Deciding whether or not to work as a mother is a big deal. Either choice has major benefits and major draw backs. The good news is neither decision is permanent.
Accepting a job while pregnant
When I graduated college, I was 2 months pregnant with my first child. I hated the idea of putting my life on hold and sitting around for 7 months waiting to be a mother. I also hated the idea of being hired by a company due to non-discrimination laws, getting trained for a few months, then quitting before the company got anything useful out of me. I never even considered being a working mother.
I was raised by an educated stay at home mother who wanted nothing more than to raise her kids well. For her, that meant not leaving her primary roles of teaching, caring, and loving to someone else. She wanted her kids to know that they were always her priority and she was always their mom. As one of her 10 children, I am very grateful for her efforts and sacrifices.
Knowing that nothing is more important than family, and not wanting to inconvenience the company, my mind concluded that working temporary jobs until the baby came was the right thing to do. The only problem was it went against two of my life rules:
Life Rule # 1: Take the big option that makes you the most excited. It is the scary ones that build you.
Life Rule # 2: Don’t let other people’s problems take away from your or your family’s life. (But still be nice and helpful!)
(Life Rule # 3 can be found here)
Truthfully, I was afraid to take a “real” job. I knew I could give the cafeteria their money’s worth making omelets. I knew I could give friends their money’s worth putting together remote controlled airplanes. But could I give a company paying $30/hr their money’s worth doing engineering work? The thought was terrifying. When I had the pregnancy excuse, it was so easy to back out and no one could argue. In my heart I knew I’d regret it.
As for rule # 2, I’ve seen people go both ways. My sister was in the process of submitting an application for a full-time mission program while working as a temporary employee. At the end of the season, they offered her a permanent position. She told them about her intent to leave in less than a year for the mission. Naturally, they hired someone else. She then met several delays in the submission process and once accepted, had to wait for her reporting date. In the end she spent months at home doing nothing to move her life forward.
On the other hand, I had a co-worker for 2 weeks. He started work, got an acceptance on another offer which happened to be his dream job, and was gone a week later. I was shocked by my supervisors and co-workers reaction. They were excited for him and so glad that he got his dream job. They were disappointed that they didn’t get to keep him, but knew he made the right career choice and supported him fully.
Continuing work as a mother
I had decided that I would continue working before accepting the job. Even if I hadn’t continued, I would have been much happier and more useful with that mindset. It took my brother-in-law telling me his rule, give it a full year before deciding to quit, that I realized I could do it. Maybe I couldn’t, shouldn’t, or didn’t want to permanently, but I sure could for a year. If I were to choose a year to share my mothering roles, it might as well be the one they are learning about things like objects are permanent, not things like lying is wrong.
A story that helped me in my decision was from my sister-in-law. She was promoted to manage a healthcare facility she worked extremely long hours and lived an hour away. She didn’t have enough time to sleep, let alone spend time with her three teenage kids. It clearly wasn’t a good lifestyle to sustain, but it was the life that God had brought her to. I remember thinking, “how could this be the right answer?” Then things changed. She went to quit her job because it was just too much. They counter offered her with her old position, management salary, and Fridays off. Now she had the time she needed for her family with the money to go on adventures with them. Sometimes the right answer isn’t the ultimate answer, but if God is kept in your decisions, it will end up right.
I am so grateful I decided to work and to stick to it. It continues to bless my family all the time. Because I went back to work, my milk supply dried and hormones returned to normal allowing me to have another baby only 13 months apart. Because I earned additional income, we were able to buy a house and second vehicle shortly after college. Because my husband and I worked similar jobs, I am able to understand and connect with him about work. Because I held an engineering job, I know I’m an engineer and will hold myself to it and feel more confident for the rest of my life.
It was difficult, but I can’t say that being a stay at home mom would have been easier. Babies are just hard. There were times when it took everything not to fall asleep at the desk (not always sucessful). There were times when it was a logistical nightmare to get a parent to the daycare in time to pick her up. I LOVED being a parent though. I shared a cube with three child-less guys and they must have been so paitent with me because I talked about my baby constantly. The daycare was fantastic. I often was greeted with a funny story about my baby. She learned things much earlier than my other two children. I have almost nothing bad to say about that period of my life.
Deciding to quit
As my baby girl grew, the more I realized that this was not the permanent solution. The daycare was fantastic. The two incomes were helpful. The work was enjoyable. I didn’t feel like I was progressing through life though. I realized I was just waiting to have baby #2 because that was the next step in my life plan. I hate waiting, so I got my husband’s permission to move forward again after only 1 month back at work.
This time I wasn’t sure whether or not to continue work. Financially, there would be little return. Much of my income would go to day care and the rest would be taxed at a higher tax bracket. My blogging inspiration, Sarah Titus, wrote a great ebook that shows how much hidden cost there really is as a working mother. The problem was, I was afraid again. It was hard for me to be home during maternity leave. I was so busy, yet so bored. I felt like I was just checking off days, waiting for her to grow. I hate waiting, especially on life.
If I kept working, I would be active and engaged, always working together with my husband to try and accomplish the challenges of working parents. It was the life I had grown used to. If I quit, I would be able to raise my children as a full-time parent. It would be much harder, but I knew I needed to take the big scary option and quit.
Now I will never look back. I missed my co-workers a lot and was even tempted to call the status hotline to try to piece together what they were up to. I love being retired so much more! Because I do all of the data collection and number crunching, I still feel like a financial partner to my husband (I guarantee I stretch our money to cover my half). Because I can get most of the chores done while he is at work, we get so much more family time. Because I’m with my children throughout the day, they are learning so much more about the gospel from little discussions here and there. Because I am my own manager, I have opportunities for personal development projects (like this blog). I feel like there is so much more meaning in my life.
In the end, it comes down to this: study it out, pray, pinpoint your emotions to know exactly why you are choosing your option, and remember it is okay to change. Both options are very hard, but that little person will bring so much joy!
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed or certified financial coach, planner or adviser, just an enthusiast. Anything I recommend should be personally analyzed and discussed with your financial adviser.