I found out I was pregnant on January 2 of this year. So literally since the second day of the year, I have been wrestling with this decision: Should I go back to work or stay at home after the baby gets here?
It has been a question on my heart all year.
The plan all along was when we had two children, I would stay at home. In fact, I vividly remember on my first maternity leave with J sitting outside on our deck bouncing our four-week old baby on my lap. “When we have two kids, I am going to stay home with them.” I told him. Then I joked and asked if we could get pregnant again right away so I could go ahead and stay home sooner. Ha.
I didn’t get pregnant quite that quickly, but we definitely didn’t wait long since the girls are just shy of 17 months apart. I figured it would be an easy decision, since that was our plan all along, but as soon as I found out I was pregnant, a flood of fear and anxiety and decision fatigue set in and tortured me for months. It made sense for me to go back to work after L was born because Jeff didn’t have a job yet, but for some reason thinking of quitting my job and being a “stay at home mom” after M got here was a little harder to swallow.
Why is this decision so hard for me to make?
I’ve asked that question so many times: Why is this decision so dang hard for me to make? What do I really want to do?
I want my foot in both doors, to be honest. But with my specific job and the stage of life these little ones demand, I didn’t see a way to do that. I needed to either work full time, or stay home full time.
There were a lot of reasons why this decision was hard to make.
I love my job.
First, I love my job. I enjoy getting up every morning and going into work. I love the work I do every day. It’s stimulating, interesting, challenging, yet not stressful. And I am good at it. It’s refreshing to find a job that you feel fulfilled in.
I also love the people I work with. This may be the top reason, because I sincerely believe you can do the most horrible task, but still enjoy your job if you’re doing them with people you enjoy. My coworkers are some of the kindest, smartest and hardest working people I’ve ever had the privilege to work for. That is a rare find!
I also have amazing work-life balance. I go in at 8 am, leave a little after 4 pm, and make up the time in the evenings or early mornings. No one is keeping tabs on my hours or breathing down my neck about time management. As long as the work gets done and I’m living with integrity on my salary and benefits agreement, then I have the freedom to get off early to get my girl from daycare early. I also work from home on Thursdays, which has significantly improved my work performance (as it’s so much more productive to get things done in a quiet house), and even my home life, as I can fold laundry while I am also taking a conference call.
It makes more sense financially to stay at work.
For most families, I think, the reason for one of the parents to quit their job is because financially they can’t afford daycare for two children and it’s more economical for one of them to stay at home with the kids.
Daycare is ridiculously expensive, especially with two kids under the age two, but I would still be coming out ahead if I stayed at my job. Not just in our monthly take-home budget, but also when you factor in amazing medical benefits, cell phone being paid by my company, and a killer retirement contribution of 9% (that doesn’t include a match — they really just give 9%!).
It’s not just the change in a more cushy lifestyle we would miss by quitting, but we would also saying no to a lot of good things, like giving generously, both formally to church and charities, and spontaneously to friends or when we see a need come up. And that’s something we really value and will be sad to see go if I quit my job. We also hope to expand our family through adoption, and that can be expensive! Staying at work would allow us to save for an adoption and so many other things, like new cars, trips, retirement, college, etc.
I’m nervous about staying at home
As silly as this may sound, I don’t like the title “Stay at Home Mom.” I feel like there’s a stigmatism associated with it — like you don’t have any life outside your children or it’s a state of privilege that only the elite few can boast. (Does anyone else feel this way about the title stay at home mom?)
I was also really nervous about not working. Ever since I was aged 15 I’ve had a job of some kind and a stream of income coming in to manage. This feels very feminist of me, but I liked being able to provide for our family and not have it solely be on my husband. It gives me a sense of pride.
And being with children all day? I was afraid every day would seem long and hard and I would go crazy not talking with adults anymore. I liked being a working mom, straggling the two worlds.
But even though the pro/con list was heavy on the side of staying at work, I decided to quit.
Sometime in July, I finally felt a nudge from the Lord to quit and stay at home. I could always find another job and we could always save more money down the road, but the girls will never be little again.
I went to my office after M was three weeks old and told them I don’t plan to return after my maternity leave was up. I’m exchanging my 10th floor window office answering emails and leading meetings, to changing diapers and teaching letters and kissing boo-boos.
So today is my last official day. I walked into my office for the first time last on Monday as an employee and attended a little farewell gathering. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to the people I spent every weekday with for the last five years and clean out my office filled with pictures and projects and meeting notes from the last few years.
But I wasn’t as sad as I thought I would be.
I’ve been at home with both girls for the last two months on my maternity leave and it’s funny how all of the fears I had this year on what it would be like were pointless and silly. That fear of missing out on my career is silly — I know new opportunities will open up at the perfect time. And the fear of not enjoying being home was so pointless — it’s so much sweeter and more enjoyable than I ever imagined.
This is my new era and God is going to meet all of my needs, just as he always does.