I've talked a lot on this blog about my decision to work part-time (although still quite a lot of hours per week). A lot of young female physicians with small kids make this decision nowadays.
Recently I've been offered opportunities to work more hours and take on more responsibilities. The opportunities seem plentiful, waiting for me when I'm ready. But I don't feel ready.
When my youngest is in kindergarten, I'll still be under 40, which is the age some of my colleagues are graduating from residency. Maybe at that point, I'll be ready to expand my career. Here is the question though:
Have I done permanent, irreparable damage to my career by taking these early years as part-time?
It's my feeling (and hope) that no, I have not. The accomplishments I might have made by age 45 may have to wait till I'm 50 or older, but that's okay. I feel like the time with my kids is fleeting, whereas my career can be expanded at any time.
I think there is an impression out there that once you go part-time, you can't go back. You have permanently labeled yourself as not serious about your career. And considering at least half of new physicians are female and may want to cut back when their kids are small, I think it's a huge mistake to say these women are permanently out of the game. I know there are plenty of women who would love to embark on a more serious career once their children are in school. Unfortunately, I think it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. These women get labeled as not caring as much about their career, so they may start to really believe that's true.
It's also a shame because I think that some women who would like to go part-time for a couple of years are scared to do so because they feel it will permanently wreck their careers.