what jobs are good for a mom who wants to lean out?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

After struggling to balance it all over the past year, I have decided to join the many moms who lean out of their careers once they have children (I never thought I would be here!). I am highly tempted to stand on my soapbox explaining to all how we need to support families — maybe if I had a year after my first child was born to settle into my new life, I wouldn’t leave, or if the PTO/sick time adequately supported doctors’ appointments, sickness from daycare, and family time — but that is not the point of my question.

I want to take a step back but, for many reasons, not leave the workforce completely. With that, I am coming to terms with the fact that my current career does not align with what I need in my next step. Today I am a product manager working with a software development team to build new product features. In this role, I leverage many skills and am open to learning something new!

This is where I pass it to you and your readers. What are other mothers venturing into (no MLMs)? What careers do others have (and enjoy) that meet some or all of these criteria:

    • 2 – 3 days of work per week
    • Flexible schedule
    • Mostly independent work (non-meetings)
    • Low mental load role
    • Ability to accommodate sick time
    • Fair compensation

I understand I may not be able to check all of the above, but I hope the answer isn’t to leave the workforce entirely or suffer, as the working world wasn’t built for moms.

Readers, what’s your advice?

{ 460 comments… read them below }

  1. Potato Potato*

    I had some friends do SAT tutoring for a company. It doesn’t meet the criteria for no meetings, though.

    1. 1001cranes*

      Seconding SAT/ACT or any kind of test prep tutoring you might be qualified or could quickly qualify yourself for. Its more or less setting your own hours, even when going through an agency, and you might be able to work with students on other coasts or in other countries, i.e. really early or late around your kids + partner’s schedule, and I always found the pay to be quite good for the work.

      1. Funny that*

        Did OP get a high score (1500+) on the SAT?

        That’s the first question you should ask if you want to be an test prep tutor.

    2. anononon*

      I was going to suggest tutoring – yes, it’s literally meetings, but it’s so rewarding and can pay really well and is really flexible. I started doing it part-time when I was studying for a Masters and needed more cash, and found it so enjoyable that I still do it as a ‘side hustle’ now, nearly 20 years later – except it’s now all online.

      I’m in the UK, but I think online agencies like Tutor Hunt have international presence.

      Also worth checking out the website or LinkedIn profile for Flex Jobs.

        1. Tad Cooper*

          Ooh, seconding the FlexJobs recommendation—and their recruitment arm, FlexProfessionals, is a phenomenal resource if you want extra support in finding a job that would work for you. They specialize in finding part time, flexible, and remote jobs for people in your situation, and all the recruiters I’ve ever worked with in their company have been lovely and very attentive throughout the process.

      1. Sloanicota*

        In the US I was a tutor and college paper reviewer for Princeton Review. It wasn’t the greatest money – I think minimum wage plus some incentive bonuses – but they only needed you for 7 hours a week minimum, fully remote, often asynchronous in the case of the papers, and I found the work pleasant.

        1. Funny that*

          I would not shell out for Princeton Review instruction that is “fully remote.” In-person learning is better.

      2. New Mom*

        Do you have any idea if this is an option in Ireland? We’re moving there in a few years and I’m trying to figure out employment options since my current American field does not exist there.

        1. TechWorker*

          Not SAT but exam tutoring – definitely. You probably could do tutoring for American exams too but might be more difficult with timezones.

          1. Nick*

            Would definitely recommend reading up on the Leaving Cert, as the process for grinds will be different than American exams for sure

            1. Varthema*

              Yeah, leaving cert grinds feels pretty specific to the format of the test etc. Kind of like trying to become an SAT tutor when you’re wholly unfamiliar with the SAT – theoretically the knowledge should be the same, but test formats have a huge influence on the best way to study. Maths tutoring might transfer better.

          2. Cara*

            But if you’ve gone to a US university, I think there would definitely be a market in Ireland/UK to speak to people about the application process and coach them through. It’s very different in England and we didn’t have anyone who could help the people in my school who tried! Potentially could be done remotely or could be something you seasonally supplement income with by partnering with local sixth form colleges (/the Irish equivalent).

        2. Eflw*

          I worked for Kaplan when I lived in London for a year. There were families who wanted to send their kids to American schools and me having taken standardized tests was applicable. If you have taken the MCATs or are good at test taking, there was also a big market for this for doctors who had been certified abroad and were going to move to the US. This was in 2006 though FWIW.

        3. Random*

          Substitute teaching. Or substitute clerical, or Para educator. I’ve been subbing for many years and it takes a distinct personality to do it — wored kids, no lesson plans, the ability to wing it– but the flexibility, the being on the same schedule as my kids and the ability to say nope, not today, made it perfect

          1. But what to call me?*

            If you’re not too concerned about the pay, being a substitute para is a great choice for flexibility. In my experience (with special education), you’re likely to be one of several paras (or at least you and a teacher for really low-needs classrooms) and they’re likely to assign you to the easier kids and/or easier tasks because they know that you and the kids don’t know each other. It’s a much different experience than being the teacher running the whole class by yourself.

            Even if you do have a terrible time in a particular classroom, you know it’s just for the day and you can easily decide to never help out in that particular classroom again. (Though if you’re good at it, be prepared for some to try to convince you to join them full time, because many are short-staffed and a great para is worth far more than the salary anyone is willing to pay them.)

    3. Newly minted higher ed*

      I also did tutoring for a long time but burned out. I shifted to online test scoring. Pearson is the most flexible hour wise, but I’ve had more regular hours with ETS. there are other companies and hours depend on test and volume. But I work entirely from home for this. Once the test guidelines are internalized, the mental load falls. Pay depends on the test, too. Anything from science to math to writing. But it’s kept us fed and such when grad school stipends didn’t cut it.

      1. TechWorker*

        I’m using this thread to get ideas for semi retirement lol – what sort of marking do you do? I worry a lot of it might go the way of AI, though perhaps that’s not the case for more difficult things that require written solutions. (I’m a mathematician by degree :)).

      2. Selena81*

        I didn’t know there was any manual scoring: i thought all the Pearson exams were multiple-choice
        (as a developer i took a ton of Microsoft exams with them and that was all multiple-choice)

    4. IndigoHippo*

      One thing to consider with tutoring though: unless you’re working with homeschooled kids, by necessity it mostly takes place during those out of school hours (4-6pm, weekends) which can be most difficult from a childcare perspective.

      I tutored all through my PhD, and was earning good money (£75/hr) with great flexibility, but while the hours fitted in brilliantly around my studies, I would find those same flexible hours difficult now with two kids.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I have a friend who tutored college students, which might have more during-school-day options.

        1. But what to call me?*

          Yeah, college student hours are much more varied so they can be a great choice for schedule flexibility. If there’s a subject that you know well enough to be able to easily pick up whatever the students bring you and run with it without outside prep, I highly recommend it. How comfortable you are with the subject matter can be a challenge with college classes you haven’t taken in a while, though.

          When I tutored, I often helped college students with general and organic chemistry classes because I knew those two like the back of my hand. There were plenty of other classes that I *could* have tutored if I was willing to do some outside prep work to remind myself of the material and figure out how it all fit together, but that would have taken too much time outside of the original tutoring, which could have turned it from a well-paying job into a minimum wage job. So for a subject like math I was happy to tutor middle school or high students in algebra or geometry but college calculus would have been too much work, despite the benefits of a flexible college schedule.

      2. Hats Are Great*

        I tutored LSAT prep, it was fantastic, I could set all my hours for when my kids were at school. College kids want tutoring when they have a midday break between classes; hardly any of them wanted to see me after 4 pm

    5. KateM*

      While my kids were small, I led an afterschool group in a school within walking distance. I could set how many hours per week, on what days, what time. I either planned around my husband’s lectures or engaged a retired grandmother to walk with baby a couple hours at a time.

    6. Llamarama*

      My husband and I have each tutored, and I’d second that Kaplan or Princeton Review won’t pay well at all. If you can find an independent company, the upside of them taking a % is they should manage scheduling, parent communication, follow up if the student doesn’t do their homework, etc. So much lighter mental load than tutoring as your own business. The company we work for pays $50/hr and when we do have solo clients the rate is 80-$100/hr depending on level of expertise.

    7. Lucia Pacciola*

      I think it meets the “no meetings” criteria. Sure, you’re literally meeting with the person you’re tutoring, but it’s not like project management. There, the job is mostly meeting with other people to get status on the work that they’re doing, and to find out what they need in order to get their work done.

    8. Varthema*

      I’m actually going to go the other way and … not recommend tutoring or teaching. I was an English as a Foreign Language teacher for most of my career and now have two kids, and am so glad that I’m not trying to mix the two. At least meetings you can beg off of occasionally, or go camera off if your kid is home sick, but with teaching you have to not only be there every time on time but also VERY prepared and VERY present, which would be tough to do if you were up all night with a vomiting toddler who is now romping gleefully all over the sofa. Most schools and tutoring systems frown on rescheduling and cancelling too often. So yes, it is flexible in that you set your own hours and it’s not 9 to 5, but it’s also *extremely* inflexible in exactly the way that is really tough when you’re the parent on duty for sick kids.

      That and it typically requires a ton of generally unpaid prep work (like any teacher), which is a whole ‘nother can of worms. All this requires a ton of brainpower and focus.

      What I would recommend instead is a job that doesn’t have set times when you have to be on and present. Copyediting or editing transcripts comes to mind. It would probably be a bit boring after product management but attention to detail and protocols is important, and you can do it whenever and it doesn’t follow you home as much as teaching or tutoring.

      1. Laura*

        I would argue that this characterization of tutoring is only true during your first year or two. I’m a full-time ACT & SAT tutor and I make low-6 figures working for a small private company. When I first started, I had to do a LOT of prep work outside of my time with students, but it became less and less, and by year 3 I had the content down so well that I could pretty much do the teaching on autopilot. It still takes some mental energy of course (connecting relationally with each student, thinking through what teaching approaches will be most effective for each student, occasionally having delicate conversations with parents) but it’s overall a very low-mental load job at this point, and pays well with a lot of flexibility. If you want to be full-time like I am, you can’t avoid working at least some evenings and weekends, but if you only want part time hours anyway, you could get away with very little or none of the above, only taking students who can meet in the afternoons or even during the school day (not all, but some, high school students can meet during their study halls). So, tutoring probably wouldn’t be the low-mental load job you’re looking for right away, but it could potentially be a great option for you if you’re willing to stick with it for the long haul.

        1. Anonymous elitist*

          Those of us whose kids are aiming for the Ivies need SAT tutors who are aiming for something more than a “low mental load” job where you “get away with very little or [no]” effort.

          I am sorry for true elitism but it is ultimately true.

          1. QuincyQ*

            I mean…as someone who has been affiliated with a bunch of elite universities (yes, including a couple of Ivies), I feel comfortable saying that even elite university prep can be pretty low mental load. The universities themselves don’t change much, the pool of course becomes ever more competitive, but the basic practice of taking the SAT changes incredibly rarely. You meet with the student, teach them how to do their best in the testing system they’re working with, I mean what else is there?

            I don’t think anyone’s saying that you go to your meetings with students mentally checked out! But it’s just much more straightforward than (say) managing multiple teams working on multiple projects at different with constantly shifting parts. Even if you’re trying to get into the Ivies.

            (PS – I strongly believe that elite SLACs provide a better experience for most students! And while Yale seems to actually care for its undergrads, most of the other Ivies let kids slip through the cracks regularly …)

          2. Fushi*

            The SAT is all about understanding how to take the test, and has little meaningfully challenging content. I frankly would be a little worried about an SAT tutor who still found it a “high mental load” outside of the occasional challenge with student learning style or parent interactions.

          3. Hats Are Great*

            I LSAT tutored kids from top-50 colleges aiming for top-10 law schools (with a special gift for teaching the logic games to students who were *terrified* of them), and honestly after a year I could solve virtually any LSAT logic game in my head, and learning how to think them through is a relatively simple, step-by-step process that doesn’t change a lot. And after a year I rarely ran into students with novel fail-states so I could pretty immediately tell where things weren’t clicking for a particular student.

            It’s not “low mental load” because I don’t care about my students, it’s “low mental load” because I know EXACTLY what I’m doing and I’m very good at it, and the test doesn’t really change. You get yearly update information and look through that to see if they’re adding a new type of question (or a new rule about commas, changing the number of math problems), but usually they’re NOT, so as a tutor for the SATs or LSATs or whatever, you just keep refining what you’re already doing.

            You’re saying, “My kid is going to the Ivy League so all his food must be cooked by a chef who finds chopping an onion a high-effort task with a high mental load.” No, dude, you want the chef who effortlessly chops the onion without having to think about it. If your tutor has to work that hard at SAT prep tutoring, it’s because they don’t know what they’re doing.

          4. But what to call me?*

            Tutoring a subject you know well, especially once you understand how the process of learning it works, just doesn’t take that much mental energy, at least not if you enjoy that style of teaching. It certainly takes *engagement*, but the process of ‘this is how the sequence of learning this subject typically goes, this is where students typically get tripped up, this is how to help if that happens, if that doesn’t help then it’s probably because of this, if they’re struggling with this part there’s a good chance they misunderstood this earlier part so let’s go back to that and then build back to where they’re supposed to be, etc.’ can become pretty automatic after you’ve done it for a while.

    9. RPptPM*

      OP I feel your pain!!! I went through something very similar last year. I’m currently working part time (25-28 hours/week) as a software business analyst/backlog manager.

      I’m an independent contractor, so beyond not working full time there are other financial drawbacks (e.g. paying both business and income tax, needing to switch to my husband’s more expensive, lower quality health insurance benefits) but the added flexibility DEFINITELY outweighs the drawbacks.

      All of which is to say: don’t discount the possibility you could stay in the product management realm. You have expertise and presumably a good network of product folks. Reach out to ppl you know (either individually or via a linked in message, if you’re ready to go public) and ask if anyone is looking for part time product management support. Having a knowledgeable former PM managing the backlog and driving features forward who doesn’t require benefits is a cost effective way to help w/ product development. Good luck !!!

  2. MsSolo (UK)*

    It wouldn’t check all, but service industry roles (and service industry adjacent) are often part time, low mental load. When I did front of house in a museum, quite a lot of the staff where working parents, because they could do a few days a week and if they called in sick the museum would continue to function without them. It’s one of the few employee groups for whom zero-hour contracts made sense, because they could accept or refuse shifts based on their needs on a short term basis. However, the money is not great, and flexibility really depends on management; the service industry definitely has a greater than average share of poor managers.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      As a working mum myself, the Civil Service is working well for me, though I don’t know if the US equivalent handles things in the same way. It is challenging to get into government work straight into a part time role, though, and in terms of meetings it’s probably the most meeting heavy environment I’ve ever worked in!

      1. EasternPhoebe*

        Getting hired into a US government job is definitely not easy. And while it very much depends on the role, most government employees I know are overworked, underpaid, and super busy all the time. Probably not what LW is looking for.

        1. Samwise*

          Depends on if it is a federal govt job. There are state, county, city/town, regional govts which may or may not be as difficult to get. In my state, for instance, employees in the state university system are state employees, as are public school teachers anywhere in the state.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I think we have a much bigger culture of part-time and flexible work than the US, even more so since the recent Pregnant Then Screwed campaign to bring the right to request flexible working forward. My understanding is that critical benefits like healthcare tend to be tied to full-time working hours so the kind of 0.8, 0.6, 0.4 FTE contracts that are pretty common and normal in the public sector and larger corporations are much, much harder to find and make work.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Our laws state that part time workers have to be treated the same as FT workers. (Although obviously things like annual leave and salary are pro-rata; then again, for me it just means that my leave hours get calculated on a five-hour day rather than a full 7.5 hour day so it still works for me, although it’s not really practical to take a half day.) I don’t know how long that’s been in force but it’s certainly been the normal assumption everywhere I’ve worked.

      3. SpaceySteph*

        At least in my agency, part time is relatively unheard of. Also yeah we do have A LOT of meetings.

      4. Grandma Mazur*

        yeah, that was exactly what I was coming here to say about my civil-service-adjacent role (research funding management) but it’s likely to be specific; but it might be worth finding out about any Irish civil service requirements (eg citizenship) if you’re moving there, OP…

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      When I worked retail, we had a lot of mothers with young children.

      Theaters that do live shows, museums, libraries, etc., often hire PT staff. You won’t get rich, but they’re often nice, clean environments with some benefits.

      1. Always a theater kid*

        ooh, second the idea of a front-of-house/patron facing job at a theater, museum or other nonprofit, with the huge caveat that I am not a parent. I did FOH workin grad school and liked it as a side gig – there was variety and it was a good break from endless studying – and once I proved myself competent (e.g. I showed up to my shifts and didn’t yell at patrons), I had a lot of leverage to pick my shifts.

        that said, my experience is that these jobs pay minimum wage or near it. It’s a little better now because of great resignation worker shortages, but i would not recommend it if compensation is the main concern. also, the pandemic did turn some patrons into feral cats; all the stuff about customers behaving badly during covid are still at play to a certain extent.

        1. Always a theater kid*

          also to add – this is a world with a small-ish hiring pool, too, so even if patron-facing work isn’t of interest long-term, it can be a good opportunity to network and move into some other area with even better hours/more working from home. The role that comes to mind is something like the database coordinator; even if it’s way below your current experience and/or not the software of your expertise, I assure you, a hiring manager on the marketing/development team is going to be interested because you know the organization. In my experience that’s a particularly tricky role to fill because pay is so much better in other orgs and people who want to work in the arts usually have degrees in…the fine arts. There are places I have worked that would’ve loved to have someone who is skilled enough to do the job, mostly independently, and values the hours/flexibility (meaning unlikely to leave for a fancier job right away).

        2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

          At the museum where I worked, most of the paid visitor services jobs were full time. The part-time work was done by volunteers.

        3. Ally McBeal*

          Yep, my work-study job in college was at a box office for my university’s theatre company and it was GREAT. Any mother who’s successfully raised toddlers (by which I mean everyone survived with their sanity mostly intact) is well-equipped to handle theatre patrons :)

      2. hypoglycemic rage (hopeful ex librarian)*

        as a former librarian, i can confirm they do hire PT staff and you won’t get rich.

        i can also confirm that libraries are often open on nights (9pm) and weekends, and even with a rotation, usually PT people get stuck with those shifts the most often. and they usually cover the desks more often, which can make it tricky if you have to call out for any reason as finding desk coverage might be more complicated.

        1. Claire*

          Yes and also in some library systems, vacation days are distributed by seniority. My sister-in-law took a public librarian job three years ago and she has not been able to travel to see us a Christmas since then.

        2. Anonforthis*

          Yep longtime library worker/librarian here and I would reiterate what others have said. Low pay, nights/weekends, and PTO/scheduling flexibility are going to be the major issues with this kind of work. I would also beware of PT positions that are really FT workloads crammed into PT hours.

          If you’re going to go libraries, I would choose your position carefully and ask lots of questions to gauge flexibility and ask outright what the schedule will be at the start. Also, I’ve had the best PT pay with unionized libraries and the best flexibility (but MUCH worse pay) with non-union jobs.

        3. Name Anxiety*

          I would add that without the Master’s degree in Library Science you’re unlikely to get a “librarian” job and the pay is significantly lower with all other roles. Plus if working part time you would be way more likely to pull the evening/weekend shifts which might be fine, but there’s less flexibility to miss those shifts because there are usually fewer people working those shifts. As a librarian, I would not recommend libraries as a low-mental-load, fair-paying, or flexible option.

        4. Elinor Dashwood*

          Current librarian. Library work is the opposite of flexible and low mental load most of the time. I would call circulation (the people who check out books) the lowest mental load of all the library positions I have had, but no library I have worked at has been willing to be flexible with shift times or dates. Since I started working in libraries, I have worked nights and weekends, and the kinds of federal holidays that schools get off (Martin Luther King Day, Juneteenth, Columbus Day) are not days off for us. We just get more people coming in because schools are closed.

          We do have a lot of PT work, though. If the shifts work for you, then it can be a fun place to work.

          1. pandop*

            This is all public library work though. I work in an academic library in the UK – most of our full time jobs are explicitly advertised as being possible on a job-share basis (ie people working half time each).
            Also in the customer services side, we have term-time only jobs (despite the rise of e-books, there is still more shelving etc to do in term-time), as well as weekend-only jobs.
            So a term-time shelving job wouldn’t get you rich, but it might get you opportunities as you learn about other areas of the library. There are also ‘back-office’ jobs in things like ordering and ‘stock management’ (labelling, relabelling, book moves, stock checks, etc) that don’t need library qualifications, but aren’t always a huge mental load – especially stock management.

      3. Phoebe*

        A friend of mine has a part-time second job as an usher at our big-ish city’s Coliseum. She can pick and choose what events/days/times to work and while she can’t always watch a whole show, so far this year she’s been at Bruce Springsteen, the Eagles, Blake Shelton and others. (She also saw Disney on Ice like 5 times in a weekend, LOL!) She also can get discounted and comp tickets to stuff, so that’s a nice perk.

    3. nonprofit llama groomer*

      I was going to suggest the service industry. I have friends in this situation who worked in local grocery stores or touristy boutiques. I live in a touristy area, so it is a pretty well paying option if you are working for a slightly upscale store.

  3. Charlotte Lucas*

    Not a mother, but I used to work at an insurance company that hired people to do PT data entry. There were a fair number of mother’s with young children. Some of it was WFH, and some was evening hours, so it worked for their families’ schedules. (Some also liked getting that “grown-up time” during the week.)

    1. Part time lab tech*

      I currently work 2 days a week as data clerk in a health department and could easily pick up more days if I wanted too. I started with an agency, now on a department contract. I essentially work as an in admin house temp. I have some say in which days I work but co-ordinate with the other part timers. Pay is entry level but ok.

    2. Medium Sized Manager*

      This is what I came to recommend. I work for an insurance company, and we have a ton of working parents because we are a) fully remote and b) very flexible. There are also companies who hire contractors to do this work where you can select your own hours and add/drop as needed for your lifestyle. It would mean no paid sick leave, but it would also mean you don’t lose your job for not working for three days to care for a sick child.

    3. nm*

      My roommate has a data entry job at a shipping company with a similar set up! So that’s another business area that LW might want to look into

      1. Hillary*

        Shipping is automating this fast – there’s a strong push towards electronic documents plus the leaders are getting better about using RPA & OCR to reduce keyboard time. A lot of the larger companies score their customers on digital versus manual and it’s starting to be a pricing factor.

        1. Throwaway Account*

          A couple of my friends work 100% from home for a trucking company onboarding drivers (getting all their paperwork mostly). They like it and the pay seems good

    4. Data entry: legit or not legit?*

      Just curious because I’m looking for this type of work for the same reasons as the OP. Do the insurance companies advertise these roles on their websites or do they mostly use staffing agencies. It’s a little hard to tell which staffing agencies are legit.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        The place I worked advertised. They only used staffing agencies for temp jobs.

        But I currently work for a government agency that does use legit staffing agencies.

    5. J!*

      When I was in school, I did data entry for a medical billing company, same principle. Basically primary care doctors, dentists, and eye doctors that were small or solo practices and didn’t want to hire in-house staff to do their paperwork could contract with this big company that took care of all the insurance billing codes and stuff. I worked a few days a week and the schedule was regular but they worked with me to pick a schedule that fit with my classes (mostly evenings). It was boring but really convenient.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        My friend who worked in Medical Billing Coding had his entire division outsourced, unfortunately.

    6. Lorraine*

      Came here to recommend the same. I’ve worked for a school and a non-profit that needed part-time data entry support in fundraising and have hired mothers with flexible schedules.

  4. Indigo64*

    My own mom took a job with the school district- 2-3 days a week, her breaks and hours aligned with all of ours. She’s a nurse (RN) and was able to easily make the transition to school nursing. There are many office roles (at least in her district!) that don’t require an education background and are part time (especially at some smaller, private schools). It’s not for everyone, but my mom has been working for the district for 20+ years and loves it!

    1. Cat Lady, Esq.*

      My mom did this too! She retired from a full time RN job and picked up shifts here and there as a substitute school nurse. The district had an app where you could see available shifts and get notified of last minute call outs. She actually loved working with the kids and felt like she could actually really be their advocate, because she didn’t care if she got fired, she didn’t need the money. She ended up working 20-30 hours for a while a week and loving it.

      1. Pajama Mommas*

        I was coming here to suggest something along these lines. I am a social worker and began working for a school system shortly after my second kid was born. It certainly doesn’t meet the “low mental load” requirement, but is otherwise a good fit for a working parent. And there may be other jobs within a school system that could be a good fit. I have time off when my kids do (spring break, summer vacation, etc.) and hours that line up pretty well with my kids’ school hours. I’m also part of the teachers union so compensation is good, PTO is plentiful, and health insurance is excellent.

      2. Autumn*

        I work as a substitute school nurse with a local hospital acting as “agency” I’m per diem, I must get 80 hrs a year which is about 13 school days but I average over 100 hrs a school year.

        There are lots of teacher aid and 1:1 aid roles in most districts, also a lot of districts in NYS and in VT are hurting for bus drivers.

        1. Hats Are Great*

          Everywhere is hurting for bus drivers. They will pay for your CDL training, and a lot of districts will be pretty flexible with accommodating parents (my last district assigned parents to routes for their own kid’s school and the parent could bring their kid to the bus barn and just plop the kid on the bus, so ideally they didn’t have to find before or after care). Some districts will allow you to stack bus duty with 1:1 aide work or cafeteria work or similar (so you don’t have a big blank middle of the day). If you live in a blue state, school bus drivers often have a union.

          It is, however, very much a “love it or hate it” job. Either you really like driving the bus and seeing the kids every day, or you haaaaaaaaaaaaaaate it and consider it torture. There is no in between.

    2. Emma*

      My mum worked as the school librarian at my primary school for many years. She started doing it as a volunteer because she could see there was work that needed doing and the teachers didn’t have time, and after a couple of years they agreed to pay her for 1-2 days a week. She kept that job for probably 15 years after I left the school, before eventually ‘retiring’ in order to pass the job onto one of the other mums, who knew what she was doing and needed the money more.

      1. Throwaway Account*

        Sadly, school librarian is probably better than a public library. They have dropped the standards (along with the book bans) so it is possible to get those jobs (don’t require the MLIS or professional degree). And with the book bans, some states have to have a school librarian to review the books, so the job seems to be coming back. If you can stand to remove books.

        1. Late Bloomer*

          When I needed a job–mostly for benefits–while my kids were still young enough to need my flexibility, and before I went back to work full-speed, full-time, I applied through their school system to be a media secretary in an elementary library. I’m not even sure a college degree was required (though I have a PhD! Ha!). The pay wasn’t great, sure, but it was an incredibly fun job, and the hours dovetailed well with my kids’. Plus, I walked out the door every day after feeling very helpful and did not think about it once until the next morning.

        2. Anon for this one*

          It’s more than “removing books”, it’s “removing the books the right wing wants removed”.

  5. wondermint*

    I also work in software, though in UX, and I’ve found freelancing hits all of those marks, except for maybe “low mental load role” since it is still mental labor. Perhaps there are PM opportunties in a similar vain?

    I know startups who can’t afford to bring someone on full time, but would still like the knowhow of a professional PM who can help set up some processes for them.

    It’s a tall order OP, but to get a lot of want you want on checklist I would recommend sticking to something you have some experience in :)

    1. Sloanicota*

      I strongly agree that given OP’s list, it’s likely going to make way more sense (and be financially better) to stick within the realm of what she’s already doing, versus trying to make a huge leap into some brand new field that offers the remote flexibility that she wants. Plus, by mid-career, I would have trouble switching back to taking orders as a dog walker or whatever when I’m used to being in charge of projects.

      1. doreen*

        Maybe – I don’t really know much about the OP’s field, but I know in nearly every job I’ve had since college, working 2-3 days a week or freelancing would not have been possible. If I wanted to work 2-3 days a week, I would have had to do something entirely different.

          1. Sasha*

            Does depend on the sector – my husband also works in tech, and part time working is not an option as it would mess up sprint timelines/have an impact on product builds. Other people need to work directly with him in order to get their own work done. He would love to work 4 days a week for mental health reasons, but can’t.

            To be clear, I think part-time work should be possible for him – in the UK you have a legal right to request part time working and for that request to be seriously considered (can only be refused if it would genuinely cause hardship for the business). But, he’s worked in a lot of places, and nobody, male or female, has been part time. Pre-pandemic, he even had real issues leaving on time to pick our son up from daycare (I’m a doctor and work shifts).

            Women in his sector tend to leave when they have kids – it’s really noticeable that there are plenty of women under 35, and very few over. He works freelance so he has flexibility that way.

    2. Ali + Nino*

      IME the issue with PM roles is that you’re expected to be available during normal work hours – i.e., M-F, roughly 9 AM-5 PM, if not for your team then for clients to be able to contact you.

      1. EngineeringFun*

        At my engineering company, PMs are expected to always be on call. They regularly are expected to be on calls with Asia from 8-11 pm at night and then be back online at 8 am. I tried out this role and lasted 6 months before I burnt out. Companies that do manufacturing in the US seem to have more regular hours. I understand OPs struggle.

        1. Bruce*

          Yes, the sun never sets on tech companies these days, I know PMs who schedule meetings at all hours, only to get push-back from the engineers who try to have a couple of nights a week without meetings.

        2. Global Cat Herder*

          Yeah, I’m a PM and I’m on calls from 6am to 6pm every weekday, then some evenings and some weekends. I’m resigning in a couple of weeks because of the burnout. No idea what I’m going to do next, just … not this.

          1. Bruce*

            My sympathies, and yet in the back of my mind “better you than me!”… from the outside it seems like a thankless job, mediating between customers and the internal team. I’ve always told the PMs that I work with that I appreciate them shielding me from having to spend a lot of time talking to customers!

            1. Airkewl Pwaroe*

              You’re welcome. Now I have to get back to explaining to the commercial team why “customizable colors on all visualizations” is not a top priority feature.

      2. Jamjari*

        This may depend a fair bit on the company. Also a PM in software, and I have the occasional early morning meeting with clients in other time zones, but I can’t recall the last evening meeting I had … but that depends on your clients and dev teams and where they’re located. I do find I have to be available to the dev teams, but that might be working T-W-TH and being available M & F on Slack. Granted, a lot of companies are not set up for this. However, I feel as the population ages, we might need to see more flexibility.

    3. Mama llama*

      Fractional “founding head of product” or contract-based product manager or product marketer around Series A could be perfect – if you have good experience you’d just need to do a bit of networking. You’d still have to think at work, but thinking 20 hours a week is a lot easier than thinking for 40, and you wouldn’t need to learn a new world at the same time.

      1. Hillary*

        Have you seen companies doing this? Right now my startup is just me and the CTO, but product is one area that I’d never imagine hiring someone fractional unless they’re committed to full time once we can afford it. Product is ultimately what makes or breaks the business.

        (I recognize I might be an outlier here. We’re bootstrapping and focusing our product on a very specific market.)

        1. wondermint*

          I worked for a Series A who hired a contract, part-time PM. She was offered a full time position at the end of the contract, but declined. Still, her contributions were used for months after she left, so I definitely have seen it work. The company was about 30 people, so larger than what you’re describing.

        2. Mama llama*

          I’ve seen it done a handful of times. Sometimes it’s a semi retired, pretty senior person who can then help you hire your first FT pm in a year or two

    4. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      In that same vein of staying in your current industry – maybe look into manual QA tester jobs? I’ve seen some posts that are looking for part-time people (you may have to dig a bit to find these though), and they may be more remote-friendly than some other jobs.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        On the downside, Tech QA is ripe for automation. On the upside, there are a lot of companies that say they’re going to automate but never do.

    5. Freelance Professional - FT Mom*

      I too am working freelance in what I’ve previously focused on (HR and employee compensation). It may feel dicey and risk underemployment, and still has mental load of often being new to a team. But there is a detachment to the work and command of personal time that is so much more valuable to me now that I am a mom. Recommend holding firm on your time off and rate. The rate may cause some eyebrows to raise, but freelance forgoes benefits, equity, bonus, stability…

    6. Megan Pratt*

      I came here to say this as well!

      Last year, after a layoff from a tech startup, I took my freelance side-gig full-time. I do a lot of the same work that I did in-house, but now for more money, on my own schedule and for a few different clients. I’m not involved in any internal politics, I have fewer meetings and I’m on a purposefully tight scope, so it’s clear what I am (and am not) responsible for.

      I work in product marketing, but I know one other colleague who was in product management who’s taken a similar path.

      Good luck! There’s definitely room out there for lots of consulting opportunities that fit all of the items on your list.

      1. Mrs. Bond*

        I’m in web development and have a similar story. The no internal politics part saved my mental health (I was working in higher ed).

        For a long time I only worked about 20-25 hours/week around my kids naps, school, and part-time childcare.

        There are a couple of downsides to this though like:

        – There are meetings. Maybe not as many but some
        – It will probably take awhile to build up your client list
        – You may have a lot to learn about running a business (I certainly did! ).
        – You may have to do some unpaid stuff to get your name out there to potential clients

    7. Miette*

      If OP is a decent writer at all, being a technical writer for blogs, white papers, website, and other content in/around your area of expertise is a good option, particularly if that area is B2B.

      Speaking as a freelance marketer, finding someone who can convey the right info to a technical audience in their language is vitally important to a content marketing strategy, and those folks are few and far between. Yeah, I can fake it, but not very well. The rates for this would be fairly generous–think per hour or per piece rather than per word, which is where other writers doing social or blog writing tend to charge.

      Other technical writing is also a good line to get into, but I know very little about it. A colleague leaned into that as a working mom, and it suited her needs. When her younger child went to school and she was ready, she was hired by a client full time.

  6. Erin*

    Depending on your areas of expertise and experience, there are a fair number of opportunities to work as a freelance consultant in nonprofit fundraising. My current job, for example, works with a consultant for prospect research frequently, and occasionally works with another consultant for grant proposals. If your writing skills are particularly sharp either job could be a great fit, but if you also are a subject matter expert then writing for grant proposals could be a slam dunk.

    1. hypoglycemic rage (hopeful ex librarian)*

      i’m not sure the experience i have fits, and i am not a subject expert in anything other than taylor swift song lyrics, but what kind of job titles would i search for, if i were interested in looking into this?

      1. Jamie Starr*

        In some states (NY, for example), professional fundraisers may have to be registered with the State and file annual paperwork. Whether you need to register depends on what type of fundraising is being done and how. (This doesn’t apply to employees who are fundraisers; it’s for independent contractors and consultants.)

        1. nonprofit writer*

          I am a fundraising consultant in NY and I have never heard of this! Can you share more? (I do writing–grants and some direct marketing.)

          1. Jamie Starr*

            If you search “Professional Fundraisers NY Charities Bureau” there is an entire section on the Attorney General’s website. (Since the AG oversees the Charities Bureau, which regulates NY nonprofits.)

            It really depends on things like whether you are soliciting contributions, if you have control over the funds before they go to the nonprofit, etc. But there are also other requirements, like there should always be a contract. Also, when the NFP files its 990s they may need to list the names of any professional fundraisers they hired, and the amount that was paid to them if it’s above a certain threshold.

            FWIW, the org I work for engaged an independent contractor to write some grants, and we were required to list them on our 990.

              1. Nonprofit writer*

                Interesting thanks! I’ll check it out. I assume it does not apply to me since none of my NY clients have ever asked me to do that.

                1. Jamie Starr*

                  I definitely would not make that assumption. Whether its applicable to you isn’t a choice that’s up to the organizations; it’s a state law and they may not be aware of it – especially if they’re small. I’ve worked for small organizations in the past that weren’t aware of this requirement. (Also, their auditors should be pointing this out to them…but I digress.)

                2. mariemac*

                  It might depend on the size of the organizations you support. I have done freelance grant writing and I wasn’t ever asked until the longtime client I had grew to the point of getting an audit. It’s definitely something an auditor will ask for at some point.

                3. Nonprofit Pro*

                  I was a nonprofit consultant for a while in Florida and while none of my clients ever asked if I was registered with the state, the laws definitely required it. I expect your clients just assumed that you were all set up with that, just like I don’t ask my doctor for a copy of her license. The assumption is that if you are practicing you are doing so within the confines of the law.

                4. Betty*

                  Such an interesting question, and one I have been asking myself quite a bit lately! Thank you for helping me feel not completely crazy that it is a struggle to be a mid-career professional and mother of small children simultaneously.

      2. anony*

        If you are a hopeful ex-librarian, you have a leg up on prospect research. Most of the prospect researchers I have worked with have a library science background.

        Just search “prospect research” on linkedin to get an idea of what kinds of roles are out there. Depending on your background, you might not even need to be entry-level.

      3. Smithy*

        I think a generic challenge with these types of freelance positions is getting started. There are plenty of large consulting firms that do the heavy lifting of securing this work. Based on the OP’s desires, I don’t suspect those roles with a Bridgespan or Arabella Advisors would be desired. On the genuine freelance side, a lot of these relationships develop with former employees who leave a nonprofit. I did this type of “consulting” for three months – but it was after I gave notice as a full-time fundraiser and they were unable to replace me during my three-month notice period.

        I wasn’t interested in remaining in the consulting realm long term, but some people do this medium to long term based on growing a client list this way. Bigger picture, I think the struggle with freelance is the work in growing a client list in a realm of work that fits with what you actually want to do.

        1. JR*

          I agree, and this applies to any kind of freelancing. But I think it also depends on OP’s goals. If her goal is to keep her resume and brain active, she doesn’t need a lot of clients to do that, and she may be able to get enough. If she has a target salary in mind, freelancing is only going to work if she has a strong network or, like you point out, a former employer or two that will keep hiring her.

      4. JR*

        Find your local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. They’re likely to have good resources, trainings, a job board, etc.

    2. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

      And if you’re more on the operations/logistics side of things, you could be a freelance project manager for software/database upgrades or creating new websites. My department had a freelancer work with us for 18 months on a massive database conversion as we switched from one CRM to another. I’ve also worked with consultants on projects like creating a new website for a particular fundraising initiative — the consultant functioned as the liaison between m team and the website designers, translating the technical stuff that we didn’t understand and keeping the project on track in terms of timeline.

      That would not be a meeting-free role, but there is usually a fair amount of flexibility. Most of the development offices I’ve worked in have been 80 – 90% female, with many parents on staff, so there’s a lot of understanding around hard stops to do daycare pickup or rescheduling because a kid is home sick.

    3. E*

      Hm as a non profit leader, I wouldn’t hire someone to do this without background experience . Seen so much money get wasted on fundraising consultants who don’t deliver. Sorry but just want to spare OP from going down a rabbit hole that wouldn’t be a good fit

      1. Lola*

        Yeah, isn’t the purpose of a consultant is that they have significant experience and expertise in a field?

        1. BubbleTea*

          I went to a talk (well, a series of talks, I’d not have gone for this specific one) by a 19 year old who was a consultant in something or other. I was highly sceptical that he could know enough about anything to be a consultant in it.

          1. BubbleTea*

            I just looked it up and he was even younger than 19. He was a consultant in “doing things differently” and his talk was about how Gen Z were disrupting industries because they were the first generation to truly understand the Internet. His qualifications were that he made stuff for Minecraft. He annoyed me so much I left part way through. There’s no sign of him online since 2017.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              That has real “Industry Disruptor” energy. Which is usually brought by people who are ignoring the industry’s laws and regulations.

            2. RagingADHD*

              He clearly would have made a decent consultant on “how to get people to show up at a talk about nothing.”

            1. metadata minion*

              This is a situation where age actually is relevant. Unless they’re talking about something like recently-developed software (where there’s only been a year or two to develop expertise in it, whether you’re 19 or 89) someone who’s only been working for a few years is unlikely to be an expert at anything, just because that’s how learning works. Maybe this guy has been in the field since he was 12; maybe he’s a prodigy; but more likely he’s full of hot air.

      2. nonprofit writer*

        Agreed. Grant writing & prospect research are skills that are best cultivated over time. I did various kinds of editorial and writing work before becoming a grant writer, and I can tell you it requires a lot more than good writing. You need to have a solid understanding of how nonprofits work, how nonprofit budgets work, general knowledge of how grant proposals are structured and what funders generally look for, etc. It also helps to develop some subject matter expertise, not that you are limited to that one subject, but you can use it as a base to move into related fields. I did grant writing in-house for an organization for 5 years before becoming a freelancer.

    4. Ria*

      Can I ask a bit more about this From you/everyone else in this comment thread? I’m trying to start my career in nonprofits right now (looking for entry-level jobs) and I’m considering fundraising/development because I’ve heard that after a solid few years of experience, it’s plausible to transition to freelance work and make a decent income. So can I ask – if I wanted to do freelance fundraising consulting in, say, 5-10 years, what kind of experience should I be looking to get right now?

      1. nonprofit writer*

        If you are starting at entry-level, I’d give it more than a few years. Others may disagree, but I think it’s helpful to get at least to the point where you are at a manager level (I don’t mean managing other people, but managing a specific fundraising portfolio–i.e. institutional giving (grants), major donors, direct mail, etc)

        As for what kind of experience, writing is a good pathway to becoming a consultant–grants or direct mail appeals. But prospect research is another avenue.

        Fundraising events are not my area of expertise but there may be opportunities here too if you do it for a number of years in-house.

        I will be very honest and say that my earnings from consulting do not support me fully–my spouse is the primary earner. Like the LW, I’m a mom who leaned out, so I don’t work a full-time schedule. Even if I did work full-time, I don’t think I’d match my prior compensation, because I don’t have benefits. And even with my current solid-part time schedule, it took me two full years to feel stable in terms of getting and maintaining enough clients. But lifestyle-wise, it works great.

        I had an earlier stint consulting in my late 20s (not fundraising) and I wasn’t great at it–I didn’t have enough connections or expertise. I then spent 9 years (pretty much all of my 30s) at a nonprofit before I went out on my own. Most of my current clients are either former colleagues from that employer, or people who got my name from former colleagues. I’m happy to say I’ve even got a couple clients now who are 2 degrees removed from my former colleagues, giving me a broader reach.

        Anyway, this is a long way of saying that it’s not necessarily a quick jump to consulting–take your time, learn what you can, make connections, etc. Good luck!

      2. Lola*

        I made a career switch and landed in development and fundraising. If you are a good writer, you may have some luck trying to get into a grant writing position, *assuming* there would also be someone willing to mentor you or overlook your work. While I was intially interviewed for an office coordinator position, I talked my way into a part-time grant writing position, since I already had some experience with putting together proposals. 4 years later I am director over corporate and foundational giving.

        That being said, office coordinator can also be a good entry point. You often attend meetings with high-level people to take notes, take phone calls from important donors and board members, etc. Depending on the size of the nonprofit, some fundraising can be an “all hands on deck” situation, so you can often get exposure/experience to other aspects.

    5. bev*

      This is what I’m doing. Tomorrow is my last day working full-time before I become a full-time stay at home parent and will do grant writing contract work. The pay is solid, hours are extremely flexible, and the work is independent. That being said, I’ve been in grants management for about 6 years so it isn’t a career pivot. I actually think prospecting research could be a great fit for your skills – check out https://candid.org/ trainings/classes because maybe you get get some certifications or education to make yourself more competitive for that kind of freelance work!

  7. BellyButton*

    I was just having this conversation with a friend and it came up with one of the employees at my company who is about to on Mat leave. I suggest working in your same field in a lower level role. So going from a product manager to project coordinator or product coordinator or program/project analyst. Where you are in more of a support role and less in a managerial/strategic role. I have found that companies are more likely to let those roles be 100% remote and part-time.

    Good luck!

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      For comparison, I did “lean out” for a while when my kids were younger. I negotiated .75FTE with my employer, which allowed me to be present and NOT “going 100 mph” as I had been.

      What it did do – I’d been handling the work of 2-3 part time roles in addition to what should have been a full time role, and the change permitted me to doff the 2-3 part time roles (that had landed on me, and I’d not agreed to nor really been compensated for) and concentrate on a single task.

      Not exactly a new career, though it may be something to consider, especially in light of BellyButton’s comment here. Good luck, LW!

      1. anonmommy*

        I am hoping this is an option for me after my upcoming maternity leave! I’m in software and it’s not common in my niche to have part time work but I’m hoping my tenure at the company will encourage them to accept some flexibility.

        1. BellyButton*

          I had another idea– technical recruiting. I have a friend who was a mechanical engineer and after an injury she wanted to slow down. She did part time high level recruiting in her area of expertise. If you know software development it may be something to look into!

          1. Voluptuousfire*

            Tech recruiting is in the toilet right now. They’d be competing against the experienced recruiters who were laid off, so competition is fierce.

            It may be something to consider a year or two from now if things pick up more.

    2. Be Gneiss*

      I did something similar, going from a role that had oversight of a bunch of things to do with regulatory compliance, safety, and QA to something in the same industry where all I do is internal staff training for those areas. There aren’t many emergencies, and most of the deadlines are fairly flexible, and if something comes up and my family needs me I can adjust my schedule.
      The bonus is that stepping down from a role with a lot of hats to a role with just one hat is that it lets me devote the time and attention to doing that thing really well, instead of constantly scrambling to do “good enough” at lots of things and always feeling like I’m falling short.

    3. Clever Alias*

      Yes. I did this — it helped tremendously. Sometimes all it takes to find the work-life balance is having the “big” problems not be *your* problems. Bonus points — I am a great strategic ear for my manager; but I wave goodbye and wish her good luck at 4pm.

    4. Ann*

      How would you ask for that? I’m not loving being a manager, and feel like I do my best work in lower-level things. I’d take a pay cut to go back to that, but not sure how to start the conversation. Also going on leave soon, and that might be a good time for the conversation, but I still feel like my boss would be a bit shocked. Cutting your hours would not be unusual, but actually asking for a demotion? No one has done that far as I know.

      1. Gan Ainm*

        I’d attribute it to external circumstances (ie I would Not say you do better at a lower level, which implies you’re not cut out for the level you’re at and might get you moved out more quickly than you want, or introduce doubts about your ability).

        I’d phrase it as something along the lines of “while I was out on leave, I realized that with everything going on, I’m not going to have the bandwidth/ capacity for X role, and I want to make sure I’m giving this role/team the best, I’d like to talk about transition to a role like X, or Y – is this something that would be possible?”

        (In most big companies this would be easy, they would be getting a good deal on you, and in my company I would come prepared with a list of suitable openings from the career page. I wouldn’t even have to get approval, I could just apply to them myself, but I would out of courtesy.)

        However I’d do that AFTER leave, so that if you’re getting paid leave (like short term disability, or paid may leave) it’s paid out at your current salary (or a % of current), not the lower one. Plus I just wouldn’t want to introduce any reason for doubt before I go out.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          All of this, Gan Ainm. Definitely AFTER returning from leave.

          I made it three-ish years after returning from leave.

          In my case, I reached a bit of a breaking point where working 60 hours a week to handle the entirety of my duties was beyond unsustainable (when your pre-schooler knows how to run a proprietary software, there’s an issue because it means they’ve been in your lap while you’re working for too long).

          With my partner, we determined that I was going to attempt to negotiate down to actual 0.75FTE, I was willing to accept a paycut that was reasonable (i.e. around 25%, because in honesty, I was looking to toss half of my 60 hours. I was not reasonable compensated for even full time, as was evidenced by them NOT cutting my pay at all, y’all.), and that I was willing to resign if I didn’t get it. This was just coming out of the “Great Recession”, and the industry that I’m in had recovered to a point where things were no longer touch and go, but we weren’t quiiiiiiiiite to the point of hiring back the 1-2 jobs that I was pinch hitting with as full timers. But I’m also in a pretty niche position…and hiring a replacement was going to be a bear. Especially at the rate I was getting paid.

          My boss understood that I did not have the bandwidth to properly do my job, much less half of *this one* and close to half of *that one*, much less anything else outside of work.

    5. MigraineMonth*

      Just chiming in to say that my favorite project manager was a part-time freelancer. So still 90% meetings, but part-time and with some schedule flexibility.

      (I miss her! We haven’t gotten a single project approved in the 8 months since she left.)

  8. Lauren*

    You’d be surprised how many PM (project management) jobs do not involve any face time. Especially those that involve creating tasks and tickets for the teams you are used to working for. More so for web development companies who have staff overseas and you barely have an hour of overlap in working hours so few meetings, and just translate all tasks into tickets and explanations for devs to do the work.

    1. Pens_and_Plants*

      Seconding this! A lot of project management roles are really flexible and can be done with little to no face time. And with a background in product management a lot of those skills would transfer easily.

  9. Sloanicota*

    If you have a partner who can provide a basic backstop (insurance and at least most of the rent/mortgage money) plus some savings, I think freelancing was the best “worklife balance” job I ever had. It may be easiest to pick the highest-demand skillset you see in your current job, if you have that skillset or similar, and offer to consult with other companies on an hourly basis for that task specifically. I got all my early jobs from my current network of coworkers and former coworkers, plus LinkedIn. You can set whatever hours / hourly rate you want. But my caveat would be, it’s pretty hard to confidently pay 100% of your living that way, given boom and bust cycles. Because you are looking for part time anyway, I assume that’s not your situation.

    1. Roy Donk*

      I did this for about 3 1/2 years, when I realized my daughter was about to start middle school and all she really knew of me was seeing my head behind a laptop responding to emails. I did freelance bookkeeping in the field that I had previously specialized in. Pros: I could absolutely flex my hours however I wanted to. I could say yes or no to travel. Cons: Often I was filling in at organizations while people were out on medical leave, or while the company was hiring for a replacement, so I had a decent amount of “oh crap, they hired someone, now I’ve got to find another client to make up those hours.” I was often the only person who knew how to do bookkeeping, which led to things like me trying to process a client’s payroll from a hospital bed after I had emergency surgery because otherwise no one would get paid. Also having many bosses means lots of people thinking their thing should be the most important thing. Ultimately I left freelancing for a more stable part-time job last year. I hope that helps!

  10. Peon*

    So much of this depends on where you work. I do qa testing on a small software development team in an educational setting. I do work 5 days a week, but I do 2 in office, 3 from home, and flex my time to accommodate school drop off and pickup. My son is old enough now that when he’s home while I work he doesn’t need constant supervision, and I’ve done this since he was about 5 so we have a routine down (he did need more supervision in the beginning, but not constant since at 5 he was a rule follower and had access to snacks and such).

    Because I work where I do as staff in higher ed, I get 120 hours of sick time, and when my son was an infant, I used every hour of it AND flexed a lot, working during naps and after core hours when I needed to. But although the compensation is “fair”, it isn’t great, and raises aren’t keeping up with inflation.

    Since I’m a tester not management, I’m not in that many meetings; I do my stuff, report my findings, sign off on releases, much of which can be done on my schedule.

    1. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

      Depends where you are. QA can be a lot of work and mental effort trying to find all the possible entries/actions in a complex system. And it’s rather thankless – nobody notices if you do it well (or they get annoyed at having to deal with bug reports) but as soon as you miss something in production, it’s all your fault.

      1. Camellia*

        Do you work at my company? Yeah, we QAs are expected to find all the requirements that the BAs and the DEVs miss because the only “requirements” they bothered to suss out are the 3 or 4 Acceptance Criteria listed in the Agile User Story. I call it ‘the tail wagging the dog’, because we are at the very end of the process but are expected to find the things that should have been found at the beginning of the process.

        And if a defect shows up in production, it’s traced back to the user story and if the QA who tested that somehow missed finding it, we get a black mark on our yearly review.

        1. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

          Exactly this. And if we try to schedule meetings to discuss the project scope or our test plans, the devs whine about having to attend the meetings.

  11. IDK*

    First thing that came to mind is part time data entry (though with the growing role of AI/machine learning, I’m not sure how long that will continue to be a field) or temp work. Doesn’t tick all the boxes on comp/flexibility, but should at least be low mental load and be relatively independent.

    Might be more than you want to take on, but if you can be a freelance PM or otherwise start your own consulting business, that could serve you well.

    1. GrooveBat*

      Not a suggestion, but a general comment/caution. I’m seeing a lot of people suggesting “data entry” or online sites like Upwork. That’s all very well and good, but folks just need to be really careful about online scams. Data entry in particular is a function that is really vulnerable to these types of scammers, and some of them are very convincing.

      1. Not actually a job*

        Yes, be very careful. I had an “employer” respond to my supposed linked in application, but I couldn’t find evidence that I had applied through there. I did apply to something similar on a different job platform. I suspected it was a scam but the hours and rate were tempting so I went through the process just to see what would happen.
        – The hourly wage was very high ($42/hour) for data entry
        -it was with an actual company with a large international office and a smaller US office and they used the company logo and mailing address
        – the email url for the interviewer was similar to the company’s but slightly different. I looked both up in the Who Is directory and it showed different owners
        -the reason they gave for needing people was a little puzzling and the job description was very vague
        -the correspondence was clearly from someone for whom English was not their first language (not a complete red flag, but part of the picture)
        -the interview was on an smaller MS Teams-like application and was done entirely by text with no opportunity to ask questions. I got the impression my “interviewer” was managing several conversations at once and just pasting in text without reading my replies.
        -I was offered the job less than 24 hours afterwards and they really, really wanted me to sign and return their offer letter with a promise that all my questions would be answered once I did that. The offer letter was also sort of sketchy.
        – I couldn’t find either named person on Linked In at all, never mind associated with the company
        -it didn’t seem like anyone was actually reading my responses or answering my questions.

        I said I wouldn’t sign anything until I had had an actual conversation with an actual person and they ignored that and kept pestering me to return the offer letter, so at that point I gave up and told them to go away. Even that took several tries.

        The common way these jobs are scams are if they want you to buy equipment through their “vendor” and they send a check as reimbursement. And, of course, theft through stealing your personal information from employment verification forms.

        1. GrooveBat*

          This is a really good summary of the warning signs; thanks for spelling everything out!

          I’ll also add, the other common way the scam works is for them to “overpay” you for the equipment and ask you to send them back the balance after you’ve made the purchase. Of course their payment is from a stolen account, so when it gets reversed you’re on the hook for the whole amount.

          Scammers will brazenly impersonate actual people with LinkedIn profiles and make you believe you’re talking to the actual person.

      2. short'n'stout*

        I’ve seen companies offering “digital piecework” (usually data entry, sometimes editing or copywriting) roles on general recruitment sites. At first glance they looked tempting, but then I started thinking about how you’d probably be a contractor rather than an employee, and who would be on the hook for making sure stuff like income tax was all paid correctly, and my spidey senses started tingling.

        And then I noticed that they were big international companies headquartered outside my home nation, and that there were subreddits inhabited by their staff that seemed to be koolaid-drinking echo chambers, and noped the hell out. I’m broke, but I’m not that broke.

  12. High Score!*

    Ask around. At my company, employees have to option to work 40, 32, or 24 hours a week and still be salaried with benefits. Obvs, the more hours you choose the higher the pay.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Part time is such an interesting sector, I did it for a while. There are some places (ahem small nonprofits) where they only made the job part time because they don’t have the money for a FT salary and benefits – those are very difficult roles, but you *may* have success if you can maintain boundaries – just be forewarned. This can also happen if you convince your current job to let you go PT but they’re not enthusiastic about it. I think the best PT positions are for a really specific task (so bookkeeper, not general office admin) and mostly independent, because otherwise I got dragged into other people’s scheduling problems and have to push back a lot. Try to look for employers who don’t actually have a full time workload in mind, LOL.

    2. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      I would investigate working part time at your current employer. I worked for 10 years in software development part time (mostly between 24-30 hrs a week, sometimes more sometimes less.) It is easier to negotiate a part time work week with people who already know and respect you and your pay will be higher than if you take on a lower level job.

      1. High Score!*

        Years ago, I managed to negotiate part time hours for a year long term while I went back to school. But I think I only managed to do so bc they laid off too many people, realized their mistake, and it happened to be during an employee favorable market.

    3. KTB2*

      Definitely see what options your company has. There are directors at my company doing a jobshare, meaning that two people split the same job. One of them is in M-W and the other is in W-F and they share an email address and calendar. It’s obviously not an option for everyone, but it’s worth looking into before stepping into another arena entirely.

      Note: I don’t work for a small company, though. Household name corp, which does offer a lot of opportunities.

      1. Jules the First*

        I was just coming here to say a jobshare in her current role or similar sounds perfect. Look for other parents or those near retirement who might be keen to step back but not ready to fully retire.

  13. Lucy Valdon*

    There are several tech freelance/consulting firms that with the specific mission of helping seasoned professionals who have leaned out in exactly the way you’re proposing connect to tech projects (either in project/product management or as developers).

    If that doesn’t appeal and you’re willing to invest in the licensing process, you could explore becoming a substitute teacher or real estate agent.

    1. Sloanicota*

      There’s also some great programs to connect nonprofits with tech expertise they wouldn’t otherwise get. Some are grant funded or could be written into grants. I bet you can find some PT / lower-demand roles there given the pay probably isn’t commensurate with industry.

    2. Aglet*

      In the states where I’ve lived one just needed a bachelor’s degree (in anything) to substitute teach. Especially now, with a lot of teachers leaving the field, it’s guess that’s even more common.

      1. oranges*

        Similar in my state. I know a few moms who do it, and it’s worked out great. The demand is so high that they could work at pretty much any school in the district everyday, if they wanted.

      2. The Person from the Resume*

        In my state, you need only to have a high school diploma to substitute. Because a college freshman relative did it over his Christmas break which was much longer than the primary or elementary school where he subbed.

        It sounds like something very hard to do while doing it, but the work doesn’t follow you home.

    3. Napster*

      Substitute teaching. You may not need a college degree. The licensing process isn’t overly cumbersome. You can choose which age group and which schools you prefer. Keep the kids safe and generally under control (choose your battles), do your best to adhere to the sub plans, and leave notes for the teacher (absences, what got done/what didn’t, good/lousy behavior). If you’re good, you’ll get word of mouth referrals among teachers and substitute coordinators.

      Consider using an app like Jobulator that will alert you to open positions so you can jump on the good ones. Desirable assignments can be snapped up in seconds.

    4. Sparkle Llama*

      I am going to advise against becoming a realtor. I work in a field where I deal with a lot of realtors and the number of realtors who never sell a house is staggering and many who do it on the side give their sellers and buyer terrible information. Like assuming the property next to them won’t ever change when a quick call to the city would indicate that isn’t the case or not understanding how special assessments work. If you are committed to it long term and actually do the work to learn how to do it well, then sure, but a huge number of realtors don’t do that.

      Also, not sure how flexible you can be if you want to be successful at it. In my market homes are still moving pretty fast so when something is listed you need to get your buyers in to see it ASAP.

      1. GrooveBat*

        THIS. I was a real estate agent in a past life, and if you want to be successful you need to be on call 24/7. It is incredibly demanding work, the competition is fierce, and the amount of time it takes to market yourself, cold call homeowners, stay on top of the market, and be at your buyers’ beck and call is staggering. Once you get to the top of the industry you have more control over your time, but getting started is brutal. Definitely not something you can or should think of as a “weekend gig.”

      2. M.A.E.*

        Being a realtor in the process of finding my own way to “lean out”, I completely agree. Real estate may seem like a part time job but it’s really not, and if you aren’t knowledgeable you can very easily get into trouble.

  14. Beth*

    I think freelancing can be this–especially if you can shift into a contractor role doing a niche thing related to your established career, and have people in your existing network who would be enthusiastic about being your clients. My mom did that for a few years at the end of her career in marketing research, and it seemed like it worked very well for her.

    It can also very much not this, though, if you need to build a freelancing business up from scratch and scrounge up clients. When I was in grad school, I tried to do some freelance writing and editing on the side, and found that 1) the market was saturated and the rates I could demand as a newbie were pretty low, and 2) the amount of time I spent building a sample portfolio (I had a lot of writing background but mostly in a niche enough field that it didn’t make sense to use in a portfolio), soliciting clients, marketing myself, etc was way too high to justify for the amount of money I could bring in with it. So, YMMV.

    1. Sloanicota*

      +1. One advantage to this model though is at least it gives you something to list on a resume and talk about in future interviews, even if it was pretty low volume – better than having to bow out of the industry entirely for however many years the kids are little.

    2. Marcella*

      I’m a freelance writer and the market is definitely saturated. There are so many videos and listicles suggesting freelance copywriting as an easy way to set your own hours and make $$$$$$, but it’s not that easy. Once you get word of mouth referrals, it’s easier but now AI has changed everything.

    3. Ama*

      Yeah if OP has a broad existing network this could work, but as someone who is hoping to shift into freelance soon but does NOT have a pre-existing network in my freelance field (which is very different from my day job), I’ve been glad to have the luxury of incurring the startup costs for building a network and client base while I still have my full time job (which I don’t think I’d be able to do if I had kids).

    4. Anon in Aotearoa*

      This is exactly what I’ve done – freelancing in a related niche. Former full time project manager in SW dev. Now a freelance, part time (I average 24 hours/week) project management assurance expert – so rather than running the projects myself, I assess how well other people are running them. It’s a smaller niche than project management, but it’s honestly not that small: every major enterprise has a need for assurance people.

      Upsides: no urgent last-minute things (no go-lives, not resolving issues myself), lots of non-face-time, can be done almost fully remotely, still uses all my experience and in fact builds more, still interesting, still well paid.

      Downsides: no go-lives or kickoffs (I love those) and people don’t like being told they’re not doing as great a job as they think they are, so more EQ required.

    5. Not Totally Subclinical*

      Yep. My ex was a good copyeditor and worked as a freelancer for a while when our kid was small, but they had zero ability to market themselves, so their only client was the company they’d worked for before our kid. It was steady work, but it wouldn’t have paid our mortgage if I’d lost my job. (And because ex couldn’t work with our kid around and couldn’t finish the work in evenings and weekends, we ended up with the kid in full-time daycare anyway, which cost us more than ex grossed from editing.)

  15. my cat is prettier than me*

    I would look into part time administrative assistant roles. They tend to compensate pretty well and allow for some flexibility.

    1. Gender Menace*

      Seconding this. I was a part time community manager/front desk at a coworking space, and it was everything I needed at the time. Low emotional investment, decent pay, mostly just answering emails and getting to know the regulars, and making coffee. The most arduous things was cleaning the bathroom and doing tours, and even that wasn’t so bad.

  16. word nerd*

    I’m guessing this probably isn’t the case for everyone, but I’ve had a good experience with the freelance site Upwork. It probably helps that I have an MD and board certification so that I’m not starting off with no credentials. I got lucky with a couple early gigs, and now I don’t even bother applying for jobs–people just reach out to me asking if I can help them with all sorts of random things, including editing a book about the scientific basis of Eucharistic miracles (I advertise myself as a “physician writer and editor”). My usual rate is in the $75-100 an hour range, and I turn down any project I’m not interested in. I’ve written articles for a PR person for a pharma company who keeps throwing me random bonuses on top of the agreed pay for an article. Obviously super flexible work and location independent, so I love it! I keep very part-time hours.

    1. Statistics*

      Thanks, I’d never thought to look into that! I’m not an MD but I do have a science and publication background and am looking at being more part-time.

      1. word nerd*

        My rates are usually per hour rather than per word since it can vary so much depending on the content, so it’s hard to say exactly. But my last document I wrote for a pharma rep was a flat rate–I got paid $400 for a roughly 500-word piece.

    2. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      That is a LOW hourly rate for an MD (acknowledging you’re not working with patients). No wonder you’re popular on Upwork!

      1. word nerd*

        Eh, most of the work I do does not require my MD, so I’m usually competing with other writers/editors who don’t necessarily have that background–those seem like reasonable rates to me for that type of work. I would charge more if a company specifically wanted me to publish my name/use my MD as an endorsement (this doctor says this probiotic will cure all your ails!), but I tend to avoid those.

    1. AmyC*

      A CPA would require at least 2 years of college/grad level work (assuming LW already has a Bachelors), then exams and licensing. That’s not really a realistic move.

      Accounting/bookkeeping in general could be a bit better but again, without background and education, it’s starting from scratch.

      1. Hamburke*

        I’m a bookkeeper who started with no relevant education. I have a degree in chemistry and technical writing. I got a pt job thru a temp agency as a bookkeeper (company offers bookkeeping services to other companies) after being home with my kids for over 10 years. my only relevant experience was being organized enough to run PTA programs. I took a couple free or low cost courses in bookkeeping basics (like 5 cpe hours total) to start out and built up certifications over the last 6 years (QuickBooks proadvisor, nacpb certified public bookkeeper, law accounting, real estate accounting, etc). I could go out on my own on my reputation now and make more money but I like my coworkers and not having to do the marketing work!

    2. GingerB*

      Also CPA here, my first thought was what the LW was describing was an AP/AR clerk, which you really don’t need a CPA for, or even an accounting degree.

      1. Ashley*

        Along those lines smaller churches and non-profits often need ap/ar help that is only a few hours a week with a fairly flexible schedule.

      1. ?*

        I’m not a CPA but a tax account @a small CPA firm. several moms work here, doing taxes, bookkeeping and payroll. Hours are extremely flexible. I think it hits every single thing the LW wanted unless you get nervous doing taxes.
        to do bookkeeping or taxes personally I don’t think it requires that much training, and it doesn’t require a college degree.
        I have an accounting degree with 10 years of tax accounting experience and I make about $50 an hour-when I choose to work.
        it’s also 100% work from home.

      2. Lady Sally*

        CPA here. I went part time when I had kids (and still made partner). It takes some work to balance, but IMO this checks all the OP’s boxes, except mental load.
        Accounting is so short staffed, there may be some on the job training options in lieu of going back to school.

  17. lucie*

    I was about to write in about getting back into the workforce as a chronically ill person! hopefully this will give me some good ideas

  18. Chocoholic*

    Could you talk with your current company about doing projects on a contract/consultant basis? Those things that need to get done but nobody has time to do them?

    Retail hires many seasonal workers and you may be able to get a schedule that works for what you need.

    If you have a skill set that is transferrable to many companies, maybe that could be an idea, and you could do that thing for several companies, but in theory you would do it on your own time.

  19. My own boss*

    My path isn’t for everyone, but I started a consulting business when our kid was born. I do the same work I did before (broadly organizational development and project management), but I control the workload and timelines. I’m also selective about who I work with, and I only take on clients who understand life happens. For the first year, I worked 2-3 days a week. Now I typically work 25-30 hours a week with the occasional longer week when I’m up against deadlines. I went from 6 hours of meetings a day to 3-4 a week, most of which are easy to move for sick days. On the whole, I work less, make more, and am way happier than I ever was working for someone else.

    1. Filosofickle*

      If you have the right kind of specialized skills — and that’s a big if — consulting is ideal. It has significant downsides (as well as a pretty high mental load for me though better than F/T work), but I have never figured out another way to work half time and earn six figures. I support myself solo so i can’t afford to take on lower-paid work, and disability-wise I can’t work full time sustainably.

  20. ChaoticNeutral*

    My mom has been PT my whole life as a credit union teller! She can do late shift (getting in at 11 and leaving at 5) or early (getting in at 7 and leaving at 2/3) so she would vary it depending on my dad’s schedule and what we had going on at school. They are pretty good on sick leave as well. She loves it–not mentally draining but not monotonous (people come in with different problems all the time), works pretty independently but gets social interaction from customers, and the pay is decent. Good luck on your next move!

  21. Rara Avis*

    Substitute teacher. Pick the days you work, no work to take home, and most districts really need them right now and have raised their rates.

    1. EMP*

      My SIL has been doing this as her youngest starts pre-K. It’s ideal for her as she wants some extra income and to be on the same schedule as her kids, but it’s not really a career move.

    2. Starbuck*

      Have you done this? Where I live, I think there must be a lot of people in the sub pool, because it’s quite competitive!

      1. Rara Avis*

        I’ve never subbed because I work full-time as a teacher. My husband subbed during his pandemic layoff before finding a full-time teaching job. His school is desperate for subs — he covered so many extra classes for absent colleagues last year that he had to stay until 6 or 7 p.m. most nights to do the prep he couldn’t do while covering. (His school does pay the sub hourly rates for teachers they volun-tell to cover another class. But the pay is not always worth the hassle of not being able to set up for your own class.)

    3. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Also suggesting this. In my state you just need a Bachelors degree to get a sub license, and the flexibility cannot be matched. You choose the districts, schools, grade levels, days, even the teachers you want to sub for.

  22. Enginerd*

    Not me personally, but my mom worked in Medical Records for a hospital. I understand it as basically data entry and categorization, though I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than that. She worked part-time when we were kids and also switched to WFH well before the pandemic. This is a specific example, but I imagine there are a lot of administrative jobs that have a similar structure. Look for jobs that are task-based, where tasks or steps can be completed independently by individuals. There might be a team of people performing similar jobs so that one person isn’t critical to things getting done, which allows for more flexibility in hours and schedule.

    1. Spicy Tuna*

      I have a friend who did data entry for a chiropractor which seems similar. She’s not a mom but was in grad school. The position was WFH, part-time and major flexibility on working hours.

    2. Chelle*

      I was coming here to suggest medical records or medical billing. They often have flexible schedules and it’s not the kind of work you take home with you.

    3. the aloe pups have taken over*

      a friend worked for a local hospital doing diagnosis coding at home for many years. i’ve seen tons of remote positions recently, but it seems to require some training and certifications?

  23. DD*

    What are your salary expectations? My first thought is a service type position where you negotiate upfront fixed hours but the pay isn’t going to be competitive with a professional white collar type position. A lot of people dismiss gig type work (Instacart, Door Dash) and they aren’t necessarily wrong but you can’t beat the flexibility.

    If you want a “professional” type position it’s going to be easier to try to negotiate terms at a current job vs going to a new employer but not impossible.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I agree that it’s good for OP to be open to all options at the moment … but I’d also suggest thinking realistically about how it would feel to go from a white collar office role to an hourly or gig type job in the service sector. Take it from me, people are going to treat you dismissively or assume you’re only in the position because you’re not very smart or accomplished, which is tough on the ego day after day. In some roles you’re going to be taking orders from people you don’t like or agree with, who might be right out of college. There’s a different approach to professionalism in jobs like restaurants or retail. Something like consulting or finding a part time in your field has the advantage of being treated more as the professional you are now, even if it’s the same amount of money at the end of the day. No right or wrong answers, but how much does that matter to you?

      1. Chris too*

        This is the funny thing – when will people realize that a lot of retail is being done by people with good educations and professional backgrounds, who want the flexibility for a period in their life, and actually enjoy retail? A lot of the time the sneering people who think retail workers should get a “real” job are less qualified than the people serving them.

        I enjoy retail and sometimes do it as a extra job – mainly just because I find it fun. In my experience ( Canadian) a retail worker in an “interesting” store – garden centre, hobby or craft shop, the sort of places I look for work – is perfectly likely to have a professional background – I’ve worked with MDs, more engineers than I can even count, academics, and many more.

        Things may be different in the States, where medical insurance is tied to jobs and people need to worry about getting enough hours to qualify.


        1. Beth*

          I’m in the US, and I’ve had plenty of friends work retail for a period, even after getting a variety of degrees and professional jobs. Insurance can definitely be an issue, but if 1) you can get it through a spouse or 2) you’re not having luck finding a job in your field (I’ve seen this happen in periods of industry-wide layoffs, for example), people still do it.

        2. Lisa Simpson*

          I worked a different service sector job, and when I went on interviews for more stable work, I was regularly informed that I had not “worked at a real job” or “in a real work environment” and thus would not be able to learn how to answer the phone or sign in guests, because I was just so irrevocably damaged by my current workplace that I couldn’t be trusted to show up to work with pants on or whatever.

  24. Hiring Mgr*

    I’m not sure about the compensation part, but what about driving for Lyft, Uber, DoorDash etc… You can do it whenever you want so it meets the flexibility, sick time and independence requirements

    1. Student*

      If you go down this path, make sure you put in a bit of research ahead of time to make sure the juice is worth the squeeze to you. Those kinds of companies are offloading a lot of operating costs onto the drivers, and it’s easy to not realize that until it’s too late. You need to make sure you estimate or track all related costs for at least a while. That needs to include the extra wear-and-tear on your vehicle, not just gas costs.

      Otherwise, you’re just temporarily turning your equity in your car into cash, rather than coming out ahead on overall wealth. That may help you pay bills in the short term, but really hurt when you need to replace the vehicle or do major maintenance more frequently. Especially since car prices haven’t settled back down post-pandemic yet, and many parts of the US are inhospitable to those without a car.

      It can be profitable gig work in some places, under some conditions, with some vehicles. But it can also be a short term solution that generates more long-term problems.

      1. Lisa Simpson*

        It’s also more risky if you’re in a state without meaningful gun control. Delivery and rideshare drivers here in my red state disproportionately end up carjacked, chased by a crazy property owner with a gun because they left the groceries on the wrong porch, etc. It’s scary.

      2. Alan*

        This 1000x. My daughter drove Lyft, loved the driving, loved the customers, made money, but ignored the incredible toll on her car, which she eventually had to give up because it was too trashed.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      The structure of it is in no way designed to be a livable income. It’s structured as side-gig-extra-cash and the potential for earnings lines up with that. The people who do it as a primary gig either have no other options or work a zillion hours.

    3. Not actually a job*

      As a volunteer tax preparer, I can say that you don’t really make significant money with this job. You have to run it as a freelance business, take wear and tear on your car, and you’re not paid to wait for a call. And as others have said, lots of costs are getting pushed onto the driver.

  25. i like hound dogs*

    I’ve worked in proofreading and editing for 10+ years, with most of those being part-time (my kid is now 8). I have found that part-time career positions do exist — they’re just a little harder to come by. Here are some of the positions I’ve held/things that have helped me:

    -ad agency proofreader (3 days/week) — found this position online (Indeed?)
    -freelance editor and proofreader (1-2 days/week — started on Upwork but mostly got jobs through people I’d worked with before) **did not make much money**
    -freelance content writer (1-2 days/week) **also did not make much money**
    -part-time content writer at a very tiny digital agency (1 day/week) — got this position through a previous contact
    -editor of a literary journal (3 days/week) — got hired through a traditional process but it was a place I’d worked in grad school
    -at-larger editor/slush pile reader for the same literary journal after I quit the previous position — again, got this gig because I’d done work for them before

    How much money do you need to make? I am the secondary earner in my family, which means some of these years I made less than 10k. But they allowed me to rejoin the workforce full-time when my son was six, and now I work full-time again.

    I posted on Facebook that I was looking for part-time editing work, and over the course of six months two or three offers rolled in from people I’d previously worked with. Lean on your contacts! I’ve learned that networking doesn’t necessarily mean trying to chat up some person you hardly know — it can be putting out a call to people you’ve worked with before.

    Also … you didn’t ask for this, but I’ll throw it in unsolicited: Consider easier full-time jobs. I work for a bank now and it has all of the things on your list other than the fact that it’s five days a week. BUT it’s mostly WFH with very flexible hours, which allows me to care for my kid and pets and get housework done. I’m actually more comfortable now than in some of my part-time jobs. YMMV.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I actually agree, I eventually landed in a cushier remote full time job when I had been consulting/doing part time and … this is a lot easier, actually? Like a lot a lot? *AND* the pay is better??? Granted, I don’t have childcare demands but I think this would be more doable even so.

      1. i like hound dogs*

        Yeah, that’s also what my situation is! I’m like, wow, I was going to do a “part-time” job that was twice as hard for half the pay? I definitely feel lucky to have landed where I am now.

  26. syncbeat*

    I work in higher-ed and we use some part-time administrative assistants. I work FT, have a flexible schedule, incredible leave and benefits. Worth a look.

    1. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

      definitely check the colleges. we are always looking for testing center staff and many are part time

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        My friend worked in a college writing center at a community college and it was bad for her because she needed full time work, but it may fit the LW’s needs. Also there will be no work between the semesters and holidays.

    2. Too Many Days*

      Yeah, I work in higher ed, and we have the *randomest* needs for temp staff — it won’t necessarily be guaranteed 2-3 days/week every week, and it wouldn’t fit everyone’s needs, but it might be an option for some.

      Also, this is incredibly niche, but in my little corner of science, we essentially *always* have extremely flexible part-time work available for folks with an incredibly specific skillset. Sometimes we can find recently-graduated students who want to pick up a few weeks/months of a “work wherever, whenever” gig, but, honestly, usually we don’t fill those jobs.

      I’d be willing to train someone who comes highly recommended (the type of work I’m talking about isn’t *hard*, you just have to have extremely high attention to detail and be 10,000% trustworthy), but I really don’t know how to find people who want to do part-time Strange Science Things (even if they can do it in their pajamas) who isn’t already a scientist.

      1. Jaydee*

        I genuinely want to know more about part-time Strange Science Things that can be done in one’s pajamas and don’t require one to already be a scientist.

        1. Too Many Days*

          I — and most of the people in my corridor — do pretty obscure data stuff, and though it takes a lot of expertise to *generate* that data and to *analyse* that data, the genuine bottlenecks tend to be data processing steps that need a human brain to do (or at least a human brain to check) but not actually much pre-existing knowledge. And at that stage it’s basically just a fancy spreadsheet (or turning fancy pictures/videos into fancy spreadsheets), absolutely something that can be done on a laptop, at home, on your own schedule.

          Someone I would hire-with-the-intention-of-training for this sort of job needs to literate and extremely good at following directions. It probably helps if you’re either genuinely interested in the subject or have a high tolerance for boredom. Sometimes there will be random additional skills that we’d appreciate (like “ability to read X language”).

          On the one hand, this describes a lot of people. On the other hand, at least where I work, these jobs tend to be structured like “I can offer up to X total hours of work, flexible as long as it’s done by Y date”, and X and Y tend to be weird enough values that this isn’t a good enough deal for most people. Most people want, you know, steady income!

          So between the fact that we do really, really need trustworthy people for these kind of tasks, and that it’s a totally weird thing to try to hire for, we tend to hire in-house (e.g., recently graduated students) or just not bother.

          Anyway, if anyone reading this is for some reason in a position where they might appreciate flexible but totally irregular data jobs, *and* they happen to…know scientists? Fun fact, these types of jobs really do exist!

          1. SomewhereInTheMiddleOfNowhere*

            This sounds exactly like me. I love data and spreadsheets and following directions/processes, I majored in a science field (chemistry), and I’m currently taking a year off from my “real” job for some family reasons. How would I find these types of jobs?

            1. Too Many Days*

              If I had a good answer, I’d be better at hiring for these types of gigs!

              My ineffectual advice would be mostly through networking — if you happen to know anyone (who knows anyone) who works in a research-intensive science environment (e.g., large university, research institute, etc.), you can ask around?

              If you live nearby, you can also, genuinely, cold-email academic departments, explaining briefly that you’re local, have a science background, and are looking to [gain skills], do they know of any part-time/temporary paid or unpaid positions? Obviously, the “unpaid” part isn’t ideal, but it can get your foot in the door, and you’d be surprised how many people will let interesting-sounding people know about potential upcoming paid gigs.

              (One of the best research assistants I ever had was someone who cold-emailed my officemate basically saying “I’m stuck in a small town in a foreign country due to my husband’s job and I’m bored, can I volunteer for you?”, and the officemate forwarded her email on to me.)

              Look for words like “technician” (sometimes those require specialised training, but sometimes they really don’t) or “research assistant”. And the social sciences (linguistics, psych, even econ) might have these sorts of positions too, as well as the occasional archival work in the humanities — there will be *more* of these available in the better-funded sciences, but also the better-funded sciences will be better at hiring freelancers for stuff like this. You’re trying to find people like me who have small pots of money but no particular ability to connect these gigs with trustworthy people.

  27. CzechMate*

    Not me, but a good friend with two small children is an HR manager working remotely for a tech company. She does have regular meetings, but she intentionally schedules them for Tuesdays and Thursdays so that she can have a nanny there; the rest of the week, she works independently while also being with her two babies. The pay is pretty good–I wouldn’t say it’s a LOW mental lode role, but she enjoys what she does and gets to implement policies she cares about (like diversity training).

    Something you might think WOULD work but doesn’t is my current colleague’s situation. We work in higher ed and he’s definitely trying to lean out to spend more time with his toddler. We have unlimited personal sick leave and generous vacation time. His work is a mix of independent work (database administration) and meeting-type work. Still, it’s really the kind of role where you need to be available during 9-5 hours. He recently adjusted his schedule to leave work at 2 pm twice a week and frequently calls out at the last minute. It is…..not going well…to the point where IT has frozen implementation of a new software because he’s “just not available.”

    If you’re looking for a new job and this is you, I highly recommend thinking about/asking questions like, “What is the expected turnaround time for these types of projects? How stringent are deadlines? Will I ever be expected to be ‘on call’?”

    1. anotherhr*

      The first wouldn’t work for most businesses – it’s pretty standard to require childcare in place if you are working from home. Life happens, so of course people with kids will have times when they are working at home without childcare, but having no childcare can mean you aren’t free to do your job

      1. i like hound dogs*

        Plus, trying to work and do childcare just makes both suck. I found it would make me frustrated with my son even when he wasn’t doing anything wrong, just wanting my attention (and he’s eight! lol)

    2. Aitch Arr*

      Ye gads, HR Mgr is not the role to lean out and is incredibly stressful.

      Maybe doing HR for Trinet or one of those other PEOs, but even then there may be a high client load and feeling like you are stretched thin.

  28. No, the other Jen*

    Often small non-profits are looking for part time work for professional skills – I was a fundraiser/donor devlopment director for a long time and only worked about 20 hours per week. It wasn’t always low mental load, but mostly was and it would keep your skills sharp. Maybe look at some non-profits in your area or see if there is a non-profit resource center that might have job listings.

    1. Lozi*

      I’m glad someone suggested this – many nonprofits actually prefer part time people because that’s what they can afford, not paying benefits, etc. Sounds like a paycut from what you currently make, though.

  29. I should really pick a name*

    Not really related, but I’ve never heard “lean out” used in this context. Is it fairly common?

    1. No Tribble At All*

      Not uncommon. It’s the opposite of “Lean In,” the title of a book about business leadership by Sheryl Sandberg (former CEO of facebook). Haven’t read the book, but from what I heard, it really encouraged women to get ahead by over-committing to work (leaning “in” to the office). Leaning “out” is the opposite — prioritizing family/outside-of-work things.

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I’m not sure I’ve heard this exact phrasing either, but it seems its a play on the whole “Lean In” phenomena from the early 10’s. Or it may be from the book itself (the ScruffKids were just ScruffTots around this time, so its a very sleep deprived hazy memory) and how the biggest reason that women just don’t progress in their careers, they “lean out”.

      Sure seems like there was a lot to unpack with that book. I daresay some of it is quite dated, but will reserve judgement til I can read it completely.

      1. doreen*

        It’s probably also not part-time but depending on the specifics, that might not matter so much. I’ve known people who cared for one or two children other than their own and they were able to do what they wanted to ( care for and spend time with their own kids) while earning some money.

      2. TotallyNormal*

        I know a daycare that exclusively accepts teachers’ kids. She offers care on inservice days, but never on school breaks like winter holiday, spring break, federal holidays, etc. She gets to have set breaks, time with her family, and loyal teachers who appreciate not having to pay to ‘hold a spot’ during their time off as well!

  30. web dev*

    My former boss did this. She is a web developer with our company and negotiated going part time after she had her first kid. She works 3 days a week, doesn’t have a lot of stress because she’s just in charge of updating the front end of websites. Other people do the design and program the homepage and backend, and she just needs to take all that and hook it into our cms and also do client requests for existing websites. Does OP have the technical skills to do something like that? Find a firm that has and supports clients and you’re just doing the upkeep work.

    1. UncleFrank*

      I am also going to recommend web development, depending on her coding skills/interest in learning such skills. My husband is a full time web developer, but his job ticks all of the other boxes. He works for a university and they have a REALLY hard time getting people with programming skills because industry pays so much better, so there may be room to negotiate part time/flexible schedule places like that, that have technical needs but are not going to pay a tech salary.

  31. Sundance Kid*

    My partner stepped back from an engineering job in order to full-time parent for a few years, and now they work part time at a library in a support capacity – no library degree needed. Helping patrons, checking books out, putting books back, etc. It’s social, but no meetings and low mental load overall. Set hours, but there was flexibility in establishing those hours. Cool people (seems to be a trend for libraries here, but YMMV), and it’s a great way to just be a part of the local community. Around our metro area, wages are about $15/hr to start. Not amazing, but worth it. Partner never has trouble calling out when needed for sick time, even if it is unpaid – there’s a small PTO bucket at her library for combined sick/vacation, but unpaid time off isn’t a big deal once that’s blown.

    1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      My son has worked a part-time library position in a good-sized city library system for several years. No PTO, no benefits; the only really good thing was they paid all staff during the lockdown phase of 2020. I guess it varies quite a bit.

  32. Swivel chair*

    If you’re mathy at all, seasonal tax work pays well (at least $50/hr) and is basically data entry, as the software does it all for you, and then you pass it off for review by someone else. I’m thinking local accounting firms, not H&R Block (which pays basically nothing at all). It would only be Jan-April, but might buy you time to figure out what else to do. I used to set my own hours and work remotely – there’s no need for set hours when the work is so solitary.

    I took my background as a CPA and became a self-employed financial coach. Consulting/self-employment is great work-life balance. I have 4 teenagers, and I set up my meetings and work around their lives.

    1. Lexi Lynn*

      I don’t know the details but if you want to work but aren’t concerned about bringing money in, it looks like AARP has a volunteer program that helps seniors complete their taxes.

      If you primarily want an opportunity to keep a connection to the workforce for when you return, this might play well in interviews since it is both math and warm fuzzies.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      My mom did tax prep for 30 years. It is part-time for 10 months a year, and then “every waking minute” the 2 months before April 15th. Maybe that tradeoff is worth it, but OP should be aware.

  33. discombobulated educator*

    I am in college prep/tutoring and SO MANY of my colleagues in my company and others are second career women who are in it for the flexibility.

  34. what is fair?*

    Need way more context on what constitutes “fair” compensation. If you work in tech, I assume you’re used to a high salary. Unless you decide to become a freelancer who sets your own hourly or project-based rate, you’re going to take a massive pay cut if you pursue any of the jobs mentioned so far.

    I work in nonprofit fundraising and have found it pretty accommodating to life with a very young child, but I also know I’ll never attain the hefty salary that people in tech routinely earn.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I agree. But since OP is looking for potentially only 2 days a week, I assume she’s done the math and realized her family can accommodate a fairly significant pay cut.

  35. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    The Mom Project has a website that is committed to posting career level jobs that can be done remotely/flex etc. Worth a look.

    1. Cori*

      I second the Mom Project. I’m childfree, but took a career break due to chronic illness & was unable to return to in-person work. I now work 5-10 hours a week & bring in a little extra cash to our family and I know my org prioritizes health & being a family caretaker over work, which gives me peace of mind. Mom Project is for anyone who had to take a career break due to health or caretaking & was a delight to work with.

  36. tsumommy*

    I was able to cobble together some part-time work at my daughter’s school district and the local library. Libraries in my city hire part-time shelvers, and that was great work for me while my daughter was still in school. If that sounds appealing, try volunteering first to get your face/name known.

    1. librarianmom*

      Libraries have more open hours than most office work which helps with flexibility. Some libraries look for substitute help just like schools as well. Having good computer skills, being able to multitask, being outgoing, service-oriented are all helpful attributes.

  37. Lisa*

    Best-paid, low-mental load P/T job I ever had was at the university library. Libraries are often unionized, which is why the pay does not suck. There are no emergencies. If it’s a university library, you just deal with students who basicially don’t care about customer service, and if it’s a public library you’ll get to take books home for your kid every night.

    1. Ophelia*

      I was going to say, depending on your definition of “fair” compensation, I’ve actually had a lot of fun adjuncting in a graduate program related to my current field. I teach 1-2 classes per year, and it’s a nice way to build different networks, connect to others in my field, and stay current in a different way than full-time employment. If I ever decide to leave my current role, I likely would spend a year just teaching while I figure out what to do (it isn’t highly paid, but I do think that the compensation my institution offers is fair for the time that I put in).

    2. ina*

      University libraries tend to have a culture and workload that is accommodating to life, but they aren’t paid well. I think LW could leverage their IT background into something once they get their foot in the door though.

    3. Rachel morgan*

      Often? Not really, IME. Most libraries (public, at least) are very low paid, especially considering the education required (to be a higher up at least). Too many libraries still pay they’re circ clerks minimum wage. And few public libraries are unionized.

      Most PT library employees are going to work the night/evening/weekend shift as well.

      An a public library does not have a low mental load. High, considering many people treat librarians as social workers & dump on them. Sometimes, librarians are the only person that patron may see.

      This is coming from me, a public librarian of nearly 20 years.

      1. Lisa*

        I’m Canadian, and perhaps YMMV, but the libraries I’ve worked in have all been unionised at more than 5x minimum wage and have been extremely low-stress environments. Public libraries in my province are on par with university libraries. I’d hazard it’s similar in many other places; please don’t assume that your experience is universal.

        1. Yikes Stripes*

          That’s very much not the norm for the USA, and I say this with friends who work in libraries in four or five different states.

    4. metadata minion*

      “If it’s a university library, you just deal with students who basicially don’t care about customer service”

      Did you never have to deal with faculty? I deal with plenty of students who care a LOT about customer service — and others who are having a meltdown because it’s finals week and the Chemistry book is checked out and I just happen to be the person there when that last straw broke — and faculty can be absolute nightmares. And others can be lovely! We had a wonderful music professor for years who’d periodically bring us pastries as thanks for getting LP records out of the annoying record storage room.

      But in conclusion, I would not describe library work as low stress, unless you’re just doing backroom work.

      1. Lisa*

        Again, YMMV, but that’s not even close to my experience, and yes, I worked front counter for half of my role. I found it serene.

  38. Part-time PM*

    Is it possible to go part-time with your current role? This is what I and several others in my group have done. My career has slowed and I have smaller projects as a result, but am still advancing at work while not burning out at home.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I’m working a freelance gig right now editing computer science textbooks, which pays better than regular editing jobs. So it might be worth looking for editing/writing projects that need your particular expertise.

      1. 2 Cents*

        Kaplan, Barron’s (which was absorbed by Kaplan), and other testing prep publishers are usually looking for editors/proofreaders for math

  39. This_is_Todays_Name*

    Maybe look into substitute teaching in your local district. Our district as well as the near “big city” district are DESPERATE for subs! And you can choose to accept or reject an assignment if that day doesn’t work for you (although it’s nice to let the coordinator know in advance when possible). Additionally, if you’re qualified (Master’s Degree) you could look into being an adjunct at the local community college. I taught one class a week, the syllabus and text book etc.. were already in place so I wasn’t creating a curriculum, and you can pick the day(s) or evening(s) that work for you in a lot of instances!

    1. Lozi*

      Yes, our district is desperate for subs, too! it can be tricky to arrange childcare last-minute, but I bet you could choose a few days each week you will accept jobs and plan to have care on those days.

      1. Rm*

        The pay is super low though. Like 100/day which amounts to some fun money or a single major bill per month

  40. Legal Beagle*

    Unfortunately, OP, you may need to consider that “fair compensation” for a role that is flexible, part-time, low on mental strain and doesn’t involve a lot of meetings may not feel fair to you. Worth considering which items on your list are most important and honing in on jobs that meet those criteria, as it seems like the jobs that meet all your criteria would be unicorn ones –otherwise, I think we’d all like jobs that fall into that bucket!

  41. DivergentStitches*

    IDK if monetized hobbies are included in the ask, but…

    I’m autistic/ADHD and an amateur graphic artist, and over the pandemic I learned to sew handbags. So I started a business selling fabric and fabric-sewn products (handbags, dice bags, tote bags, etc.) featuring the artwork of neurodivergent artists. The art typically features fantasy creatures (dragons, unicorns, etc.) or D&D themes.

    Most of the artwork is mine, created using AI art and Photoshop, but I also commission pieces from neurodivergent artists that I’ve networked with on social media.

    I’m just now starting to grow a following (I have, like, 2 fans!) after 18 months or so of working at it and building my sewing skills. Marketing and people-ing in person is still a challenge.

  42. kiki*

    I had a friend who transitioned from tech PM to a part-time QA role when they needed to take a step back from their career. They really like the flexibility and task-oriented nature of the work. They have stand-up meetings and a couple scrum ceremonies to attend each week, but the bulk of their hours are completely up to them.

  43. FedEmployee*

    I would check out the federal gov’t. Not easy to get into- I know. Check out project mgt or planning jobs. Within my agency, we have more and more PT employees in the past decade and a lot more support for working parents. I work 33 hours a week (I pay extra for benefits… still worth it). Some federal agencies under the DOD also pay for part of childcare. THIS IS HUGE. It added an extra $1000/month to my salary at least when I had two kids in 4 day a week daycare. In my experience I am underpaid compared to private sector and have a high workload- but I get very little push back on not working more than my 33 hours. It’s worth it to me.

  44. Lozi*

    When my first child was born, I kept working full time, but by the time a second kid came along I couldn’t afford to pay for childcare, and found a part-time job with unique hours. I worked in higher education doing program administration … it was interesting enough but not overly stressful, and I definitely “left my work at work” in that job. I did have background in higher ed, but I think I worked with others who came from other careers and could talk about their transferrable skills.

  45. bird bird*

    If you work in product now, a good shout may be to pivot to the tech industry that is less fast paced. Government tech or public sector tech work is usually much less fast paced and much more accepting of job share or part time work. The aim is not to massively change careers, as that brings its own stress as you learn new skills and workplace norms, but to change career /sectors/ to somewhere where it’ll be easier to be part time and where there is less pressure to always be a rockstar high-performer.

    I mean this with all gentleness, but think as hard as you can about what are the less prestigious or high paying parts of your industry, and then try and go there. Especially if you go somewhere less prestigious with an impressive skillset and experience they are often willing to negotiate more flexibility when you join!

  46. Ann Onymous*

    I’m not a mom, but I’ve worked with several moms who have chosen to “lean out” after having kids. I work for a company that does (among other things) software development. I’ve worked with people on several teams who worked part-time and fully or partially remote for a variety of reasons (new parents, interns who continued to work part-time after returning to school, married to a traveling nurse, etc.). I’ve seen people work as little as 10 hours a week up to full time with these sorts of arrangements. It’s also an industry that pays well.

  47. NAL-NYL*

    I had a great union job with accounts receivable for a local government that was awesome when my kids were tiny. Union work is the key here.

  48. Aglet*

    Obviously this would include more training, but most dental hygenists work fewer than 5 days a week and make good money. There seems to be a big demand at least anecdotally. When I went to the dentist last month, the dentist quickly cleaned my teeth at the end of the appointment because they didn’t have enough hygenists. It seemed they were only sending patients who needed a deep cleaning to their only hygenist.

    1. Elizabeth Proctor*

      Dental assistants, which require even less training, are in high demand too and can get paid ~$25/hour in northeast metros.

  49. Hamster Manager*

    You can very likely just freelance what you currently do. Freelance PMs are in short supply, and even if you can’t find one of those gigs, you say you have lots of skills, so you can likely grab some UI, copywriting, or whatever work. Most of this work will be remote, and you can refuse any project that doesn’t align with your requirements. Look for a freelance agency who will bring work to you.

  50. CC*

    My large university has a strong Union so the sick/vacation time is very good. Being large there is a wide range of positions including some part-time.

  51. CheeryO*

    You could consider government jobs. Obviously the work will vary depending on the agency and role, but generally speaking, the pressure is not super high, it’s typically unionized work and therefore you are guaranteed to at least get modest salary increases over time, and benefits are usually very good. I work for a state agency and have the option to do as few as 70% hours for 70% pay with full benefits, and we get 25 days of personal/vacation per year (starts at 18 and tops out after 7 years) and 13 sick days per year along with all of the federal holidays.

    1. Casual Librarian*

      This is likely location-dependent. I’ve worked at various state and local government roles and never once would I have called it low-pressure since many governments are increasingly being forced to do more/same work with less people and funding. Salary increases have never met inflation.

    2. doreen*

      Also, it’s probably very location dependent as far as part-time goes – I worked for both a city government and a state government and in neither were there many positions available part-time, year round. Some are only available to college students and others are positions such as per diem administrative law judges.

  52. ReaderNicolene*

    I suggest talking to a career counselor. They can help you decide what to do, look into the requirements, and figure out your next steps.

  53. Trewler*

    Depending on where you live, maybe look into government jobs? I work in a tech-adjacent area of the federal government and we have a lot of trouble hiring for positions like product manager, because we can’t compete on pay with the big tech companies. So when we find a qualified candidate who’s interested we’ll be as flexible as the bureaucracy allows in establishing their conditions It’s unlikely to be part time, but work/life balance is great – you can leave work at work at the end of the day.

  54. Leigh*

    Since you have Product experience, doing QA might be a good step in the direction you are looking for. (There are orgs that employ QA folks full time, of course! But some may have need for a bit extra help with larger releases.)

  55. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Years ago when I was desperately searching for full-time work, I was checking out a great website called CharityVillage (Canada) and it was so hard to find full-time work among NGOs and non-profits because there were so many part-time jobs, which at that point in my career, I didn’t want or could afford.

    Many charities, non-profits and NGOs may want or have openings for part-timers because their budget is limited or because there’s steady work to be done but not enough to justify a full time employee.

    Note that some of these part-time jobs are funding dependent. They get a grant, hire someone and once the grant is spent, the person can be laid off.

    Good luck!

  56. Ms VanSquigglebottoms*

    If you like your job but need more flexibility, I’d highly recommend you talk to your manager. I had a stellar performer on my team who needed more time with her family, and after a frank discussion, we ended up reducing her hours (pro-rating her salary) and promoting one of her direct reports to take on some of her projects. We’re seven months in and it’s mostly working well on all sides!

  57. wounded, erratic stink bugs*

    What could have been a really useful and generally applicable question is hitting a sour note for me because of the gender focus (and I’m a mom myself). All of these suggestions work for any working parents, not just moms. The more we focus on moms with these conversations, the more we are encouraging our workplaces to continue to treat all women “of childbearing age” as expendable and temporary, rather than treating prioritizing family as something that any employee might reasonably choose to do.

    1. what is fair?*

      Lol, I see your point (and I’m also a mom). Anyone with major caregiving responsibilities, or even someone with chronic health issues (as a commenter mentioned above), might be interested in these job options.

      1. Aerin*

        I’m happily childfree but both my partner and I have chronic health issues. You’d better believe I’m over here taking notes.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      Agree with you here, especially the assumption that the parent who leans out is always the mom (or that most moms will necessarily need to “lean out”).

      Then again, I saw a very sobering statistic that 43% of women stop working full-time in STEM after having a child. This includes changing fields or going part-time But also 23% of men do the same! (Link in next comment).

    3. Student*

      This person writing actually is a mom. And, unfortunately, we don’t yet live in a utopia where gender is irrelevant to career. The answers are a reflection of the reality that this writer will get treated differently than a man in the same situation would be treated.

      The opportunities that are functionally, practically open to a working mother are, in fact, different than those open to a man who wants to do part-time work with similar requirements. Including dads.

      This sucks! I agree! I want it to change. However, scolding other posters for trying to give practical advice that is applicable to the actual letter-writer is not going to bring about our shared dream of a utopia of gender equality. It’s just another way of telling women to shut up and to not talk about the real barriers we face. So please, friend, don’t do that. Go volunteer, or donate, or rabble rouse, or pitch in with hiring practices at your own job, or something else that’ll move the needle for gender equality instead.

    4. Temperance*

      Arguably, though, this is the world we live in, where women are the ones expected to “lean out”. It’s societal pressure that expects mothers to do more caregiving.

      This is not to say that women are tricked or manipulated or whatever, just that, honestly, women typically are the ones expected to prioritize family and society communicates that in big and small ways.

    5. OtterB*

      Some years ago now, the not-for-profit I worked for needed a part-time data manager. I was the hiring manager, and I wrote the job ads thinking of it as being a good fit for a mom returning to the workforce (without saying that explicitly) – emphasizing flexibility, etc. As it turned out, we hired a dad returning to the workforce after several years as an at-home parent. It worked great.

  58. Pyanfar*

    Since you have experience in a specific field, what about a commissioned recruiter for those kinds of roles? Some companies will hire you direct, very low base salary, and your commissions are based on placements, directly related to how much time you want to put in? I’ve never worked with a recruiter that wasn’t 100% remote and basically in control of their own schedule.

  59. Statler von Waldorf*

    As a bookkeeper (a field that’s around 85% women), I’ve worked with a lot of women in the exact same situation as the LW. When I worked at an accounting firm, two of my co-workers did part-time bookkeeping and data entry. It fit every box the LW asked for with the big exception of the low mental load. I also know women who do part-time work for smaller businesses where it wouldn’t make sense to have a full-time employee, and they usually got a lot of flexibility as part of that arrangement. It’s independent work, and it pays better than retail.

    I’d add that in my experience, you’ll have to make a choice between having a low mental load, flexibility, and good compensation. At best, you can pick two of those. Deciding which of those three is the least important to you might help you decide what options best fit you best.

    1. BKB*

      “I’d add that in my experience, you’ll have to make a choice between having a low mental load, flexibility, and good compensation.”

      Yes to this!

      I am in a similar position to the OP. I have three kids, and I’m the primary parent in my house. I stepped back from full time work because I couldn’t do everything. Now I teach 1-2 classes per semester at a community college. I enjoy the work, it uses my brain, it’s not stressful (SO much easier than teaching K12), and I feel like I am contributing to society. But the pay is abysmal. There’s always a trade off.

      It’s probably worth noting that this setup has worked well for me partly because my husband is the one who’s hanging with the kids on sick days. I can set my schedule so that I only work when my kids are in school, but there isn’t any day-to-day flexibility.

  60. Drone*

    Check if there are public sector part-time jobs.
    My company hires part-time Customer Service staff. Few meetings, not super stressful (except for an occasional difficult person).
    The amount of flexibility can vary a lot.

  61. anon for this*

    I work part-time in higher ed in an IT customer service/operations role – the hours are flexible, there are very few meetings, and it fits my skill set of customer service and information management well (I used to be a librarian but moved away from that career a few years ago). Higher ed doesn’t often provide benefits to PT employees, so be aware of that if it’s something you’d need, but my institution actually does, which is great! If you get benefits from your partner/spouse, though, that will open up the field quite a bit.

    1. Aerin*

      Came here to suggest tech support. I do internal help desk for a large organization, which means there’s a lot of redundancy and thus a lot of flexibility. I wouldn’t say it’s a low mental load during the day, but when my time is up I shut down my computer and forget the place exists until it’s time to log back in. I know we’ve had people working PT before, and we have people who are mostly/entirely remote. They’ve also been really good about my accommodations as I’ve dealt with physical and mental health stuff, and the pay and benefits are top notch. There’s opportunity to grow and take on projects and such, which might be of interest as your kids get older, but some of our top performers are perfectly happy just in a regular front line position and there’s no pressure for them to do anything else. I don’t have kids myself, but we have a lot of parents of young kids.

      I will say that I’m aware I’ve got an exceptionally good gig, and there are a lot of places that are very much not this. But jobs like this are out there, and you could probably pivot to them pretty easily.

  62. Elliot*

    I had a job doing web content editing for a SAAS company when I was younger that fit much of this. It was not part-time but my manager did allow people to go part time as needed, it was flexible with some people working 7-3, some working 10-6, some working 6-10 and 2-6, etc, it was very low mental load (I literally could do it while listening to podcasts all day), it was low to no meetings, etc. It is also now a fully remote-friendly company.
    The only problem is that kind of role doesn’t pay a ton, or didn’t for me – however, I am happy to connect you with my company as we are often hiring for this fully remote role! Let me know.

    1. Action Kate*

      Does your company offer benefits? I am an editor/proofreader looking for a FT WFH job which offers health insurance. I can manage with the lower pay, but I need the insurance.

  63. JelloStapler*

    NO advice, but after 12+ years of being a working mom, I have been feeling this myself. Interested in the replies!

  64. Jake*

    Some companies need front desk workers, but don’t always need 100% coverage because they have more than one. My company has a full time front desk worker that is awesome, well paid, and expected to be here every day to do her work along with provide coverage. We have another front desk worker that works 4-5 hours a day 2-3 days a week to help with the workload part, but not really the coverage part.

    There are no meetings, and calling off sometimes isn’t a big deal.

    These positions exist, but the challenge is finding them because I suspect that most of these positions are the result of somebody that was in the full time slot needing to go to part time, then the company making the adjustments necessary to make it work.

    That’s the best I got.

  65. Iris Eyes*

    I know a dad who works 10-15 hours a week as a civil engineer. His recent job hunt probably took 3x as long as it would have otherwise to find a position that would accept limited hours but if you have skills that are in demand you could stay in the same career in a more time limited role.

    Other families I’ve personally witnessed, job sharing a role at a clinical research facility, and working weekends/holidays as an RN.

  66. New Mom*

    OP thank you for sending this question in and Alison thank you for posting it! I have a just turned three and a ten month old and I relate to this question SO much! I’m going to be looking through these answers.

    I’ve been struggling because I’m in a bit of a golden handcuffs situation with my current job, which has an ever decreasing morale issue. We have a lot of time off, and a lot of PTO which I need since my kids are constantly sick and then I also want to take days off because the weekends are no longer relaxing, recharging time (still fun and sweet, but no downtime with the littles). I’ve been applying for and interviewing for other jobs but each place I’ve applied to would require more days in office with a 30+ minute commute each way, less time off, and just less overall flexibility.

    I signed up for two websites for moms looking for remote/flexible work:
    The Mom Project
    We Are Rosy

    And then I follow people on LinkedIn who post remote jobs. Good luck OP!!

    1. LW_LookingForPT*

      I’m happy another person found it useful. It is such a fun and challenging space to be in. I wish you all the best in finding what works for you!

      I am going to sign up for those sites as well. Thank you for suggesting.

  67. Casual Librarian*

    I know quite a few moms that have taken on administrative roles for independent care providers in the chiropractic and natural health fields.

    Also, in our area, the local heritage organizations are almost always in need of base book-keeping and office management that can be done on your own time provided the things always get done..

  68. Fieldpoppy*

    In our small consulting business, our operations manager is a mom who has been balancing our part-time job with her life for nearly 20 years. We’re remote, and we need her to manage billing, following up with clients, scheduling meetings, writing and coordinating proposals, managing our calendars, organizing dropbox and coordinating logistics for our few on-site meetings. She works a total of about 12 hours a week, completely flexibly. We pay her an extremely good hourly rate (like $80) in exchange for the knowledge that she will check her email every morning early to triage any major issues, and then dip in during the day as needed.

  69. Green great dragon*

    Would jobsharing help? It would certainly help re the sick time, since hopefully your jobshare won’t be sick the same week. ideally, find a jobshare who loves the meetings part more than individual work…

  70. JR*

    When I made this choice, I did independent consulting (in a totally different field from you, but this is relevant to many industries). That was easier for me because I had previously worked for a consulting firm and I got a lot of projects as a sub-contractor to them, but I has some of my own projects, too. Pros: Tons of flexibility (other than meetings, no one cared when I worked). Work was intellectually engaging and I was always learning, so it kept my work brain and work confidence alive. High hourly rate. Good way to keep my work relationships alive – easy to reach out to interesting people when doing research interviews, business development, etc. Strong on resume – and when interviewed later, no one cared how many hours I’d been working. I could dial the hours up or down over time. Cons: Lack of stability – while the hourly rate is high, the annual pay is only high if you work a lot of hours, and that means always having clients, which can be hard to control. For me, where this was an alternative to being a stay at home mom and my primary goal was keeping my resume active, that was fine, but if you have a target annual salary, it’s potentially risky. I didn’t love working alone (though my subcontractor projects were as part of a team, which helped). Lack of obvious career progression – no formal promotions or other gold stars.

    Now I lead a nonprofit, working 30 hours/week (was 20 hours when I started, has increased gradually). It’s not uncommon for small-ish nonprofits to hire part-time, if your skill set translates.

  71. The map guy*

    I have a 20 hr/week job that’s fully remote and allows me to set my own hours. There are monthly meetings that we are encouraged but not required to attend (I try to attend every few months). It’s for a mapping service doing geotagging and related data research/confirmation and while it is not always the most interesting job it has its moments. Right now my company is only hiring people with specific language fluency but I was hired only knowing English and have been there twelve years now!

  72. Talia*

    Have you considered paid mentoring services that offer a PM track? To me that’s the best way to shift while working with experience you currently have.

    The one I know of for sure is called Pathrise. A friend of mine does it part-time. I don’t know a ton of details, but they do that combined with freelancing and make enough money without needing a full-time gig.

  73. froghat*

    With your software background, if you have good language skills I suggest technical writing/editing. Potentially a high hourly rate. If you can branch out into medical editing/writing or grant writing/editing that can pay well too. Can have a high mental load, it’s true — but not so much if you are just copy editing. Check out Editorial Freelancers Association, Medical Writers Association etc.

    Keep in mind that part-time professional jobs do exist. I held them for years when my kids were young since it was obvious that FT and small children was not going to work for me. They provided me with benefits, contact with other adults, and connection to my field. And these days a lot of this kind of work can be done remotely. I suggest looking for staff jobs at hospitals, in academia, and similar.

    1. froghat*

      Adding to say: It took years as opposed to months for me to find each of my PT professional jobs. So even if you don’t see something right now, get in the habit of checking openings regularly!

      1. anon for this*

        Agree with this – professional part-time jobs, especially the ones that have flexibility, come with benefits, etc., are tough to get! There’s a lot of competition. It took me over a year and a lot of applications at the same place to get the job I have now.

  74. Turquoisecow*

    I do part time data entry/analysis. In theory it’s 24 hours a week but in practice it’s usually much less than that, and while I have occasional meetings and I do have some deadlines, for the most part I make my own schedule and work when I can, and as long as it gets done my boss doesn’t really care which specific hours I’m working.

    I have no advice on how to find a similar job – I got my current job because my grandboss was my boss at a previous company and they hired me to cover for someone on maternity leave full time. When that person decided not to return, they asked if I wanted the job. I told them no, because the commute was more than I wanted, but I’d consider something part time or remote. They hesitated because they historically didn’t do either, but wanted me on board enough to give in. I do decent work that the full time employees don’t have time to do, but it’s honestly not really enough to be a full time position (unless they were to add on a bunch of work that’s currently outside of the scope of my position, but that would mean taking it away from someone else).

  75. grad student*

    One summer in graduate school, I worked briefly as an independent contractor for a transcription company. The owner of the company would let her contractors know each week what jobs she had coming in (what the recording was and how long it was) and you could choose which one you wanted (in order of seniority). Some of the contractors who had worked with her for a long time had regular gigs that they took weekly. It was very flexible, with no meetings and very little equipment required (foot pedal recommended). Something like that could be an option to look into!

    1. debbietrash*

      I was going to suggest transcription as well. I did my own transcriptions in grad school, so I can speak to the flexibility of when and how you work (barring deadlines). A friend of mine does transcriptions, and it sounds like there’s some flexibility in the kind of work you do (interviews, medical, etc.), it pay decently, and you have flexibility in hours/when you’re working. It’s also a remote job.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Oh, phew! I am planning to leave my job in academia in a few years and become a freelance transcriber – I thought robots would have taken over this job but it looks like there are lots of fields where they still need humans. So I’m glad to see it recommended.

  76. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    If you want to stay in the dev/tech space, consider doing QA & test. The last couple of companies I’ve worked for have used part-time QA people.

    You should be able to work from a queue of submitted changes, and won’t be on a super-tight timeline. (But this is very industry-dependent of course – I’m not suggesting you work in video game development!).

  77. HowdyHelp*

    I am not a mom, but substitute teaching has really been great for me in hitting a lot of the points you mentioned. Depending on your district, the pay is not the most competitive, but it is usually flexible hours and self-direction!

  78. KatKatKatKat*

    I’m in-house legal counsel for a mid-sized company (200 employees, 2 attorneys in the legal department). Earlier this year, we found ourselves in need of some part-time help. I reached out to a friend of a friend who I knew had previously done legal contract work.

    She has now been working as a contractor for our company for six months. She works half-days 3 days a week (in office, but with the option to work from home). She chose this schedule because she’s a contractor, but it works really well for us. We assign projects to her that typically aren’t time sensitive, don’t require many meetings, and are interesting but not taxing. She has really helped take a lot off our plates! When she needs vacation time or sick time, she can take as much as she needs because she’s a contractor and not bound to our company’s (still generous) PTO leave policies.

    I think the first step for you may be to find a part-time contract role. The second step after that is to find a contract role where the company is willing to give you the flexibility you’re thinking for – and supervisors that will continue to support that flexibility.

    Let your network know what you’re looking for and best of luck to you in your search!

  79. Sally Too*

    I’m not a working mom, but I *am* in a field that can be extremely flexible. I’m an instructional designer, and I know companies are desperate for qualified contractor IDs. I’m full-time at my organization, but we work with lots of contractor/freelancers who work anywhere from 10 hours a week to full-time, depending on the needs of the project and their own schedules.

  80. Michelle Smith*

    I have no idea if this is a thing in your field, but in mine some people have successfully negotiated part time roles as consultants when they needed to step back from full time work for reasons like yours. So far, everyone I know that did that stayed at the same company or firm, but their role was shifted.

  81. hereforthecomments*

    Substitute teachers are in demand in the U.S. I subbed for a while and I chose what schools (didn’t want a long commute) and could turn down any offer. One school needed help with in-school suspension for longer term, and I earned some retirement income with them. In my experience with subbing, if you are reliable, you can quickly become the preferred sub and work a lot if you want to. The hours are pretty good–unlike FT teachers, no coming in early or staying late. Some districts also keep a list of substitute office/admin positions.

    Now I work at a university with civil service and we hire a lot of Extra Help (temp) employees. That’s limited in hours that you can work and there are no benefits. We also have part-time positions and they do earn benefits. Flexibility depends on the area. If you have school systems close to you, it might be worth a look to see and get an application on file. May not be long term, but keeps you working,

  82. Mim*

    The first two places I would look would be 1. local government (including libraries and schools), and 2. specific local businesses that are known to be good/flexible/progressive employers. At least in my area, those are the places that are most likely to have some part time openings, flexibility, decent enough pay for general part time work, and working environments that are not unpleasant.

    At least that is my perspective as someone who works in an area without a ton of options. So looking for organizations that are likely to meet my needs/criteria is my starting point, rather than thinking of specific jobs/roles I might want and then trying to find open positions for those roles.

    I’d also be keeping an eye out for temporary positions, and maybe even checking in with local temp agencies. Testing the waters to feels like the right balance, having an easy out if it turns out that whatever you’re trying is not for you, etc. Especially if you are a new parent, things change so quickly week to week and month to month. It may be that what suits you best now is not what fits the best into your life in 6 months.

    1. 2 Cents*

      Not to be a downer, but in my area (NE suburban near a VHCOL city), the local employers are more stringent than the bigger ones as far as “butts in seats” and set hours, at least judging from the job postings. Maybe it’s not that way in practice, but I remember when I was in OP’s position and feeling really discouraged that someone with a good remote track record couldn’t find anywhere local (albeit prepandemic).

  83. KitCaliKat*

    I don’t know if this is a thing where you are, but here in the Bay Area, many school districts and high schools have education foundations that are run by part-time staff.

    I just started a role as the ED of the education foundation at the high school down the street. There will likely be some stress involved — I’m responsible for fundraising a significant amount of money each year, supporting the Foundation’s Board, etc. — but this is work I’ve done for years and love, it’s a part-time gig, and I know a ton of people at the school.

    You might also be able to find a part-time job with your local school district as support staff at a school. I know at least four moms who’ve been able to finds this type of role at the school where their kids go. The benefits are decent, and the moms have the same schedule as their kids, which makes life easier.

  84. LW_LookingForPT*

    Hi All!

    First of all, thank you all for the suggestions! I have been… in meetings.. but I am working to read through the comments.

    Since I wrote in, I’m still in my current role. One shift has been my company has gone to unlimited PTO. So far, that has helped me not worry about how many days I take off for appointments/sick leave (and watching the number tick down). A part of me still worries about the culture/stigma of me taking off more than others, but it has not yet risen as a concern from anyone.

    A few themes/questions that I wanted to provide more details on:
    – Fair Compensation: I had always imagined I would keep the career I had when I became a mother, so I never took the time to think of what compensation I really needed. When I wrote the letter I was exhausted and thinking through a new budget was daunting. Now that I have had some time, we have some wiggle room for me to take a decent pay cut as long as it makes sense with childcare costs. (Some assumed I am in Tech and am used to a fairly decent salary would be correct).

    – No Meetings: I like the freelance ideas being shown with minimal meetings/easily rescheduled meetings. Why this made my list was the stress of rescheduling meetings that had been on the books for weeks/critical to move a project forward with high attendance numbers (15+ people).

    – Asking my current employer for accommodations: I am nervous about bringing it up without a backup plan in mind. I have not seen this at my current company, but past companies/moms have been pushed out when they have kids. Another complication is I manage 4 people. I think it could work if I could keep that aspect and drop my own projects or vice versa.

    – Math! I love math. Math was my minor in college, and I have considered leaning into this again.

    1. Temperance*

      It seems like at least some of your issues could be alleviated by your partner/co-parent handling some of the appointments and sick days, especially when you have a project critical meeting.

    2. ina*

      Have you considered data analysis? Do you have skills in that? You’re not gonna get off meeting-free but you can work from home and I’ve been in meetings where people have their wee ones in their lap (very adorable and not distracting for me, personally).

      Check out your local university’s IT department, too. They’d love to snap up talent at PT (they have to fork out less, but also they already fork out less so head’s up).

    3. Pyanfar*

      If you like math, and are up for learning something new, check into construction scheduling using Primavera P6. The industry has far fewer schedulers than it needs, and some roles are 100% remote, you set your own hours!

  85. TG*

    Have you looked into if your company would let you do this schedule? Or stay and go into a lesser role? If not than I’d look into contracting maybe also where you can work part time. Also teaching at a college – your skills are highly sough after – maybe you teach a class or two online?
    Otherwise if you truly want easy work but to be engaged out of the house hosting at a restaurant might be an option – that’s my side hustle and I like it.

  86. Lizzo*

    Some of the parents I know were application reviewers for colleges and universities.

    There may be other staff roles in academia that provide important support for admissions or alumni teams…possibly prospect research for the fundraising team?

    1. Lizzo*

      Oh, and I just see that you’ve replied, OP. If your brain is wired for math, maybe look at data-related jobs that involve data maintenance…I think the term is “data hygiene”? There are plenty of organizations that need to keep track of members, supporters, customers, etc., and it’s a job that could be easily outsourced to a part-time remote person.

  87. Anon-mama*

    It will depend on the district, but in my region, the school libraries (middle and high especially) have part-time or school-hours “full-time” aides. Low mental load, some creativity (I got to make displays, special programs/activities). Some are part-time. Pay was a few dollars an hour above minimum wage. Organizational skills needed for sure; older ages definitely need tech skills too. My district did give sick time, and chances were that if your kids had a snow day, your school did too. And, unless my boss was absent or they were hard-up, I didn’t have to sub/teach all day.

    I was also a library technician (or paraprofessional). Full-time salary was professional level. We had part-time positions at the same rate. Loved that I could leave it at the door at clock-out time. The only issue that didn’t work for our family were the night and weekend requirements. If you get that sorted, it was really pleasant. Circulation stuff, occasional recommendations, book processing (I mean, I could listen to music or podcasts!).

  88. DannyG*

    My hospital allows split positions w benefits. Had 2 colleagues do 20 hours each, one needed benefits, the other didn’t. Check your HR to see if they offer anything similar.

  89. Asheville*

    Medical coding for doctors’ offices, health care centers, hospitals involves translating the information from patient care notes into a standardized alphanumeric code for billing and insurance purposes. You would have to get certified. It is a growing field and should pay above minimum wage.

  90. KLS*

    If money isn’t an issue, I would recommend looking at non-librarian (mostly circulation, probably) jobs at your local public library. It’s frontline customer service, so it’s definitely not stress free, but libraries are one of the few places I’ve found that regularly have part-time professional positions. There are a lot of parents working part-time in my library system for many of the reasons that you mentioned. I mentioned money at the beginning, though, because it’s definitely not an industry you’ll get rich in.

    1. KLS*

      Will also say – and this is HIGHLY dependent on the system you’re dealing with – that because a lot of library systems are government agencies, some of them offer benefits to part-time employees. My system does, and it’s one of the major selling points in my opinion.

  91. Ex Radio*

    I used to work in radio traffic (advertising data entry, not vehicle traffic reporting).

    It was relatively easy job if you have decent computer skills (minimal media knowledge might be an asset), and during covid, I know several companies transitioned those teams to work form home. I didn’t have meeting very often, mostly just weekly team meetings, and there were part time and full time positions. Most of the team (except for myself) had school aged children. In that job, there would be tight deadlines for certain things but for the most part could be fairly flexible as long as you can plan and work ahead as needed.

  92. 2 Cents*

    I work in house for a large nonprofit (technically) doing marketing work that is website-adjacent (SEO). We have multiple project managers on the team. I’m home 4/5 days of the week. My one day in the office is limited hours (think 10-4). My boss, who also has children, does not care what my workday looks like as long as the work gets done. I’m treated like an adult and have tons of flexibility. On paper, this job does not look like it, but the wider team is comprised of moms and other people in their late 20s-early 40s who are just over strict butts-in-seats 9-5, do our work, and get the job done while also having lives.

    FWIW, I have a 5 year old and I second all of OP’s points (and would’ve before I was a mom). I would’ve killed for a well-paying PT job when my LO was 0-4. But most of those jobs needed me to be at an office during very set times, MLM (or otherwise shady), or very low paying.

  93. DataLady*

    I did online tutoring. You can set your own hours and most of it is asynchronous. You have to pass exams to tutor on different topics, but that was not an issue. I did about 8 hours per week and was bringing in 500 extra per month. This was at a time where I needed a little extra cashflow.

  94. southern interloper*

    Many people have mentioned government jobs, but I might also suggest looking at government contractors. These companies can hire much more quickly/easily than going through the usually-long government hiring process. They also might be looking for people to staff up a new grant or contract, and might be happy to have someone with a particular skill set but only use them for 50% time (or whatever). That is what happened with my current job – I was written into the application so they could say they had my skills and experience, but I knew nothing was guaranteed. But once they won the contract, I was hired at about half time, at a very solid half time salary, with benefits (that was a pleasant surprise) as long as I bill at least 20 hours/week. But it’s a really flexible half time – I have meetings usually at least once a day, but I almost always have say into when those get scheduled, so I can work them around needing to drive my daughter to practice at 4 every Wednesday (or whatever). Obviously this requires a key, needed skill set, but it’s a government-adjacent job that still really uses my brain.

    And also echoing non-profit work – my husband runs a small, all virtual non profit, and would love to find someone to help part time with both communications and fundraising. Pay is not great, but flexibility and autonomy is high.

  95. Just a Dev*

    Since you’re a PM maybe see if your company would keep you on as a contractor.

    My team kept a QA around at like 10h-15h a week as a contractor for years so she could focus on her needs but also we could still have her huge domain knowledge on our product and its history and why things were the way they were. So many of us were new hires so really she was more a subject matter expert on our app than a QA and it benefited both sides that she got flexibility and we got to keep her around.

  96. Shay*

    I’m tuning into this discussion as someone with a partner who, while not a parent, has a list of job needs that look very similar to OP’s. In this case it’s due to a long list of chronic illnesses — so thanks for putting out a question that also happens to be helpful from a disability perspective!

  97. ina*

    Going from a product manager in IT to anything else isn’t gonna feel like a “fair” compensation. However, I wonder if you could find a remote PT job in your same field?

  98. lpuk*

    I work with a small design agency which has expanded its scope into small strategy and comms projects. I lead those, bid for work with them but run as an independent contractor working part-time and on my own schedule. Yes there are some client meetings but client is French so they’re virtual and it runs about 3-6 meetings a week – some weeks there are none! Have immense flexibility and don’t work Mondays. There’s so much work that they’ve just recruited someone permanent to be my no2 – in office one day a week, free for school pick up and drop off, Fridays off and a tonne of flexibility about working hours as long as client deadlines are met

    1. ApollosTorso*

      Yes a lot of designers including print graphic design and on the ux and web side do part time work. I’ve worked in design for a few decades – in house, freelance, and agency – and almost every company has used part time or subbed out work.

      We hit feast or famine periods. And might need someone to cover for a project, vacation, holidays, etc.

      One stat I saw said this field is about sixty percent women. I think the flexibility is a big part of it.

      It’s actually how I got into the field as I needed a part time job while I was in college. I could work two days a week and shift depending on the semester schedule and company needs.

      It’s also a wide skill set that’s fairly easy to get started with and find something you’re interested in. A few of Adobe’s official InDesign tutorials and visual design yotubea can help develop your skill and taste levels.

      A similar and related field is copy editing and writing. We hire a lot of help! We always need help proof reading.

      Ask around at print shops, nonprofits, etc and let them know your situation. For this type of gig work or part time work, networking and friends can help

  99. Freddie Mercurial*

    Echoing others to say a lot depends on where you work. I’m at an academic library and in an exempt position. Since the pandemic I’m able to work from home 3-4 days a week and I can take time for school activities, appointments, and so on. But it varies by department and supervisor even if you’re exempt. If I were a manager I would have more meetings.

    I previously had a 24-hour/week position with benefits with a professional organization which I left before I had kids. I knew a woman there who worked full-time but started work early and then was done by the time her kids were out of school.

    Cast a wide net with local and online employers.

  100. Bruce*

    My sister has been doing phone support for medical device company, she was hired to work from home during Covid and now they agreed to keep her on as she moves across country. She does have a schedule, but there is some flexibility and they’ve been very supportive when she has had medical issues. Her experience as a nurse and her good people skills help a lot. It is better than a lot of customer service call jobs since she is able to really help people and is not expected to be a brick wall for people to bounce complaints off of…

  101. KD*

    Bookkeeping! I hire exactly these kinds of roles for our bookkeeping team :) Has worked beautifully for parents. The key is that the work can be done super autonomously, but then we also have a low meeting/low urgency/maximum flexibility and autonomy sort of work culture to support that.

  102. Lily Potter*

    Your wish list: 2 – 3 days of work per week, flexible schedule, mostly independent work (non-meetings), low mental load role, ability to accommodate sick time, fair compensation

    If you want ALL of these things, that’s pretty much a unicorn job. I don’t recall ever seeing a job listing or getting a recruiter call that has a job in this kind of framework. Professional, fairly paid, part-time from home, make your own schedule AND low mental load? I can’t think of why an employer would hire in this framework. Where you might find this unicorn is with your current employer, or if you have a niche skill, with a former employer. Those folks are more likely to create a PT niche job for you because you’re a known entity.

    Now – if you’re willing to give up a few items off the wish list or modify them somewhat, whole new job categories open up for you. I know someone doing the mommy thing who works a staff position in a local private college. She’s a “Department Coordinator” (a fancy sounding administrative assistant) who works 30 hours/week. The pay isn’t great ($40K for .80 FTE) but she gets full medical & retirement benefits for that including 30 days of PTO a year (higher ed can’t always pay in money, so they “pay” in PTO). There also will be a significant tuition waiver for her kids in a few short years.

    1. LW_LookingForPT*

      Thank you for the insight! I know I will probably not have all on the list, but various combinations may work. (It sure would be nice if that unicorn was out there though :)) I live in an area with many top universities and colleges. I’ll look into what they have to offer.

      1. Lily Potter*

        If this helps any – we have a saying in my industry. Every project is a three legged stool. The legs are cost, speed, and quality. It’s impossible to get all three legs at a high level at the same time. If you want something done to high standards quickly, it’s going to cost more. If you want rock bottom prices but done to a high standard, you’re not going to get it quickly. If you want something done fast and and done cheaply, expect quality to suffer. You get it. Yes, you can have a balanced stool where everything is kind of done to mediocre standards but almost always a client is willing to sacrifice one of the three to get better results in the other two areas.

        Think about the three legged stool when putting together your ideal job. Think of acceptable compensation as the cost, low mental load schedule as the quality, and part-time/flexile schedule as speed. Think about which of the three you’re most willing to sacrifice on, at least to some degree. I think that will get you closer to picking an area of focus.

  103. Thatoneoverthere*

    There is a facebook group for my metro area called “Women’s Networking Group of XYZ City”. It has been super helpful for women and moms to find PT work. I found a job thru the group a few years ago. I would search your area for one.

  104. TCPA*

    If you have an inclination toward writing/editing, you may want to look into proofreading, editing, or transcription jobs! I worked as a freelance editor when my daughter was first born, and I was able to work on my own schedule. It does take some concentration, but is likely not something you’d be thinking about after logging off for the day. I am back to my previous career now (working flexible, part-time hours), but whenever I see grammatical errors in published works, I think about how a freelance proofreader could have really helped that writer with their finished product!

    Also, ask around throughout your network! I currently work for a friend/former coworker who started their own business in our field. They have young children as I do, and so I am afforded tons of flexibility when combined with the fact that this person and I have worked together for almost a decade at previous employers. Or perhaps you could be the one to start your own business!

  105. The Rural Juror*

    Bookkeeping can be a good option for some folks. Many small business owners run short on time for keeping up with it week to week, then all of a sudden they miss paying their sales tax or accidentally let their insurance lapse. It’s hard, especially for those whose businesses do not keep them at a desk for long (and especially those needing constant coverage, like a store).

    A small company I worked for would hire part-time positions for working moms, semi-retired people, or those wanting flexibility for other reasons. It was about 15 hours worth of work a week. We had one person wanted to be 1099 who had us and 4 other clients. She would be in a different client’s office each of the 4 days, then took Friday-Sunday off.

  106. Ann Nonymous*

    There should be more employers that have job-sharing plans where two people can each work 4 hours a day. There are so many talented workers (myself at one time!) who would love to work 4-6 hours a day. These workers tend to be very work-focused and dedicated and can likely get a full day’s work done in the lesser number of hours.

    1. LW_LookingForPT*

      I would love job share! It would keep skills sharp for the day where I don’t need as much flexibility.

    2. zaracat*

      one thing to be wary of with job sharing though, is the company paying for the equivalent of one position but trying to squeeze more than half the work out of each person

  107. Leela Rose*

    I teach part time at many local colleges. when my kids were very young, I taught 2-3 days a week and paid for care. I also taught 1-2 night classes as my husband watched the kids. When they got older, I only accepted classes that worked with their schedule. It my area, part-time professor are pretty decently paid, but I know that is not the case everywhere. Consider the time needed for prep/grading and know that, as a new professor, your classes are more likely to be cancelled or reassigned. I love it, but I can only do it because my husband has health insurance through his job. When I was starting out, it was also very hard to find work during the summer, but I have enough seniority now where that is not a problem.

  108. Abogado Avocado.*

    Medical billing. I have several female relatives who do this from home on a part-time basis and they love it.

  109. Pop Aficionado*

    Churches, synagogues, and mosques (and probably other religions’ places of worship) are often in need of part-time help for administrative tasks, tutoring, and other types of work. Whether or not you’re a member of a specific institution/community, or whether you belong to the specific religious tradition in question, so long as the type of doctrine the institution itself espouses isn’t objectionable to you, you might be able to find good work part-time there.

    I’ve seen postings for part-time or seasonal bookkeeping, event organizing, helping with mailings, secretarial or reception staffing, CRM database support, payroll and more.

    Teaching Sunday School for a church, or doing bar/bat mitzvah tutoring for a synagogue obviously would require specific subject knowledge, but if you have that knowledge and enjoy teaching (either in the classroom or one-on-one, depending) that could be a good option to explore. Some places expect this to be volunteer, but others pay.

    1. Quirky is a Compliment*

      I do this. I’m a PT admin for a church and the work load is easy, the hours flexible and the congregation loves me (and leaves me baked goods as a way to show it). I’m not a member of that church, which they actually saw as a plus since I could be impartial to everyone and not have “favorites”. The pay isn’t great, especially for small churches, but you could probably work for 2-3 churches easily and make a living from it.

  110. LemonDrops*

    If someone looking for this kind of thing isn’t concerned about benefits or insurance, you could freelance — I’m thinking of furniture-building commissions, or even just restoring/revamping pieces that could be destined for the landfill. Or perhaps interior design, lighting design, or even working as a subcontractor to an org that has the flexibility to ask you about jobs and be OK if you want to pass.

  111. ContentIsHot*

    I’ve enjoyed most of these benefits for the last several years as a part-time content writer working for marketing agencies. I’ve been able to wfh and have flexibility in my hours that allows me to care for my child at the same time. I’m a W2 employee, but my current company often seeks out freelancer writers or VAs for help when we have an extra heavy workload, so that’s another route to this kind of work. I think finding this flexibility is partially about the type of work but mostly about the employer and what they’re willing to allow for employees.

  112. Kat*

    Not a mom but needed to switch to flexible, part-time work for health reasons. I switched from farming to freelance bookkeeping/“Quickbooks Expert” with very little need for credentials and frankly not that much training. Small nonprofits and local businesses will be looking for you, once you get the first couple of clients it’s astonishing how easy the rest come. I just did the Quickbooks Online pro training (free) and a little more self-study to figure out the basics and went from there. It definitely helped to get connected to an accountant and/or a small local tax office for mentorship and camaraderie as well as client leads. You could also just contact other small bookkeepers and start by doing work for them, it’s a good way to learn and more consistent hours though the pay isn’t as good.

    I don’t do payroll, I have clients hire a payroll company or use QB payroll, so my schedule is super flexible. I make very good money for what is a very light mental load for me. Your PM brain will pick up on it quickly, it’s just a big puzzle and all you gotta do is put the pieces in place! Good luck!

    1. LW_LookingForPT*

      I am glad you found something that fits your needs! Many paths require work schedules that don’t fit the typical 9 – 5. I hope they become more standard in the future.

  113. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    OP: Can you give an idea of your target “fair compensation” or at least what you need to pay the bills and maintain a reasonable standard of living?

    Obviously 40-60% /2-3 days of even your current ft salary as a PM in software would be a big pro rata pay drop, but many of the alternative jobs suggested sound an order of magnitude worse than that

    1. LW_LookingForPT*

      Thank you for your reply! The biggest concern in regards to pay is child care. My area is facing a daycare/childcare shortage, so I’m finding many are dropping part-time options (why have a part-time family when the full-time waitlist is a year-long?). To make keeping a part-time job make sense, I would need to try to hit that 40 – 50k per year for 3 days a week.

      It definitely is a unicorn and may not be possible, but thought mindshare may help in finding a unicorn. As you mentioned, going from a FT PM role to PT may not be able to sustain that.

  114. Decidedly Me*

    Test proctoring or assignment evaluator (lots of different titles for this one) could fit some of those criteria.

  115. One More Librarian*

    I worked part time (10-20 hours a week) rating web search results for search engines. It’s a completely flexible work from home job with no meetings or set schedule. I typically got my hours in at night or on weekends. The pay isn’t fantastic, but it’s a steady option for someone who needs lots of flexibility and is willing to sacrifice on pay.

  116. European*

    Move to Northern Europe (or possibly work remotely for a European company). I work as a PM in tech in The Netherlands. Part-time is common (most parents work 4 days), you get about 25 PTO days, sick leave is unlimited and doesn’t subtract from PTO time, you also get leave when the child is sick. I work hybrid, 1 office day/week, times are somewhat flexible. I do have meetings though, and the work does require mental space.

    1. Curmudgeon*

      “Move to Northern Europe” is not a helpful reply to this poster. It doesn’t do the LW any good to know European working conditions; she’s not moving overseas for a part-time job.

    2. Punk*

      Do you have any tips for how to obtain visa sponsorship or citizenship?

      European countries are able to have good worker benefits and protections because they often have strict citizenship requirements and limits, precisely to ensure that those resources are there for citizens. There are restrictions against the exact thing you’re suggesting.

    3. European*

      The poster didn’t say anything about her situation and wanting to stay in the US. I’m an expat and have moved country many times, so I guess to me it feels normal to move country to get better living conditions. Also, working remotely for a European company could be possible

      1. uncivil servant*

        LOL you were serious? I thought that was a snarky “Americans have it so bad” comment.

        Even if it were possible, you do not move across the world to work 2 days a week and not be particularly invested in your career.

      2. WorkingRachel*

        Are you American or an EU citizen? I tried fairly seriously to emigrate to the UK back when it was part of the EU, and it was not a “just move!” kind of situation. You needed sponsorship from an employer (not likely for a PT position) and they needed to argue that no one from the EU could do that work. Believe me, as someone currently pregnant, I WISH I could just move to a Northern European country.

  117. Leaning out-ish*

    I took a . 8 (4 day a week) position at a women owned firm and couldn’t be happier as a working human/mom. My industry isn’t particularly known for working super long hours but it still makes a difference to be working for women that have done the grid while raising their kids and who want to ease the process for the my generation.

    Additional, I think non-profit work could be an option.

    Lastly, and this isn’t a joke. If you live in the US, consider relocating to a more family friendly/work-life balance country.

    1. Pajamas on Bananas*

      Honestly just a more affordable locale will do the trick. I relocated from southwest suburban Chicagoland to Michiana, and the cost difference was incredible. It’s only 2ish hours, but it made all the difference in the world.

  118. Momma Bear*

    Freelance or short term contract work or fully remote work, such as a virtual assistant, where you can make your own flexible hours.

  119. Not actually a job*

    The most important thing…whatever you do… is to have a plan for getting back into your field full-time with things you can regularly do to keep your network and skills fresh. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever want to…life happens. My 20 years of part time web development freelancing is nearly impossible to communicate on my resume. 25 years in this type of role adds up to about 4-5 years at traditional 40 hours/week full time hours.

    One option for you is to volunteer with civic software projects through organizations like Dev for Good, Democracy Lab, and Code for America/ACT (CfA doesn’t actually have local brigades anymore and the new organization isn’t up and running yet, but you should still be able to find the local groups. They’re are always looking for project/product management and there usually isn’t a big time commitment.

    Also take good care of your retirement investments and other financial resources. Some of the family’s earnings should go into retirement accounts that are in your name only. Pay attention to how they’re performing and how they would serve you if you had to depend on only that money for your retirement. If you’re working, have your paychecks go into an account in only your name and then transferred to the family accounts. It’s always good to have a business account if you’re freelancing. And have one credit card in your name only. Make sure at least one of the household bills is in your name. It can be really easy to neglect this stuff and depend on your partner’s income and funds, but life happens and you don’t want to be dependent on having a good lawyer to be able to retire.

    1. what is fair?*

      Not to get too dark, but this is also good advice to keep in mind in case of unexpected divorce and/or death of your partner. Speaking as someone whose father passed away unexpectedly, leaving my stay-at-home mother with two very young children, I will never, ever allow myself to be totally dependent on my spouse’s income.

  120. Lordy Lordy, Look Who's Over 40*

    Not a mom, but when my current p/t job ends next year, I REALLY want to stay p/t. Does anyone understand why there are so few P/T jobs here (US) that aren’t in retail? It seems like employers would make more use of p/t. I also have prorated bennies right know, which I know is a unicorn but would be nice to keep.

    1. Lily Potter*

      There are many reasons but here are some:
      *Part-timers usually cost more if you’re paying benefits
      *The nature of some jobs is that one person has to “own” a work stream. Having two people share ownership of a work stream or even worse, ownership of a client relationship, can be tricky.
      *Unless carefully managed, it can be a pain in the rear to have two people owning a single workstream……people will typically gravitate to one person or the other, how do you make sure the work remains equitably distributed, etc.
      *It’s can be tricky to initially HIRE a professional part-timer….. they’re only around sporadically, usually never when you need them to be. And unless you hire more than one, how can a part-timer really take ownership of anything?

      I’m sure that there’s more I’m not thinking of.

      As I mentioned elsewhere, I’ve seen several professionals go FT to PT (usually nominally PT, more like 60-75% than halftime) but only when they were FT first. By the time of the transition, the employer knows the employee’s general level of trustworthiness, business knowledge, and level of conscientiousness. They know that the employee isn’t going to run out the door precisely at noon when there’s a dumpster fire happening in the office, just because “I’m only part-time!”

  121. shaw of dorset*

    I don’t know if this is a thing anymore, but in the 90s my dad worked part time and from home grading papers for a correspondence school. I think it was intended for homeschool high schoolers.

  122. Veruca*

    I substitute teach. I only have childcare for one day a week, so that’s all I sub.
    If I did have childcare, I would have flexibility to work anywhere from every school day or 2 days a month (the minimum required to stay in the sub pool.)
    It’s 7:45-3:30, zero mental load, no meetings except for an initial orientation. I also enjoy kids if all ages, even high schoolers seem more delightful than when I was in school. None of them have ever wanted to give me a hard time. They just want a little kindness, respect, and humor.

  123. sunny days are better*

    I also work in software development and after having kids, I returned at 4 days/week. All of my benefits and salary were pro-rated to 80%, but so are my hours.

    It’s not perfect, but I was able to spend more time with my kids when they had their endless pedagogical days from school, and was able to run a lot of errands/have appointments on that day.

    I never became a manager because of that, but I’ve never regretted stepping back and having more room to breathe. Because I was really good at my job, I was able to have this arrangement. I was later able to get the same arrangement at another company after working full-time for a year and proving my worth.

    My kids are in their early twenties now, and I still have this arrangement. No regrets. None.

  124. PieforBreakfast*

    This doesn’t exactly hope the LW, who is not looking to go back to school, but I was very surprised to learn how accommodating nursing is for working mothers. My friends in nursing can pick and choose their schedules to a degree I never imagined possible. Some I know only work one or two days a month, others one or two days a week. I will caveat that the monthly nurses generally work the night/weekend shifts, but with a monthly commitment it is not a big deal for them.

    If someone is just now looking at career options and is looking for a field that is designed to be flexible, I would definitely look at nursing.

  125. JoAnna*

    I did freelance writing for 1.5 years. I didn’t make a ton but that is mostly because I’m not the “hustle” type.

  126. Yenny*

    As a fellow product manager, I would suggest moving into a QA analyst role. Low barrier to entry, you have tech experience, and it’s not a very demanding job. We can talk about the ethics of this, but honestly I think you could unofficially work 2-3 days in a full time role at most companies and they’d still be happy with your output. Other options are to find a less demanding company to do the same or similar thing (i.e., business analyst) – IT departments at slow growing (old industry) companies can be like this.

  127. Quirky is a Compliment*

    I have lived this exact thing. I also used to be in project management and needed to scale back due to child care. Now I’m an admin for a church. (Note: I am not a member of the church. My daughter attended the church’s preschool and they needed someone with my office skills and organization). I work 4 days a week (off Mondays), 5.5 hours a day (although truthfully I could complete all of my tasks in 1.5 days if needed). I leave at 2pm to pick my daughter up from school every day. To be honest, this church is small and the pay isn’t great (we depend on my husband’s income for living…mine is extra for travel and fun things), but they are suuuuper flexible and I have over 5 weeks of vacation time, plus sick days and holidays. I have 100% independent work and no meetings. I do things like make the bulletin and write the weekly email newsletter. I pay the bills and make the powerpoint slides of the songs they use on Sundays. And free preschool and summer camp was a bonus perk, which saved a ton of money. For a long time I felt guilty because I stepped out of a “career” to take a part time job, but the tasks are easy, the congregation appreciates me (sometimes with flowers and cookies!) and I don’t need to burn myself out hustling for the 8-5 (or 6, or 7) rat race. I don’t know that I’ll do this job forever, but it’s nice while the kids are young and you don’t need the extra stress.

  128. hydrangea macduff*

    Consider looking in your local school district (assuming you are American and your kids attend public school) where there are often a surprising number of support positions, maybe even adjacent to your field. (Schools need IT too!)
    Some positions are on the school year calendar, which gives you summers with your kids.
    I was a teacher for decades and now work in school communications. Working in schools is rewarding work with decent pay and good benefits. In my experience, schools are also pretty understanding of family needs and you have good sick leave as well.

  129. FionasHuman*

    As a manager you probably know a lot about the things that can go wrong with software development and how to avoid them. You also seem to write very well. If you want to work for yourself, could you start a subscription-based newsletter either for companies that want to contract w/software developers or software development companies? One possible topic that comes to mind is along the lines of explaining why it’s a bad idea to try to load last-minute extras onto existing contracts.

  130. Will Work for Chocolate*

    Public universities are great places, if you are looking for good work/life balance. I recommend looking for a department that is not heavily involved in student activities, as that could require some overtime and non-traditional hours when you would rather be spending time with your kiddo; but regular staff roles are generally great. Most universities strive for 80% of market value in terms of pay, so it’s fair, but not great, but you do typically get the benefit of an eeeeeeeexcellent work/life balance (i.e. no one expects you to answer/respond after 5) and lower mental load.

    If you want/need good medical benefits, public universities typically have that covered (but you would probably have to work full time to qualify for that). Since Covid, most non-student facing positions in university settings offer a hybrid schedule. A lot of universities are using this hybrid work option to retain good employees, since so many private companies are pushing for returning to the office, and hybrid work is an easy way to balance out the lower pay. So even if you have to work five days per week, if you’re one of those people that can get 8 hours worth of work done in 4 hours, no one is going to know the difference when you work from home and turn those work from home days into half days (if you’re an exempt employee).

    Regarding sick time, in my state, university employees earn 8 hours of sick time every month, forever and ever, and it NEVER expires. This means that if you work at a University for several years and don’t use a lot of your sick time, but then you get reeeeeeeeeeaaaallllly sick, and need to take significant time off, not only is your job protected by FMLA, but you can use all of that accrued sick time to ensure you are getting paid 100% while out on leave. And if you run out of sick time, a lot of Universities have an additional sick pool leave where, depending on your circumstance, you can get sick time donated from other people. There’s no pressure on employees to donate sick time to the pool, as most people donate their sick leave to the pool when they retire (since they can’t get paid out on unused sick leave) so the pools have pretty significant balances without begging for contributions from current employees. We’ve had employees get a month of sick pool leave payments for catastrophic injuries when they didn’t have enough of their own accrued sick time.

    Vacation benefits are pretty good, too. Most universities get all major federal holidays off, and in some states, you get the state holidays, too. Where I am, we get 15 federal and state holidays per year on TOP of the vacation we earn which starts out at 8 hours per month and goes up incrementally to 20 hours earned per month, depending on how long you’ve been working for the state. The vacation hours mostly roll over indefinitely (it’s a tiered carryover allowance based on how long you’ve been working for the state), so if you only use the holidays and a few actual vacation days per year, then when you retire or quit, you can get a massive vacation time payout as well.

    1. Corky*

      I came here to suggest universities too for PT roles (but FT can be flexible like you describe). At my institution we have a class of positions that are pt/no benefits. We are limited to the number of hours per week they can work and many of them are flexible with schedule. In my unit we have 3 part-timers who work 20-25hrs/week – fully remote (though they could work in the office if they like). It’s also a great way to get your foot in the door to learn the systems in case you do eventually want to return FT.

  131. more naps, fewer meetings*

    This doesn’t hit all of your criteria, but I’m an Engineering Manager who’s planning her family (and is recently pregnant). I changed jobs this past month to a much larger company than I’ve been at previously, and it’s already so much easier to lean out/take it easy than it was at the small startups I’ve been at until now. Not sure what scale you’ve been operating at, but sometimes a larger/more established company can provide the structure and slow pace that will make you feel like you’re leaning out even in largely the same role.

  132. Postpartum doula*

    I am a postpartum doula and childbirth educator and LOVE my work. Postpartum work can be scheduled (unlike birth doula which is on call work). The times you work are flexible (you only agree to work with clients who want a doula when you are available) and you set your rates. I have an advanced degree and used to work in a more traditional job and I find birth work to be so rewarding and always challenging in the best way.

  133. Ink*

    Circulating that you’re interested to your friends and neighbors has a way of turning up small-time stuff. Some of those are going to be MLMs, but you may not actually know that neighbors have small businesses running out of their garage or a small rented space- we sure didn’t! My mom started by sorting what she needs to be a substitute teacher (need means the barrier is lower, sometimes SIGNIFICANTLY lower, than actual full-time teaching), and my aunt does that, but when my mom’s social circle found out she was looking a bunch of other stuff got passed her way. She’s picked up part-time and seasonal stuff with a candy company a neighbor runs, leading an arts and crafts class at a summer camp for a couple days, and acting as the administrative/hand-holding/pep-talking part of flu clinics all fall.

    Highly recommend flu clinics if you know someone who might be able to point you in the right direction- hers are a couple hours of Zoom training when they kick off (mostly HIPAA, correctly filling out forms, and handling supplies for transport) and a lot of the scheduling overlaps with school hours. Having support staff means the nurses can focus on actually giving shots as efficiently as possible! She handles the paperwork and line, and anyone who can’t be calmed down quickly by a nurse, probably exactly the sort of thing you’ve done with your own kids when it’s time for vaccinations. (They love her, because she’s VERY good at talking kids down- I have a pretty bad needle phobia, so she got lots of practice, and “My adult daughter also needs me to hold her hand” is great for making little kids feel heard lol)

  134. RagingADHD*

    There is a whole world of admin roles that meet some or most of these criteria. Even full-time jobs that aren’t officially labeled “flex time” often give a great deal of flexibility in day-to-day reality.

    But I think one of the issues is going to be what counts as “mental load” to one person won’t be the same for others. For example, attending a meeting that I have no stake in just to take notes requires attentiveness, but it is an entirely different quality of mental effort than if I needed to run the meeting or be an active contributor. To me, it’s little or no load, but to someone else it might be very taxing.

    1. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

      After being surrounded for ages by the “anything to avoid a meeting” attitude in tech, I’ve realized I actually really like listening to meetings where people can share progress, opinions, roadblocks, and hash out the more complex or unclear details about a project. Part of why I’m hoping to transition out of QA to a PM role.

  135. Shelby*

    Copywriting — I am a part-time copywriter for a marketing department at a university. It’s 5-25 hours a week, remote, work when I want. One meeting a week that is cancelled half the time. I also do freelance social media copywriting. I bring in anywhere from $200-800 a month. I do it after bedtime or when my husband is home, and we have family babysit a couple times a week. Highly recommend for moms!

  136. Mich Law*

    I’m an educator who worked 6 days a week at my job before children. I loved it but once I had young kids I knew I would miss too much if I continued working up to 80-hour weeks. When my kids hit preschool age, I took a part-time job at a university working as a tutor of student athletes. I only worked 3-4 hours a day which matched my kids’ preschool hours (much cheaper than day care).

    I got the best of both worlds, enjoying working with teens and having time with my toddlers. We lived very frugally, and I returned to full-time teaching once my kids were in elementary school, and we only had to pay for after school care.

    Colleges and universities offer many different types of part-time work with longer vacation breaks. Good luck!

  137. HCOL Mom*

    Question: What options have people found for parents with kids who are under the age of 5? I live in a high cost of living area where even three day a week childcare for my two kids would cost $23k a year which limits options for leaning out.

    1. Lady Sally*

      I currently work 3-4 days a week and use a mix of part time nanny and part time preschool. My nannies are mainly young moms I know conventionally who stay home with their own (single) child and are happy to rotate coming to my house for a nice hourly rate. Part time childcare is an absolute headache but honestly it has worked great for us and we prefer it to daycare.

  138. Na*

    if you are open to a total career change–may I recommend nursing. It is one of the few jobs with a livable wage that truly allows you to clock in, do your best and then clock out. also very normal to only work 16 to 24 hours a week. nursing informatics is a growing field and sounds like a certificate would be easy to add to your existing skill set.

  139. Falcon*

    If you have some leverage and flexibility with your current job, you could see if you can renegotiate to the conditions you want. I had 3 kids in 5 years and did a number of things: renegotiated a salaried role to 3 days a week in office, worked freelance only with set hours committed (hybrid), and then took a remote, salaried role that started out at 30h/week and ramped up to 40 over the years. I stayed in my field – it was easier to find work and find well-compensated work that way. But I also did a lot to reshape my relationship to work and emotional labor and mental load. Not to put more on you. But decoupling my career from my ego helped, I try to care a lot less, even though it’s my field. Staying in the field also let me (slowly, strategically) lean back in when I wasn’t completely exhausted. sending you so much solidarity and luck.

  140. DameB*

    Digitization technician. They’re always desperate for people, it’s quiet easy work, and you should get decent pay. Iron mountain probably has an ad right now near you.

  141. Working mom of 30 years*

    OP before you do this think very, very carefully about the long term effects. I did what you are considering and it has really set me back for retirement, which sneaks up faster than you think. I will have to work four years longer than my husband, who will be retiring with the same take home money. I will bring home about one third and need to work another seven, though we are less than a year apart in age. No disrespect if you do this, but understand the ramifications. I could have retired in 3 years with an awesome income stream. Heaven forbid you divorce or your partner becomes unable to work, you may need a full professional salary.

    1. Kate M*

      I know my mother would echo this. When she and my dad split up, she had less retirement savings and had to work really hard to catch up and to survive on her own. Hope it never happens for OP, but agree it’s still worth considering and maybe having a backup plan for.

  142. Kate M*

    Transcribing as a casual or freelance worker? I’ve had several friends and colleagues earn money by doing this for our company. It’s flexible as they can choose what days they are available and how much work they pick up, and from what I understand has minimal meetings. It might not always be reliable income though, as the demand for it waxes and wanes.

  143. Raida*

    You’re describing Freelance, essentially.

    Get a job, do it on your own terms, dictate the time available, get the work done, get paid.

    So the question becomes – what skills that you have are practical for that? And is there work on this basis in your area/fully online? And then is the pay agreeable? And is there an agency already you could get work through/company you could join?

    Otherwise, “consultant/contractor” is a great catch-all which again asks all the above questions but in the more “I’m an Expert” position – can you join a consultancy, do you have contacts to get work through, etc?

  144. pengy*

    I spent a long time as a part time proposal manager. Important to note I wasn’t responsible for writing proposals – more compiling all the pieces, making sure everything stayed moving, edited as needed, reviewed for compliance, then passed to a contracting specialist for submitting.

    yes, there were busy periods – but often the subject matter experts were writing in off hours, so as long as I could also work off hours it worked out fine. And being part time helped, too. I might surge a little (and get paid for that surge), but then it would calm back down.

  145. I am a translator*

    Part of the challenge of this question is it’s highly dependent on what you can do or become good at.

    My career as a translator can be made to meet these requirements, but a lot of people don’t have the necessary language fluency, and a lot of people find languages difficult to learn.

    Also, the reason why my job has low mental load and fair compensation is because the work comes easily to me, and because I’m established in my career. Someone who doesn’t find the work natural and intuitive isn’t going to find it to be low mental load, for example, and for someone who’s just starting out or trying to hustle, it isn’t going to have these characteristics.

    I’m sure there are all kinds of other jobs out where these characteristics are achievable for someone who’s good at it, but not for everyone.

  146. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    The OP said upthread that she needs $40-50k from her 2-3 days per week, which rules out many ideas.
    I can only think of consulting, if she has a speciality which is highly paid – although that could take a while to become established enough for the required income level.

  147. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    OP: If you’re well established at your current job, have you tried negotiating going down to say 3 days per week?

    This wouldn’t satisfy all of your points, but should fulfill
    the most difficult: imo the 40-50k salary, keeping a professional career path and something you are already qualified for (i.e. not having to spend months retraining while still either living off savings or still working ft)

  148. Heather*

    I work at a very small town library. I work 3-4 days a week, averaging 15-20 hrs total per week. Because it is so small, they are able to accommodate my schedule around the kids school, family vacations, etc. If one of us gets sick, there is usually another librarian able to jump in, and if not, the community is small and understanding if we have to close for a day.

    The pay is a little low, but after being a SAHM for 15 years, I was thrilled to get a job with this much flexibility. I also have been able to learn a whole bunch of new skills (graphic design, childrens’ programs, etc.) It probably isn’t what you are looking for, but maybe for someone re-entering the workforce after a very long time (like me).

  149. HRwithaGoodRep*

    I recently did this! I work as a Human Resources manager (please don’t hate me, I promise I’m one of the good ones)! Used to work full time HR at a busy nursing home, came back from maternity leave after 6 weeks and requested to use my remaining 6 weeks FMLA a couple days a week (they don’t have to allow this, but I told them otherwise I’d be using my full 12 concurrently and they really needed me back so they said yes). During that time I was working 3 days a week and realized I never wanted to go back full time and I really didn’t love the environment there. Thought I would have to leave HR but to my luck I started looking around and had offers for two part-time HR positions at small businesses in town! Given, one was an acquaintance from church’s company, but the other I had zero connections to. Ended up joining the (now friend’s) company and love it. Working with people you know (and subsequently become very close with) has bumps in the road as many of us have read about on here, but the owners have a kid the same age as mine and completely get that life happens, people get sick, daycare closes, my husband has a weird work schedule and sometimes I need to move my work days so I don’t go weeks without seeing him, etc. I could go on and on about how life changing this has been. While I don’t have insurance or other nice benefits like the bigger companies I’ve worked for in the past, I didn’t take a cut in hourly pay (they took my previous HR Manager salary and made it hourly to equate my FTE) which has been a huge blessing for us. Just a couple weeks ago I realized I needed to lean out even more and I’ve moved down to 2 days a week and they have been more than supportive. Can’t say enough great things! That being said, I would look around for potential part-time openings in your field/related field as I truly had no idea part-time HR positions existed and would have really missed out! Or, look into HR! If you work for a company that hires great people and truly cares for their employees and community HR can be very rewarding!

  150. Tech Mom*

    I am a mom who did just this! I work in tech (I’m not a product manager, but I do work closely with our product team), and I asked to reduce my hours in exchange for pro-rating my salary, and they agreed! It has been amazing for me. I work the equivalent of 3 work days spread out across the week (sometimes a little more, depending) and I do have meetings, although not a ton, and I am very liberal about blocking time off on my calendar where I cannot be scheduled for meetings at all. It’s been perfect for me, as I like my company and my coworkers and really enjoy my work, but wanted more bandwidth for my kids and life outside of work.

  151. Lorax*

    This is pretty scattershot, but here are a few flexible, part-time, low mental load ways to earn money that either I’ve done in the past (but because I was a poor college kid, not a working parent) or my friends and relatives have tried (as working parents):

    – Paid medical research studies. I’ve been in any number of studies (vaccine trials, in-person MRI scans, psychology studies, etc.) There’s lots of different kinds depending on your comfort level. (I’m totally ok selling my body to science to help others, but I recognize not everyone is.)
    – Paid market research studies. Get paid to test products, evaluate commercial and campaign advertising, sit as a mock jury for corporate research… I’ve done it all. Actually, my mom got us into this when I was a kid, and some of these studies actually want kid participation, so it could be a fit.
    – Seasonal work. Could be retail, or could be food service production (I used to help a local candy company make their handmade seasonal treats, like candied apples or chocolate covered strawberries), or seasonal events (like working holiday catering or staffing things like hayrides or Santa’s Villages).
    – Temping. I’ve never done true temping through an agency, but I’ve helped out friends or other local businesses when they need an extra set of hands for a short amount of time (like one of their regular employees goes on leave or they have a sudden surge in demand that they don’t expect to last).
    – Working at a school/daycare. This is what my mom did after leaving her full-time job. She worked part-time in the cafeteria of our school so she was guaranteed to only work during our school hours.
    – Starting your own business. I have friends who have used parenthood as a chance to reset and try their hand at turning their hobbies into businesses. Things like: knitting stuffed animals, baking, flower arrangement, clothing design and production, photography, event planning, etc. It seems sort of hit or miss on whether or not these businesses are successful, but I think most people I know were happy to have a chance to give it a shot at least.
    – Driving Uber, Lyft, Doordash, etc.
    – Jack/Jill of All Trades work. Where I live, we have a community-wide social media board where people ask for help with odd jobs, like: gardening, housecleaning, moving household items, installing appliances, repainting, stacking wood, etc. There are also apps that do this (like Taskrabbit), but the model is the same: pick up whatever random jobs fit your schedule, interests, and skill set.
    – Dog sitting and/or dog walking.
    – Bookkeeping. Where I live, there are not enough bookkeepers, and it’s cutthroat to get someone competent. If you’re able to learn how to use QuickBooks, you might be able to pick up a few flexible, part-time bookkeeping gigs. (Just to do the basic entry even, not necessarily CPA-level stuff.)
    – Website design and updates and/or social media management for small businesses or nonprofits. Similar to above, we have a local shortage of all skills tech and internet related, and a contractor doing this work could come in and sweep the field.

    Not sure if anything above fits with what you’re looking for. A lot of these might not fit the “fair compensation” criteria if you’re looking for something that pays at a comparable rate to what you’re getting paid now. A lot of these might also use a very different skill set then you might have developed at your current job. But just throwing ideas out there since I think a lot of people can get stuck in a rut of thinking only of things that are similar to things they’ve done in the past!

  152. ZinniaOhZinnia*

    Working part-time at a school in their admin team is a great fit! There’s a lot of flexibility because I’m not teaching and we get the same vacation time as the kids. My colleague works 2-3 days and it’s largely administrative work (filing, making name tags, printing programs and announcements). Good luck!

  153. Ali*

    QA has a lot of adjacencies with your current skill set and can be a highly solo endeavor as a contractor. It’s not zero mental overhead, but you’re not coming up with the user stories and figuring out edge cases either. Someone’s already done that work for you. I’d look at firms like Applause to see what’s available. If you have a specialized skill set, like accessibility, there are more niche QA consulting firms to provide those services.

  154. miel*

    Low-key retail might work well for this.

    During a period of unemployment I stocked shelves at a grocery store (and helped the occasional customer find things). It paid $15/hr, super part time, not very stressful. Since it was a huge store the scheduling was pretty flexible.

  155. Pajamas on Bananas*

    Property assessment could be a good fit. Depending on the size of your local unit, there won’t be full time hours at all. Many local units contract with assessors for 12-16 hours per week. In some states certification is just a state administered exam, price varies. Some places you have to take courses and the overall cost can be on the low end $1000. Even if you live somewhere that has elected assessors, many assessment offices employ part timers.

    Project management is directly transferable as there are many state deadlines and other objectives that need to be met periodically.

    Board of Review/Board of appeals could be the only thing that doesn’t meet you needs. In some places you would need to be available several weeks during the day for hearings. Two caveats, this varies greatly by state, and doesn’t necessarily apply to staff members.

  156. Coin Purse*

    Several of my RN friends did medical transcription from home when they wanted a part time gig when their children were young. I do NOT recommend nursing despite the opportunities for part time work. It’s high stress and to get the skills you need you need experience at the full time level. I am a retired 35+ year RN.

  157. Zee*

    Pay will be much lower than what you’re used to, and you have to be *really* good at setting and maintaining boundaries, but: a part-time admin role at a smaller non-profit or church.

  158. Rebecca*

    I’d highly recommend project work! Agencies like Aquent or The Mom Project have a TON of jobs for people in exactly this situation! Good luck.

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