Over a year ago, I have decided, like many other French mums, to go part-time at my job. French labour and social laws make this opportunity very accessible for many mums. I opted for a 4-day week with the same day off as my eldest’s school schedule. The aim was to help us out with our work life and family life balance, as we had been struggling a lot since the birth of our youngest. Going part-time has relieved a lot of our stress, which obviously benefits the kids as they have more relaxed parents and a more serene home environment. What I had not fully appreciated, however, was that it would also benefit my children’s bilingual education.
Part-time work comes in all shapes and sizes, depending on your job and country. It could consist in taking a day off, having shorter working-days, working only half-days…
It works particularly well when the schooling system includes short-days or a 4-day week, as you might be able to match that schedule through part-time work. And if not, part-time will still be the opportunity for you to get house chores out of the way, enabling you to spend more quality (minority language -ml) time with your child at the weekend.
Part-time obviously entails a decrease in earnings, however if you have the chance to go for it, here are some of the advantages with respect to your bilingual journey:
- More time to expose to the ml – particularly interesting for OPOL families: if you are the ml parent you can turn your home into ml whilst the other Majority Language (ML) parent is out. 😉
- De-emphasising the ML – your child spending more time in your home speaking the ml means less exposure to the ML, hence de-emphasising it to the benefit of your ml.
- You have the opportunity to set a homework routine – many bilingual parents struggle to set such routine as children and parents are often too tired after a long day at school and the office. Working part-time might provide more time to set such routine in more favourable conditions.
- Time to enrol your child at ml activities – More time might be the opportunity to look into possible ml activities. For instance, last year we had an American student coming in to have playful activities with our eldest, so our daughter got to speak English with a native, and develop her language skills. This experience has definitely made a huge difference in her English ability.
- More time to play with your child – and as you know, there is no better way for a child to learn than through play! 😉
- More quality time with your child – as mentioned above, since you have more time to manage the chores, you are less stressed out, making you more available for your child at the weekend and hence spending higher-quality time together. The greater the bonding, the greater the emotional tie your child will develop to your ml and desire to speak it.
Before completely ruling out going part-time as unfeasible, here are a few things to do:
- calculate how much wage loss your household can take on – e.g: -20% for a 4-day week, 50% for working half-days, etc…
- Look up the state help you might be eligible for – some countries like France provide financial compensation for taking time to raise your kids.
- If you have to pay somebody to pick your kids up from school or look after them once a week because they have 4-day school weeks, bear in mind the savings made if you go part-time and are able to do this yourself.
- Look up your country’s labour law on part-time work – for instance in France, employers cannot deny a part-time request to look after kids aged under 3 years old.
- Find out your company’s position on part-time work – it is an absolute no go or are they willing to consider it?
- Find out about the impact on your pension – and decide whether you are willing to take on the impact or not. In my case, the state pension scheme in France is near bankruptcy… so I am probably gaining more going part-time rearing my kids than working full-time.
Have you gone part-time to rear your kids? Share your experience and ideas to make the most of it in the Comment section.