Job misery and baby
July 20, 2013 11:34 AM   Subscribe

My "glamorous" job just got worse and I have a baby now. Good time to quit?

When I returned from maternity leave, I got a nasty surprise. They moved me out of my office and changed my job duties. I have tried to talk to my boss and dept head but got nowhere. I have gone to my agency's EEO office but it has only led to a meeting with HR and my boss. Four days later my boss says nothing will change. I am continuing with EEO for now but don't have much hope. Some friends have advised getting a lawyer but realistically that is a long, expensive pain in the ass thing to do. Other friends say just quit.

I had dragged myself to this job for two years before going on maternity leave. It was pretty much intolerable before and is worse now. I actually went to counseling for a few months last year. Just over this stupid job! (I have been working for over twenty years so I'm not young and unrealistic that work sucks sometimes.)

Very few positions in my field exist and only open up every few years. Besides, I am with the top employer in my field and am paid considerably more than other places will usually pay. Nothing comparable has opened up in the last 2 years. I have tried to get out by applying for other jobs or lesser positions in my field but my current job title and employer have such cache that I find my interviewers are suspicious of why I would leave. And of course, you are not supposed to complain about your employer when interviewing.

A friend has pointed out that if I quit now with a baby, no one will ever question my motivation for leaving my "glamorous" job. I think she has a point. My husband says we can get by on his pay and he would rather have me taking care of our kid. Our kid has a developmental disability and sometimes I wonder if I should be at home anyway. I am bringing my misery home and not being the best mom i can be. I'm just scared to quit. What would you do?
posted by i_love_squirrels to Work & Money (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you quit, will you be able to easily re-enter the workforce in a few years when you are ready to do so? That is reason #2 I haven't quit to stay home with my kids. (#1 is that I would seriously go insane.)
posted by Liesl at 11:41 AM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Do what your gut tells you. Raising a kid with a development disability while managing a job that sucks is really hard. You can keep up with your job skills and even upgrade your education or skillset while you are at home. You could also do consulting, freelancing, part-time work or other work or you may apply yourself to volunteer work that is transferrable. If and when you are ready to return to the workforce, you just need to work at it.

I knew I would go insane if I was with my kids f/t, but I also knew that my kids would need extra support for a variety of reasons. I created my own business and hired sitters, used preschool and p/t daycare, and worked evenings or weekends, while making sure I still had time for fun. It worked very well for us and my kids are now happily in school, while my career is at a place that works for me. PM if you want more details on that. I know many other parents who have made similar decisions and have been able to transition back to the workforce in roles ranging from p/t to f/t, entry level to executive. It does depend on your career, but I even know engineers and investment bankers who've gone back.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:48 AM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ordinarily the advice is "Don't quit your current job until you've found another job," but in your case I don't think that's the best plan. It's been making you miserable for a while, you've got a baby with a disability to think of, and your husband makes enough for you to live on? Give your notice, sister, and walk away.

It's not that life's too short -- life's too LONG to stick with something that's making you miserable, when you have a viable exit plan.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:50 AM on July 20, 2013 [15 favorites]

Some friends have advised getting a lawyer but realistically that is a long, expensive pain in the ass thing to do.

Seeing a lawyer for a consult is neither a long nor particularly expensive endeavour. Indeed, the expense is trivial when weighed against the full-time, highly-paid salary you are considering giving up. Be smart here.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:59 AM on July 20, 2013 [35 favorites]

Best answer: The fact that you were miserable at your job even before you went on maternity leave suggests that even if you meet with a lawyer, your work situation will still be miserable. Research shows that mothers who are employed part-time are happier than either full-time employees or stay-at-home mothers. If you think there's any way you can do part-time consulting or freelance work in your field (or another field) that would probably be a great option for you to spend more time with your kid but also have a life outside the home and keep your skillset updated for when/if you want to go back to full time. Taking some time off to be with your kid might also be helpful with the specific problem you have in transitioning to another workplace in the same field. There IS a hiring bias against mothers returning to the workforce, but taking a break with your baby would alleviate your problem with being relatively overqualified/overemployed.
posted by permiechickie at 12:19 PM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Your job sucks, you can survive on your husband's income, and you have a baby to look after? By all means, quit your terrible job. A better job will come up for you in the future. If you are looking for permission to quit, you have it.
posted by meggan at 12:22 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would recommend you keep trying to find another job in your field at half-time or freelance. Just keep trying. Make contacts and think up ways you can leverage your experience.

I know you're miserable, but having a kid, especially with a developmental disability, requires money (assuming you and your husband aren't filthy rich). If your kid will need care taking his whole life, long after you are gone, you will need to make sure he has money.

Figure out how to get what you need from the job and maybe use that perspective to get you through the day.
posted by discopolo at 12:26 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you and your husband done long term financial planning for your baby by figuring out his long term care needs in case the disability affects his earning potential when he grows up?
posted by discopolo at 12:28 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Discopolo our child will not be able to be a financially independent adult, though the disability does not cost us anything extra before adulthood. This does scare me. I probably can find contract work but can't predict when. I used to freelance and never stayed unemployed for long.

I should add that we are going to try for another baby within a year. We want our child to have a sibling but I am an older mom and don't have time on my side.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 12:50 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't see how lawyering up will help this situation. What are you hoping for -- that your employer will be forced to give you back your office and former tasks (which you say you had to drag yourself to do anyway, so it's not like it was a great job to begin with)?

Or are you hoping to cash-out and get some sort of a settlement?

My guess is that your employer is savvy enough to have stayed within the legal lines here, and that you won't find some loophole they haven't already considered.

So, all you'll end up doing is aggravating them and poisoning the well, and I can't imagine that will improve your standing or quality of life at work.

Quit if it's unbearable, and pursue freelance/consulting.
posted by nacho fries at 12:53 PM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This sounds miserable. Quit and freelance/consult. You're in the perfect position to do so, as you have a child with special needs and everyone understand that. Your husband is supportive, and think of how much you would save with your childcare costs. Sign up with agencies in your field.

While you are still working at this company, put in the groundwork to break out on your own. Develop the relationships and connections now while you still have the prestige of your company. If you've freelanced before, you're definitely good to go.
posted by so much modern time at 1:01 PM on July 20, 2013

Please spend a maximum of $300 (max...although a good labor lawyer will see you for free).

Sounds like they are making this position unbearable for you so that you quit. Totally illegal. Please get a lawyer to advise you. You do not have to continue working there, but they can't do this to women who are returning to work after giving birth. Total bullshit by your employer.

Please talk to a professional who can advise you before you do something. A good lawyer won't take a dime until there is a positive outcome...but even $300 would be worth it.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:57 PM on July 20, 2013 [8 favorites]

I don't mean to cause you additional distress, but it may be that you and your husband are better off making this decision.

As a fellow Mefite/community member, I want you to be happy and quit. But I know it's not that easy and it should be a decision you make with your husband, covering all the aspects. Maybe include a certified financial planner in the discussion at some point.
posted by discopolo at 2:22 PM on July 20, 2013

Best answer: From an anonymous respondant:
I was in a position very similar to yours when my child was born, albeit without the special needs element. I opted to quit the job. It was 100% absolutely the right thing to do for my family. However, 10+ years later, I still haven't recovered professionally. I've also now seen this sort of thing happen to quite a few other new mothers. It's one of the more insidious things that happens to working women in our culture, and it leads to other insidious things.

I'm glad I quit. No regrets there. But sometimes I wish I'd carved out the hour to talk to an attorney, just so it wouldn't nag at me from time to time now.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:24 PM on July 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you're in the US, the key here is if the job is equivalent in terms of compensation, benefits, and the terms and conditions of your employment. FMLA doesn't specify the same job or duties or office. My gut reaction is your company is going to give you just enough to call the job "equivalent" to your pre-leave position. It doesn't sound like they changed your pay, title, hours, benefits. They just gave you different duties and a cube. Crappy of them but it sounds like they are aware of the requirements and doing the minimum. However, don't take the advice of an internet stranger. Ask an employment lawyer at bar in your state.

The real question here is should you quit. Yes, but be smart about it. Talk to a financial planner and get your child's financial future figured out first. Then announce that you're starting a freelance company. When you want to get back to full-time in a few years, you won't have been unemployed.

The real answer here is that you're making life altering decisions for your family. Seek professional advice from a lawyer and a financial planner.
posted by 26.2 at 2:31 PM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I stayed home with my two special needs kids. It helped them get optimal outcomes. Given your description of how working for Primo Employer is a trap you cannot escape, I vote that quitting now "for my disabled baby" sounds like a great out in a situation with little hope of escape.

But, yeah, your career might never really recover. Thirty years ago, I walked away from a prestigious scholarship. I think I did the right thing. But, yeah, it is usually much easier to leave a "glamorous" thing than to get the "glamor" back.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 2:52 PM on July 20, 2013

If finding a new job is hard now, it's going to be much worse after staying home for however many years. I was under the impression that a period of consulting/freelancing was looked at by many employers pretty much the same as a resume gap. And, sure, future employers won't question your motivation for leaving, but that doesn't mean that they will have a positive impression of it.

Staying home may be the best choice, but don't make it with unrealistic expectations.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:55 PM on July 20, 2013

I would definitely recommend talking to a lawyer. Even if you do want to leave anyway, it's entirely possible the company will offer you a severance package to go away quietly and not file a lawsuit.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 3:18 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would quit because you can afford it, the job is not going to get any better, you have one child who needs special attention, and you are trying for another baby. You have an out that no one will question.

Money will be tight, and you will more than likely never be in the same position professionally ever again, but how much does that matter? You got to the point where you are now at the company you're at now (and they're treating you like shit - so how great is the top really?) and now maybe it's time for something different? Freelance when you can.
posted by heyjude at 4:24 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you decide to quit, I would recommend doing it on good terms, with an eye toward having your former company become a freelance client...with you quietly tacking a pain-and-suffering surcharge on top of whatever hourly rate you'd normally charge other clients. Make lemonade out of the lemons they've handed you.

(I did this once with a company that treated me poorly in my final months...and man oh MAN did it feel good to juice them with a high hourly as a freelancer. )
posted by nacho fries at 6:09 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I found that having a kid with a disability is a full-time job on its own, at least through early elementary school. Your experience might be different.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:48 AM on July 21, 2013

Employers will not treat consulting/freelancing as a resume gap if you don't. This means you have to set goals, run your business like a business, detail your experiences, provide references, tell them details of your experience in cover letter and so on. However, if you just write, "Consultant" or "Self-Employed" and provide one bullet below that, you won't get far. So make sure you set career development and work experience goals and address those. When the time comes, of course.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:54 PM on July 31, 2013

Response by poster: In the end, I left my job. I looked around and decided I didn't want to be as unhappy as my co-workers though it was a nice paycheck.

Freelancing served me well before and that is how I got the job with the snooty El Primo employer on the first place. I would be happy to go back to that or go into something new. Thanks for all the replies. I'm much happier now.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 6:30 AM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

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