I was in my early 30s and expecting next big promotion in professional life when I got pregnant. Of course that didn’t stop me from putting in my best efforts and working for long hours. I was up for taking on more responsibilities that would advance my career and planned to join back into work after six months of maternity leave. I was very career focussed and didn’t really envision myself really enjoying children and children’s activities.
But my feelings towards motherhood- and career- changed after our twins were born.
Not ready to leave our babies with a nanny or at a daycare, I was upfront with my team members and went ahead with an extension to my maternity leave. I utilised all maternity and childcare benefits that my company offered including utilising all accumulated Privilege leaves, Childcare leaves as well as 12 months Sabbatical!
Resuming work after a gap of over 2 years wasn’t as easy as it felt that time. I went back to work, but longed to be at home with our kids.
Read about my experience to that day here.
Three months into my second innings at work, I decided to take a decision.
Quitting my job never existed as an option for me. I was raised to pursue a career, and leading a life without a professional branch was just not me. I saw quitting a sign of weakness. If other women managed to juggle a career and kids, why couldn’t I? I realised that even if I blocked out external voices, my own thoughts & feelings bogged me down. After months of trying to quash my true feelings and playing hide & seek with them, I admitted I wanted to experience the challenges of motherhood yet have a stable professional life too!
Somehow there is a lot of pressure on moms today. There are expectations that women are to be there 100 percent for their kids, and there are expectations that they will push forward with advancing in their careers. Those conflicting ideals can weigh heavily on a mom who’s torn between her career and her kids, someone like me!
But the decision should ultimately come down to what you want to do. And here’s what you’ll need to think about to make the right decision for you and your family-
1. It’s YOU first
When my husband used to see me juggling between thoughts and literally getting torn between my feelings, he would ask me only one thing- “what is it that would make YOU happy?”
The answer to that bleak difference between what will make you most happy and what you think should make you happy is the tipping point. Picture your days in both scenarios: If you’re working, you’ll have the benefit of camaraderie, lunch breaks and drinking coffee while it’s hot. As a stay-at-home mom, you’ll have more freedom on one level, but your days will revolve around nap times, meals and playdates. Of course there exist ample opportunities to socialise and network in both scenarios, but the conversations would be different, level of stimulation would be different. Think about how you feel (or felt) being on mat leave. Are you bored, isolated and frustrated, or do you love the freedom from deadlines and a cubicle?
Undoubtedly the more meaningful roles you have in your life, the more likely it is that if something is going wrong in one role, something else will be going well in another. If you quit your job because you think it’s going to make others (even your kids) happy, you may find yourself resentful when things get tough (because they will)!
2. Money Matters!
You can’t ignore the money, you simply can’t! Depending on your situation, you might be comfortable taking a financial hit by hiving up a well paying job. You must factor in several other dimensions to this- losing out on raises and promotions, which can have a compounding effect on your finances later in life; opportunity cost of giving up on retirement benefits that your company might be taking care of earlier; cost of raising kids; swelling tuition fees etc. Living in expensive cities and managing the cost of living is a big driving factor for a lot of women to carry on with their jobs.
As a Banker myself, I would strongly caution against downplaying a financial hit, whether it’s a loss of income or high child-care costs. You have to measure the kind of stress that can result from being in debt.
3. Career graph
Let’s face it- the hard truth about quitting your job to stay home with your kids when they’re young is that it will affect your career. With technology growing exponentially and fresh grads getting pumped in corporates, your skill set after five years out of the market is going to be hard to sell. And if you have spent time and money on education and building a career, you must strongly consider what you may be giving up if you take time out of the workforce.
If you want to focus on your kids now, rather than your career, you must have a plan for keeping your skills sharp and staying on top of changes in your profession, as well as thinking ahead to how you might re-enter the workforce. Skill enhancing websites like Udemy, Skillshare are a wonderful tool available for such case.
Guess what? You don’t really need to make an all-or-nothing kind-of decision in this debate! Part-time jobs, work-from-home options, Freelancing, Contract jobs are the thing of today’s times. More so, there’s no harm in exploring an alternate arrangement when it comes to your partner’s job. There’s no reason your partner can’t take a step back from his career so you can focus on yours. Think about it!
5. Kids would be just Fine!
Having spent two years at home with kids, it was hard for me to imagine balancing all that with a job. But trust me, at the end of it, kids do perfectly fine. Talk to fellow moms who have done this smoothly or have sailed in the same boat. Look out for a comfortable, stress free and loving daycare option for kids. Face that monstrous enemy of yours called the “Mommy Guilt” and answer out all the doubts that exist!
Whatever you decide, be kind to yourself. The truth is, you can have it all—a happy family life and a fulfilling career—but you can’t do it all. If you’re working, you’ll be pulled in a bunch of directions at once. You’re guaranteed to find moms who’ve made different decisions—that’s OK. Own yours.
The fact is that leaving a job-as an option- would always exist, and probably is just a click away. But going back on that decision might not be an option once done.