Should Parents Work Part-Time After Having a Child?

Pros and cons of reducing your work hours after becoming a parent

A person works on a laptop while hanging out with family.

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Colleen Paulson worked full-time as a marketing analyst until the day she had her daughter in 2006. Paulson liked her work and coworkers, but after her daughter's birth, she quit without a plan for what she would do next.

"I didn't love it enough to say that I wanted to go back, and part of me wanted to see what else was out there," she told The Balance via email.

One day, Paulson caught a segment on a TV show about potential work-from-home jobs, including freelance writing. Within two years, she had her second child and a new part-time career as a freelance and resume writer. Over a 16-year span, she raised four children while working part-time in various roles, including a stint as an MBA admissions officer at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.

While Paulson acknowledged some professional setbacks from going part-time—and that it's not easy going out on your own—she said she enjoyed exploring writing and career development.

"It’s very self-directed, so I have to continually push myself to find clients and build my business," she said. "Some years I worked more than others, but chose to stay part-time since I really enjoy the flexibility."

If you’ve played with the idea of a part-time job after having a child, consider the pros and cons of reduced work hours. In addition, mull over the questions to ask yourself before asking for part-time work, determine if your workplace is part-time-friendly, and find out how to make the big request to go from full-time to part-time if that’s what you want.

Key Takeaways

  • Consider the professional, emotional, and financial pros and cons unique to your situation before going part-time at work after having a child.
  • Reducing work hours may have serious professional ramifications for women in particular.
  • You’ll need to make a business case when asking your employer to reduce your hours. Clearly outline your plan, anticipate problems, and stay in communication.

Pros and Cons of Working Part-Time After Having a Child

  • Save money on child care and employment costs

  • Ease emotional stress

  • Increased productivity at work

  • Opportunities to explore other careers

  • Reduced income and benefits

  • Chance of future income cuts

  • Potentially limited advancement

Pros Explained

  • Save money on child care and employment costs: Going part-time may save you money on child care, commuting costs, and lifestyle creep, Sally Anne Carroll, founder and life/career coach at Whole Life Strategies Coaching, told The Balance in an email. The high cost of U.S. child care is a significant factor when it comes to parents—particularly mothers—working fewer hours or leaving the workforce entirely.
  • Ease emotional stress: Working part-time could ease the pressure and guilt some parents feel when juggling work and home life. It also may provide more balance. Spending more time with your child is a motivating factor for many parents to make the switch, too, Carroll said.
  • Increased productivity at work: Less time to complete your work tasks can have a surprising effect, Carroll said. The limited hours could end up increasing your productivity and organization at work. You may face less procrastination and temptation to read the news or scroll through social media.
  • Opportunities to explore other careers: If you’re not fulfilled in your current career, scaling back could allow you time to explore other options, Carroll said. If your current workplace doesn’t encourage part-time work, you could consider other part-time jobs or return to school to study a new skill or industry.

Cons Explained

  • Reduced income and benefits: Paycheck totals will go down when you drop from full-time to part-time hours. And some employers only offer health insurance, retirement plans, and other benefits to full-time employees. This may impact the amount you contribute to retirement accounts and education savings plans.
  • Chance of future income cuts: Women who took one year off from work between 2001 and 2015 saw their annual earnings drop 39% after coming back to the workforce, compared to those who worked during that time, according to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “Taking even one year away from work can significantly impact your future income, and this can be true of part-time work as well, especially in companies with less family-friendly policies and career paths,” Carroll said.
  • Potentially limited advancement: “Career-building opportunities and promotions may be harder to access in a part-time role, depending on your company,” Carroll said. This depends on your company's culture and policies, of course.

In a 2019 survey of working parents by the Pew Research Center, 54% of mothers said they felt the need to reduce their work hours because of balancing work and parenting, compared to 44% of fathers. Mothers were also more likely than fathers to say they were treated as if they weren’t committed to their work, or passed over for an important assignment or a promotion because they have children.

Should You Try Working Part-Time After Becoming a Parent?

Consider the big picture before reducing your work hours. It could be good for your life outside of work, but may have negative effects on your career. “All professional decisions are also personal, and that is especially true when it comes to this particular decision,” Carroll said. “Everyone will have a different set of decision criteria that is, hopefully, aligned with their values, priorities, and life and career goals.”

Reduced working hours may work best for you if:

  • There’s an employer-established path for changing tracks between full-time and part-time employment (and back again)
  • You’ve saved money and feel on track for retirement
  • You have a spouse or partner to help pay monthly household expenses
  • You're dissatisfied with your current career and want to try a new job
  • The monthly cost of working (child care, gas, professional clothing, and other costs) exceeds what you bring home

When You Shouldn’t Reduce Your Working Hours

Carroll said corporate and professional environments historically have offered fewer part-time options, especially in higher-skill roles. If so, you might still choose to seek a part-time position elsewhere, switch fields, or explore new career opportunities.

Reduced working hours may not work as well for you and your family if:

  • Money is tight, and going part-time could put your financial security at risk
  • Part-time work would damage your career path
  • Part-time work isn’t part of your workplace culture, and you want to stay with your company or organization


If employee dedication is an essential part of your workplace culture but you want to go part-time, talk to your manager about how you can demonstrate that you’re a committed and productive worker who adds value. If the expectations are clear and you meet them, you can make a case for advancement or other opportunities in the future.

How To Ask an Employer for a Reduced Work Schedule

If your company routinely offers part-time arrangements to employees, it’s easier to request a reduction in hours than to ask for something new. Here are some tips if you’re ready to ask.

Do Your Homework

Dig into research or statistics to back up your requests and assertions, Carroll said. Show how others make part-time employment work in your field. Anticipate objections and plan in advance for your responses to those objections, using anecdotes, data, and statistics.

“Getting your colleagues/team members on board can be helpful as well,” Carroll said.

Clearly Outline Your Request

Be direct and concrete with your request to go part-time. Do you need to work part-time in the office or at home remotely? Would a modified schedule allow you to complete the same work in fewer hours?

“Ask for what you want, but also be prepared to negotiate,” Carroll said. “You want to be clear on what you want and how that will impact you and your team, manager, customers, and workflow.”

Make a Business Case

Point out how your reduced work hours could benefit the business, such as improving productivity or cutting costs.

“Illustrate that you can do the job effectively within your proposed schedule and leverage your value to the organization,” Carroll said.


Retaining a valued employee with a strong history is often easier and more cost effective for a company than going through the expense of recruiting, hiring, and training a new employee.

Offer To Test the Approach

Ask about “piloting” or testing out a part-time program if it’s not something already within the firm’s established culture or policies, Carroll suggested. Circle back after one month to discuss how it’s working and if it’s something you can move forward with.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I file for unemployment benefits when my work hours are reduced?

If you choose to reduce your work hours after having a child, it is unlikely that you can file for unemployment benefits. In most states, eligibility for unemployment benefits depends on losing a job through no fault of your own (such as a layoff), in addition to meeting other state requirements. Check with your state unemployment office for details.

How many hours do I have to work before it’s considered full-time?

The definition of full-time employment depends on your employer, state law, and the entity providing the definition. The Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) governing most U.S. employment doesn’t define “part-time” or “full-time,” but according to the Affordable Care Act, a full-time employee works at least 30 hours per week, or at least 130 hours per month. Ask your employer what counts as full-time employment.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Center for American Progress. “The Child Care Crisis Is Keeping Women Out of the Workforce.”

  2. Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “Still a Man’s Labor Market.”

  3. Pew Research Center. “Despite Challenges at Home and Work, Most Working Moms and Dads Say Being Employed Is What’s Best for Them.”

  4. North Carolina Department of Commerce Employment Security. “Unemployment Benefit Basics.”

  5. U.S. Department of Labor. “Full-Time Employment.”

  6. “Full-Time Employee (FTE).”

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