Motherhood is really a complicated endeavor full of so many choices and so many twists and turns that it's no wonder we all become horrifically insecure and bound and determined to prove our choices are superior to others. The reality is, sadly, there is no one right path. There is no one recipe for raising a successful child and there is no one right answer as to whether or not a woman should quit her job to be home with her children.
There are so many variables that go into a decision like that and countless articles have been written advocating either side of the equation. Few of these articles mention the bigger issues that go into these decisions -- affordable childcare, better maternity leave, etc. -- but they are still worth discussing.
The latest, one from The New York Times, is a fascinating look at three women who "opted out" a decade ago and are now facing the consequences of their decisions. In short: It's not pretty.
Most of these women (OK, all of them) are privileged. These are women whose husbands earn close to seven figures and for whom money isn't an issue, so let's just make that clear. These aren't the average stay-at-home moms. However, they make some really good points. Drawing from the article, we've pulled 5 reasons being a stay-at-home-mom may not be the best decision.
1.) You could get divorced: One of the moms in the story DID get divorced and getting herself back up to speed on things wasn't exactly a simple thing. She quit at the top of her game career-wise and lost a lot of time and money because of it. Is it fair? No. Is it right? Again, no. But it's the reality. Women who opt out can be left by their spouses and be left financially devastated.
2.) You lose valuable skills: Another thing some of the women in the article (and in my life) complain about is the loss of job skills. Some women (like one in the piece) are lucky enough to parlay skills they earned through school volunteering and such into lucrative, flexible jobs. But that is the exception more than the rule.
3.) Your self-esteem plummets: For many of the women, it wasn't just about money, but also about self-esteem. I know when I was staying home, I felt like my husband was bored by most of what I had to talk about. Now that I am working again, we have a lot more to talk about.
4.) It creates resentment with the spouse: A lot of the women in the piece said that their high-earning spouse wanted them to stay home. But then in times of recession or economic downturn, they become resentful of that decision that forces them to work that much harder. One dad said:
I wonder what I could have done, having 12 years to sort of think about what I want to do. I sometimes think, Wow, I could have been an astronaut in 12 years, or I could have been something different that I’d really enjoy and that I never was afforded the financial opportunity or the time or the resources to enjoy. Maybe call it jealousy. Maybe envy. What could I have been in 12 years of self-discovery? I’ll go out on a limb and say: "I’d like to try it. It looks pretty good to me."
5.) The family makes less: Even if there is no divorce, your husband could lose his job. Even a man making $500,000 a year isn't going to have a lot left when he has three kids, a $4,000 mortgage, private school tuition, and no job. And moms with no jobs find jumping back in may not be as easy as they hoped. One mom in the piece said:
I lose sleep and have great anxiety over the thought that we have three kids who are three years apart in age and we’ll be paying for 12 years of college. Every time my daughter says, "I’ll be out of here in two years" is every time I go to bed at night and say: "Oh, my God. Can we sustain what we need for her and for the other one and for the other one and us and everything else?"
It's not a decision for everyone and some of these women were happy. But getting the full picture of years of stay-at-home-motherhood is a valuable exercise. For me, it has reaffirmed my commitment to go back to work. Then again, I have a job I do at home with a lot of flexibility. I know I am lucky. These decisions aren't easy ones.
Still, I feel grateful that I am able to contribute to our family financially, grow my career, and also be home when my kids get home from school, and for now, I wouldn't change a thing.
Would you ever quit your job?
Image via Scott/Flickr