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Stay home with kids or accept an entry-level job?
August 25, 2012 11:14 AM   Subscribe

After being out of the job market for two years and becoming a stay-at-home mom, should I take an entry-level job, even if it's a big step down financially?

After being laid off two years ago, I've moved to a city where jobs in my field are almost nonexistent. Since then, I've had a baby, and have been surprisingly happy to be a stay-at-home mom. But I'm ready to go back to work, especially since we've exhausted our financial resources, and I know I can't stay home forever.

My question is, considering the lack of jobs in my former field in my new town, does it look bad for my career trajectory if I take a job that pays less than half of what I used to make? Financially, we almost can't afford for me take this job, since childcare expenses for two children will eat up my entire salary.

I've applied for many other jobs, but haven't even gotten an email back. I'm currently interviewing with a company outside of my field in an entry-level, customer service position, and I'm torn about accepting the job should it be offered to me. They seem like a genuinely nice group of people, and I don't think I'd hate working there. But it's a big step down from my former position--could this hurt me in the future if I find a job that might be a better fit?

I've heard that many employers aren't even looking at job applicants who aren't currently employed; this is making me think that maybe it's better for me to take a job, ANY job, just to get back into the workplace and keep an eye out for future opportunities later down the line. But I also realize that working full-time may cut into my opportunities to network and interview for future jobs.

I realize this is a highly personal decision, but are there other laid-off, now stay-at-home-moms here who have taken a job that paid less than they needed just to get the whiff of unemployment off their resume? I don't relish the thought of being away from my young children for 10 hours a day, especially if we're just breaking even after childcare costs, but I'm worried that being out of the job market for much longer will make it that much harder for me to find meaningful employment later on.

Has anyone here faced a similar dilemma?
posted by clarequilty to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
What is your former field? Is it something that has applicable skills in another, related field?
posted by j at 11:18 AM on August 25, 2012


Given the current economy, your difficulty in finding a job is not unique, without even getting into your job field. If this job gives you enough to cover child care, it might be a good way to get back into the general job market, and you could keep looking for better-paying jobs. It may not look great to jump ship for a better paying job in less than a year, but The Economy is still a good response if questions are asked by future employers.

Alternatively, if you're able to spend some time with cost-savings at home (meal planning and coupon clipping), you could keep looking for a better paying job.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:31 AM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you're happy staying at home, why take this job?
posted by k8t at 11:52 AM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whoops - hit post too soon.

I'd hold out for a better paying job. Why barely cover childcare?
posted by k8t at 11:53 AM on August 25, 2012


I did this and worked part-time at the very edges of my field. The amount I earned was irrelevant to getting back on track professionally -- what made things difficult was getting out of sync with tech advances in my field, and finding enough links between that job and my field that it helped rather than hurt my resume.

Financially, we almost can't afford for me take this job, since childcare expenses for two children will eat up my entire salary.

A job outside your field that doesn't pay, doesn't enhance your resume, and has only "I don't think I'd hate working there" to recommend it doesn't make sense then. Other ideas that don't make money but don't take you away from your kids for 10 hours/day:
--Blog about your field, new software, news & changes, evidence of it on the web, great examples of it, etc.
--Volunteer once or twice a week in your field and trade kid-watching those days with another SAHM.
Or, for money, watch another kid or two while you are at home with yours.
posted by headnsouth at 11:53 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I realize this is a highly personal decision, but are there other laid-off, now stay-at-home-moms here who have taken a job that paid less than they needed just to get the whiff of unemployment off their resume?

Yes. I took the job because the social security/medicare contributions (and the contribution to your ability to collect social security disability) and the unemployment insurance make it more than breaking even. You also get a childcare tax credit that makes childcare cheaper than it initially seems. It also adds another layer of financial security to your family; should your partner get laid off you will have something to fall back on. You will also have job history should something happen to your marriage or should your partner leave you. (I'm sorry to bring it up but it does happen to people who don't expect it.)

Ultimately, "breaking even" generally means a financial benefit to your family, albeit one that might not be apparent for years or in the case of catastrophe.

That said, if you can get something part-time, that would probably be ideal, depending on your childcare possibilities.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:08 PM on August 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oh, also, unemployment insurance only kicks in after you've been working for a certain number of quarters, depending on the state. It's risky to be in a position where you won't get any unemployment if you get laid off. That's why I recommend starting work as soon as possible--the two year gap in employment would make you ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits if you were laid off.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:10 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


How long will it be until at least one of those children is in school? Child care costs are nothing to sneeze at not to mention transportation, work clothing, and lack of time/energy to cook -your grocery budget WILL go up.

Perhaps it would be a better use of your time to upgrade your job skills/look for something more renumerative until then? Quality of life, not just quality of resume matters both for you and your family.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:12 PM on August 25, 2012


What the young rope-rider says is true but every case is individual; you will really want to run the numbers to make sure it would really be break-even and not you losing money. Obviously none of us here has the info to know for sure what the smartest financial decision is.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:14 PM on August 25, 2012


Financially, we almost can't afford for me take this job, since childcare expenses for two children will eat up my entire salary.

You might want to take a closer look at your finances, including what tax bracket you'll be in with the additional income. There's also transportation, lunches out (for networking purposes, even if you usually bring lunch), any extra money you'd be spending to offset having less time available, and probably a few other things.

Figure out the true cost of taking the job, maybe you'd be better off keeping current in your industry with online courses.
posted by yohko at 6:28 PM on August 25, 2012


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