Academic journal article Family Relations

New-Concept Part-Time Employment as a Work-Family Adaptive Strategy for Women Professionals with Small Children*

Academic journal article Family Relations

New-Concept Part-Time Employment as a Work-Family Adaptive Strategy for Women Professionals with Small Children*

Article excerpt

This study investigates how the option for new-concept part-time (NPT) employment influences the ability of mothers of preschool children working in professional occupations to successfully integrate work and family responsibilities. Female NPT professionals (n = 279) and female full-time (FT) professionals (n = 250) were compared. The NPT group reported 20 fewer weekly work hours and about $18,000 less estimated annual household income than the FT group. They allocated this additional time primarily to caring for and nurturing their dependent children. They also reported less job-related travel, unnecessary work, and work-to-family conflict, as well as greater work-family success, childcare satisfaction, and family success. However, NPT mothers reported a more traditional division of labor in household responsibilities and less career opportunity and work success. Implications are presented and discussed.

Key Words: employment, family, job flexibility, professional women, work.

(Family Relations, 2004, 53, 282-292)

The United States workforce is seeing an ever-increasing proportion of dual-earner couples, many of whom care for dependent children. The National Survey of the Changing Workforce (NSCW) reported that 78% of all married employees lived in dual-earner couples in 2002, compared to 66% in 1977 (Bond, Thompson, Galinsky, & Prottas, 2002). American workers also report longer hours on the job. In fact, the United States surpassed Japan as the developed nation with the most annual per capita work hours (International Labour Organization, 1999). The trend toward long hours is especially pronounced for highly educated managers and professionals (Jacobs & Gerson, 1998). Findings from the NSCW showed that the combined work time of parents in dual-earner couples increased from 81 hours per week in 1977 to 91 hours per week in 2002 (Bond et al., 2002). This suggests a "time famine" for today's dual-earner families (Hochschild, 1997), which is especially problematic for women who choose to bear and nurture young children while pursuing full-time careers in professional positions.

Women in professional careers have several options when deciding whether, when, and to what degree they embrace family roles. An increasing number appear to be delaying marriage and childbearing to build a professional life (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). There is controversy about the wisdom of this decision. On one hand, adopting a greater family role might lead to less professional career involvement for women (Statham, Vaughan, & Houseknecht, 1987). On the other hand, delaying marriage and children increases the likelihood that these women will never marry and or have children (Hewlett, 2002). Because marrying and having children are vital components of the life script of most professional women (Galinsky et al., 2002), many are looking for ways to more successfully integrate work and home.

Professional women who choose to marry and have children find it difficult to create a harmonious life in which they feel successful managing both work and family responsibilities (Hill & Kadi, 2001). Some new mothers try to "do it all," continuing to work long hours in their professional careers while simultaneously investing heavily in their family careers (Taeuber, 1996). Others wind up in the so-called "Mommy Track," moderating their ultimate career aspirations in order to raise their children (Schwartz, 1989). Some choose to drop out of the workforce temporarily or permanently. Fully one-third of new mothers with college degrees do not participate in the workforce at all during the year they give birth (Taeuber). Finally, some new mothers choose to work part-time in their professional occupations (Meiksins & Whalley, 2002). It is these part-time professionals who are the subject of this article.

Reduction in work hours is cited by work-family advocates as a desirable option to facilitate work and family harmony, especially for mothers with young children (e. …

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