though, I find it has made a big impact in my career - I just don't have the time for research that others do, who make it up in the evenings weekends. But in talking with several part-timers at my institution, 80% is the same as full time, and 50% is more like 75% - you might need to check and see how it actually works in reality? If there is no relief from things dropping to 4 days, there's not much point. But if they actually do cut responsibilities, it could be worth it.

I wouldn't check email on your day off either way, though.

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