September 17, 2019

In Praise of Part-Time Work

“I woke up on a recent Tuesday morning and, while my husband got ready for work, I fixed some not-quite-healthy breakfast for the kids, harangued them until they brushed their teeth and put on shoes and socks, and drove them to school. Then I took the car to the mechanic for a minor repair and walked back to the house. Before starting my day of work, I made some calls to medical providers about our new health insurance. Later, when the kids got home, I fixed snacks for them and some friends who wandered over, loaded the dishwasher, and did some laundry.

This is not an essay about how women are expected to do the work of managing a home on top of our paid jobs, nor a paean to ‘lean-in’ efficiency that explains how I wake up at 4am, answer emails while the kids are still in bed, and use productivity tricks to get things done at double-speed. Because here’s my secret – one that feels about as dirty and uncomfortable to reveal as anything I could tell you about my sex life – I don’t work that much. I’m a freelance writer, which means I can more or less choose how much I work. And my usual choice is something like 30 hours a week.

Many people look upon part-timers as unfortunate exiles from the economic mainstream, or else as pathetic slackers. In thrall to startup culture, our collective psyche makes ceaseless hustle and 80-hour working weeks seem like the only way that career-minded individuals might advance. So who would admit to having so little ambition as to actually prefer working a 30-hour week?”

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