I opened my closet this morning to pull out my standard “mom-casual” attire for the day. And, there they were, staring at me like they do every day. A whole row of black suits, silk blouses, fitted skirts, and dark tailored slacks. The professional clothes that were the staples of my wardrobe for over a decade hung there, now as a daily reminder of what I left behind to stay home with my babies. Each morning when I open the door, they ask me the same question: Did you make the right choice?
To set the stage for my story and its lessons, I was pretty entrenched in my career, having had our first baby into my 30s. I had a sought after corporate management position and was well situated for growth, assuming I didn’t mess anything up. Our first baby, now two, came along after some difficulty and one heartbreaking miscarriage. Four and a half months later we were SHOCKED to find out we had a second baby on the way. Already struggling to balance one baby with two full careers, it was now time for my husband and me to do some soul searching.
I’m guessing many of you reading this can relate. It’s nothing unique or new, is it? In fact, I’m convinced nearly every mom wrestles with this dilemma whether she loves her career or hates her job, struggles with motherhood is a natural part of life. The work-family balance thing is not easy for any of us. That’s why I hope some of the lessons I learned in making my decision to work or stay home can encourage you!
So, here we go:
First, be grateful! Being in a position to even think about whether you want to work or stay home is a blessing. For many women there’s no consideration because financially it’s simply not an option. Be glad if you can explore either possibility!
Look at your budget and decide what you can and can’t do. Countless people told us we could live on less and make it work if we just stopped eating out, getting coffee, and such. I’ll be honest; we never examined things as closely as that, but it just didn’t seem like an option to lose my income entirely. That’s why this next one was important for me.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and consider options that provide more flexibility. I wondered if I’d go crazy leaving behind the career I loved to be with two babies just 13 months apart. Fortunately I had some skills I considered “portable.” In other words, I could do them on my time and still provide a needed service to a client. Today I enjoy the opportunity to contribute to our family finances through limited contract work while primarily being home with our kiddos.
Talk to other women who have walked in your shoes…and there are millions. I’m grateful to many women who encouraged me with their stories. One shared how she planned to stay home after her first baby arrived but abruptly changed her mind two weeks into her maternity leave. Another left a highly successful career when her kids were a few years old. Others shared how they moved in and out of the traditional workforce as their kids grew.
Spend time alone reflecting on what’s best for you and your family. While advice from other women is extremely helpful, everyone’s situation is unique, and only you can know what’s best for your family. Take some time to yourself and consider what seems right. For me this involved lots of prayer, maybe my most fervent prayers ever! I took a few risks inching out in faith that I was on the right path, but I never looked back. I didn’t try to copy any one else’s situation; I just sought out the one that fit us best.
Not every decision is permanent and as weighty as you think. This last one was hard to learn, but freeing when I did. Leaving my job didn’t mean I’d ruined my career, and the decision to stay home with my kids doesn’t mean I’ll never be back in a traditional office. We’ll all make countless decisions every year, changing directions along the way. Ease up on yourself and don’t let the perceived weightiness of this decision cripple you from enjoying now.
So, whether you put on dress pants or yoga pants in the morning, all moms are doing the hardest work of raising humans and deserve kudos (or at the very least…a latte).
As we press into the New Year, are some of you are looking to make a work/stay home decision? Or maybe you already have? We’d love to hear your stories and encouragements!