Parents Returning to Work, Part Time Only

Hi

After 7 years out of the workforce (with a few small stints contracting) my partner is trying to return to work. She's a civil engineer but has a lot of experience in procurement and contract management.

The catch: as a parent of three, the costs of putting the kids into extended day care and after school care makes working more than 2 days a week a case of diminishing returns.

What kind of jobs are there that either are WFH flexible hours (can be up to 35hrs/fortnight) or two days a week onsite? 8-4-ish. And not a sex line or skimpy swimwear.

My sister in law had a contract gig cleaning for $50/hr about 6 hours a week, that was actually pretty great job because as long as the building was cleaned on Friday night/Saturday morning and again Sunday night or Monday early, then it was fine. I actually did it for her for several months when she got injured.

Would it be better to start some kind of busines? Making websites or something?

I need your ideas!

Comments

  • The catch: as a parent of three, the costs of putting the kids into extended day care and after school care makes working more than 2 days a week a case of diminishing returns.

    Not sure this is always the case. Do you have two kids or one in childcare? After school care I like $100 a week for 2 kids after the rebate, childcare is different, with two kids in childcare it might be worth doing little jobs to get you by, but if it is the one then bite the bullet and just pay that ~$600 a fortnight after rebates.

    That is for full time work, with part time you are better off. I guess it depends on how much you both earn.

    Could be worth waiting untill 1 or zero kids are in childcare. Just enjoy the kids while they are cute.

    • Yeah, I broke out the spreadsheet for the costs of childcare are (with CCS and upper limit of what government will give per year per kid) for our youngest, plus afterschool care and school based vacation care for the two older kids over a year, based on 2, 3, 4 and 5 days per week across a range of pay rates (25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 per hour).

      We are slightly better off for each extra day the missus would work, for lower pay rates, but really, for $2000 per year per extra day at the lower rate, well, that is giving up a lot of time with kids for negligible extra money per week (~$90/week for each extra day she works), for much higher hourly rates, the childcare is of course a less significant proportion of the equation… but who pays $50/hr for part time work from home, or even just part time at all?!

      • +2

        Guess it depends if that little bit of money is going to go a long way in terms of happiness for your family. Sometimes and extra couple of hundred can really help.

        But if not, then don't rush it? Unless your partner is going to get some real satisfaction from it. If they are itching to get back into the workforce support them whole heartedly.

        Its those situations where one partner wants the other to go back to work for financial reasons and the other doesn't really want to go which makes the decision hard. If only houses were free to live in!

  • +3

    You can't work and look after kids. Even if she works from home she'll need childcare. Unless she wants to look after the kids 6am-8pm and work 8pm-4am. Even if you're willing to stick the kids in front of TV all day they get bored of it eventually and will need your attention.

    Even if it would cost you money for her to work and put the kids in care, think of it as an investment in her long term career. The longer she stays out of paid work the harder it is to go back to working and the less she'll be able to get out of her career in the long term.

    • Yep, all the cost breakouts are for her to work and kids be in childcare and after school care (vacation care on most school holidays).

      But what kinds of jobs are there for 2 days a week?!

  • +5

    Its about superannuation, not just weekly wage less costs of care

  • +4

    The catch: as a parent of three, the costs of putting the kids into extended day care and after school care makes working more than 2 days a week a case of diminishing returns.

    It's really not. If your partner is a civil engineer working in procurement, she will be earning way, way more than what it will cost to put kids into daycare or after school care.

    Are you just saying this or have you actually done research? After school care is around $20 per day without any CCS, and much less with it.

    Let's say that your partner earns $100K p.a., so ~$2K per week. At that salary level (both earning ~$100K), you'll get around 50% CCS, so maybe $150 per week for the three kids. Are you really saying that this is a big deal when your partner can make ~$2K+ per week?

    Have you actually thought about this rationally? You'll probably spend $150 on a fancy dinner and not even think twice…

    FWIW, my opinion is that it's not just about the money either - work can be important to a person's sense of identity and it's important to be in an environment where they are able to continue to develop their skills and be around people who are of a similar mindset. Something to discuss with your partner.

    What kind of jobs are there that either are WFH flexible hours (can be up to 35hrs/fortnight) or two days a week onsite?

    I think post-covid most workplaces will be more flexible, especially in terms of WFH.

    My sister in law had a contract gig cleaning for $50/hr about 6 hours a week, that was actually pretty great job because as long as the building was cleaned on Friday night/Saturday morning and again Sunday night or Monday early, then it was fine. I actually did it for her for several months when she got injured.

    This makes no sense to me - why would you give up an engineering career to work a contract cleaning gig? Even if you're an entry-level engineer, you'll be doing stuff like project management within 5 - 7 years and there is progression up the ranks. If you're a contract cleaner, what will you be after 5 - 7 years? Bingo, a contract cleaner, hopefully without an injury.

    My advice is to think long term - kids will need after school care for probably around 10 years. Think about when your kids are 15 and no longer need after school supervision. What is your partner going to do after another 10 years out of the workforce and only doing odd jobs? She will have ruined her entire career. That makes no sense from a career development perspective.

    I think the fact that your partner is trying to return to work after 7 years is not emblematic of just wanting the money (i.e. something that can be "cured" by doing odd jobs). Your partner probably wants to be an engineer.

    • +1

      The OP has two kids in after school care, but his youngest would be in daycare. Daycare costs here are approximately $150/day per child. Even with the 50% rebate, you’d be looking at $375/week for child one. Plus $40/day for the other two children. So close to $600.

      I also doubt she’ll be getting $100k/year right after not being in the workforce for 7 years. And then she’d have to pay tax and take into account the loss of any parenting payment/family benefit a or b or whatever. I still think they’d be ahead money wise, but it’s probably not as much additional money as you’ve calculated. However, I definitely agree with your other points.

      @OP, someone in this thread made a good point that the longer she’s out of work the worse it is and to think of her career. I will have to give this a nod. I know it may not feel worth it for a couple of extra hundred dollars per week, but it’s going to hurt a lot more long term. My advice would be to go into work at the best position she can get in her field. As a parent, she can request for flexible working arrangements after being with her employer for 12 months. Which is worth a shot, specially after COVID. That’s probably her best bet.

      I know there are some part time office roles in finance, reception and admin but I can’t think of many in engineering. And she should really be trying, in the first instance, to get something in her field. Good luck!

      • -1

        She really does want her career back. It's mentally and emotionally stressful being with the kids all the time and knowing she's falling behind in her career aspirations is tough.

        I'm probably the more sentimental one, wanting our kids to have a parent around for their early years. Those early years are special, it's a time you don't get again, I've been really lucky to spend the last two years WFH (since pre-covid) and be there every day for the kidlets. I really don't like the idea of the early years of our kids lives being filled with institutionalized care. But of course it's an expensive proposition in lost income, lost super and mental health. It's something that isn't done very much any more it seems.

        If, and after 7 years it's a big if, she can secure a decent higher paying role in her speciality, it would be great all round, but indeed it's not easy rejoining the workforce after such a long break. Chances are it'll be a more junior role at first which would be tough. If she hit 70k that'd be ok, 100k would be amazing but unlikely, maybe after a few years back in the workforce it might be feasible.

        Sometimes I get amazed how society is set up with numerous hurdles for parents, without which society and the economy would rapidly collapse. Stuff like 5 day fortnight kindergarten (in Qld it's subsidised 2 days one week, 3 days the next, repeat) and ending at 2pm daily. Seriously, how can anyone use that time to return to work?! At least most schools have good afterschool care and school is proper 5 days/week… But those 12 weeks a year holidays is a tough one to cover as well!

        I wish my parents (retired) were willing to fill the gap and do the pick ups and after-school care, holidays, etc… But they're pretty blunt about not wanting to, aside from living too far away, I think the three kids are pretty daunting to manage. I worked out for the three kids next year, well be up for about 30k costs (give or take) if she goes back full time, so if we did have grand parents around, it'd be a big bonus. An au pair is another option allowing in home care, but with the borders closed, that's not likely any time soon.

        • She really does want her career back. It's mentally and emotionally stressful being with the kids all the time and knowing she's falling behind in her career aspirations is tough.

          Yes, hence my comments of it not being a short term decision, but a long term play. Think about where she wants to be in 10 years. At the end of the day, this is something that she needs to work out - give her the space to come to her own decision.

          I'm probably the more sentimental one, wanting our kids to have a parent around for their early years. Those early years are special, it's a time you don't get again, I've been really lucky to spend the last two years WFH (since pre-covid) and be there every day for the kidlets. I really don't like the idea of the early years of our kids lives being filled with institutionalized care. But of course it's an expensive proposition in lost income, lost super and mental health. It's something that isn't done very much any more it seems.

          If you're the more sentimental one and you prefer to spend time with the kids, then why don't you stay home and look after them and your partner can go to work? Seems like the common sense solution that keeps everyone happy.

          Chances are it'll be a more junior role at first which would be tough. If she hit 70k that'd be ok, 100k would be amazing but unlikely, maybe after a few years back in the workforce it might be feasible.

          It's not about the "now", it's about where she can go in 10, 15, 20 years time.

          Sometimes I get amazed how society is set up with numerous hurdles for parents, without which society and the economy would rapidly collapse. Stuff like 5 day fortnight kindergarten (in Qld it's subsidised 2 days one week, 3 days the next, repeat) and ending at 2pm daily. Seriously, how can anyone use that time to return to work?! At least most schools have good afterschool care and school is proper 5 days/week… But those 12 weeks a year holidays is a tough one to cover as well!

          I'm a parent, both my partner and I work full time. I have never felt like there are any hurdles.

          I wish my parents (retired) were willing to fill the gap and do the pick ups and after-school care, holidays, etc… But they're pretty blunt about not wanting to, aside from living too far away, I think the three kids are pretty daunting to manage. I worked out for the three kids next year, well be up for about 30k costs (give or take) if she goes back full time, so if we did have grand parents around, it'd be a big bonus. An au pair is another option allowing in home care, but with the borders closed, that's not likely any time soon.

          Again, this is short term thinking. Trust me, in 10 years time, your kids won't want to see you or talk to you (that's how most teenagers are). I'm not sure why you're emphasising the short term outcomes (whether that is monetary or otherwise) and ignoring literally your entire life after your kids grow up.

          My advice - let your partner come to their own decision. With an engineering degree and enough industry experience, they are more than qualified to make their own career decisions. Give them the space to do that, then discuss after they've had the chance to make up their mind.

  • +2

    If she knows someone in a similar position, job sharing is always an option. Definitely a high barrier to entry but presenting two for the price of one can work with a smart employer.

    Government roles are something to look at too, with so much WFH and flexibility, along with a lot of projects going on at the moment. Cardno is one I know of that's pushing a big "work your way" thing with flexible working too, sometimes it's worth hitting them up. Might be worth trying a recruiter as well, they're often more keen to push a part time or job sharing concept with an employer.

    • Thank you, there are a lot of organisations adopting more flexible arrangements. I think many organisations are sweating the looming "great resignation" that the US has experienced.. with more flexibility hopefully a balance can be achieved.foe our family.

  • As someone whose engineering career has only so far spanned the length of your wife's hiatus from the industry, and wishes to have a family in the future, I hope (potentially naively) that she will be able to continue her career in the way she envisions it. As I'm sure she is aware, we are in the midst of an infrastructure boom in Australia; there is plenty of work to be found but not enough people do it. So, do not be discouraged!

    I work for a large consultancy in Sydney so YMMV but I understand that many consultancy firms did not return 100% to the office after the NSW lockdown last year and rolled quite smoothly into this current lockdown. It seems that work from home is well-tolerated by this industry and so I wouldn't say that one would have to look outside the engineering industry to achieve an arrangement where you're in the office 2 days and at home 3. Additionally and anecdotally, I know of many couples who split their work day so that one works early mornings and evenings while the other works almost a standard 9-5 to try and balance work and child supervision. I don't know how sustainable this is, though.

    Something I've noticed is trendy lately in the engineering industry is becoming a Workplace Gender Equity Agency (WGEA) 'Employer of Choice'. And, if this really means anything, this recognition is only given if the organisation can show it is implementing strategies in their work environments to support equal participation at all levels between both genders. At present, in the pandemic, it seems to be translating into providing support to both male and female staff to work flexibly and still be high performing. Now could be a great time to be looking to get back into the engineering industry - make them put their money where their mouth is!

    • Thank you, I found your comments and insights very inspiring and will show my wife. It's a tough transition but once she starts getting some good feedback from employers and recruiters, her confidence will build and hopefully we can indeed find something that works for our family.

  • It must be hard for your wife to look after your three kids for the past seven years and I think it's a good time to stop. Children are fine with childcare and afterschool care. They need social too! I'll support your wife to work 2,3 days a week to start with and she will still have 4 or 5 days looking after your children. It may not make much difference for her to work or not work financially. But if you guys decide to part ways for some reason, she has a job and can support herself. Otherwise she's (profanity). Maybe you can rearrange with your work like reduce your hours a bit while your younger one is at childcare? I agree childcare is expensive but your kid will grow up in no time. All the best.