Parenthood is full of unknowns, and the challenges of raising a baby when both parents work full time is often one of the most jarring experiences for new working moms. Whether your career plans always included devoting more time to your infant and less to work, or you’re realizing that the work-life balance you want simply isn’t available with a full-time role, deciding whether to scale down your career for more family time is a financially and emotionally charged decision. Here are ways to assess if you can afford to work part-time after baby.
Can You Afford to Work Part-Time After Baby?
Test-drive a new budget
It’s easy to say that you make cuts wherever necessary to accommodate for lost income by working part-time, but the proof is in the pudding. Before you make any moves, revise your monthly budget to reflect the amount that you’d live on each month if you transitioned to part-time, and live as though that is your current income, for a minimum of three months. If possible, try the strategy during the times of year when irregular expenses, like insurance premiums, wedding season, home repairs, and the holidays tend to send budgets off course. While you’ll still technically have access to your full salary, this “simulation” exercise is a great way to “stress test” whether part-time is even an option with your current financial life. Even if it doesn’t prove feasible, you’ve built an emergency fund with the income you’ve removed from your budget and placed into savings!
Consider all the costs
When you’ve always worked full-time, it’s easy to underestimate the value that full-time benefits can offer, including medical insurance, employer-sponsored retirement plans, dependent care and flex spending accounts, bonus eligibility, paid vacations and holidays, and perhaps, an employer-funded health club membership or cell phone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Index, the average value for such “perks” is about 28 percent of your actual salary. While some employers may extend benefits to part-time employees, don’t assume yours will.
Secure your family’s health insurance
You and your partner may rarely seek medical care, but children see the doctor frequently in their early years of life, for routine visits, illness, and issues you won’t foresee (hello, Cheerio up the nose)! Before going part-time, make certain you are entirely confident that your spouse has a secure job that offers a reliable and affordable health care plan that will provide coverage to your entire family.
Be ready to give up the ego
It’s not fair, but going part-time with your current employer–even if you remain in your same role–usually means that you’ll have less power in decisions that are made, simply due to the fact that by definition, a part-time worker is not as present or involved as other full-time staff. You can always return to work full-time if you choose, but don’t expect to be at the same “level,” in terms of salary, or title, as a current peer who never veered from the full-time path.
Make sure you have a completely supportive partner
Agreement around how money matters are handled is a key aspect to a healthy marriage, and it’s critical that you involve your spouse in the decision as to whether one part-time parent is in the best interest of the entire family. Taking on a part-time role won’t mean you’ll work less than you do in a full-time role, it simply frees some of your workweek, to the (often thankless) job of raising a family. Taking a part-time role to achieve a better work-life balance can be a joyous, and humbling, experience as you discover a new phase of life, and your place and value in it. Ensure that your partner is on board with the arrangement, that you have discussed go-forward expectations around a new budget, and potential cost-savings measures, and that you both view the value of parenting contributions, beyond money.