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.
If you were a lawyer, I would say that you did irreparable damage (speaking as a lawyer that has seen it happen over and over to colleagues of mine).ReplyDelete
Not sure if it's the same in the world of doctors, though.
Really? I could see where getting out of the game completely might now look great but I think you can scale back without doing much damage.Delete
Yes, really. Unfortunately.Delete
Well, thankfully my firm has some great female leaders who were able to take "childcare sabbaticals" and jump back in. I don't know of any female attorneys who were irreparably damaged by alternative schedules.Delete
That's nice. But doesn't change the reality experienced by many, many other female attorneys.Delete
No it is not a career killer. As someone who should have worked part time but did not, I tell you I regret it, I see now had I taken the part time path how qucikly I could have closed the career gap but I will never be able to get back that time I missed with the family. Funny thing is, now that I am "on top of the world" career wise, it sucks, I am going to retire early.ReplyDelete
I doubt that you will go full time when kids are in school. In my experience there is more to do for your kids when they are school age. Plus there is inertia. One of my colleagues worked part time taking care of chronically ill parent. Now that her parent passed long time ago, she is still working part time. There is also inertia when it comes to taking more voluntary responsibilities. A firend at work and I have been kicking the idea of research around. While both of us are excited about what we can do, the research is still not happening. I always wonder why you feel so guilty about your choice. Or at least write about it so frequently.ReplyDelete
I agree with the above.Delete
The women I've known that have gone part-time have never gone back to full-time work and they don't intend to come back full-time either. I don't know if it was initially their plan to stay part-time for the rest of the career, but it worked out that way for them, with no regrets whatsoever.
I write about it frequently mostly because I think it's a super important issue for women in medicine. I feel privileged, not guilty, that I have the option to work parttime. But a lot of people do challenge this or try to make women feel guilty or that their career will be ruined.Delete
I work 0.8 time and chances are, I won't go back to full time. At least if I can help it! Although doing the same thing I'm doing now for a few extra hours probably won't help me much career-wise. I think it's more about how you use that time. Ironically, I'd probably be best off staying parttime and involving myself in research in my free time, which is the direction I may take.
I think it depends on what your aspirations are. If you are trying to be a tenure track researcher, you may kill your research career if you do part time, simply because the competition to get funding is so steep these days. If you want to do administration / mostly clinical work it probably matters less. If you want to be involved in side research projects not as the main PI, it also probably matters less.Delete
There's nothing wrong with part time. If that's what you want to do, embrace it. I do think the workplace has come a long way in this respect.
So I really feel like .8 for a doctor or lawyer (I'm the latter) is pretty much the normal person's full time job.Delete
I am not a doctor, but in my career, I did do damage when I waited to go back full-time after the kids were in school. I was clearly older than the 20-somethings I was competing against, and gray hair (even with good dye) couldn't mask the wrinkles and the occasional reference to things That Happened Before They Were Conscious Of Events gave me away.ReplyDelete
Not sure what is to be done about that, but I would STILL have done it that way.
I think it depends on your career goals. There are certain paths (academic research as either an MD or PhD for example) that require intense, consistent productivity during these early years. You can't really get into such a career later in life, because you won't be eligible for training grants/early career grant/etc... once you're a certain number of years out from terminal degree or completion of fellowship. But there are lots of other great, fulfilling career paths that you can certainly pick up at any time. So it depends on your specific career I suppose. I'm glad you are able to work it out in your career, though!ReplyDelete
I've cut my hours and missed incredible opportunities in my career which would have made me happier than I presently am work wise due to having little ones. You can break the self fulfilling prophecy if you want to do it. I have no doubt about that.ReplyDelete
I still get down in the mouth about it from time to time, however, I look at it this way: there will be possible career opportunities in the future, but there will never be an opportunity to get that time back with your children. Perhaps that'll give you some peace of mind.
Totally agree. Even if I knew for sure that being parttime would hurt my career, it's still sooooo worth it to me. But I still think some opportunities will be there for me when I'm ready.Delete
Other fields, definitely. Ours, no. Every director of something or other in our group that I can think of started out saying no, no, no, okay. We were all surprised that the biggest slacker we have (self-identified) is the new medical director for one of our sites.ReplyDelete
There's fatigue from training, too, which is where I'm at. I've been mentioned several times for management stuff and I'm not at all interested. Maybe in 5-6 years (probably not)
Yeah... I think it would be worse to overload myself with work I can't handle right now.Delete
I'm curious, what is your self-conceptualization of "part-time"?ReplyDelete
I would be happy to answer that question if rephrased in English :)Delete
As a female medical student I appreciate that Fizzy talks about these choices!ReplyDelete
It saddens me that you think this is just a "female" issue. Work life balance is a problem that affect EVERYONE in medicine.Delete
True. Although women tend to take on the role of primary caregiver for their kids, which is one of the main reasons to be parttime. Also, women have to be the pregnant one, the nursing one, etc. But I definitely know men who would like to go parttime to improve their QOL.Delete
I know of a doctor in my area (male) who decided to cut his practice back because he was going to coach his kid's sports team and attend church every Sunday. He will not miss a practice or game or a Sunday morning. He said he makes less, but right now, those things are more important to him.Delete
So, yes, men are included in the issue.
Part-time hasn't hurt me - admin keeps asking when I want to go full-time. I laugh at them.ReplyDelete
And for me, part-time is 2 days/week. 3-4 calls/month.
Oh, Fizzy, my kids are 9 & 12. It is sooooooooooooooooo much easier shuttling them around activities working part-time.
At least you have an option to go part time to spend more time with your kids. Many people don't have that option. I would have taken it if I had that option in my job which I quit when my child was two years old. No matter what you choose to do, I think it comes down to priority in life and self fulfillment. Amazingly, kids are fine despite our guilt over lack of time spent with them, not being able to make every event and etc... They would rather see you happy.ReplyDelete
By the way, I enjoy your blog now that I'm studying to get into post-bac premed program.
Agreed, I never had the option of going part-time. My full-time job wouldn't cover childcare as it was. So when my husband died, and I learned I would get more money every month than I did working, (for the same company for 14 years!) it was a no-brainer. More money + more time with child vs. no money + crushing debt + paying somebody else to raise my child. It was still hard to leave the job I loved, though I don't regret my decision at all.Delete
I'm working part-time in peds This means 40 hours a week (including EMR charting at home) and I get paid half of what the full time doctors (60 hours a week) make. Still, it's so worth it. Who wants to work 60 hours a week if you can help it? But if I want to do full time when my kids are grown, I easily have that option.ReplyDelete