Stay at home or go back to work? 4 Things new moms need to consider
Returning to work after an almost four-month-long maternity leave was difficult for me. I loved my job and I love the people I worked with--but I love my son more, and each day that passed prior to my return was like a ticking time bomb. I cried. A lot. But when the day came it wasn't as bad as I expected. I was so busy catching up on everything and getting back in the swing of things that I didn't have a whole lot of time to be upset.
However, as the weeks passed by and I settled into my new routine, I became weary. I commuted in heavy traffic for more than two hours a day only to get home and spend the next two hours feeding, eating, and prepping for the next morning. To make matters worse, my son had stopped sleeping through the night a few days before my first day back. After two months I was barely getting by. Fortunately, my husband was presented with a job opportunity that we could not pass up, and since we both agreed that daycare wasn't an option, this meant that I would need to quit working full-time and stay home with my son. We are making a lot less money, and I still work from home part-time, but over the past few weeks my life has changed dramatically--I literally feel like a weight has been lifted.
Strangely, if someone had asked me a few years ago if this is what I wanted the answer would have been a resounding "no." But after my son's birth, I was forced to put a lot of thought into what was best for our individual family and I can say with confidence, that this is it. Here are the four major things we considered when making this decision:
1. What are your goals? It's important to figure out if you can take time off to be with your child and still be able to achieve your career goals. Are you willing to shift or amend your goals? Now's a good time to reevaluate and decide what your priorities are. As a journalist, I've always had freelance work as a possibility and for me, it's always been an appealing one. So now was the perfect time to pursue that.
2. Then there's the matter of money. Of course, money is a deal breaker--we work to make a living. You'll need to determine whether you can afford to live on a single income. Had my husband not gotten a new job--one that has good potential for future earnings--there is no way I could have quit my full-time job. Things will be tight for awhile, but we decided that we were willing to make that sacrifice. If you simply can't afford it or you don't want to lower your standard of living, perhaps you can reduce your hours or find a job with a shorter commute?
3. Weigh all the benefits. Do you receive health benefits for your family through your place of work? Children--especially infants--are at the doctor's office seemingly all the time, making medical coverage a huge deal. If you can't afford independent health insurance, to pay out of pocket or your significant other does not have employer-sponsored coverage, you should probably return to work. When we learned that we would get better coverage for less money through my husband's new job, it meant we could check one more thing off our list.
4. Consider your won well-being. My physical and emotional well-being was being severely affected by the hours I spent away from my family each day. I was exhausted. Full disclosure: my gums were still bleeding daily and my hair was still shedding excessively six months after giving birth. After a week of being home, both stopped. I was also cranky, tense and tearful most of the time, which was affecting my relationship with my husband and my patience with just about everyone. For me, these things alone were enough to make me willing to sacrifice material things and shift my career goals. But if post-baby you still can't imagine living the life of a homemaker or even that of a work-at-home mom, you just might be more fulfilled working outside of the home.
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How did you decide whether to stay home or return to work after the birth of your baby?