Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The part-time paradise

My home country is the country in Europe where most people work part-time. Nearly half of the workforce (both male and female) work part-time (meaning less than 38 hours a week). And if that is broken down for gender you can see that 75% of women work part-time.
Source. I couldn't find this figure in English, but the X-axis shows the percentage of working people, and my homecountry is the longest blue line all the way at the bottom.

You might say: ‘Oh nice, there are so many jobs that people can do part-time and they get to spend more time with their family’. True, but the downside of this is that daycare providers often also work part-time. This means that if you are one of those few mothers that want to work full-time, you will almost certainly put your child in a daycare where it does not have one steady care provider, but different ones for almost every day, making it much harder for your child to form a bond with their care provider. 

And that is not even the worst part of it. Because the reality is that because so many women work part-time, it is almost seen as a crime when you have children and decide to work full-time. Almost no child goes to a daycare 5 days a week, and if you ask if that’s a possibility, the answer we got was:”I guess, if you insist”. I won’t even get started about the judgmental looks and comments from other mothers. It is just not done. 

So can you science part-time? I think you can, because as a matter of fact a couple of my mentors from grad school (both men and women) worked four days a week. Some of them worked 4 times 9 hours (technically full-time but with one day to be home with their kids), others worked 4 ‘regular’ days. I’m not saying that these people did not work at nights and on the weekend, because I’m pretty sure most of them did. And I guess in about a year from now (if all goes well, we get some kind of grant, etc etc) we will try for ourselves. Both Dr. BrownEyes and I are considering working 4 days a week, so that BlueEyes and prospective baby can go to daycare 3 days a week, just like their fellow homecountry kids.


  1. I hope you don't mind me being curious, but I was wondering how long your maternity leave was after having Blue Eyes, and how long you are planning to take for your new baby? I'm a postdoc in the US now but am originally from an EU country where most mothers take at least 6 months off work.

    RE: part-time. I hadn't thought about the potential problems this might cause! I had been hoping to return to work on a part-time basis, but was disappointed to learn that my university won't allow postdocs to be employed on a part-time basis...

    1. Thanks for your comment. I took 3 months maternity leave with BlueEyes, which is about the same as what I would have in the home country (+4 weeks before the delivery, but since I felt fine I worked up until my due date). My PI was extremely cool about it, because our university has no policy for post-docs and most PIs only allow their trainees 6 weeks...
      For prospective baby I'll probably take the same amount of time, or perhaps a bit longer if we are almost moving back and it doesn't make sense to enroll him/her in daycare for only 1 or 2 months. We are not yet sure about the whole planning surrounding our move.

      Could you work flexible hours and that way have an extra day at home?

  2. Thanks :-) I'm fortunate to also have a supportive PI, and am hoping to take 3 months. It's weird because it simultaneously feels generous for over here, but on the brief side compared with my friends back home. As you say, I'm thinking that some sort of informal "part-time" arrangement with my PI will be the best option. I *am* glad that academia gives these options, esp as all family is a long way away!

    (PS That's crazy that your institution has no policy for postdocs!)