update: the mom quitting her job because of Covid

Earlier this month in an article for Slate, I quoted a working mom who had said this:

“I like my job. I like being a working mom. But I have decided to quit my job in a month. I don’t think it’s fair for my 2.5 year old to be plopped in front of the TV all day while my husband works from home. I’m in healthcare and expected to be in the office. I don’t think it’s fair to expose my child to long COVID or unknown future health problems because I want, but don’t financially need, to work (my husband makes twice what I do, them’s the breaks).”

Last week she wrote to me with this update:

I’m the commenter who had decided to quit my job in a month to stay home with my too-young-to-vax kid that you published in your recent article on Slate. I just wanted to send you an update because things have changed! And it’s all thanks to the commenters on the original post.

To add some additional context to my decision to quit my job (on top of all the COVID ridiculousness and burnout):

1. I work in healthcare with an in-demand degree so I felt confident I could rejoin the workforce again whenever I want.

2. One of my parents has recently been diagnosed with two different, devastating terminal neurological diseases.

3. Dealing with said diseases takes a lot of time and emotional energy (both in short supply these days).

4. I suddenly have a family history of these diseases and the recommended prevention is sleep and exercise (hard to do when my spouse and I are both working full time and raising a toddler without childcare and no family available to help).

So, my decision to step back from work was also with longer term self-care in mind. I had gotten to the point that I was excited to be a stay-at-home-mom for a while, but I was apprehensive about losing all the skills I’ve developed in my current role, as well as not contributing to my retirement accounts and pension. However, reading the other comments on the post about the fellow overwhelmed mom, I saw many were suggesting to ask to go to part time. That felt like a much better option to me but I thought it would be a non-starter with my leadership-adjacent role. Although with the current healthcare staffing situation, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose and now was as good a time as any to just lay my cards out on the table and ask.

So I did, and … it was approved! I get to switch to part time in a few weeks. The past two years have been really hard so I’m excited to have some more balance in my life and time to take better care of myself and spend with my kiddo, without having to abandon my career and that financial cushion. I feel valued by my employer and I’m so grateful for the respectful and supportive commenters on this site because I would not have asked otherwise.

{ 88 comments… read them below }

  1. A Simple Narwhal*

    What a wonderful update! I’m glad you were able to find a solution that works for you and your family.

    1. allathian*

      I agree, this is a great update! I hope your solutions will encourage others to ask for more flexibility, shorter hours, etc.

      I’m so sorry about your parent’s diagnoses.

  2. Momma Bear*

    This is a great update! I’m glad that you are able to find the balance that works for you and your employer was receptive to the idea.

  3. ZSD*

    What a great update! OP, please update us again in a year and let us know how it’s going. (And best wishes for you and your family in the face of your parent’s illnesses.)

  4. H*

    Congrats! I am jealous. I wish I could work part time. I am in health care working FT and PRN. I want a break! But I wouldn’t mind doing PRN or PT work but right now I am working 50+ weeks and have been for awhile. So tired!

      1. H*

        I am waiting on my husband to finish a certificate program and gain employment that makes our household need my paycheck less. Luckily, he is in IT but has had different life circumstances. He finishes a program in the Spring and I am hoping I can make changes in the next year.

  5. AnotherJen*

    That is AWESOME news! Congratulations on daring to ask, and double-congrats on getting it approved. As another mom (of much older kids, now) who’s been working part-time in a professional capacity while my kids were growing up, I strongly recommend it if it works for your family!

  6. Blue*

    Such a gratifying and encouraging update! Thanks for sharing your good news with us, and thanks to Alison for hosting the best comment section on the internet :)

  7. ABK*

    Such a great update and has really important broader implications. Imagine if working didn’t mean 45 hrs + a commute and an expectation that it takes over your life! We all could have more balance and more time for care giving responsibilities (family, kids, community, self) if we worked more like 30-35 hours a week, as the norm, for full time. 8-5 sucks, and means leaving to drop off kids at 7/7:30 and picking them up at 5:30 and it’s exhausting and ridiculous for everyone.

    1. OP*

      Yes, those were our thoughts exactly! Even when the LO goes to pre-k/day care, the pick-ups and drop-offs are still just one more thing to add to the to-do list. I used to work 32 hours/week before my promotion and it was so much more manageable, and still considered FT by my system for benefits. I wish more jobs were like that.

    2. Ally McBeal*

      THIS. I recently completed a new-hire survey at my job and one of the questions was about my work-life balance so far. I got up on my soapbox and started talking about how 40+ hour workweeks are nearing obsolescence, and I understood my company couldn’t unilaterally make that decision when we have clients to please and peers to compete with, but that it was very important for a younger generation of workers to find ways to adjust the work week (not 4 10-hour days, simply… removing a couple hours from everyone’s work week). I’m hoping I’m not the only one in their ear about it.

  8. Unfettered scientist*

    Great update! OP if you’re still here, we’re you able to keep your benefits/insurance after switching to part time?

    1. OP*

      Hello! Yes, still eligible for benefits, but the healthcare premiums go way up for part-timers. I’ll be able to drop our insurance and switch to my spouse’s with the loss of FTEs as a qualifying event (we looked into this before deciding).

  9. irene adler*

    I’m glad you were able to ask and get the part-time hours.
    I hope there are other employers out there who will use this as an option to retain valued employees.

    Whatever happened to job share? Two workers shared the same job – each did 20 hours a week. Takes a little coordinating, but doable.

    My only fear is an employer (albeit a sucky one) piling on the tasks so that the part-timer ends up doing full time work in the lesser hours worked. Course in this job market, one can bounce if that occurs.

      1. irene adler*

        Hmmm. Maybe that’s the reason. Only, wouldn’t part-timers fail to qualify for benefits – per their employee manual?

        1. PT*

          Employers are not required to provide benefits for employees below 30 hours. They can if they choose, but they legally aren’t required to, so many do not. Many also intentionally keep positions at part-time, 29.75 hours to avoid having to pay for benefits.

          1. Unfettered scientist*

            That makes sense. Are there a lot of people who would want a part time job with no benefits though? I mean what would you do for health insurance/vacation/retirement/etc.?

            1. irene adler*

              Part time option is not for everyone. You are certainly correct about that. Wouldn’t work for me either. But in the OP’s situation, it works.

            2. Zan Shin*

              As a RN, any time my husband had a job with health insurance, I cut down to job share or per diem work – the latter paid a small premium in lieu of benefits. No kids, but I am also an artist, so wanted part time work….only sought anything benefitted when he was between jobs. OP, I am delighted you got what you asked for!!!!

            3. Clisby*

              I don’t know how many people would, but I loved it during the years I worked part-time, 100% remotely as a computer programmer. I had health insurance through my husband, I had a really flexible schedule where I could take liberal amounts of (unpaid) vacation/sick leave, and I opened my own IRA for retirement.

              It was great when our kids were little.

              1. WhimsicalWhale*

                That sounds like my dream job! I’m a relatively recent grad in computer science and have been having a difficult time working full-time because of my health. How’d you find that job, if you don’t mind me asking? Any time I look for part-time programming or developer jobs, nothing pops up, but I’m probably just looking in the wrong place.

          2. Unfettered scientist*

            I love the idea of part time work, but I don’t have an alternate source for benefits and I don’t get how people make it work.

            1. Pop*

              My husband who works PT got marketplace health insurance for years before I switched jobs to one that covered part of the premium for families and he got on my insurance. He mostly takes unpaid time off, or we schedule our “vacations” (1-2 night camping trips) around his schedule. The marketplace health insurance is not great but we are lucky to be young and relatively healthy and so it works for us in this season of life.

          3. Clisby*

            What benefits are employers (in the US) required to provide even for full-time employees?

            As far as I know: They have to pay the employer share of SS/Medicare; they have to provide workmen’s comp and unemployment insurance; depending on size, they have to provide FMLA time off.

            They aren’t required to provide paid vacation, sick leave, retirement benefits, or health insurance. (My understanding is that if the employer has 50 or more employees, they can be required to pay a penalty if they don’t provide health insurance to full-time employees, but they don’t absolutely *have* to provide it.)

            1. Unfettered scientist*

              It’s not a question of requirement; many jobs in the US that are full time give benefits, most that are part time (at least in my area) do not. My point was just to say that I think part time work isn’t going to be feasible for me since I need benefits and it’s kind of rare for part time jobs to provide them. It would be great if there was an option for fewer hours where you didn’t lose benefits since that’s a huge draw for a job for a lot of people. But I understand it’s much more expensive to provide benefits to all part time workers as well.

              1. Clisby*

                I was responding to this comment: “Employers are not required to provide benefits for employees below 30 hours. They can if they choose, but they legally aren’t required to, so many do not.”

                Plenty of employers are not required to provide benefits, even to full-time employees.

        2. OP*

          OP here. Our system allows anyone 0.5 FTE or higher to qualify for benefits (though a huge jump in healthcare premiums for part-timers). That seems to be pretty typical for healthcare in my experience.

      2. Texan In Exile*

        A friend went PT at FedEx more than 20 years ago. They agreed to slash everything in half – her hours, her pay, her benefits. That is, she was able to keep her health insurance but the FedEx contribution was cut by 50%. Seems like a good solution to me!

      3. SarahKay*

        But I’m in the UK where fringe would all be pro-rated and medical insurance wouldn’t be a factor and I don’t think it’s very common here either.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*


          Although most benefits would be pro rated (I think medical insurance wouldn’t be) the cost of employing a person is partly fixed – even for example paying your payroll company per employee will mean it’s more expensive to hire two people on half hours than one full time. There would also be per person costs for anything like equipment or uniform.

          I think the chief problem with job share is that people often want to do slightly more than half a job, and nobody wants to do the bad half (eg in the UK it’s not uncommon to do part time as “term time only” or otherwise working more when the schools are open and less or not at all when schools are shut – but nobody wants to work “school holidays only” to close the gap).

        2. BubbleTea*

          It’s massively more common in the UK! We have a legal right to request part time work or flexible hours after 26 weeks of employment. Many many people work part time. I’ve only worked full time (which is 35-37.5 hours here, that would be PT in the USA) for a few months in my entire career.

          Perhaps it depends on sector. I’ve never worked in the private sector, always public and charity sectors.

    1. Al*

      My mental association with job share is the utopic workplace they created at the end of the movie “9 to 5”. :) It sounded so reasonable to me!

    2. NYC Taxi*

      My company which is a large, multi-national company has job sharing, which keeps benefits at FT rate if you’ve been with the company a certain number of years. Strangely enough there’s a higher rate of our Asian and European colleagues using job sharing than those of us in the US. I’m not sure why.

      1. OP*

        I’ve never heard of this before, it’s a smart way to retain experienced/efficient employees and institutional knowledge.

        1. NYC Taxi*

          Exactly OP. For our retiree newsletter I interviewed two women who were job sharing a role, both very accomplished, long-term employees and they both stated that the job share kept them both from quitting. One was going through health challenges with elderly parents and the other had young children; job sharing can benefit a wide range of family/personal situations. I hope we see more of it.

    3. doreen*

      I’ve never understood the difference between job sharing and simply hiring two part-time employees. It seems to me the workload is going to have to be divided in one way or another – whether it’s by the hours/days worked , by the tasks , by the clients/customers served or some other way. Does “job share” just mean it was originally seen as a single, full-time job or does it mean something more?

      1. Zan Shin*

        I had a true job share as a hospital discharge planning nurse. We covered one Mon-Fri caseload assignment (the heme-onc unit) and trusted each other’s judgment and work ethic, leaving complete reports for each other as RNs are accustomed to doing at every change of shift.

      2. irene adler*

        Sometimes it means one person works Monday, Tuesday and half of Wednesday. The second person works the latter half of Wednesday, and then all day Thursday and Friday. They work the same function. Sure, this could also work with one working mornings and the other working afternoons.
        When my Mom worked in HR, two job share employees actually shared the same desk. And they did have one hour overlapping on Wed where they touched base on where everything stood. I believe they administered to the benefits program. This allowed them to have a benefits person available for the entire work week.

        And yes, job share can also be two part timers. You are certainly correct about that.

      3. Hlao-roo*

        I had two teachers in elementary school who job-shared a classroom. It worked just as irene adler says, Teacher 1 worked Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning and Teacher 2 working Wednesday afternoon, Thursday, and Friday. They overlapped a little at lunchtime on Wednesday to share notes and updates. From my perspective as a kid, the arrangement worked really well for everyone involved (teachers and students).

      4. Batgirl*

        Job share means you have a partner who does the other half of the role. We had two job sharing teachers whose days crossed over on a Wednesday so they could handover and meet on that day. There was a case in the media a while back of two job sharing detectives who traded off childcare with each other on opposing shifts. They were reported for profiting from childcare while not being official childcarers; just goes to show you how opposed people can be to women finding solid solutions. I also once interviewed two women who were both the headteacher of a school. The school was considered outstanding and parents raved about it. You need good teamwork skills to pull something like that off, but people who can get more done in less time while helping each other is exactly what most institutions need.

      5. Gina*

        I did this! I was a preschool teacher in a year round program in the US. I had a co-teacher who worked Monday, half day Wednesday, and Friday and I did Tuesday, the second half of Wednesday, and Thursday. We planned together, acted as a team with other staff and parents, and basically each took on half the burden of the job in summer. I worked full time myself during the school year and she was a substitute teacher. It worked wonderfully for us as we were both very dedicated but wanted time with our young children during their summer break. At the time neither of us were eligible for benefits anyway (prior to mandates on full time employment benefits requirements ) but we were covered by our husbands’ policies so it worked out great for us.

  10. Polopoly*

    Congrats ! I know it still won’t be a walk in the park, but hopefully it will be a lot more manageable. And condolences on your parents illness. Best wishes to you and your family.

  11. Bookworm*

    So happy for you, OP! Thank you for updating us and glad to hear you’ve got something that hopefully does work better for you. Good luck!

  12. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    Love this update. Love that you felt empowered to ask, and that they accepted. Big win on both sides.

  13. Sara without an H*

    This is great news! I hope other readers will take inspiration to think out and ask for necessary changes.

    Best wishes to you and your family!

  14. Lechindrina*

    I left a great career when my daughter was 8 months old. My husband travels 70% of the time and closest family was 300 miles away. It was financially tough at times, and we missed out on things we saw our dual income friends enjoy. I went back to work part-time when my second son was in second grade (so about a 7 year break). My career soared. In a few years I was VP, and then President of a growing small (now not so small company). I don’t regret my decision at all! There is no one right path for everyone.

    1. Anonym*

      This is super inspiring! Do you have any advice or observations on what made this work for you? I know coming back to the workforce can be a hurdle for many who leave for caretaking (or other) reasons.

    2. dresscode*

      Thanks for sharing this! I am strongly considering staying for a few years while my (currently 2.5 y.o. and hopefully future kiddo) are young. I’ve been worried about dropping out of the workforce. My thought is, I worked for a little more than 10 years and go to a director level. If I take five years off, I can probably still start from the bottom and work my way up in the next 25 years! Careers are long, staying home with little kiddos is short.

  15. BookMom*

    Great news! I’ve observed for folks in healthcare or certain other fields, working even very part time or on-call can help maintain professional licensures that can be a bear to get back after a lapse.

    1. OP*

      Yes, this was a consideration as well! I maintain two certifications that each require 36 hours of CE every 3 years, and I have access to free CE at work, so that’s an additional benefit to staying on.

  16. elise*

    Congrats, OP!!

    Whenever people are worrying about mothers leaving the workforce, my go-to response is always that we need to normalize part time jobs!! My husband and I would both have preferred to work part time & parent part time, but we need health insurance and we were both in a field where part time jobs are Just Not Done (scientific research, imo there is no good reason why academic science jobs couldn’t be part time), so now he works full time and I parent full time and we are contributing to all those dismal stats about new moms leaving the workforce & women dropping out of academia!

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Yes – it totally saved my sanity to be able to go Part Time with Benefits (32 hrs/week, full benefits, pro-rated PTO based on hours worked) at my company after my first child was born. While they didn’t offer much in the way of maternity/parental leave at the time, they did offer this option and it was invaluable to me.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        This plus being able to work remote would really get a lot of people over this current crunch (which is now going into its third year … ). I think more orgs should re-evaluate their roles and see if these kinds of options exist so they can retain people they would otherwise lose.

    2. OP*

      Completely agree. Both of us working PT is the set-up we would prefer too, but it’s hard to do with health insurance. And of course us moms take the hit way too often.

  17. Kelsey Peters*

    Louder for the people in the back! This is the kind of flexibility we need to keep working moms from mass-exiting the workforce. Last year, I was working full-time in one job and part-time in another job to make ends meet, and both required being in-person. I tried to make some changes at my full-time job, but they were a non-starter for my boss. I didn’t want my time with my daughter to be that limited long-term, so I started job-searching. I just started at a job that is 100% WFH and has just moved to a four-day work week. The change in my quality of life in just the first week has been amazing, literally going from 60-hour work weeks to 32-hour work weeks. I didn’t have the option to stop working because I’m the main breadwinner in my family, but I’m so glad that I started looking for a job that aligned with what I needed to be excited about work and stop feeling (as much) guilt as a mom.

  18. Picard*

    I saw it mentioned briefly in a previous comment but I want to just emphasize that moving from part time work after being full time lends itself to scope creep VERY VERY easily. Be on the look out for that.

    And congratulations! Sounds exciting!

    1. OP*

      I will be on the look-out for that for sure, but I’ll be switching to hourly so I’m not anticipating much of a problem (once I get settled in, anyway). Thank you!

  19. L'étrangere*

    What a great update! Now that employers are figuring out they may be terminally short-staffed if they blithely let everyone quit, it’s time to make things routinely more flexible for as anyone who needs it

  20. Anonymous Hippo*

    A very nice update. I hope you come back and tell us how going part-time worked out for you. It’s something I’ve considered, but I worry about getting sucked into full time work on a part-time schedule.

  21. awesome3*

    What a meaningful update. I’m making the move from full-time to PRN right now, and I feel similarly content with this option as a way to keep up my skills and continue contributing without burning myself to a crisp. Best of luck!

    1. OP*

      My department always has PRN openings so going back to the “front lines” as PRN was an option that I was floating around as well. Also a good alternative when it works for someone. Good luck!

  22. Sloan Kittering*

    I work part time and I love it. But I think there’s a few guard rails that can really help make it successful. I hope they apply well to healthcare, which is not my field:

    Because I’m PT *salaried* non-exempt, I found it tough to be part time in a FT office because there was always pressure/resentment to put in a little more time – after all, it’s “all hands on deck” from everybody, right? People with FT jobs are putting in extra hours too, so why not *you* Sloan? This is dangerous because in my case I gave up benefits to work PT, so being paid PT and actually working FT due to cultural pressure would be a disaster, far worse than just having a FT job and being miserable. It’s best if you have keep a very clear schedule – I, for example, never work Fridays at all, don’t even check email, fall off the face of the earth. Originally my boss was always trying to text me One Quick Thing on Fridays, but eventually got the hang of it because I was so consistent. This would not have worked if my PT schedule was floating.

    Second, I have a pretty independent role with a set number of widgets that either get produced or don’t. This makes it much easier to manage my PT schedule – it would be harder if I was more connected to the schedules of FT folks because they would forever be putting meetings on my off-hours, missing deadlines that require me to jump in, etc.

    Finally, the standalone work I do is very important to the org, so I get some respect / get left alone a bit because everyone knows it’s a high priority thing that takes first priority (in my org, it is fundraising). This prevents my limited PT hours from getting muddied with low priority FT tasks.

    It is only because of these factors that I have found PT work so satisfying and worth the loss of extra income. Good luck OP! If this current PT situation doesn’t work so well for you, I encourage you to look for other PT roles that use your skills because it can be really great and the best of all worlds!

    1. OP*

      Thanks for this thorough advice! It will definitely be an adjustment to figure out and maintain my new boundaries, but I’ll be going back to hourly so they will be easier to hold, I hope. If not, there are always other options in my field.

  23. 404_FoxNotFound*

    Oh OP I’m so happy to hear that you were both able to ask and that it got accepted!!
    It’s been really good to hear more about the details of how this might work for you and others , so thank you very much for posting updates. I really hope the new work/life arrangements work out well for you and your family!

  24. STEMArtHobbyist*

    I 100% support you taking a step back for self-care. And some of it I wouldn’t even label that! The new family history is something very big, and you did what’s best for your health and what would be best for your health even without a pandemic. As someone getting new diagnoses and also learning more about possible family medical history (uh, apparently you can have your doctor just not label a type of arthritis for insurance reasons in the U.S. and sometimes should? so I never knew what type my mother has), I really want to stress that even if these things weren’t neurologically related, this is a lot to learn! And you have to take care of your parent!

    1. OP*

      Thank you for the kind and understanding comment. Best of luck as you navigate your family medical history as well! The learning curves sure can be huge and exhausting, huh.

  25. OP*

    Thank you to everyone for your kind and supportive comments. Making an ask this big was way outside of my comfort zone so I hope my little story helps someone else feel brave enough to ask for what they need, too.

  26. Chickaletta*

    Congrats! So glad to hear it worked out for you. I work for VP who is part-time so she can be home when her kids are home from school and take them to activities, it’s doable and I see it work every day. (And she’s no pushover! She’s incredibly successful at work but/and will flat out decline meetings that are scheduled on top of soccer practice).

  27. JJ Bittenbinder*

    This is an awesome update, and I’d somehow missed the first post, so it was great to go in and read the comments. There were so many lovely people strategizing about how to help coworkers who are drowning in this situation and it really affirmed my belief in the need to work for people who care about other people.

    I lose my last job about 9 months into Covid and, while it was a demoralizing situation, the reality is that I worked for someone who lacked empathy in the best of times and who had zero inkling that maybe I as a parent to a high-needs kid might be struggling…even when I mentioned I was struggling. I was better off without the stress, but of course the financial hit was awful.

    I’m in a job now where people ask how I am; remember what I’ve mentioned about my situation; care if someone in our workplace is struggling. I was speaking with a manager yesterday about scheduling a meeting with her and her employee and she casually said, “Let’s let Employee schedule the time, as I think her drop-off and pick-up schedule may have changed.” I almost wept.

    Let’s hope that this Great Resignation or whatever Great Phase we are in now forces those like my former boss to become more like my current boss.

    1. OP*

      What a simple way for your boss to show she’s tuned in and cares! So glad you’re in a better place now. Best of luck!

  28. Krissy*

    Wooo, congratulations OP! I’m getting geared up to try a similar move from FT to PT in healthcare! Can I ask how many hours per week you plan to work? I have an opportunity to name my hours to a new potential employer and I’m trying to decide if 30-32 hours will still be too much for me (partner earns a lot but has demanding job; 2 kids under 5; completely burned out by an unsympathetic boss and general RN malaise).

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