Q&A: To work full-time or not?

Mmmm. Candy.

Natalie writes:

"I have an offer for a job that I've been working at as a part-time consultant. We need the money, but I don't really want to put my kids (ages 6 and 2 into full-time daycare/afterschool care). I know moms everywhere do it, but I'm so torn. I like working part-time, but I'm afraid of giving up this job offer. I can probably find other part-time work, but it won't pay as well. Any thoughts on this contemporary mom kids v. work crisis?"

This is a tough one. It seems like there are two things you have to consider: your kids, and your career adn finances. Let's start with your career and finances.

If this is a job that you enjoy and that furthers your career, then you really need to consider it. If it's just about the money, you might want to start thinking creatively about a different way to make that money or make up for not making that money. Money is obviously important (especially when it's time to buy food or pay the rent or buy winter boots for your kids), but you can't discount the effect working full-time is going to have on you and your family. Enjoying your job can compensate for some of that added stress and time crunch. But if the only thing you're getting out of your job is money, it's going to be tougher on you emotionally, and that's going to trickle down to the whole family.

I think the exception to that would be if you were so strapped for cash that you had to take the job to survive, or if it was something you didn't enjoy but was setting you up for the rest of your career. In that case I think you just have to bite the bullet and take the job for as long as you need to to get into a better position.

Your kids alter the whole equation. How will they do with you gone? I think that really depends on their personalities, and, to a certain extent, their ages. Obviously it will be easier for the child who's in school most of the day anyway to adjust to your being gone than it will be for the little one who's used to your being there. But you also need to think about their personalities and how much physical time they need to spend with you.

I know that in those surveys done seemingly every week about "working" vs. "not working" moms, the working-full-time mothers, working-part-time mothers, and at-home mothers say that they think working part-time would be the best situation. Having been all three within the last two years, I'd have to agree. I like my job and my coworkers, but working full-time has added a ton of stress to my life, and I know it's not that great emotionally for my younger son (because of his personality). If we didn't have the babysitter we have (who's kind of like an older goofy cousin to him) I think it could be really difficult.

But you do what you have to do. If you need the money or really enjoy the job, you'll take the job. Your kids will be fine in the long run. So will you.

Any other ideas about how to weigh the decision?