So confused/indecisive about work and career as a mom
September 9, 2016 11:06 PM   Subscribe

I have worked part time since my son was born six years ago. He is now in 1st grade and gets home around 3 p.m. on the bus. I am thinking that it's time for me to go back to work full time for several reasons, but I am agonizing over my decision and it's driving me crazy.

There are many reasons why I think going back to work full time is a good idea for me:

--More money! (a big one)
--A retirement plan and match.
--Vacation days, holidays, etc.
--Actual contact with people -- I work remotely now and have for 2.5 years.
--A job I really enjoy. (In my city, pr p/t jobs are few and far between).
--No more work hanging over my head all the time during evenings/weekends at home (since I work from home). A much better separation of work/home. MUCH less feeling guilty because I'm working on my laptop while my son is around, wanting to play with me. It will be quality over quantity, hopefully...
--The job I'm applying for is basically the same job I had from 2008-2012 (p/t), at the same org, and it's open again but now f/t. I liked working there and really liked my job. It's a 20-minute commute. The boss of my new boss would be my old supervisor, and she is a mom too (which often means more understanding/flexible re working parents, and it does in this case).
--*Possibly* a standard 35-hour workweek, as it's a nonprofit org (need to double-check). Possibly flextime. If so, I could ask to work approx. 8-4.
--and more reasons...

BUT. I am so, so, so indecisive. (Part of that is my ADHD, and some anxiety.) I just often feel this visceral reaction that since my son has special needs (ASD/Asperger's and ADHD), I should keep working p/t to be around more for him and be home when he gets off the bus. Please note that I do NOT think it's WRONG to work full time as a mom/parent -- plenty of my friends do, and their kids are just fine. My parents live nearby and they could have my son come once or twice a week to their house after school (he already goes once), and we have a trusted babysitter to do one other afternoon. The other two or three days, I'd have to figure out -- probably another babysitter at our house, since my son could just relax and decompress from school, play on his iPad or whatever.

This is eating me up inside. My brain knows I should do this but my heart is like, "but nooooooo." I'll be all decided for a few days that I want to work full time again, and be happy with that decision, and then suddenly I'll think, "No, wait! I totally want to keep working part time!! What was I thinking?!" and be secure in *that* decision. Part of it is that I will miss the flexibility of working part-time and remotely -- but it is a very lonely/isolating situation and I hate the fact that almost all the time at home I'm thinking, "I should be working right now." That would totally or mostly go away. And as someone with ADHD, I need more structure in my life than I have now. (I am seeing a therapist and psychiatrist, and I am on a stimulant and antidepressant. I haven't brought this up specifically with my therapist, but I will soon.)

Help, please... Please make me feel better about working full time (or think about it differently) with or without sharing your own experiences. I feel like since my son has special needs and some behavior issues, I "owe" it to him to be home with him after school, or that I'll mess something up by working full time, or that I won't be able to know how he's doing, like when we try a new medication, etc. (The silly thing is, when he comes home from school now, he often goes to his iPad and meanwhile I'm working or trying to work on my laptop, so....) Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Try it and if you don't like it, quit. It's not like you're marrying your job!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:17 PM on September 9, 2016 [26 favorites]

May I ask what your previous job was? And maybe a different kind of job would be easier to say yes to?
posted by Omnomnom at 11:39 PM on September 9, 2016

Mom of 2 here, the eldest just started kindergarten. I worked p/t for about the last 10 years (even before the kids came along), and went back to full time in May. There's been good things and bad. I will say that having the school year start has helped immensely with our schedule. I'm mostly done at 3 now, although I'm still pulling too many late night hours, but that's on me and boundardy issues (and my team being extremely understaffed atm). Plus sides - the opportunities are more interesting now that I'm full time, and I feel like I'm building career 'capital' for the first time in forever. We're staring down 2 surgeries in our family by the end of the year so the benefits and the xtra income are very helpful.

Downsides - I'm exhausted and everything is suffering right now - dinner, keeping the house clean, exercising, the occasional hobby time or organizing photos, financial housekeeping, etc. And even picking them up at 3 I feel like I hardly see them, it's a rush of pickups/dinner/a bit of work sometimes and then it's bath and bed earlier than before since we're all getting up early. I know I should exercise, but I feel guilty being away from them for any longer. But that's me, not necessarily you! My downtime tends to be extremely mindless these days, please don't ask me to comment coherently on current events. My partner and I are a team, but I'm still the primary parent. I'm trying to get better with my time management, and I suspect the exercise will only fit in the schedule once I commit to really getting up much earlier than we do now (6 am). If the kids would go to bed by themselves and get dressed by themselves, etc. that would free up a lot of time.

Other people seem to take it all in stride, and I know I'm way luckier than most, YMMV. Still if I could go back down to 30/35 I think I'd feel a huge weight off my shoulders. I really wish that was something that was more mainstream in the US. I'm going to probably stick it out til the end of year and then reeval.
posted by snowymorninblues at 11:58 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is there another parent that can contribute to making it all work or are you a single mom?
posted by meijusa at 1:06 AM on September 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

I feel for you. My eldest is 10 and she has aspergers and ADHD too.

In my case I do not work at all, because we had more kids and the youngest has autism too but with much more dramatic care needs. He will hopefully go to a special school or ASD base next August, until then I cannot consider working at all as we don't have good childcare options, the only people I know who could cope with his needs already have equally disabled kids of their own.

The other factor is that my eldest went through MAJOR issues when she was 7. The school and psych team told me it is really common. There's a big development surge and with some kids everything gets much better and easier, with others there is huge regression. We got the latter. There's no way to know until you get there, but it might be something to have in your mind, whatever plans you make just now might not be as firm and long-lasting as you are thinking.

With that in mind I think you should give it a go. There's no other way to find out. I would jump at the chance to work again if we had your childcare options! And if it really doesn't work then you can reduce the hours or get a different job.

I would plan, right from the start, to farm out some of your house work. So find a cleaner to come in once a week and arrange for your laundry to be done elsewhere. If you can batch cook do so, if not find a local eatery that will deliver and put their number in your phone. Don't wait for it to pile up and depress you, tackle it first. Maximise what time you will have with your kid. Kids DO like quantity time over quality, so even if you feel you're just sat drinking coffee while he's on the iPad after school, he will appreciate your availability. If, after everything is settled again, you find you have plenty of slack time to handle the laundry then you can stop sending it out. But don't try to do everything at once, especially to begin with. Best of luck to you, this is an exciting decision to be able to make!
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 2:06 AM on September 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

How severe are your son's special needs?

I started interviewing for new jobs while my daughter was still dependent on a feeding tube. it's a lot to ask of a caretaker but I had the same list of pro reasons that you do and some good opportunities. I was surprised at how good I felt about it once I did start working, even though we didn't have the right childcare situation out of the gate. I felt like i should at least try this opportunity, and if it didn't work I could always quit and try something else. I've learned to advocate for my child and can now advocate for myself in ways I couldn't pre-kid. But the waffling only happened before I really tried - once I went back full time I have never (not once!) questioned the decision.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:05 AM on September 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you decide to stick with the remote position, there may be ways to provide a better work/life balance now that your son is in school. His school hours are your work hours, end stop. If psychologically distancing yourself would be easier if you worked from a coffee shop or coworking space, do that. You no longer need to sneak work in every spare moment!

I can't guess what would be the best decision for you; I've done pretty much every iteration of what you're doing. But if you move to full time work, remember that the need for paid child care may be greater than you think. After school until you finish work,conference days, random holidays, summers, etc. Obviously lots of us do it! But it does require juggling, and is especially hard if you don't have a partner who will carry half of the child care and housekeeping load (which is unclear from your post).
posted by metasarah at 5:26 AM on September 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you can swing it, give it a go. Especially if 35 houtrs/week is a possibility.

I have special needs kids and special needs of my own. My first full time job was 37.5 hours a week. When I changed shifts and had to work 40, wow, that was hard to adjust to. It was such a great opportunity for me to have a full time job that was less than 40 hours at first. It would have been so much more drama to start at 40 hours a week instead of moving to it later.

So, this sounds like a really great opportunity.

I know special needs kids take more time and energy and require significant accommodation. But it is such a gift to them to prepare them to live a full life in spite of their handicaps. This would be a chsnce for you to explore that for yourself and, if you can make it work, model it for your child.

Life is different when you have special needs. But that doesn't mean it has to be a lesser life. My kids are so glad I set the example for that for them. They have to follow their own path. Following the crowd is a non starter. But being different doesn't mean you dare not dream.

My kids were teens when I got my first ever full time job, so it is perfectly fine if you do this later. But I would totally listen to Jagged Little Pill and try to find answers I was comfortable with for details tgat worried me the most.

Best, whatever your decision.
posted by Michele in California at 11:15 AM on September 10, 2016

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