Trying to Answer the Unanswerable Question: To Work or Not to Work?

I tried to find a googleable answer to this impossible question when I was pregnant with my third baby. Let me spare you the search- there is no answer (duh). But what really surprised me was how little there was in the way of info from moms who have been there/done that. I wanted to know why they left their careers. How they felt long term and short term after their decision. Did they stay at home after their first child or later? Did anyone decide to keep working and then regret it once their kids were grown? In looking back was anyone glad that they returned to work after baby? Since I couldn’t find any of those answers from other women, I’ll give you mine. Maybe it’ll help. Maybe it won’t. But either way, here’s the path I took. And in hindsight, I still wouldn’t change it one bit. 

When we had our first kiddo in 2010 I was working for an orthodontist. The people were amazing, the hours were wonderful, the job was flexible, and the pay was great. So while our plan had always been for me to stay at home after kids, I loved my job so much that I decided to keep working. Our second child was born in 2012 and again, I decided to go back to work. In 2013 is when it all started to change. 

My husband and I wanted another kiddo and our plan was to have the baby before our oldest was in kindergarten. That meant three kids in daycare. Do you know much it costs to put three kids in daycare?? It’s north of $30k a year. $30K. A YEAR. I made good money in my job, but not THAT good. And working in a small office meant there wasn’t any room for significant financial growth. So I left. I joined the corporate world. I gave myself about 18 months to work my way up to a position that would allow me the option to keep working once baby3 came along. 

 To make a long story as short as possible, we found out that two parents working 40+ hours a week each with two young children and one on the way is hard. Very hard. All the cheers to those of you that do it. I felt like we were in a routine of get everyone up and fed, one person takes them to daycare while the other one gets ready, swing back by the house and pick up the other person, work, drop one person off at home to get dinner started while the other one picks up the kids, eat, bed. We didn’t feel like there was any time for…… time. Does that sound weird? Our life felt like a checklist of things to get done Monday-Friday and it didn’t feel like there was any substance to what we were doing.

So after the birth of our third child in less than four years, I decided to stay home. It was scary and I wasn’t sure how I would handle it. Of course there were times of extreme difficulty and loneliness, but they were thankfully short lived. I quickly found a super amazing group of women (I met them at the gym, in case you’re wondering where to go to meet mom friends) who happen to have amazing children and husbands. I feel like our lives are much more fulfilling, exciting, and social than they ever would have been had I continued to work.

If I had to go back and do it again, I would do it the exact same way. First, I would work a job with flexible hours that allows me to spend a lot of time with my children while preserving my own sense of self as a working woman. Then, I would still leave that job to see what life would be like if both of us worked salaried 40+ hour a week jobs. And I would still leave it all behind to stay at home. I’m fortunate enough to have been able to experience mom-life from all angles: mostly full time flexible work, full time crazy work, and sahm. If you’re in a similar situation and not sure what to do, I would first recommend you talk to lots of people who have been there, done that, or are going through it right now. The one piece of advice that always stuck with me when trying to figure out what was best for our family was when my manager told me that no matter what I decided to do, the one thing I would never ever regret was spending more time with my kids. He was right.

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