To job hunt or not to job hunt?
March 9, 2014 10:45 AM   Subscribe

I really dislike my work situation and I'd like to find a new one. Problem is, my husband and I are planning to start a family soon. What should I do?

I'm in my 30s, and I've been at my job for a few years. The actual day-to-day work isn't awful, but there is no room for growth in my position, I don't believe in what the company does, the workload is punishing, the boss is an extreme micromanager, and morale overall is really low. I never intended to stay here for as long as I have - I started on a contract - but it was one of those things that turned into full-time and I said yes because it was easy money. Now here I am a few years later, and unhappy. I am never excited to go to work, and by the end of my workdays I am drained emotionally and mentally. I am taking care of myself (exercise, eating well, etc) and try to focus my happiness on my home life and my hobbies.

I've been job hunting a little bit over the last year and had a couple phone interviews that didn't go anywhere. I've been feeling the push lately to job hunt more, and this weekend I found many positions that I'd like to apply to. I have reservations about starting a new job, though, because my husband and I want to start a family - we are planning to start trying in a few months. Since I'm in my mid 30s I don't want to wait any longer.

I have no idea how long conception could take, and the thought of staying at my job for a year plus more makes me sort of ill. However, I fear that if I got a new job, I would have to push the babymaking by at least a few months because I wouldn't want to be "that woman" who starts a new job and then a few months later announces that she's knocked up. However, my current job is not really family-friendly, and my coworkers who have kids get a lot of grief for leaving early/asking to take flex time/whatever.

Ideally I would like to keep working after I have a child, for the salary but also because I generally enjoy having a career and working. If I stay at my current job, the plan would definitely be to leave after maternity leave anyway (they do not offer paid leave, and I am not on their benefits, so I don't feel like I owe them anything. I live in a state that pays for four months of job-protected leave at a portion of your salary). I would much rather be at a job that I enjoy that I would be excited to go back to, rather than push the inevitable job hunting until after I have a baby. However, I'd like to be practical. What would you guys do in my situation?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Job hunt now. There's no guarantee you'll get pregnant when you start trying and there's no guarantee you'll carry your pregnancy to term. However, it is guaranteed you'll be miserable at your job, so might as well correct that ASAP.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:49 AM on March 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

I live in a state that pays for four months of job-protected leave at a portion of your salary

I don't believe such a state exists. New Jersey, California, and Rhode Island are the three states that have paid maternity leave, and they offer six weeks, six weeks, and four weeks, respectively.

I wouldn't want to be "that woman" who starts a new job and then a few months later announces that she's knocked up

There's a benefit to working "at-will" - because your employer can fire you at any time for pretty much any reason, the corresponding effect on your side is that you can leave your employer at any time for pretty much any reason.

If I stay at my current job, the plan would definitely be to leave after maternity leave anyway

If that's the case, it sounds like you've already made your decision. Why not make your decision take effect sooner in order to preserve your sanity?
posted by saeculorum at 10:52 AM on March 9, 2014

Job hunt. No use being unhappy, and in your 30s, there's no guarantee that you'll be having kids.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:55 AM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nothing is guaranteed -- you don't know when you will conceive and you don't know how long finding a job could take. You can turn down any job offer if it seems like the right thing to do timing-wise, but I would be job hunting and trying to get offers right now without delay. No sense in letting yourself be unhappy. And it will be easier to find a job while you are working.

If having children is definitely in your plans, take this opportunity to find a job where that will be OK. My office is pretty flexible for people with kids -- they can work remotely or come/go as needed and one guy has his son come to the office after school and play video games until 5pm+ on the TV in our meeting space. Places that will be flexible do exist.

Since you hate your job anyway, it shouldn't be too hard to shift your energy and focus to finding a new job instead of doing your current job. Go all in!
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:35 AM on March 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't believe such a state exists

OP is not necessarily in the US.

posted by kmennie at 11:35 AM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't worry about being "that woman."
posted by salvia at 11:37 AM on March 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

There is NEVER a reason not to look for something better...including employment.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:45 AM on March 9, 2014

The stress of working at a place you hate could affect how long it takes you to conceive. Start looking now.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:51 AM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't put off your life hoping to get pregnant. Start looking now, and try to get pregnant when you want to. (Check up what rules your state has for time at the same employer before you are eligible for their leave, though, and what the rules are about the new company having to rehire you after maternity leave. Just in case.)

You don't know what's coming up -- these jobs might not work out, or they might work out and be very family-friendly, or any other possibility. You do know you're not happy in your job now.
posted by jeather at 11:52 AM on March 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

You should absolutely look for a job now.

Let's examine the reason you're considering staying:

If I got a new job, I would have to push the babymaking by at least a few months because I wouldn't want to be "that woman" who starts a new job and then a few months later announces that she's knocked up.

1. It takes most women many months to get pregnant, especially women in their 30s.

2. You don't have to put off getting pregnant if you get a new job - even once you get pregnant, most people continue working 8-9 months from that point.

3. Being "that woman" is a sexist myth - humans have to make babies to continue the human race - men are not penalized for this and women shouldn't be either. The reason that American law protects women from being fired/not hired due to pregnancy is that it is deeply unethical to hold this against women.

4. You're planning to return to work after having the baby anyway - so your hypothetical future employer is still getting a great employee long-term - they're just going to have to cover a few months off. Which is their legal obligation.
posted by leitmotif at 11:55 AM on March 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Regarding the paid leave - I know CA, where I live, offers approximately 4 months of paid maternity leave (not at 100% of salary). You get 4 weeks before you have your child, 6-8 weeks after birth, and then an additional 6 weeks under something called Paid Family Leave.
posted by emily37 at 11:56 AM on March 9, 2014

Agree with looking for a new job. You don't want to be in a family-unfriendly job with an infant. Yes you may lose some maternity leave, but in the long run it's more of a benefit to be in a family-friendly job. If you have any desire to stay at home for a year or two, you could also just plan on quitting after you have the baby! If you're planning to make a career switch anyway, that might not be a bad plan. Personally I thought the entire first year working after the baby was born was almost a complete wash financially and professionally, so if you think you could find a new job with a bit of a gap in your resume, that might be a good option.
posted by yarly at 1:09 PM on March 9, 2014

in your 30s, there's no guarantee that you'll be having kids.

Because it's relevant to your question, I'll just point out that the difficulty of conceiving in your 30s is greatly exaggerated. You could very well end up succeeding on your first try! Depending on how hard it is to get hired in your field, you could definitely find yourself interviewing while pregnant if you start on both plans tomorrow.
posted by yarly at 1:12 PM on March 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Job hunt now. Whatever happens down the road will happen. Maybe you'll find a job right away and not get pregnant for a year. Maybe you'll get pregnant in a couple months but won't find a new job.

And even if the timing is such that you start a new job and then wind up pregnant a few months later, who cares whether you're "that woman"? Are you going to put your whole life on hold because you're afraid some hypothetical person who doesn't even actually exist might disapprove of you? Life is too short.
posted by Sara C. at 2:04 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Job hunt now: in the immortal words of the Butthole Surfers, it's better to regret something you have done than something you haven't done.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:17 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Look for a better job now.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:58 PM on March 9, 2014

I have a cautionary tale. My friend went through the same dilemma and opted not to job hunt, decided she would get pregnant and take mat leave, and then quit. Many months later she still wasn't pregnant, and by then she was so badly burnt out that she straight up quit her job, foregoing all mat leave benefits, and was in no state to go looking for another job. She and her husband have been trying to conceive ever since.

If she had started a new job before or shortly after quitting her last one, she would have been able to put in more than a year of work before taking mat leave. They would have had an entire year of her salary banked, and mat leave benefits to boot (which are substantial in our country). They bet big on the pregnancy happening quickly and easily. They literally counted their chicken before it hatched. Don't do that. Job hunt now.
posted by keep it under cover at 4:49 PM on March 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was "that woman" and got pregnant the third week on the new job. I stressed myself out about telling my boss and waited until I was nearly 22 weeks to tell him, but it was fine. By the time everyone else found out , I was pretty entrenched in the company and wasn't seen as "new" anymore anyway. A good boss will know that life happens. Just be sure you know what the maternity policies are (if you need to be there a year before you're eligible for FMLA or if the company offers other maternity benefits that could kick in for you sooner if you get pregnant immediately). Don't put your big life goals on hold - you will be surprised at how much simultaneity you can handle. MeMail if you want to talk.
posted by sestaaak at 7:47 PM on March 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Both trying to get a job, and trying to make a baby, are things that don't happen "right now" just because you want them to. Start working on both of them, and let the roll of the dice decide which one happens first.

If you want to prioritize, I would keep looking for a job, and if you get offered one, you can decide if you want to take it. If you get pregnant before you find a job, then you stop sending resumes out. If you get a new job and find out you're pregnant at about the same time, maybe you decide to stay where you are until after the baby; for me this would mostly be because my state's FMLA only applies for someone who's been employed for a year.
Maybe you have the idea that you'll keep job A until you have a baby, then swap to job B after the baby's born, but doing interviews and learning a new job while taking care of an infant sounds to me to be way more stressful than being a contributing member of Company B while pregnant and as a new mother. Just do it. Job B is not allowed to fire you for being pregnant, and if it turns your work relationships sour, I guess we're talking about Job C.
posted by aimedwander at 8:39 PM on March 9, 2014

I'd like to echo the sentiment others have expressed that the concept that people - I mean, women - who take parental leave soon after starting a job are in some way bad people is some misogynist bullshit.

One other thing to think about: if you plan to continue working after having a baby, it is likely to be MUCH better for your family financially if you find a new job now. This is kind of what aimedwander is saying, only I'm focusing more on the financial angle and the possibility of long-term unemployment. Compare these two scenarios:

Plan A: stay at your current job until giving birth, take your paid leave, never return. You are now looking for a new job having been unemployed for (at least) several months. In the current difficult economy, there is significant hiring discrimination against people who are unemployed. There is also hiring discrimination against mothers of young children. Your job search could take much longer than you expect, or you could wind up being a stay-at-home mom against your will.

Plan B: find a new job now while you already have a job. Take leave when you have your baby, return to the job after your leave. You don't have to job hunt after being on leave/unemployed, because you already have a job. Yay!
posted by medusa at 9:37 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

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