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Moms eye part-time jobs to achieve work-life balance

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"I very much like my work," she says, "I'd just like less of it."

To be sure, many employers have noticed the rising concern among employees about excessive work demands – and the desire for more "work-life balance." And at least a few organizations have been adopting novel approaches to address these and other needs of today's workforce.

But to critics, the most common methods of addressing employees' work-life balance – such as flexible working schedules, telecommuting, and (to a much lesser extent) job sharing – haven't filled the need. In some cases, they seem to have made matters worse.

When some employees have tried to use such programs, some critics charge, they've been stigmatized as uncommitted workers, thereby heightening their frustration.

Consider the findings of Pamela Stone, a sociology professor at Hunter College in New York City. As she chronicled in her book, "Opting Out?," Ms. Stone interviewed 54 previously high-powered working mothers across the country who had left the business world.

Two-thirds of these mothers had been able to arrange some kind of part-time work schedule after becoming parents. But even this arrangement proved unworkable for all these mothers.

"Their work hours started ramping up, they felt dead-ended in their jobs, and their meaningful responsibilities were taken away" because they had become part-time workers.

"As the women encountered all this negative reinforcement, they started disengaging," says Stone. "They began wondering why they were taking time away from their family for a job they hadn't been trained to do."

Mentors keep moms on track

But clearly, some businesses realize they can't afford to lose such talent. And as more workers in general – not just moms – seek greater work-life balance, as well as career development, new solutions to these needs are emerging.

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