Are you on month #42 of deciding whether to return to work? Unless you believe you have a strong financial need (to fund your life today or in the future), your indecision could drag on for many months or years to come.
Some women finally get to a point where they need a new source of interest and fulfillment, and others finally decide that they have plenty of compelling activities to fill their days. If you feel like you could literally go either way, I’ll offer up three reasons you should nix working–at least for the near-term:
1. You don’t have 100% buy-in from your family. When women return to work after a long time at home, family dynamics come into play. Do you have a husband who believes too much will change at home for too little economic return? Do you have children who worry that you won’t be home when they get home from school? Do you have a needy family member who believes only you can handle frequent “emergency” calls? If a similar situation is yours, put the brakes on any back to work plan. You need more time to figure out how work can work for both you and your family. Though you might be tempted to say everyone will adjust, the fact is that unresolved family issues will pull you out of the workforce faster than your first paycheck arrives.
2. You’re not willing to commit to “formal” child care options. Many women return to the workforce before they have fully thought through their year-round child care needs. This includes often full-time needs during the summer—a fact that takes many women by surprise and causes last-minute scrambling for help. Unless you have a family member you can always count on for flexible full-time coverage, you need to look into daycare, long-term babysitters (who, depending on the age of your children, may need to adjust their summer hours), year-round nannies, summer nannies, college students looking to babysit for one family during the school year and/or the summer, etc. If you don’t put a formal arrangement in place, anything you try to cobble together is likely to fall apart and send you back home.
3. You have no idea what you want to do. Even women who live in affluent households come to a point where they would like to make some money “of their own”. That’s great, but money alone cannot sustain your interest in working. If your brain knows you don’t have to work, your heart won’t be in any old job. When you work you want both green dollars and what I call “psychic dollars”—the compensation you get from intellectual stimulation, sincere interest in a company or industry, the ability to contribute and make a difference and an overall sense of fulfillment. If you rush toward a job without careful thought and research, initial excitement will wear off and you’ll feel like a circle in a square.
When women start to feel restless—or they’ve tired of endless hours on the volunteer track—a return to work can be a refreshing and productive change. But it’s not the answer for everyone and the timing needs to be right. In more than a decade of helping women onramp, I’ve seen many women rush into the workforce and out again—wishing they had taken the time to think carefully and plan. –KAS
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