Deciding whether to work or stay at home to raise a family is a difficult choice for women. Younger moms who have just started to launch their careers and established career women who are contemplating time at home with their families have more in common than they think. Both must determine what ultimately will work best for themselves and their families. Here are some points to consider as you review your options:
One Size Does Not Fit All
Does it seem that everyone you know has become a stay-at-home mom? This must mean you should stay at home with your children too, right? Not necessarily. You know your needs and those of your family better than anyone else. Take the time to identify and prioritize your personal, professional, and finanical needs before you make any decision. What personal needs does work fulfill? What financial needs? What are your career aspirations and will stepping out of the workforce derail them? What are your children's emotional and physical needs?
Once you've identified and prioritized those needs, consider how you could alter your work arrangement and still meet your most important needs. Is leaving the workplace your only option? If you're married, is your spouse better-suited to stay at home? Could you go part-time, telecommute or work flexible hours and meet your needs more effectively than if you were to leave the workforce entirely? Your ideal solution may turn out differently than you suspect.
It's a Family Affair
Your decision affects all family members, so get their input before you cast the final vote. Invite your family members, if they're old enough to participate, to a family meeting. Briefly discuss the options you are considering. Ask for their opinions. This approach will put you in a much better position to make a decision you can live with, because you can incorporate their needs and desires into your decision.
Review Your Finances
Family finances can make the decision for you. Your income and benefits may be necessary. Before you make any decision, track your monthly expenditures. How much do you need to earn to pay for the essentials? Meet with a financial planner if you can afford it. A little belt tightening here and there will put you in a much better position regardless of which path you choose.
Also, think long term. If you step out of the workforce, do you have enough saved that were you to reenter, an initial drop in earnings would be manageable?
Keep Your Skills Sharp
If you do decide to leave the workforce, keep your skills current. Take courses. Stay abreast of your industry. Use your skill set in a volunteer capacity. Maintain your network and contacts. If you can, do some project work. That way, if you do return to the workforce at some point, you will be in a better position.
Don't Look Back
It's a good idea to reevaluate your situation from time to time, because family needs change, but don't keep second-guessing yourself. You will know when the decision you made is no longer right for you and your family, and you can always make changes. Trust yourself.
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