Several weeks ago a friend of mine handed me a copy of a magazine. It was the New York Times and on its cover was the headline, “The Mid Career Time Out”. What was interesting about receiving the magazine was two other friends recommended I read the same cover article.
The cover article is a follow-up of a previous article featured in the Times called, “The Opt-Out Revolution”, by Lisa Belkin. It discusses the what has happened to a small group of highly educated, very accomplished, and well paid women who made headlines leaving their successful careers to stay home and care for their children.
My friends thought of me because I stepped away from my career many years ago to stay home and raise my boys and now am back to work. However, unlike most of the women featured in the article I knew from the moment I got pregnant I would stay home to care for my children. Most of the women switched to stay home after they realized the demands of a career and caring for a family were too overwhelming.
Looking back at my decision to stay home with the boys, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. At times I wish I would have waited a few years longer to return because my little son is still young. However, I realized the longer I waited to find work, the harder it would have been for me to find work.
Unlike the women featured in the article I didn’t feel like I was missing out of a career when I was home with the boys. Only in the last few years have I felt the desire to do something other than mothering. Creating my blog was a result of trying to find out what that ‘something’ is.
The article talks about how hard the transition is for stay home moms to return back to work after a long absence (ten years or more). Several women have returned to jobs that were much less paying and less prestigious. That has been the case for myself. My current job pays less than 2/3 of what I was making 18 years ago. But like myself, most of the women featured who returned to work were happy to have found a job and when they did it was more likely to be one that was more family friendly.
When I was younger I didn’t worry about things like how I would find work, social security, retirement for myself, and having money of my own. The early years of my happy marriage made me feel immune to worrying about such trivial matters.
However, as I entered into middle age I realized how easily I could lose everything. Watching several of my stay home friends go through a midlife divorce, made me realize I was ill-equipped to care for myself or the boys if something terrible should happen. In the last few years I realized I needed to find a way to not just bring in money, but to be able to support my family. I started to panic realizing not only did I need to work for financial reasons, but for security if my husband were to lose his job.
One of the reasons I accepted my current job was because it’s a management position. I feel most comfortable in the leadership role, even though it can be challenging. Finding a management job, after a long absence from work is unusual. Most women returning to work have to start at the bottom and prove their skills are up to date. I was fortunate to have been hired by a school when people knew of my capabilities and didn’t see my work absence as a negative thing. Few jobs view women being out of the workforce as being positive.
For myself my return to work is a result of timing and luck. My oldest son can drive to pick up his younger brothers from school. He is 17 and capable to care for his brothers until my husband gets home from work each day. So the time was right. Luck also had a huge part of me returning to work. The job opened at my little son’s school and luckily the school was willing to take a chance on someone who has not worked for while.
When someone asked me the other day if I felt like I should have returned to work sooner I said no. I opted out of a career years ago to do my passion in life, being a mother. It’s the job I have always loved most. I am fortunate that motherhood is career choice I will never have to give up.