When I was practicing law at a large international law firm, every time a female attorney in the office announced she was pregnant, other female colleagues would always ask: “What are you going to do after the baby is born?”
What they meant by that question was:
- Are you going to quit?
- Are you going to slow down and opt for a flexible work arrangement?
- Or will you continue full-time on the partnership track?
And it’s a question that every female professional who is expecting has likely been asked.
Any of These Is A Good Choice
The good news is that you really can’t make the wrong choice here. You can make any decision the right decision for you. The important thing is that you make an informed choice and that you make it consciously.
By informed choice I mean that you fully explore what options are available to you.
For example, say that you would really like to quit and stay home with your baby but don’t see it as a viable option financially. If it’s something you really want, take a hard look at the numbers and ask yourself “how could I make this work, even if just for a few years?” Would an extended leave of absence for a longer period of time be possible? Would you be willing to move to lower your expenses? Really ask yourself what you’d be willing to do or not do. How important is it to you and what are you willing to give up in exchange?
If you’d like to try option 2 but you don’t think it’s available to you, I encourage you investigate further before discarding it. Many companies, agencies, and firms offer flexible work arrangements in terms of hours or working from home, but people don’t ask about them because they are afraid of getting “behind” in their careers, being seen as less committed, or working full-time hours for part-time pay.
If that’s true for you, investigate that fear. What would be the actual consequences of going part time? Would it truly be detrimental to your career? Can you find any evidence that it would not be? For example, think about whether you know anyone who is working part-time and still highly respected. Talk to as many people as you can to find out who is working on a flexible work arrangement, where they are employed, and how it’s going for them. Organizations like the Diversity and Flexibility Alliance are actively working with employers to build work cultures that are accepting of flexible work arrangements and can be a great resource for connecting with people who are successfully working part-time.
Even if your employer doesn’t have a flexible work arrangement policy in place, you can always ask them to create one for you. I know of several successful women who announced that they were resigning after their requests to work part-time or from home were denied, which prompted their employers to reverse their initial decisions and grant their requests. Find out what’s really available before giving up.
When I was working at the firm, a female partner told me that some of the most successful female attorneys slowed down when their children were young and that it didn’t negatively affect their careers. While I was there, I knew several attorneys who were promoted to partner while working part-time, even if it took a year or two longer than it otherwise would have. The point is that this option is underutilized by a lot of professional women today, but in my experience, a 30% decrease in hours (and pay) while my children were babies led to a huge increase in my health, happiness, and overall wellbeing.
Examine Your Reasons
Once you’ve done your homework to figure out what’s really an option and what’s not, take a hard look at what options remain on the list. Write down your reasons for choosing the remaining options. Your reasons can include “because I know in my bones/heart/gut that I want to ____.” Even though we like to cognitively analyze our decisions, sometimes we just have an inner knowing. Trying to override that intuitive knowing with “logical” reasons is what most often leads to bad decisions, so if you do have an inner knowing, go with it.
If you don’t have a clear sense one way or another, then look at each set of reasons and decide which one you like best. The best reasons for doing anything are reasons based on love, excitement, fulfillment, and other positive emotions. The worst reasons for doing anything are based on fear, guilt, and other negative emotions.
For example, a good reason to stay home with your kids is because you love staying home with them. But if staying home with them drives you crazy and you really want to keep working but you feel guilty about that, that’s not a great reason to stay home—that’s a guilt-based reason. And you can totally learn to let go of that guilt, which is not needed here.
If your reason for wanting to stay full-speed in your career is “I show up better as a mom when I’m living out my purpose at work,” that’s a great reason to keep working full-time.
So what are your reasons? Which do you like best?
Own Your Choice
The truth is, that raising kids is challenging no matter what. It’s hard for moms who stay home all day. It’s hard for moms who work part-time. It’s hard for moms who work full-time. It’s hard because little humans are incredibly demanding and exhausting to raise.
But when you’ve made the choice consciously, you can feel good knowing that it’s the right choice for you and your family. The kids really will be alright no matter what you choose. What they need most is a happy, healthy, thriving mom.
How are you happiest? How are you healthiest? In what environment do you thrive the most? This is not a one-size-fits-all answer. Only you can know what will truly bring you the most joy, the most happiness, and let you live your very best life.
Go forth, grow, and bloom.
P.S. If you need help with this decision, contact me to set up a free strategy session. You’ve got this!