Last post, I wrote about being stressed by the juggle. I’m still stressed, and it’s definitely not by the work itself. The work itself I can do, and I enjoy it, and I’m sure that I’m adding value. I think my (temporary) colleagues are enjoying my input and my insights. So that’s all good stuff.
But the juggle is getting to me, far more so than when I was last juggling. And I think that it may be because I am a temporary, part time worker.
There is a whole research centre for Work and Life, part of the Hawke Research Institute at the University of South Australia. They have just put out a report titled, “Work, life and workplace culture: the Australian work and life index 2008.” It’s downloadable as a PDF, but it’s 3.3 meg, so you might want to skip to the media release. And here are some choice bits from the executive summary.
… women are especially rushed and pressed for time. A majority of both full-time and part-time women often or almost always feel rushed. We saw in 2007 how much of this general feeling of pressure amongst women employees related to their caring and domestic responsibilities beyond the workplace. Given how little these have changed in the past decade of more, it is of no surprise that many women – indeed the majority of working women, whether full-time or part-time – continue to feel an overall time strain in their lives.
The suggestion that casual workers have better work-life interaction than permanent workers is not supported by our findings; casual workers have worse work-life interaction than permanent workers when we statistically control for casuals’ lower working hours. In addition casual workers have no greater access to flexibility about when they work than permanent workers. Casual terms do not protect workers from feeling overloaded; they have the same incidence of perceived overload as permanent employees.
I am not overloaded at work. I have plenty to do, but not too much. So that’s not a source of my stress. I think the stress comes from trying to fit my work commitment into limited school hours. I am required to spend a certain number of hours at work each week, full stop. If I get sick, if one of my daughters gets sick, if their teachers go on strike (due to happen next week, and actually, I do support them in their reasons for going on strike), then somehow, from somewhere, I have to find the time to make up the hours.
Given my particular workplace, I am sure that if I really needed to, I could ask for work less if necessary. Of course, I would be paid less, but that seems fair to me. Nevertheless, I would be reneging on my commitments – not a good thing to do, especially given that this is the first serious job I have had since arriving here in Adelaide. (Long time readers know that I have been doing some lecturing and tutoring too, and while I take that very seriously too, universities are far more used to employing people for an hour here and an hour there, and my time actually in front of a class is limited. Moreover, even if you are sick, it’s not so bad lecturing for an hour and then staggering home to bed. I know this, because I have done it in the past.)
It’s the casual thing that’s doing me in. With that thought in mind, once this stint of work is over, I may not look for more work for the rest of the year, but look for a permanent part time job instead, ideally on one of those limited week contracts. (Helen’s got a nice post up, explaining the concept.) It’s not even that I particularly want sick pay and annual leave. It’s more that I want to be able to take time off, even if it’s unpaid, to care for my children, and myself, and my partner, when needed.
In the meantime, some other interesting bits from the research report.
Patterns of work hours differ for men and women depending on their parenting status: fathers work longer hours and mothers work fewer hours than their counterparts without children. When these differences in work hours are statistically controlled, gender differences in the impact of parenting on work-life interactions are apparent.
Mothers are especially affected by work-life conflict. Controlling for differences in hours, mothers have worse work-life interaction than women without children. However, there is no difference between men’s work-life interaction whether they are fathers or not.
Single mothers are especially affected even when we allow for their lower work hours: they have the worst work-life scores, higher than any other family type and significantly worse than single fathers.
Well, that’s a NSS* finding if ever there was one.
Partnered workers with children (especially fathers) are least likely to have a good fit between their actual and their preferred hours.
I’m interpreting that as in part the male provider instinct kicking in, and in part employer expectations, and possibly self-expectations, about what fathers ought to do, putting hours pressure on fathers too. It’s a classic instance of something that feminists have always claimed, that if we can sort out this problem for women, then men will find that the world is a better place for them too.
In the meantime, at least the extra money I’m earning pays for some good wine.
* NSS – no sh*t sherlock