You may have seen articles floating around on social media that reference things like, “Sons of full time working moms more likely to help their future wives with household duties” or “Daughters of working moms will earn more money in their lifetime than daughters of stay at home moms.” They may be based on data and could be true, I’m not sure. When I was in the prime of my career, I would see these articles and mentally pat myself on the back. I would be proud of myself and my daughter who would someday be a badass working woman earning an above average income.
When I started having thoughts that I wasn’t happy in my career any longer, these same articles were in the back of my mind. Would a decision to stay at home put my kids at a disadvantage? Would my daughter achieve less in life? Would my son think that women stay home while dads go out and work?
I was worried that my decision to leave would look weak. I was worried that I’d be letting down my kids, especially my daughter.
So, what did I do about it? I started researching online in search of women sharing their experiences with this same decision. I didn’t encounter any stories that really felt like “me.” It seemed to be women telling other women that letting someone else raise your children (meaning childcare) was wrong – that didn’t resonate with me. My children LOVED their preschool and before/after school care. We always considered childcare providers as an extension of our family and had been blessed with people that loved our children. Our kids were doing tons of artwork and activities that I didn’t think I enjoyed doing myself.
For me personally, this was about feeling that my life was unbalanced. I was tired and feeling unhealthy overall. I kept hearing a voice telling me to slow down. But for the reasons above (and more), I hesitated to listen to that voice.
I talked about my feelings with my husband at length for months. He told me that walking away from my job wasn’t weak, but that it was something that showed strength. He helped me understand that I was taking control of my life instead of letting it run away from me, and that was powerful. Talking about my feelings helped me process things. When you are trying to make a big decision in life, it’s important to have at least one person you can talk to about it. That person doesn’t have to be your spouse – it could be a good friend, a parent, a sibling, or a therapist. If your decision effects your family and your spouse, then your spouse should be at least one of the people you talk to in order to maintain a healthy relationship. Shout out to all the supportive partners out there (especially mine).
There are many factors that go into deciding to leave a career and stay home with your children. It is not a decision to be made hastily. If you understand the financial consequences and know that your household can make it on one income (while still living a lifestyle you are happy with and saving for your future), you may still feel held back in making the leap. Especially if you are a woman with a daughter.
Please know this: you are not letting down your daughter by choosing to follow your heart.
Yes, it’s important for our children to have positive role models to look up to, and our actions do affect them. A decision to leave a career is teaching your daughter that you can do anything you set your mind to, just like being a senior leader at a software company is teaching her the same thing. If she wants to be a boss and take on leadership roles in a company, then she can do it. If she wants to be a boss and stay home and take care of herself and her family, then she can do it.
Let’s show our children that it’s okay to change your mind. Let’s show our children that they are in control of their own destiny. Let’s show our children to be reflective on their goals and then achieve them.
If you have ever grappled with these feelings (man or woman, kids or no kids), I would love to hear your experience. In telling our stories, we not only learn more about ourselves, but maybe we help someone else come to their decision faster.