Making the decision to go back to work or stay home is enormous, often difficult and stressful.
With my first child, I decided to stay home. With my second, I decided to go back to the job I took when my daughter was almost two. I know I am in the majority, according to Balance is a Crock, Sleep is for the Weak, by Amy Eschliman and Leigh Oshirak.
“In the United States, 24 million moms have either part-time or full-time jobs. And of those women, 35 percent have at least one kid under the age of six. Put it this way: That’s six billion mornings a year where moms struggle to get the kids out the door and make it to work on time.”
That’s a lot of mamas heading out the door to an employer every day. But how to decide after baby comes? It’s such a personal decision on so many levels to stay home. It’s also a personal decision to go back to work, so I can only share my perspective. Ultimately my decision to go back to work was impacted by several factors.
The largest one and the one I would say was the most important was that I found a job that was the perfect fit for me. I work at a school, and so I get Christmas break, spring vacation and days off intermittently throughout the year. I don’t have to travel often. Summer is a shorter schedule. I work in a very family-centric and family-oriented environment. This allows me to spend more time with my kids and less time paying a babysitter to watch them over vacations. If you’re headed back to a job you don’t love, well that makes a difference.
Another reason was of course financial. Short term, staying home was probably doable, minus the Disney trips or school tuition. But long term, what we want for retirement, to have for our kids in terms of college funds, and taking into consideration my potential future earnings, it makes more sense for me to work. The financial aspect of going back to work is so personal based on your short and long term goals and gets so complicated I’m not going to say much more. For me, I like knowing we can go to Disney if we want and that we have some flexibility in our budget for extras like tuition at the school that we’d like our children to attend.
Another reason I went back to work is that I get personal satisfaction out of work that I don’t get otherwise. I enjoy what I do, the people I work with, and the strategy, thinking, professional development skills and problem-solving I get to use or learn every day. I like the challenge. It is possible to get this satisfaction places other than an office, say through volunteer work, which I also have done. Still, there’s something exciting and satisfying about a job well done. I especially am proud when I see the 80-page magazine I put together twice a year on the printing press, getting ready to mail. There’s always that one project that makes tough days worth it!
Finally, and even more important as having a job you love, is that we are completely comfortable with the childcare option we have selected. We were able to enroll our children in a daycare/preschool that we have loved for the past four years. They potty-train. They provide lunch and a snack. They help with the transition from crib to cot and bottle to sippy cup and teach signing to help our youngest communicate. The children attend chapel; have art and music, Spanish and tumbling, and ballet. In short, my children’s caretakers make my working mom life easier and when I drop my children off, I never, ever, worry about their safety or their happiness.
But. I hate being at work when they are homesick with a babysitter because I have a meeting I can’t miss. I hate missing some of their field trips or class parties. I hate rushing them out the door in the morning when they’re crying and just need to be held. I feel guilty, every single day, that I am not staying home with them, for any variety of reasons that are always changing. And on a good morning, my breakfast is an orange juice box at a red light; I use my car’s air vents to dry my hair, and I get to work on time. But I know my kids are fine. They are cared for, loved and are learning. And our family is where we want to be for now and for the foreseeable future because I walk in my office door every day, hard as that is after sometimes nursing a baby with a fever all night.
In the end, the decision to return to work after baby is up to you, based on many factors and the weight your family places on those reasons. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for any mom. Right now I have decided to work. At some point in the future, we might feel it is best that I stay home again for a while. Every mother should do what works best for them as long as it works for them, and when it no longer does, find a different job, different childcare, decide to stay home, or decide to go back to work.