Baby coming soon, and I'm stressed out to the max. Can I quit my job?
April 14, 2015 2:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm still stuck in a bad work situation, having a baby in 2 months, my mom is sick, and I don't know how to go on. Should I quit my job?

This was me 5 months ago. Since then, I've continued to struggle at work and have failed to line up another job (although I did go on a promising interview last week). Pregnancy-induced exhaustion and a fragile emotional state have meant that I cry on my husband's shoulder at least once a week about how unhappy I am there, and I've had to take a sick day every few weeks when it becomes too much to even get out of bed.

I've made so many efforts to contribute to this place in the areas of my strengths, but it falls on deaf ears. I don't even want to do a good job anymore. I do the bare minimum to hopefully keep the bosses from yelling at me on any given day.

On top of all of that, my mom is battling lung cancer across the country and isn't doing great. I worry that she won't get to meet our baby girl. Oh yea, and we're moving houses in a month.

Now I'm facing 8.5 more weeks of work before I can go out on maternity leave and I just don't know how I'm going to make it. My husband and I are both worried about my stress level and the effect on the baby. I just want to quit, but financially it's difficult. I'm the sole earner, and we have 3 month's expenses in savings. If I could stick it out for the 8 weeks and also take the 6 weeks in leave money, we'd be in a much better position for me to take 3-4 months off and find a new job in the fall. But I don't know how I'm going to survive those 8 weeks.

I do have the option of an early pension buyout from my former employer. It's a pension that would pay out around $1500 a month in 25 years, or I could take the $60,000 lump sum now. If I took it as taxable income, that's around $45k that could let me quit my job and have some peace to get through the birth and a few months after, when I would start looking for something new that would fit our lifestyle a bit better. It might also give me the flexibility to spend more time with my mom. It amounts to almost a year of expenses for us.

I know that I shouldn't touch retirement money but emotionally I can't get past the feeling that it would give us alot of freedom. But this might be a monumental mistake so please talk me down if that's the case. It's not all of our retirement money, it's only one part (I also have a healthy 401k).

TL;DR: I'm stressed out and having a baby and I don't know what to do. Do I quit in less than stellar financial circumstances, find some way to stick it out, or cash in a small pension for living expenses?
posted by fanta_orange to Work & Money (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Stick it out. Don't quit. You can get through eight weeks. If you cash out that retirement money you will deeply regret it for years to come. That money will NOT give you a lot of freedom. It won't make your mom well again. It will disappear before you even realize it. I get that you're beyond miserable and I do sympathize, but this is not a true crisis or an emergency. You can hang in there for eight weeks. Cross off each day on the calendar when you get home, grit your teeth and push through. Have a mini-celebration each Friday and a big one at the end. You can do it. You're tough. You're smart. Do the smart thing and tough it out.
posted by Kangaroo at 2:23 PM on April 14, 2015 [17 favorites]

I'm about as conservative as they come when it comes to retirement, but your current situation sounds like it's preventing you from enjoying your soon-to-be baby and seeing your mom through her illness. And you've got the buffer of a 401k that you wouldn't touch, so I'm leaning toward cashing in the pension. But I'm curious, what does your husband think? (Not because you need his permission but because he has better information than we do about your circumstances so his opinion would be helpful.)
posted by slmorri at 2:26 PM on April 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't touch the retirement money. I understand that you're totally stressed and that it seems like you can't go on. But at this point, you're ready to walk out the door. Don't worry about doing a good job or meeting expectations at work. Just show up, try your best to tune everyone out, and get through the day. Stop caring. If somebody starts yelling at you or blaming you, stare right through them and go to your happy place. Remember that every day you stick it out is another day's salary, and just focus on getting through each day. (On preview: What Kangaroo said, plus seriously just stop caring.)
posted by chickenmagazine at 2:26 PM on April 14, 2015 [8 favorites]

Possible solution: Talk to your doctor about your high degree of stress and anxiety and see if you can get a note from her or him to start your leave now for medical (really!) reasons. Then you can begin leave, collect your leave paycheck, and just not return at the end.

Cashing out retirement money is just about always a bad idea. (a) it's a fair amount of hassle to get it (b) you get less because it's taxed when you withdraw, IIRC (c) it's worth a lot more in that retirement account than it is in the short term. You've got a paycheck coming to you, so why not aim to just keep that?

Get your doctor involved. Your emotional health is real health, and you're exhausted and anxious, and I don't see why this can't be a medical leave situation for you.
posted by Miko at 2:30 PM on April 14, 2015 [21 favorites]

Go to your doctor, outline this, and ask about medical leave, as opposed to pregnancy leave. If your doctor says no, go to another doctor.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:32 PM on April 14, 2015 [6 favorites]

I hear you, and I am tempted to say that you should trust your instincts and quit now, for your sanity. It feels right, right now.

But here's the thing: it's possible you will have an incredibly easy baby, and maternity leave will be peaceful and warm and glowing and fulfilling. It is also possible that you will have a normal baby, and the first months after your baby is born you will be sleep-deprived, in physical pain, and getting yelled at all the time plus peed on and pooped on, by your new boss who genuinely doesn't care how you're feeling or doing because they're not old enough to understand the concept of "you" yet. It sounds like you're doing the bare minimum at work, and it's not fulfilling, but it's also keeping you able to be there. I would stick to that. Do what you have to do, put in the hours, be glad at the adult conversations. But now start letting yourself take a long lunch break. Keep taking those sick days when you need them. Schedule doctor's appointments so you miss work, if you need to. Keep reminding yourself - What are they going to do, fire me? If they do, then Boom! you've got your leave, maybe with a payout attached. Don't sabotage yourself - but stick to doing the minimum you can get away with. Maybe keep an "I hate this" diary every day where you detail all the stuff there that's pissing you off and all the things you're feeling. This can be a way to let off the emotional pressure you're feeling now, and something to laugh over at 3 in the morning when the baby still won't latch properly and won't stop screaming and you have thrush and your husband is sleeping right through it (YMMV, but if it's not this scenario there are plenty of others, all perfectly normal, and equally unbearable).

You say that you are the only wage earner right now. I'm not sure what your financial plan is once the baby comes and your paid leave runs out, but whatever it is, it's probably far better with you sticking with the current plan and squirreling away as much as you can now, than trying to cope with even less. If you can be a mom (and you know you can), you can do this.
posted by Mchelly at 2:55 PM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

This sounds really hard, but it isn't just you alone in this. Your husband is your partner and now is the time to lean on him. Quit and focus on your health, your baby, and your Mother. You've been supporting your husband for over five months; can he return to work, access his own retirement, borrow from his family? You've done so much all alone for so long - time to lean on your partner.
posted by saucysault at 2:57 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm also wondering where your partner is in this. Why isn't he working when you're in such a bad position? Is he doing everything possible to make your time outside of work entirely stress free? Are there additional ways you can lean on him to take off some of your load?
posted by metasarah at 4:16 PM on April 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

I suggest sticking it out, but this is the time to really push back; you said in your previous question that the managers are not reasonable in their requests. Now is the time to force the powers that be to give you ample time to get information together. If they drop something in your lap at 4:45pm that they want on your desk at 8am - "Sorry, that won't be possible." If they ask you what so-and-so's group is doing, forward that email to that Supervisor with a note "Please respond directly to Mr. Smith's inquiry". Set your boundaries, firmly. Remind everyone loudly and long that you are 8mos pregnant. What are they going to do at this point, fire you? And risk a lawsuit? Possible, but I doubt it.

What would happen to your medical insurance if you quit at this point? Another reason to stick it out.
posted by vignettist at 5:07 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Get medical leave if you can, but don't quit, as a favor to your future self. In eight weeks, when the baby is born and you're able to lean on six weeks' worth of free money from your soon-to-be-ex-employers to get you through early parenthood, you will be so happy that you chose to deal with the bad parts now to save you stress then.
posted by ostro at 5:10 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would stop caring about doing a good job and stop caring about getting yelled at or fired. If you're at the point where you might quit and forfeit your income anyway, let them try to fire you. You will feel less stressed if you worry less about doing a good job. Not caring is liberating. Take longer lunches. Miss deadlines. Who cares? Based on the picture you paint, this current job is a bad fit and you are not leaving with positive references to begin with anyway, so I am not sure it you will make things much worse.

Of course, the advice to seek medical leave is probably a better first option. Perhaps you can even convince your office to let you work from home, if you think that will minimize some of the stress. Also, your partner needs to pick up the slack and get a job, even if it's a crappy job -- this sounds seriously unfair to you.
posted by AppleTurnover at 5:12 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Raiding retirement savings is usually not a good financial decision. Maybe it would help if all you have to do is the job. Your husband does the cooking, cleaning, laundry, packing, etc., etc., and (priority one) taking care of you.

Some other ideas: I wonder if it is also possible to reframe the terrible job thoughts, e.g., instead of "I am stuck here for 8 more weeks" you could think "in 8 weeks none of this will matter at all! Yay!" Can you take headphones and listen to happy music while you're at your desk? And is it possible to get out of the office at lunchtime, even if it's just to eat a sandwich on a park bench or even in your car?
posted by tuesdayschild at 5:12 PM on April 14, 2015

I think you'll end up unhappier in the long run if you quit, because then you have money worries to freak out about-- if not now, then in a year. Unless you physically collapse at work, you'll make it in the way we all do: by thinking about how much worse life is without any job at all and no income.

Check into that medical leave idea.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:26 PM on April 14, 2015

How would your medical insurance work if you quit? Right before a baby is due is a pretty terrible time to lose health insurance, and medical costs can eat though that $45K very quickly.

Have you talked to a therapist about coping mechanisms? It seems that the most prudent thing to do is to whatever is necessary to make your job tolerable. The worst they can do is fire you, right?
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:29 PM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

No, please don't, forget about retirement, that money is your emergency (i.e. keep a roof over your baby's head and food in your mouth) savings right now. Just in case. Jobs can be hard to find, health can be unreliable. Baby's are expensive, childcare is really expensive (and physically challenging). Please don't plan on using that money until you absolutely have to. If things go well, you'll have it for retirement, if things don't go as planned you AND your baby will have a safety net.

I'm so sorry, I know this sucks. But I think the potential anxiety of having no income with a baby will be much much worse than a soul sucking job.

[And your husband should be doing absolutely anything and everything he can to help this situation. Finding a job that he can do, applying for disability/unemployment if he can't, doing whatever household management he physically can do, massaging your feet, and letting you cry on his shoulder as much as you need and telling you what an amazing woman you are, etc.]

Big hugs.
posted by pennypiper at 5:49 PM on April 14, 2015 [6 favorites]

It's been mentioned already, but if quitting your job means you will lose your health insurance -- that could be a very bad thing.

My now very healthy 22-year-old child was born 10 weeks prematurely, when I developed appendicitis. My appendix actually ruptured, so I was in the hospital for two weeks on 24/7 IV antibiotics. Our baby was in the NICU for four weeks. I seem to recall that the NICU bill alone was something like $40,000. That was 22 years ago. I shudder to think what it would be today. It was not a problem for us, because our health insurance covered all of it. But without insurance, a completely unexpected medical event like that could wipe you out financially.

Please, don't quit your job. Or if you do, be sure to buy private health insurance, and make sure there is no gap in your coverage.
posted by merejane at 4:26 AM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding the idea that your husband should be contributing to household income. Your previous post mentioned that he wasn't working due to health issues, but obviously his health was good enough to be trying for a baby. He should at least be doing some part-time work, from home if necessary. Putting the entire burden on you, at 7 months along, with a job you hate and with finances tight, is unfair and unsupportive.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 5:36 AM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thank you everyone, for talking me down. I agree that either quitting or tapping retirement are not really good solutions to my problem.

I hadn't considered medical leave for stress. I've started asking my doctor about it via email, and I see her next week, so I hope that she'll be able to do something for me. I'm worried that I don't have pregnancy complications per se - other than my mental state things have been pretty smooth sailing baby-wise - and that there's no real reason for me to be off work. But all I can do is ask.

My husband has been very supportive throughout the pregnancy. Yes, he's been battling a chronic illness and hasn't been able to work. But, he has been my shoulder to cry on, he takes care of me, he takes care of things around the house, and has offered to try for part-time work if it would ease things a bit. It wouldn't be enough money to support us or allow me to quit my job which is why I haven't taken him up on it, but it would be something at least, so maybe we need to have that conversation again.
posted by fanta_orange at 5:41 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm worried that I don't have pregnancy complications per se

I don't think you should worry - your psychological/emotional health is important and if it's impact, there's certainly a reasonable argument to consider it a complication. You might want to Google around for "sick leave" + pregnancy + stress to find some other incidents where people have taken some sick leave while pregnant for situations like yours, without impacting their maternity leave.

These might be helpful:
How and when to use sick leave benefits during pregnancy.
Stress and pregnancy
posted by Miko at 1:01 AM on April 18, 2015

Update: My doctor is willing to sign off on my medical leave whenever I want for mental health reasons. I'm planning to go off work in two weeks (I'll be at 32 weeks) so I can wrap things up. Short term disability will provide 65% of my pay which is enough for us to live on, so the financial side looks good too.

We visited family this weekend, and with the job situation getting sorted out I actually felt good for the first time in months. Thanks again for the help, everyone.
posted by fanta_orange at 10:19 AM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

That is awesome. So glad this is working for you. I hope you get some great rest.
posted by Miko at 8:22 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

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