I’m Thinking of Quitting My Job to Stay At Home with My Kids! Anything Wrong With That? Letters from my Followers.

Dear Stephen,

I am going through an early midlife job crisis. I am a mid-level sales executive and a Mom of three children who are all under twelve. I like my job one day and then I hate it the next. I have a supportive husband, but I am the one making everyone’s lunches, doing the grocery shopping, cleaning the house, and coordinating most of the after school activities, all while trying to juggle my job too. There’s just too much to do. Some days I think my head is going to explode. Both my husband and I make in the mid six figures, and we spend every penny--and not on just silly things. The vast majority of our paychecks go to child care. I am torn between quitting my job to be a stay at home Mom and continuing to work and hiring more people to help me around the house, which I can’t really afford. I also don’t really know if I want to give up my career. I just have no idea what the answer is. We really need two incomes to continue living like we do, but if I were at home all day we could save significant money on childcare and give my children much more attention. I know this is a personal decision, but it feels so deeply tied to my job that I wanted your advice! What should I do?


Mixed-Up Mom


Dear Mom:

I hear this same question over and over. First, it is astonishing how much parents have to pay for childcare. Equally astonishing is how many parents have to do it all on their own, without support from their employers or the government. Happily, there are some companies in our industry, like Herman Miller (I don’t like to shout out companies in this space, but they deserve the laudits here!), who have committed tons of resources to helping working moms succeed professionally. In fact, Herman Miller is consistently listed on Working Mother’s list of the top 100 companies for women to work, primarily on the force of their flexible leave and childcare support policies.

Not all of us are lucky enough to work for companies that offer this level of help, though. And so, unfortunately, your conundrum is a common one. I’ll note that I hear this from men, too--not quite as much, perhaps, but it certainly isn’t an issue that only women confront.

The first thing you need to do is take a full accounting of your salary and expenses, both related and unrelated to childcare. You’d be amazed by how many people can solve this problem with this simple step. Consider what percentage of your income goes to childcare; consider how much you have to pay on your mortgage; consider how much you spend on groceries; consider how much you spend on gas. Think about all of your expenses honestly. After working through this exercise, most people will either realize that it won’t actually be so hard to stop working if they want to or that no matter how badly they want to stay at home they just won’t be able to make ends meet. Of course, it won’t be that cut and dry for many, but it is the right place to start regardless. It’s essential to know exactly how your life will change before you make this sort of decision.

If you are one of those people who straddle the line of possibility, start thinking seriously about why you are working. Is your job fulfilling? What would you miss most? If or when you want to go back to work, will you be able to? How would staying at home change your quality of life? These are hard questions, but you need to think deeply about them to make an informed choice. This is one of those decisions that should be about more than a gut feeling. You can let your gut guide your decision, but don’t let it make the decision on its own.

Okay, now that I’ve thrown out all my process mumbo jumbo, let me offer some advice--one parent to another. I have never heard of anyone who regretted quitting their job to stay at home with their kids for a couple of years. Now, it’s common for some to get bored and jump back into work after a couple of months, but not a single person has ever told me that they regret that initial decision to stay home. If you’re lucky enough to be able to raise your kids, it’s a special blessing. Maybe more importantly, though, if your numbers tell you that you can’t take off work, no matter how much you want to, you really need to listen to that ledger.

Women will also express apprehension on occasion because they perceive being out of work as old fashioned and believe people look down on stay at home moms. While I understand where this anxiety comes from, the truth is that there has been a sharp uptick in the number of stay at home moms of late. And the numbers of stay at home dads are at an historic high (admittedly for slightly different reasons, perhaps). Tending to children isn’t just a relic from the past. A new generation of young parents, who are conscientious about work-life balance are choosing to dial back their time at work and commit to raising their children. I think this will only become more common, too.

Either way, there’s no need to go full bore and quit immediately. If your company allows--as many do nowadays--take a leave of absence and see how it feels. From there, you’ll be able to make the most informed decision, and that’s all you can really ask for.

~ Stephen