How To Think Through Going Back To Work

Work/Family Balance

Daycare is indispensable to a working mom

Sometimes mothers get trapped in the maze of expectations we have put on them, you know what I mean? The “battle” between stay-at-home moms, work-at-home moms, and work-away-from-home moms almost seems like a marketing ploy to get you to buy magazines or books. Seriously, though. The industry puts so much pressure on women to be EVERYTHING. This is a topic close to my heart as I am a working mother of young, but-getting-bigger-by-the-minute-just-ask-them children. The truth is that every family has to crunch the numbers, decide what their priorities need to be, and ignore the critics who disagree with their choices. It helps when you have asked the questions that matter and come up with your best shot at an answer.
Why do you want to go back to work? Are we talking money, fear of losing your career gains, or mental/adult stimulation (I get that part, for sure!)? Or something else? Clarifying your reasons helps you address the problems you want to solve. It also may help you figure out creative solutions that can look different than your pre-baby job.
How much will it cost to go back to work? Nobody can answer that for sure. You have to take your own paycheck and benefits then subtract child care, wardrobe, commuting expenses, lunches, convenience foods (you know you will be getting more of those) and whatever else might apply. The number you have left is what you have to work with for bills. Is it enough to be worth the extra effort and stress?
How old are your kids? I know it feels like you are trapped in the house of diapers, but these years really do go by fast. My youngest just turned eight. How can that be? Think about the costs of daycare. Can you hold out until they are in school if child care costs are prohibitive? Do you have a good source for child care that you are comfortable with? Perhaps another stay-at-home mom would consider watching your children.
Can you start out part time or work from home? This is often a good transition for the family. It helps everyone figure out how things will work when Mom is gone or unavailable. If you decide to become a work-at-home mom, be prepared for the reality of working from home. You will cut the costs of working at an office, but you will have to discipline yourself from throwing in another load of laundry, or sitting down to watch, “Ellen”. You will also have to consider that your children will still think you are “mom”, and will take quite some time to get them to understand you are working. Are they old enough to keep themselves busy for a full day? Will you have a nanny, or other in-home care on the days when you have to be on calls or in a virtual meeting?
There is no “perfect” solution to the question of going back to work because there is no “perfect” family or job. Whatever you decide, there will be some rough patches. But that is life, right? We have to look at the facts about where things stand, acknowledge the emotions that are part of those facts, and decide what to do for right now. It helps a lot when the inevitable rough patches or criticism comes to have thought through the questions and clarified why you have made this choice for your family’s best interests.