One of the great misconceptions of modern womanhood is that you’re either a career woman or a stay-at-home mom. The truth is that you’ll probably change roles a few times over the course of your adult life and, in some seasons, live in a sort of in-between place—with one foot in each world. Perhaps the toughest part of these changing dynamics in your family and professional life is that it brings you back to “the question” over and over again: To work or not to work?
One of the great misconceptions of modern womanhood is that you’re either a career woman or a stay-at-home mom.
If you’re currently at one of those moments where you’re wrestling the question, we’re here to help! No, we can’t make the answers easy or the realities of our choices less real. But we can give you some objective questions to ask yourself to make the better choice—for today, anyway—more readily apparent.
From analyzing your financial situation to breaking down current needs of your family, these 5 Ways to Decide if You Should Be a Working Mom will help you separate emotions and fear from facts so that you can make the best possible decision.
And remember, this is the best answer for today, not the best answer forever. So don’t saddle yourself with the weight of the universe regarding your decision, whatever it is.
1. What are your true financial needs?
This is tricky because we have a hard time in 2014 separating true needs from lifestyle choices. Do you need more resources for essentials such as healthcare insurance or educational costs for your children? Or do you feel like you need to buy a bigger home for your growing family? Ask yourself the hard questions: Is this a real need, or a major want? And we’re not suggesting the major wants are always off the table as a reason to work outside the home. But it is important to be transparent with yourself and your spouse about the reasons for your choice so that you can weight them with honesty against the things you’ll be giving up to get them.
2. What are the intangible costs and benefits?
Not all of the pluses and minuses of your professional choices can be entered into a spreadsheet but that doesn’t make them less real. Lost family time is a real cost, and the increased life satisfaction that comes with achievement in the workplace is a real benefit. You may not know all of the intangibles that your choice comes with on the front end, but you can likely estimate them based on past experience or observing other working moms and stay-at-home moms around you. Give them a name and write them down.
3. What are the real costs and benefits?
Simply put: Run the numbers. Project how much additional income you could expect from your job, and subtract all the costs you will incur as a professional that you don’t have now. Don’t forget to factor in employment benefits such as group health insurance and retirement savings contributions, if you would be taking advantage of those in your position.
4. What are the current needs of your family?
We say “current” because this changes multiple times over the years. If your children are toddlers, you might feel like leaving them every day is a huge sacrifice. But when they’re in grammar school all day, a job for you might seem much more doable—not always easy, but doable. Do any of your children or your spouse have special health, behavioral, or emotional needs right now that need to be considered?
5. What types of hybrid work schedules are available to you?
I know several moms who wouldn’t be open to working a full 9-5 during certain seasons of family life. But they have found ideal job niches along the way that help out: a part-time position somewhere or a full-time job in your child’s school or preschool so that your daily and holiday schedules match perfectly. If you have creative skills like writing or graphic design, contract work done chiefly from home might be a great fit. Lots of women nurture a business venture which they can start small–and on their own terms—and grow as time and circumstances allow.
If two careers is the right plan for your family, learn to navigate the hills and valleys of your busy life with our Guide to Two-Career Family Sanity.
Have you entered and exited the job market more than once? Which factors influenced your decision the most?