Reentering the Workforce after Having Children: The Internal War Women Wage with Themselves
By Diane Lang, M.A.
Forget about the Mommy Wars — the supposed battle between stay-at-home and career-oriented mothers. Watch out for the battle going on closer to home: the internal debate of deciding which option is right for you.
As a therapist and life coach, I’ve seen firsthand how hard women are on themselves. Mothers are constantly asking themselves impossible questions: How can I be the best parent if I choose to work outside the home? Could I work part-time and have the best of both worlds? Which choice will bring me the most happiness?
Here’s my advice: Don’t let fear paralyze you. Instead, let the fear guide you to good decisions about whether a job outside the home is right for you and your family—at this point in your life. Women tend to get caught up in the notion that this is a decision they only have to make once, when, in fact, your situation — as well as your motivation to work outside the home — may change as time goes by.
So where do you begin? You start by taking a close, honest look at your motivation. Is going back to work right now really right for you? Being a mom is a full-time job. Moms work 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. You already have a lot of responsibility. Are you ready for more?
Then ask yourself this: Do I want a job or career? There is notable difference between the two. A job can bring you a paycheck and benefits; a career, on the other hand, is something you feel passionate about, something that creates a sense of purpose and happiness in your life. You also have to consider how the job or career will fit into your already full life. No matter which option you choose, it must align with your values. Consider how many hours you want to work, whether you’ll be able to take time off for your child’s illness or “special occasions” at school, or whether you’ll have flexibility to take time off during your child’s school holidays. Only by evaluating what’s important to you will you be able to find work that brings you real job satisfaction.
Next — and this is a big one — you must consider whether your decision is financially feasible. Going back to work might not put more money in your pocket. How is that possible? Well, for starters, you’ll have to pay a sitter for your travel time, and that’s time when you’re not actually making money. There’s also commuting costs, whether it be gas, car maintenance, bus passes, or train tickets. You’ll probably have to buy a new wardrobe. And you’re likely to incur “incidental expenses” associated with going back to work — like lunches out, or pitching in for a coworker’s baby gift. Those financial commitments could take a significant chunk out of your paycheck. Will you still be ahead?