Career Decisions

The Stay At Home Decision

To stay at home or not stay at home… that is the question.

I truly am the luckiest person in the world. My husband and I started planning for a family a few years ago including choosing to sell our huge, craftyexpensive house and stashing extra money away for a “stay at home” fund.  The hubster let me know that it’s my choice to stay home with our daughter or head back to work – whatever made more sense for me and for us. We chose not to plan too much ahead of the pregnancy, but set ourselves up to have a choice when the time came.

For the last 13 years, I have been a full-time career woman. Starting with some time at a big four consulting firm. I got my feet wet in process optimization and fell into deep love with the study of how processes, people and technology can work together to be more efficient and make customers happy. Between large company consulting, small company consulting, full time analysis work at large companies, corporate instruction and finally, starting my own independent consulting practice, I never let myself get stale. It was exhilarating getting to know great people in the business, get my hands on some of the processes owned by the worlds biggest brands. As stressed out as I got sometimes, I loved what I did because I cared about the results and the people with whom I worked.

Then, we got pregnant. My head spun around so fast that I wasn’t sure what to do. How can I maintain this breakneck speed while growing a kiddo? And what happens after? I was SO TIRED that I could barely make it into the office on time. When we had a couple failed pregnancies, I knew I had to do something different.

A very long story short – I am so glad I chose to stay home for a while during my pregnancy and worked with my husband to de-stress our life. We re-evaluated everything and decided on a much simpler, less expensive, more relaxing existence. I am almost 6 months into parenthood and can’t imagine the mental struggle of being forced back to work for financial or other purposes. I would not be my best – there would be no fire and energy in my work because my heart would want to be at home. Now that I have experienced this, I fully respect those women who have to go back to work to support their families. Hats off to you for making it work.

I loved this article from the Atlantic which digs into the reasons why women stay home – even those who were seemingly “not the stay at home type”. While I don’t have an advanced degree from Northwestern, I can relate to a lot of the notes they discuss – especially the emotional bond part.

I chuckle as I read this because even though I am in love with my daughter and being home with her, I can also understand why some women look forward to getting back to work as well. Somewhere between hearing Hakuna Matata for the 600th time and the isolation of being a new mamma, there have been times where I was ready to drop her off and head back to the world of adult conversations.

When I map out our options – both the stay at home and the go back to work option seems to make sense for us – they both seem to create a life of happiness and they would both work. The thing that sways me to stay at home at the moment is my daughters giggle. Holy crap – that giggle makes my heart sing in ways that a fully implemented, tested and measured process improvement never good. Close… but not quite. I know that I want to go back to work at some point, both for me and for her, but I’m glad I don’t have to trade in that giggle just yet.

So here we are – six months in and looking toward the future. I still have the choice to stay home or not, and it really does seem to change from week to week. I know that if I wanted to go back to work that I need to get on some waiting lists for daycare and start deciding what “work” means for me in a post child era. I keep checking in with myself on this part… and so far, I’m happier being home. I love being a baby giggle hog. I do think that at some point its going to be better for myself and for baby girl to have more social interaction in a day care setting, but for now, I just try and introduce her to as many things as possible and steal as many naps and snuggles as she will let me.

I feel like this post has the potential to spiral out of control, so I’m going to reign it back in…my original intent was to note what has “softened the blow” to my mental stability as I transitioned from career woman to mamma. Here goes:

First – sleep, eat and exercise! Whatever works for you, make sure you work out something with your partner or a friend so that you get sleep. Find ways to eat good things and make time for exercise. Exercise helped me with the baby blues as well as regaining some semblance of a figure. Seriously – 30 minutes of sweating is a life saver.

Second – have one adult conversation at least once per day. The cheese lady at Fred Meyer is my default. My daughter and I will take a walk down the road and stop in to chat with Joy who is a total delight. The cheese samples aren’t bad either. I also have regular coffee dates with friends from all walks of life. (It is also great that they love to hold babies and give my arms a break)

Finally – Schedule date nights, you time and family time. Yes I said schedule. At least for us, there are so many things that can knock you off track. Be sure you have at least an hour or two per week just for you, a set day where you can get out of the house with your partner for a fun date and a set time for all of you to go out and do something together. This works really well for us. We are getting better at that second piece, but find ourselves reconnected after weekly dates (even in-house dates when she is in bed).

I love being supported in these decisions – yet another reason why I married the best man on Earth. The freedom to choose what is best for you and your family is such a relief. With these little tricks I have learned, I feel like I haven’t completely lost my career edge or my mental capacity to engage in multi-syllabic conversations. It ultimately leads us all to be a much happier family.

What are some ways that you cope with being home all day with your baby? What made you chose to stay at home or go back to work? Please share!



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