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I need a time machine
August 14, 2012 5:04 PM   Subscribe

A little more than a month ago, I started a full-time telecommuting job that I thought was my dream job. When I took it, I was working part-time (and had been since my son was born two years ago). This is my first full-time job since becoming a mom. I now think I made a big mistake.

Sorry if this is disjointed/disorganized. My mind is reeling.

So, the job itself is fine, but I realized I don't like working at home -- it's very lonely and it's hard to concentrate. (This is not a surprise -- I had already had problems concentrating at non-work-at-home jobs in the past.)

It also feels wrong and is upsetting to me that I don't see my son from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. (I know, I know, that's an unavoidable fact for many families.) It was a kind of sudden decision for me to work full time -- before I even had my son I had been planning to work part time after he was born, and stay that way through his childhood.

I liked my part-time job a lot, but of course it had its negatives and "issues," just like all jobs. They had been bugging me this spring, but it felt bittersweet leaving, and my boss was shocked that I left. But I was excited about my new job.

This morning was a turning point, though. A friend of mine said that she got an interview for my old job (so I learned it's still open) and I thought, "Wait a minute, that's MY job. Shit, why did I leave?!!" This friend currently works full time and has two kids, and I felt instantly jealous that she was going to be working part time and spending more time with her kids, AND maybe with MY job. (I was the first person to have the position, so that's partly why I feel that way.) My boss said today that she would "take me back any day," and I am so tempted to quit my current job and ask if she'd take me back for real.

I have been upset on and off all day about this and wishing I had a time machine so that I could go back in time and reverse this decision (which I truly agonized over at the time). I haven't talked to my husband yet -- I'm doing that after I write this.

Complications:
-I've only been working there a month + one week. I know I'll leave the organization in a lurch and they will be mad at me. However, if I stick it out for a year, I would probably not be able to get my old job back; this is my one chance to do that. Also, wouldn't it be better to quit now, because maybe they could offer the job to their second-choice candidate...? I hate making people mad, so quitting is kind of terrifying.
-I would go back to my old salary, which is much less than I'm making now. (I do get good raises every year.) I would just have to budget better than before, I guess.
-Since I work at home, I've already purchased a printer and other office supplies with my employer's money. I don't know what would happen with that if I quit now. I've signed up for benefits but health insurance doesn't start till Sept. 1.
-My son starts Montessori school in one month. I don't know if tuition we've already paid is refundable ($1,000) or if we'd have to pay even more money if we canceled.
-I bought (and got reimbursed for) a $500 plane ticket for a conference this fall. It's nonrefundable. (Crap.)

I'm so torn. Should I just stick it out for one year and then quit and try to find a part-time job here? There are very few communications jobs in my hometown, though, and I don't know if I could find something good. That's why I'm tempted to quit now so that I could (likely) get my old job back.

Or maybe I'm just over-emotional because I'm missing my son when I'm working and feeling guilty about not seeing him much.

Please help me make some sense of this situation. I'm just kinda going crazy today.
posted by trillian to Work & Money (21 answers total)
 
You're only a month in. Most mothers feel awful for a while after they return to work...that feeling is common.

My advice would be to try to stick it out for a little while longer and see if you can improve your work habits (try the GTD series of organizing your life, to-do lists, timers, whatever it takes.) The increased salary and benefits will make your life a lot easier if you can find ways to enjoy your work more.

As a former consultant, one thing I used to do when working from home was make lunch dates with friends to get my "social" quotient in. It helped.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 5:20 PM on August 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


You're only a month in. Most mothers feel awful for a while after they return to work...that feeling is common.

This. A hundred times.

I would add, as someone who worked from home for two years, I found I really missed working in an office where I got to collaborate with others, and the isolation of the home office was difficult. Make sure you are nurturing a social life and making a point to have time with others.
posted by 4ster at 5:35 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was in your shoes but stuck it out for 9 months before I quit. It will suck, but if you go back to full or part-time parenting, it'll be with solid knowledge of what full-time working was like.
posted by k8t at 5:38 PM on August 14, 2012


Give it a time limit say 3 to 6 months and see how you feel. Every time my husband changes jobs he freaks out about how it's all a big mistake for the first month or 2 and how he should just quit but we made a deal if he hates his new job after 3 months he can quit and usually by then he's settled into a routine and has no problems and denies that he ever wanted to quit. I'd suggest you at least wait three months and then if you still hate it change jobs knowing you gave it your best shot and you've given your new school & job routine a far go.

Working from home feels lonely, go out at lunch and meet friends and family or find out if there is some online community of other telecommuters, in your field or not, you can join, not only will get get some socialization out of it you can pick up all sorts of handy tips.
posted by wwax at 5:45 PM on August 14, 2012


I don't know, the old gig sounds tempting but it sounds like you have a really nice setup - more money, health insurance, paid conferences, paid supplies. Montessori school will be good for your kid, and since you'll be at home maybe your time will be a little more flexible than otherwise. If your friend hadn't applied for that job, would you be having these second thoughts so strongly now? This is another vote for giving it a little while.
posted by bleep at 5:55 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Full disclosure: I'm a guy and not a parent so YMMV.

A couple of things lept to mind:

1) "I'll take you back anytime" sounds like a platitude. Not to be mean, but generally speaking this is something someone says when they want to comfort you on making a hard decision. They probably don't mean it.

2) I work from home full time. I struggle a lot with being able to focus and get things done. If I can give one piece of advice it'd be to stick to your schedule. It's far too easy to either slip behind because you aren't as strict with your working hours, or exhaust yourself working too much because you aren't as strict with your working hours. :)

3) If you can get out once or twice a week to a coffee shop or library, do it.
posted by swizzle_stik at 6:07 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you do this, it might turn out that:
- You lose a friend, who was so excited about an interview that she made the mistake of telling you, and starting all this
- You burn a bridge with your current employer
- You show your previous employer that you are wishy-washy, here-today-gone-tomorrow
- And you go back to the lower pay and whatever issues there were with the previous employer that caused you to leave them
posted by Houstonian at 6:07 PM on August 14, 2012 [24 favorites]


What they said.

Also, you didn't really say if that friend of yours actually might get your old job. Might she? If so, swooping in and snatching it away from her would be not particularly friendly of you.

What were the cons of the part-time job that made you want to quit? Remember them.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:07 PM on August 14, 2012


I'm going to vote for giving it a while, but I'm also going to throw in some alternate ways of looking at this and possible solutions, because it sounds like you are making this into a black-and-white scenario (job A vs. job B) and excluding other possibilities.

• Telecommuting and more pay. I've had a few friends who telecommute a few days a week for their fulltime jobs, and it is with the understanding that they are doing so in order to also take care of family obligations (child and or sick relative). They are still required to get all their work done and it means beyond 9:00 to 5:00. However, let's use the same model for you, especially with the increased pay. You could probably hire a baby sitter to work at your home. You do work during the day but take your lunch with your lunch with your child- it is a partial compromise. Or you take a longer break in the day with your son. But use the increased money to get some of what you want and need in your personal life to make it better.

• Montessori...I think that this is a great opportunity for your child. It would put staying at the job as a plus just to have this option.

• As someone who also works from home, you can do other things to get your social time in with other adults. Schedule lunch with a friend once a week. OR ask if you can have face time in your new workplace 1X/week (this may really, really help in many ways), especially to view this as a team, which it sounds like you may need.

• Another option is to think towards the future and one possibility that may have (although we don't entirely know what you do and if this is or is not an option)-are freelancers/contractors used in your industry? If so, then ....it would argue that there is a reason to eventually go back to your part time job and pick up another client or two. BUT if you do this, you can set the parameters (i.e. only take projects that pay X/hour, or you can only do it between X time and Y time, etc.). Having a former employer who loves you creates the groundwork for this option....if you do good work at your current place, this option also exists. People who like you will throw you work. You would also not be limited by location at all (as in you can work with clients from anywhere....).
posted by Wolfster at 6:13 PM on August 14, 2012


As someone who also works from home, you can do other things to get your social time in with other adults. Schedule lunch with a friend once a week.

This. I work from home and I have lunch regularly with some telecommuting friends. It's been tremendously helpful and reassuring because we all have the same struggles, and I always leave lunch feeling energized.
posted by mochapickle at 6:20 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, I disagree with nearly all the advice so far.

If you are unhappy in a job, you should leave it and go for something else. In this case, you even know what that "something else" is that would make you happy! Your worries about making your current employer angry may or may not be founded, but it shouldn't be as important as your own welfare and happines. Employers almost 100% of the time won't hesitate to let someone go if they want to for whatever reason. There's NO reason employees should feel any more loyalty to their employer than their employer feels for them, yet often it happens that way.

Your son will grow up at warp speed and there won't be a second chance to spend as much time as possible with him during these formative years. People very rarely look back on their lives and say they wish they spent more time at their jobs. They often feel that they wish they'd spent more time with their families.

If I were you, I would first enquire if your former boss was really serious about taking you back. I don't see any reason to believe from what you wrote that this was just hot air.

If you get your former job back, sit your friend down and break it to her, explaining how you feel and how you regret that she wanted the job. She may be upset, if so let her be. Or she may be gracious and understanding and you'll know you have a good friend. Make clear to her that you were already thinking of seeing if your job would take you back before she told you about the interview, and that her telling you made you hesitate.

If you stay at your current job, I don't see why you have to be away from your child the entire day. One of the best things about working from home is *supposed* to be that your time is more flexible. You should be able to eat lunch with your child, and even go on outings as long as you are getting all your work done and are reachable all hours you agreed to be.
posted by parrot_person at 6:50 PM on August 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Stick it out, and you have no reason to feel guilty about not seeing him. Earning money that supports him, sending him to a good school, and making sure that he has health insurance--these things are part of parenting, too.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:39 PM on August 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


One thing you might want to consider is that one of the perks of working from home is that you can take care of a lot of that home stuff while you work. Throwing in a load of laundry on your coffee break, getting supper on the stove in the afternoon. Give some thought to the fact that because you can do that during your work day, you will have more evening time with your kid. A part time job + commute + household responsibilities might not actually give you that many more hours with your son. Even if you are in the house with him, you might not actually be spending so much time together. On the other hand, if he's in a Montessori school he's going to be occupied and stimulated all day, plus you'll have time to devote entirely to him when your work day is done. I'd do the math before I made any big decisions.
posted by looli at 9:00 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have a feeling you'll start feeling much better about this once your son starts Montessori school. Knowing that he's in an fun, educational environment that you picked out and presumably trust will probably help you focus on other things. I'd wait until he's been there at least a month, and see how you feel then.

About guilt: I started full-day preschool at about the same age as your son, and I've never felt that I was at all worse off for having a mother who worked full-time at that age. I have great memories from age 4 or so of my mother picking me up and taking me home -- I'd tell her what I did that day, she'd tell me what she did that day (edited for toddler comprehension), and we'd just enjoy each other's company. I thought it was great -- I certainly never felt abandoned or neglected. Basically, I don't think that having a mother working full-time necessarily impedes closeness between the mother and child at all. Obviously, what you prefer is a totally different matter and up to you, but guilt is definitely unnecessary.
posted by ostro at 10:48 PM on August 14, 2012


In my opinion, working from home sucks, and if it makes you unhappy, seek a job in an office, could or could not be your old job. One month in is the best time to quit. Both sides are still evaluating each other, losses are not that great. Working at home alone for ten hours a day is depressing, no wonder you're getting more money.

Someone mentioned flakiness, but I don't think you're flaky. you tried something new, it's not working out. Mental costs are too high. Just tell them it's not working out for you. Maybe they can put you in an office, where you have other adults to play with during the day. If they cannot, they will appreciate your honesty now rather than six months in, when you can't take it any more and quit just before a project/product launch. You don't have to put this one month on your resume.

Good luck!
posted by ye#ara at 6:56 AM on August 15, 2012


First, find out whether your old boss would really take you back. Then, don't worry about whether your current boss would "be mad" -- having employees leave is just part of being successful enough to be able to employ people.

I see no reason to ignore or try to tamp down your desire to spend more time with your young child. You'd probably appreciate the time with him more, now that you've experienced being away from him all day as well, and decided you prefer to be with him. There's nothing wrong with, or illusory about, that desire.
posted by palliser at 9:04 PM on August 15, 2012


Thanks, everyone... It's weird -- I wasn't feeling this way till my friend contacted me yesterday. Then I got upset and immediately felt, "Wait, I want to work part time, too," and "Hold on, I want that job back..."

Another "con" for quitting my new job now struck me yesterday -- my friends/former coworkers who gave glowing recommendations for me might look bad if I quit after a month.
posted by trillian at 9:02 AM on August 16, 2012


I'll add that I think you should hang in there. All new jobs suck the first few months. Dealing with the learning curve, frustration at not having an automatic understanding of what you're doing, etc.

I worked from home for years. I'm kind of a social butterfly and I like being in an office, but there are things you can do to mitigate that "trapped in the house" feeling.

1. Go out for lunch or a coffee break. Get a meet up together with friends, or just show up at the same coffee shop at the same time on the same day of the week.

2. Take breaks periodically throughout the day. Because you're in the house, you have a tendancy to just stay where you are. I got out and went to the grocery store, or did the laundry, or watched TV in another room. Breaks are important.

3. Go to networking events, or user groups or whatever it takes to get you out rubbing shoulders professionally with other folks in your position.

4. Find a reason to get in the office every now and then. Connect with your co-workers.

It's a transition and like all transitions, it takes time to adjust.

Let your friend interview for the old job.

What kind of disaster would it be to give up the new job, go back to the old job, and realize that you were right to leave in the first place!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:28 PM on August 16, 2012


-- my friends/former coworkers who gave glowing recommendations for me might look bad if I quit after a month.

If they gave glowing recommendations, my guess is they would want you to be happy wherever you end up. There is no shame in trying a new job and finding out it isn't what you expected or doesn't work for you.

Do what is best for YOU. A happy and fulfilled you also makes a better coworker, friend, and parent.
posted by parrot_person at 6:03 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Update... looking for part-time jobs now. Had an interview for one, but it didn't pay enough. My friend didn't end up getting my old job, but she got an interview for it. When I finally decided to ask HR about my old job, it was already filled.
posted by trillian at 11:37 AM on November 4, 2012


Another update! I just accepted a 25- to 30-hour/week job (a nice balance between my old 20-hour job and my current full-time one!) that's about 10 mins. from home, has some sick/vacation time, and a lot more "people time" (including managing volunteers). And they're very flexible and family friendly, which is just what I need.
posted by trillian at 8:08 AM on January 31, 2013


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