Stay home or go back to work once baby is born?
August 10, 2017 12:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm just beginning my second trimester of my first pregnancy and my boss is asking me what my maternity leave plans are. I'm having trouble deciding whether I should be a stay at home mom or go back to work. Help me weigh my pros and cons please!

I'm a patient coordinator for a doctor, have worked there for 7 years and plan to work up until my due date in late February. It's the best job I've ever had both in terms of salary and work environment. I do think I will never make nearly as much money as I do now (around 70k before taxes) and I'm not being modest, I'm overpaid for this industry. My boss will offer me 3 months of unpaid leave.

My husband makes about double my salary and is ok/positive about me staying home once the baby is born. We will probably have 50k saved by the time the baby's here. Baby and I can both go on my husband's health insurance.

I want to stay home because:

- I want to be home with my baby and don't think I'll do well emotionally if I have to leave them at 3 months old
- We don't have family here who can watch the baby otherwise so we would have to get a nanny or do daycare (neither husband or I can telecommute)

I'm scared to stay home because:

- As an adult I have never been financially dependent on anyone besides myself
- I'm afraid I'll never get a job as good this one again - this was my first job in a totally different industry, I have no other experience and I am overpaid
- We rent now and this will delay our buying a house by an unknown period of time
- I don't want my husband to be super stressed being the sole breadwinner
- I don't think my husband thinks of being a SAHP as work but maybe that will change once he sees how hard it is

I realize I am very privileged to be in this situation. I feel like if I go back to work, I'll basically be paying half my salary to someone else to raise my kid and in our financial situation I do not *need* to do that. On the other hand, I feel like if I don't go back to work, I'm taking too much of a risk in case I need to support myself alone one day. I'm also worried about the negative effects on my marriage if my husband feels overwhelmed by the arrangement. I'm not worried about not liking being a SAHP because I don't anticipate feeling that way but I can't predict it either way. I don't plan to be a SAHP forever, I think it's good for kids to go to school at 2 or 3 and then I'll get a job.

Taking your experiences into consideration, what is my best course of action?
posted by tatiana wishbone to Work & Money (49 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Take the leave. Tell your boss you plan to come back. If you change your mind, what's the worst that they can do to you?
posted by Etrigan at 12:30 PM on August 10, 2017 [57 favorites]

Even if you were 85% sure that you wanted to stay home with your baby, I would tell you to go into it thinking that you're going back to work. Three months at home isn't enough time, I completely agree, but it might be enough time for you to judge whether or not you can be a stay-at-home parent and be happy.

As long as you keep the door open to coming back, you might be able to structure a part-time return with your office that lets you have the best of both worlds.
posted by gladly at 12:35 PM on August 10, 2017 [11 favorites]

No one on their death bed ever said, "I wish I'd spent more time at work".

Being a stay at home parent has a set of stresses, financial, relational and emotional, but it's... I don't know, I think it's just the most important thing you can do if you're able.

You'll be surprised how different a person you are in five years. You may want to go back to school (nurse care coordinators make a very good salary) or something else. You've been lucky to have a job that pays a living wage, but I bet new options will open up.
posted by latkes at 12:35 PM on August 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

I would take the 3m unpaid and tell your boss you plan to come back.

What kind of leave does your H get? If he gets any, he should take a week or two at the beginning to be at home with you. Then he should take the rest *after* your 3 months off and after you go back to work. This will allow him to get a full understanding of how hard being a SAHP can be should you decide that is what you want to do. You can also use this time to determine how you feel about working vs SAHP. If you decide you want to SAHP, great... put in notice, help transition your replacement and your H will get that you are doing actual really hard work once he goes back to work and you stay home.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 12:38 PM on August 10, 2017 [40 favorites]

- I don't think my husband thinks of being a SAHP as work but maybe that will change once he sees how hard it is

I'd say this is an orange flag, darkish orange.

What happens when he gets home in his mind? Does he take over child care so you can pee alone and take a shower? or do you make him dinner? There is a world of difference between SAHP and 50's housewife, some dudes haven't unpacked that mental baggage, make sure he has.

Tell you boss you're planning to come back. The first 2 months are a hard time where the baby doesn't give a lot back, it's like a love 401k you only put assets IN. Being a SAHP is hard, isolating, and a wildly different life than you've been living.

Don't plan on doing it for just a couple years, at 2 YO kids don't go to school all day, preschool is a couple hours, not enough time for a job without using daycare. But at your wage and your husband's wage Daycare shouldn't be a problem at all.
posted by French Fry at 12:39 PM on August 10, 2017 [22 favorites]

There's kind of no way to know what you're going to want until you're doing it. Financially, I don't need to work and currently 80% of my take-home pay goes to daycare. But I am still working because I love my job and I found I am not a good SAHP. It is not my strong point and my children are getting much more out of being at an excellent daycare.

But I have friends who are totally the opposite, and their kids are getting much more out of being at home with a parent.

I agree with the assessment to take the unpaid leave and see what you think. But know that either choice you make will not be perfect - at home, you'll wish sometimes you were at work, and work, sometimes, you'll wish you were at home.
posted by bibbit at 12:45 PM on August 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sorry just want to add: I'm scared to tell my boss I'm coming back and then not because it's a 2 person office and he will probably give me a bad reference if I do that (he can be vindictive.)
posted by tatiana wishbone at 12:45 PM on August 10, 2017

Your last bullet point needs to be worked through before you'll ever get your first bullet point settled. The fact is that he won't *really* see how hard it is being a SAHP because he won't be there all day- he'll have to take your word for it. The good news is that you've got a few months to work this through and I HIGHLY recommend seeing a counselor jointly to talk about all this stuff. I'm a SAHM and struggled with this for the first few years. It was hard.

In terms of what you tell your boss, you say you're coming back! If, at some point, you change your mind THEN let them know. Don't be anything but confident when you tell them you're coming back.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 12:46 PM on August 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

I love my children to bits. Absolutely adore them. I am also not in any way cut out to be a SAHP. My children had wonderful care for their first 7 1/2 and 3 years, respectively, from caregivers who became family to us. Their world was richer and brighter for having that extra love.

In terms of the salary piece: 1) It is not only your salary that is paying for childcare. Your husband is contributing to your wealth as a family too. Women sell themselves and their earning power short all the time by thinking it is only their salary that is going toward childcare. If you redistribute that cost between the two of you, your salary is more important. 2) As you noted, you are earning well in a job you enjoy. You will continue to earn benefits and raises that will continue to increase your wealth over time. 3) Childcare expenses change drastically over time. When your children go to school, the costs change considerably. Consider that long term investment as well. 4) As you noted, if, heaven forbid, something happens that requires you to go back to work, it can be very challenging, especially on short notice.

If you want to be a SAHP because that is meaningful to you and because you feel it is best for you and your family, that is a valuable and important choice. You should absolutely go with it. It is important for you and your partner to plan for that together and to be sure you are on the same page about expectations and what that will look like. Don't expect your spouse to "come around" by observation. Talk this through and make a conscious decision together.
posted by goggie at 12:53 PM on August 10, 2017 [29 favorites]

Another detail I didn't get around to:
I was once a SAHP and I really liked it, but my wife didn't enjoy working during that time.
My wife was also once a SAHP and neither of us liked that.
Now we both work and we both like it.

Weird right?

It's not just about your individual wants it's also about the dynamics of your relationship.

I found being the sole bread winner stressful in a way just being single and working never was. I was dragging around a lot of toxic masculinity that was weird and new and didn't work right for me. When I was at home and my wife worked she felt disconnected and left out of the family, and I got into kind of an obsessive-super-stay-at-home dad mode.

With us both working we're a lot happier. Chores, work, paying bills, putting kids to bed is all shared, all equal. It's the only thing that works for us.
posted by French Fry at 12:59 PM on August 10, 2017 [14 favorites]

What are your plans in regards to breastfeeding? (Fully recognizing that plans don't always work out, of course). If you plan to nurse, I would strongly advise against going back to work for the duration. Pumping is hell, if you can even do it (I had overabundance of milk and no issues breastfeeding but I was never able to produce anything more than half a teaspoon via pumping).

That said, I was super happy to go back to work after I was done nursing. Working was such a walk in the park compared to infant care that I felt like I was going to a spa every morning I left for work. No exaggeration.
posted by rada at 12:59 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would not now make any predictions about how you will feel about this once your baby is born and you are on mat leave. We've had a number of Asks about this and there's always a LOT of parents who sneak in to admit that they could. not. wait. to go back to work after maternity leave. I think the tire tracks I left as I burned rubber back to the office after 8 weeks are still visible on the driveway.

Also, everything goggie said, cosigned, in triplicate, and underlined.

Say you're coming back. You would not be the first new parent to decide to leave the workforce after all at the end of their leave. (I'm sitting in the cubicle right now of someone who did just that. She came back to work for like 3 weeks then noped out. It happens.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:00 PM on August 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

No one on their death bed ever said, "I wish I'd spent more time at work".

This is a really common saying and I think it's true for a lot of people. However, it's definitely not true for all. I love my work and, despite how much I love my kids, I don't want to give up my work for them. I mean, I would if I had to, but they are two kids who love their preschool. I think we are all happier going to work and preschool than we would be if we were all home. I have a work colleague for whom I am sure this is true.

My point is just that everyone is different. For some, staying home with young kids is tremendously fun and rewarding (despite the huge amount of work). For others, it's a slog and they would much rather have time doing interesting, challenging work with adult colleagues. OP, I think it's hard to know which version of a person you will be until you try it for a while. I would strongly encourage you to take your maternity leave with the plan of going back, but with the idea in the back of your head that you can quit if you need to.
posted by Betelgeuse at 1:04 PM on August 10, 2017 [30 favorites]

How is the boss going to cover your job while you are on leave? Is there is an option to return to work part-time? Personally, I LOVED being able to leave baby to go to work in the morning and felt much happier to be back home with the kiddo after I had some professional adult time in my life.
posted by metahawk at 1:05 PM on August 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

No one on their death bed ever said, "I wish I'd spent more time crying alone in my home covered in both vomit and poop" either.
posted by French Fry at 1:06 PM on August 10, 2017 [106 favorites]

Saying that you plan to come back gives you the most options. A vindictive boss can find other tools in his arsenal to make your life difficult no matter which path you take. If you work with other people in any capacity, they may be willing to serve as references later.
posted by gnomeloaf at 1:07 PM on August 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seconding the suggestion that you STRONGLY push for husband to take some leave when you first return to work. First, it is much easier to leave your sweet little one with its father than with a stranger. Second, he will get to see what it is really like to be the sole parent at home with small baby. Third, and most important, it will create a situation where he will get to figure out his own style for dealing with baby without you interfering or rescuing. This is so important for his bonding and his involvement with the kid. Mothers are often the first to figure out things like the difference between "I'm hungry" cry and "Pick me up cry" - with you out of the house, he figure it out for himself and develop a confidence in handling the baby that will be good for all three of you.
posted by metahawk at 1:09 PM on August 10, 2017 [28 favorites]

Just in case you haven't gotten enough admonition on this: if your husband is IN ANY WAY capable of taking parental leave beyond a cursory week after birth, and can delay it until after you go back to work yourself DO IT. It is absolutely key to developing a dynamic in the house where both parents are truly equally capable of caring for an infant. And that carries forward throughout the child's entire lifetime. It was the #1 thing that we did that I would recommend that everyone do. We both had 8 weeks of leave. We took the first 4 together (omgwtfbbq they let us take a baby home from the hospital WHAT DO WE DOOOO???), then he went back for 4 weeks while I stayed home for the rest of my leave (so boring and lonely), then when I went back to work, he stayed home for 4 weeks. After that, neither of us had any baby abilities that the other didn't have except milk came out of my boobs and not his. Five years later, he's still the better parent, quite honestly. I'm kind of a shit mom, but he's a top notch dad.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:17 PM on August 10, 2017 [24 favorites]

I am a very happy SAHP and your bit about not being sure whether your husband would appreciate it as work is a big darkish-orange flag to me too, fwiw. Part of the reason we agreed that I would be a SAHP is that my partner absolutely gets, without having it spelled out, that im not sat on my arse eating bonbons.

A major part of the discussion you need to have, should you decide to stay at home, is that you need to know exactly what financial arrangements you would have. Our arrangement is that the money coming into our house is precisely 50/50. There is no way I would have put up with an allowance, which is something I regularly see on the parent sites I go on.
posted by threetwentytwo at 1:29 PM on August 10, 2017 [8 favorites]

If you want to be a SAHP because that is meaningful to you and because you feel it is best for you and your family, that is a valuable and important choice. You should absolutely go with it. It is important for you and your partner to plan for that together and to be sure you are on the same page about expectations and what that will look like. Don't expect your spouse to "come around" by observation. Talk this through and make a conscious decision together.

Yes, this.

I am not a SAHP. I never thought I would be. When I was pregnant I was pretty sure I'd be happy to go back to work. After the kid was born I was in a daze for the first month, but by the 6th week I was ready to start going back. That is me. I always knew I would try to preserve my career as much as possible if I had a kid. (I went back at 3 months because of childcare.) It works. My partner took a couple weeks off right at the birth and then we planned on him taking some time off when I went back to work but the kid transitioned to daycare so easily it wasn't necessary.

Are you worried about other people taking care of your baby? We don't have family very close by, and we just always assumed the kid would be in daycare. For us and our family, this is right. We like that the baby is around other kids all day with a group of adults who know what they're doing (unlike us as first). I also know this is not everybody's style. Think about what you want.

You should talk to your husband about all of this for sure. The fact that he might not see being a SAHP as work is not really something you want to leave hanging out there. The three months I was home with the kid, my partner totally understood that I spent the day taking care of the baby and myself.

Regardless, you and your husband should discuss all of these issues and figure out what's right for both of you. The fears about you cutting into future earning potential are totally real, but at the same time if you feel more strong about being a mom than that job that's how you feel. There's no right or wrong answer really as long as you are OK with the decision when you make it. You can try it out and then find a different job later when you feel like it.
posted by kendrak at 1:30 PM on August 10, 2017

I will tell you my opinion, but it may not be popular.

My mom always raised my sister and I to be very independent. VERY. I have never and will never depend on anyone else, husband included, to be the only financial person for my family. My husband and I make pretty equal salary, and it's not a lot, but we get by well. I know for a fact that if ANYTHING happened to him, I would take care of my child financially on my own. This is a huge source of pride and relieved pressure for me. Being a partner financially with my husband helps us meet goals and relieves that pressure from him too.

Our son went to a small, at home daycare when he was a baby and I worked my way up to a nice facility when he was 3 and I felt like he needed more of a strict educational environment. My son is super smart, really well versed and exposed to all kinds of different kids and people.

I also feel like I am overpaid for what I do. I'm a supervisor in a physicians office as well. I know if I lost my job, I'd be in a similar boat where I would make half as much somewhere else and that is scary to lose and regret later.

I guess what I am saying is -- go back to work. Help meet those goals for your family financially. Take time to find a safe place for your child. Try to hang in there, after a month back to work it gets easier and your "normal" changes to a new normal. Being a working mom is a fantastic thing. It doesn't make you any less of a mom, by any means!
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 1:31 PM on August 10, 2017 [13 favorites]

Though I see that other people have, I also want to point out that a response like this:

No one on their death bed ever said, "I wish I'd spent more time at work".

Being a stay at home parent has a set of stresses, financial, relational and emotional, but it's... I don't know, I think it's just the most important thing you can do if you're able.

is massively unhelpful for anyone trying to make this decision, and it contains cliches and false assumptions. There are people who, on their deathbed, wish they had done more or different things for themselves in many many different ways. There was an entire generational movement for women who felt that they wanted more options to be able to do things for themselves or to contribute in other ways than to be at home - that wasn't all for non-parents. There are people who parent better when they don't have to do it full-time. There are kids that benefit from being in organized care instead of at home (look at organized care in other countries). There are a many important things you must do for your children but deciding that being a stay at home parent is "the most important" for anyone other than yourself is not only false incorrect and actually actively hurtful for those who cannot do it or do not want to.

For the poster's situation:
1) You don't really mention what kind of childcare you'd use if you went back to work. If you start investigating that, it might help you decide and understand true costs and lifestyles.
2) It can be really difficult to make that decision until you're in the day to day of parenting. Some people are really ready to go back, some people are semi ready to go back, and some people are wholly unready to go back.
3) I think 3 months is a pretty short leave. Many people get even less, but if it's already unpaid, I don't think it's necessarily out of the ordinary to just start by asking for more - maybe aim for 4 or 5 full months, perhaps 6. Someone advised me to try to do 4 full months because, essentially, the baby starts to be more rewarding during the 4th month.
4) I wouldn't base too much of your decision on the particular attributes of the job other than if you actually like the job and feel that it's a good match. You can find another job if you want - it may not be quite as attractive, and you may need to make some adjustments, but I wouldn't let the relatively higher salary or your fear of not finding as "good" a job be too much of a deciding factor where your decisions can probably be more based on your personal needs.
posted by vunder at 1:38 PM on August 10, 2017 [19 favorites]

No smart boss ever feels certain that someone is coming back from maternity leave until they do. Also, people come back then realize it's wrong for them and quit all the time. I wouldn't worry too much about your boss being vindictive. You can be appropriately apologetic. But if you think you might want to come back, keep your options open.

If you're certain you don't, though, then it's okay to go ahead and quit. Just because this is a good (well-paying) job doesn't mean it's right for you right now. Something I've learned from my own struggles with this question is that you have to make decisions based on what works for you now. Sure, it'd be awesome if you could have this job available in three years when you want to work again, but time doesn't work that way, and what you want in the moment is important, because this is the only time in your life that you can get it. I went back to work thinking "I can always quit later once I have a good plan," and that's true, but it's also true that I was not home for those months when I wanted to be home, and now my baby is a toddler. I normally value short-term sacrifice and long-term planning, but things how you relate to your growing children in some ways are an exception to that. Getting used to some uncertainty is a good idea.
posted by slidell at 1:42 PM on August 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Just make the choice that leaves your options open. Your boss will cope if you change your mind later.

As a data point, I was not sure I'd go back to work after having my first baby. She passed away a few days after birth (1:20,000 siatuation) and I was so glad I had my job to go back to. Now, years later and having made lots of choices, I just want to let you know that you will be choosing, over and over, based on what works for your family.

Don't buy into any rules that you haven't tested. With toddlers I have to tell you I actually think my kids benefitted from being with adults who love that stage because I do not. Once I found a great (and I mean that) daycare, i actually ended up staying in a job I didn't love in order to pay for it. I would never have predicted that outcome!

There are a lot of myths out there like it's best for kids to be home with their mothers. Well, my mum did that and she was so unhappy and I am /still/ at 46 years old getting flak from her that I owe it to her to be an amazing daughter because she gave up a career. On the other hands, I know amazing SAHMs who really do super stuff for their kids and community. Give yourself the gift of learning as you go.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:42 PM on August 10, 2017 [6 favorites]

Your boss would maybe, maybe, maybe have a valid gripe if you were getting paid during those three months of leave. You say its a two person office, so how will he cover your duties while you are out assuming you come back? that solution will have to suffice for long enough to hire a permanent replacement should you change your mind and decide to ultimately not go back to work.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:45 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Others have covered a lot of the points, but I believe as an employee with that many years of experience and, even with an employer you feel is vindictive, it might be worth asking what other options might be. Presumably they're bringing in a temp while you're on leave, and it might be worth asking what the core duties you're doing are, and whether you would be able to do that work while having an ongoing temp cover others, for an extended period. Only you know your boss, though, so if it really would hurt to ask, that's your call.

For what it's worth, your boss isn't offering you three months unpaid leave: that's the federally mandated amount of time. Make sure you don't treat that as an olive branch on their side should you consider this a negotiation, as it's literally the bare minimum. Were you at an office with a larger number of workers, you'd have some amount of paid leave.
posted by mikeh at 1:45 PM on August 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

I think you should reframe the money a bit. You're doing the physical part of baby-creation, and your husband will be paying for child care. He's either going to be paying for you to do it (by "paying your boss" your full current salary to borrow your time for the duration, so your net family income works out to your salary plus the half your husband's salary that's left), or he's going to be paying childcare somewhat less than your full current salary (so your net family income works out to your salary plus, say, two-thirds of your husband's salary).
posted by current resident at 1:49 PM on August 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm another one thinks you should take the 3 month leave and then decide. You can even go back to work and then decide it's not for you.

I had 4 months paid leave with baby (and I'm the breadwinner so I always planned to go back to work). I went pretty stir crazy after staying home for so long, and that's WITH an international vacation during those 4 months. And while I dislike pumping, I vastly prefer doing it 1-2x a day to staying at home all day. I'm definitely a much happier person now that I'm back at work.

Every kid is different and really, you won't know until your kid gets here and you start living life with baby.

And yes, work out the money situation with your husband first.

My husband is a stay at home parent and we had discussions about that. Being the sole breadwinner to a family is a very different level of stress than being making enough to support yourself. He may or may not feel a lot of stress and even if he does, he may or may not feel like it's okay to verbalize.

I feel like you've broached the subject but you haven't resolved it? You should both agree on the value of a stay at home parent and how the finances will work, before you seriously consider becoming a stay at home parent.

Don't worry about your boss. As someone else already said: Someone will have to cover you during your leave. That person (or a similar person) can do so if you choose to not go back.
posted by ethidda at 2:05 PM on August 10, 2017

Please don't discount your financial future. Women who leave the workforce cease payment into Social Security and retirement accounts for the duration of their SAH tenure, and in addition may never achieve the salary and benefit increases they would have made had they not left. And surely this doctor understands competitive salaries! You are not overpaid to him!

It sounds like your husband has a more traditional role in mind for a stay-at-home-mom, and your doctor boss has rigid requirements for employees (and maybe women's roles as well). You don't have to decide now!

Keep your options open. What if you decide to resign (because you fear your employer's reaction) and then want to return? It's much harder and maybe impossible if he's replaced you. But if he has a temp it might work out well and even give you a part-time possibility after a couple of months, which would be much easier in terms of child care costs, and give you salary so you don't feel so dependent. I know I really needed the adult interaction, the sense of financial accomplishment and the routine that returning to work gave me. I worked 3 days a week, and it was a perfect compromise. Can you start to have this conversation with your boss? It sounds like he views his world mostly in how it benefits or inconveniences him. If you can present it as a win-win rather than a concession to you, a new mother, he might be inclined to agree. This way he has you, the familiar patient coordinator he has come to depend on, and pays well to keep, and the temp, who is an unknown who will have a learning curve will have a more defined a more limited role. You can always ratchet employment up or down in your future, but please don't discount what you do in order to fulfill the needs of others, rather than yourself.

And I agree strongly that families where one partner provides the income for the family while the other cares for children can be difficult to navigate. Know that your contribution is equally valuable, whether monetary or childcare. Or both.
posted by citygirl at 2:12 PM on August 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

Someone said this to me the other day, and it really resonated with me: "I thought I was the most maternal person on earth. Turns out, not so much" -- it was in regards to having more kids, but I think it works equally well for this situation.

There's no way to plan out how you're going to feel. Take the leave, figure things out as you go. It's all you can do. Being a patient coordinator for your boss for 7+ years is probably going to say more about you to a possible new employer than him saying "and then she left after her kid was born!"
posted by freezer cake at 2:26 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am a stay-at-home-mom and I want to second everything that threetwentytwo said. My husband and I have a wonderful relationship with a lot of respect for each other's work - he totally understands how hard staying at home can be, and I completely get how stressful his work outside the home can be. We check in with each other all the time about how we're feeling, whether we want to make a change, etc. We split finances 50/50 and communicate all the time about our roles and how we can help each other out and give each other a break. And even with all that...we still have to navigate resentment and tricky emotional labor shit. Because this stuff is hard. Going into a situation where one parent stays at home with a first baby, and the other parent doesn't understand or appreciate how hard it is to solo care for an infant, sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. (I mean, obviously people do this all the time - I have several mom friends whose husbands seem to be completely oblivious to the seething resentment - but it doesn't look fun from where I'm sitting)
posted by cpatterson at 2:58 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Heck, do it. Go back to work. You have a great job, and one we will need in decades to come. Remember you are doing this big day care thing until the kids get to school and then it is a few hours of daycare a day. Then they will go into after school programs and look after themselves and work, in their teens. You have a chance to build your family and your career. It sucks and it is expensive, and its pros and cons are entirely in your knowledge and your gift. You're one of the few who can financially hack it, so think it through thoroughly. It is cool if it's not your thing.
posted by Mistress at 3:12 PM on August 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I went back to work when my second son was about 4 months old, and now my husband is a SAHD. Our boys are now 2 and 4. I love them dearly, but it sure is nice to go to my nice quiet office every day. You sound like you have a pretty good thing going with your job. I'd plan on sticking with it. You can always change your mind.
posted by apricot at 3:33 PM on August 10, 2017

I feel like if I go back to work, I'll basically be paying half my salary to someone else to raise my kid and in our financial situation I do not *need* to do that.

To me, this is a good argument for quitting. It may be true that you'll never get this good a job again, but that doesn't mean you'll be less happy in life or that you'll never be able to support yourself if you need to. For me personally, making as much money as possible is less important than giving my children the best care possible. (But if it turns out you don't really like staying home, you may decide giving your children the best care possible means letting someone else help take care of them so you can be a happier parent.)

If you don't feel like you can say you're coming back and then change your mind, how about telling your boss you're pretty sure you aren't coming back but asking him if he would be willing to leave the option of coming back open to you for 3 months? If you're a good employee, it might be worth it to him to wait to find a permanent replacement if there's a chance he can get you back instead. You should at least try this rather than just flat-out quitting.
posted by Redstart at 3:36 PM on August 10, 2017

Lots of good advice, but as of about 2/3 of the way down the thread, nobody had offered either of these thoughts:

1) what about 6 months of unpaid leave? if your boss is getting a temp to replace you, it's not nearly such a big deal for him, and it's a huge difference on your end. my brain was barely functioning at 3 months pp, but by 6 months, the baby was sitting up and smiling, and I was ready to do more with my time than wave a rattle. plus, the major feeding era will be fading into memory and you might even be sleeping at night.

2) if your husband can't take off a big swath of time as many have advised, see if he can take off some time during your own leave or as you transition back. for example, even one whole day per week where he's in charge by himself will mean he keeps up with the changing needs of the baby and doesn't rely on you to interpret what the cries mean or whatever -- this will help you be in the position of co-parents, not primary and helper parent, and that's likely to be the best way to have the kind of teamwork that will get you both through the challenging circus of parenthood (and all the rest of marriage and dealing with family issues) in functional shape.
posted by acm at 3:37 PM on August 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm seven weeks into my twelve week maternity leave. Staying home beyond that was never given more than fleeting consideration (my paycheck is the greater one). One thing to consider is your own tendencies to anxiety or depression. My mom stayed home with us until I was around 8, but suffered some serious depression. I've been doing well so far with no signs of PPD, even with some past history of depression myself. Midway through maternity leave, I do feel a little stir crazy, so while not ready to go back now I probably will be in September. Given my past and family history, I am looking at the expense of child care as an investment in my mental health. YMMV, of course.
posted by weathergal at 3:49 PM on August 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

You're not paying half your salary for someone else to raise your child, you're paying half your salary for someone to take care of your child while you work. Don't frame it as "raising," it's not that in the least.

I couldn't wait to get back to work. If I wanted to, I could stay home and take care of boh my children. My husband could stay home and take care of our children. There is not enough money in the world that would convince me to do that, thanks.

It's not even that I love work, it's that I love time away from my children. It makes me a happier person and a better mom. I had no idea I would feel this way when my eldest was born but I was damn sure I felt this way by the time I drove her to daycare that first day.

Don't shut any doors.
posted by lydhre at 4:01 PM on August 10, 2017 [8 favorites]

You really don't have to decide right now. I took the full 12 weeks leave offered by my company, returned to work for a month, and turned out it just really, really did not work for my family. My decision to quit my job was a joint one made by my spouse and myself, largely inspired by our circumstances (we both worked part-time and flexibly), and our desire to homeschool our children. Your circumstances are different, but you might find yourself surprised by your feelings -- either way! You can take leave, plan to go back to work, and then realize you don't want to. Or, you can take leave, and decide you really do want to go back to work. You're fortunate to be in a situation where you have that flexibility.
posted by linettasky at 4:09 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't think this is a decision you can make now. You should assume you'll be returning to work and follow that path until you find yourself deciding otherwise with strong feelings.

It's not just about money - it's about your happiness and your financial future and your skills. Do you *enjoy* working? Do you like achieving what you achieve each day? I was sort of forced into 18 months of SAHM-ness due to our circumstances, and I really, really did not enjoy it at all - I missed work with a passion and I'm so, so happy to be back into it now. My salary or lack thereof was (luckily for us) never the issue - I just really suck at being a stay at home parent, no matter how much I adore my daughter. That is an okay assessment to make, when the time comes, and you shouldn't feel bad either way.

Daycares can be really wonderful. They are not raising my daughter for me - they are one tool in our toolbox of how both of us as her parents influence her and teach her and help her grow. "Paying someone else to raise your kid" is a great bit of inaccurate phrasing people use to guilt women into making bad decisions for themselves. If your child is born and three months in you honest to god cannot imagine anyone but you with him or her every day, that is perfectly reasonable and fine and you can move forward with that. But don't tell yourself now that you *have* to do any one thing or another - leave all your doors open and be prepared to be surprised, either way, at how you feel once your new little person comes into the world.
posted by olinerd at 5:10 PM on August 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

You and your husband would be both paying money out of your respective salaries to pay for childcare!! Childcare benefits both of you so both of you can go to work!!!
posted by sacchan at 5:34 PM on August 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

This is a very complicated question that requires you to be excrutiatingly honest with yourself about yourself, and even then it is impossible to answer before you have kids. You have no idea how you will feel until your kid is born. Even then, you can't compare mothering a newborn with mothering a 3 month old, a 6 month old, a 9 month old, etc. The week my son was born I wanted desperately to quit my job and burn all bridges because I couldn't fathom ever leaving him or focusing on work again. I felt very different a few weeks later.

I have friends who work fulltime and are happy to hand off their babies to loving daycares, because they know the caregivers are better suited to caring for their child than they are. I have friends who work part-time, and find that to be the perfect balance of both (this is what I did, and highly recommend it if it is feasible). I have other friends who have stayed at home, and they found that fulfilling .. until they didn't, at least for some.

I worked parttime until my kids were 4 and 2. I will never regret the lost income, and I will always cherish the long days and short years at home with my kids. I can easily see why others would find that much time at home difficult - hell, I found it difficult, but ultimately worth it. If you feel a strong urge to stay at home, I would encourage you to do so if you can swing it financially, but do it with your eyes wide open about what it may do to your career. That was one reason I decided to work part-time, because I was concerned about having a resume gap.
posted by gatorae at 6:14 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

You're getting awesome advice. Nthing to keep your options open. Nthing to see what you can do to help your spouse understand the reality of solo parenting all day.

Kids are amazing. They can also be incredibly boring. Parents don't often mention that. Kids thrive on repetition and variety within consistency and opportunities to be creative, and for some of us that is a perfect fit and for others of us less so.

If I were you I would consider leaving all options open and perhaps try to come back part time after that to see how you feel about parenting alone all that time.

Personally I love my child to bits and miss him intensely when I'm working but I also relish the way that working means I have at least a portion of the day where I can pee alone. Because when I'm momming, my time is my child's. Not mine. At least while my child is young. And maybe you're ready for that, but I wasn't ready for that to be my life 24/7. I need a bit of time to pee alone or pay a bill without his perfectly appropriate need for my full attention. Not to mention my child is very social and will benefit more from daycare than he would from hanging with me all day.

So there's a lot to consider. As others have said you won't know what you want until you're in the middle of it. In my family's case I was the only one working so I didn't have a choice about returning to work, but work also makes me happy and my child benefits greatly from that.

Also, on the point about this being an important part of your child's life, not missing out etc. We do attachment parenting. My child shows distress on separating and comfort on reunification. He looks for me when he is needing comfort, and otherwise he takes an increasingly wide space to explore. These are signs of secure attachment. Additionally, he is old enough now to talk (barely) and has learned "mama." Even when he is under the loving care of his father and grandmother if they do things he doesn't like, they tell me he calls for me (but is otherwise perfectly content to hang out with them). So he feels very bonded and attached even though I've done a lot of work outside the home since he was born. Kids know who their parents are even if they have other caregivers part of the time. Thought this perspective would be helpful. Congratulations.
posted by crunchy potato at 7:22 PM on August 10, 2017

You and your husband would be both paying money out of your respective salaries to pay for childcare!! .

Well, one would hope. But if the OP is right in suspecting that her husband doesn't consider infant care to be a job when performed by a mother, at least he would be consistent in refusing to value the work no matter who does it.

OP, this will sound silly, but I am serious: every time you talk about this to your husband, talk about whether you are going to work at the office or work at home. or, if you prefer, whether you're going to work for a salary or work for nothing. Your choice is between work and work. sure, common idioms don't create bias but they do reinforce it, both in his mind and in yours -- don't let anybody, but particularly not your husband, redefine your potential new unpaid career as "staying home" or "quitting work." Don't accept or respond to him talking about it that way as if it makes sense, either.

and if he doesn't take an equally long leave, go away every weekend by yourself as soon as you're not breastfeeding. really.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:02 PM on August 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

This topic has been glanced at but let's mention it here again -- it takes months for your body to recover from pregnancy and childbirth. Three federally mandated months of maternity leave barely gets you back into physical shape, not considering the stress of caring for an newborn. Take your time, take the unpaid leave, keep that door open until you have real world knowledge of what caring for this little child will be like.
Each child rewrites the book. Whatever you experience with this baby, any other children will flip that scene sideways. Take it one step at a time.

Pro tip: as a SAHP I loved being with my girls -- but I also loved weekend mornings when either I could get out of the house, or my husband would take the baby with him while I slept in without the "mommy alarm" in my head ready to go off for no reason.
posted by TrishaU at 10:01 PM on August 10, 2017

You don't have to decide now. You don't have to decide now. REALLY. Say you plan to come back. Never close that door until you've made your final decision, which really can only be made after you have the baby. Decide later. You have no way of knowing now how how you will feel at 5 weeks pp or 12 weeks or 16 weeks pp.

Also, please don't frame childcare as "someone else raising your kid". It's not. It's another adult loving and caring for your child. All of the people who took care of my child when she was a baby loved her and the more loving adults a baby has, the better! Seriously! It is great for their brain!
posted by john_snow at 7:33 AM on August 11, 2017

As the son of people who own 2 daycares. Let me say one thing in support of daycare. Childcare is a job, a hard job. Most new parents are entering this field of work with essentially no experience. The baseline assumption that Daycare < SAHP is a deeply flawed premise.

My parents didn't raise ME half as well as the kids coming out of their daycare's, because they didn't have experience back then, now they are legitimately pros and those kids are amazing. I could barely read in the 2nd grade and now they are like pumping out goddamn little x-men every year.
posted by French Fry at 7:50 AM on August 11, 2017 [7 favorites]

I'm not worried about not liking being a SAHP because I don't anticipate feeling that way

No one does.

But the truth is, babies take all of your attention and energy, but occupy just a fraction of your brain and not everyone is able to find ways to cope with this. I stayed home for a year after my 2nd was born and found that being a SAHM of a 3 year old and a baby about drove me over the edge. (In my perfect world, I would have chosen to stay home when my kids were teenagers. You can buy quality care for small children, not so for teens.)

Keep your options open.
posted by she's not there at 3:19 PM on August 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I described staying home with a baby as simultaneously (and I mean at the exact same time, not sometimes one thing and sometimes the other at different times) extremely intense and deeply boring. I too thought I'd want to stay home and was prepared to be very bitter about having to go back to work but in actual fact staring googly eyes at my baby was not nearly as oxytocin-producing as I thought it would be.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:30 PM on August 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

> my partner absolutely gets, without having it spelled out, that im not sat on my arse eating bonbons

I'm a full-time parent and sometimes I literally sit down and eat bonbons. I take naps. I go out for coffee with friends. I grocery shop when the stores are uncrowded. I have hobbies. I volunteer an insane number of hours a year for causes I believe in. I don't have a boss. Being a housewife is great work if you can set it up right.

I agree that you should tell your boss you're planning on coming back to work at the end of your leave, but that you should also plan on not going back to work; keep two plans going as long as possible. For the fulltime-parent plan, make sure you have the support set up you'll need. Join playgroups, go to library story times, go to La Leche League meetings, go to whatever parenting support stuff your community offers, have financial plans.

> I don't want my husband to be super stressed being the sole breadwinner

One thing that might help: with a fulltime parent (once the kids are a tad older), that means there's someone who can manage a lot of the day-to-day stresses that he, ideally, is doing half of right now. I deal with hiring plumbers, I take the car to the garage, I wait at home for the cable guy. My husband never has had to take a day off from work with a sick kid. His career has gone much further, and we have more income, because of the work I do. (Yes, society is messed up and people should be able to take time off for sick children without dinging their performance reviews. But.)

If your husband doesn't think full-time parenting is a real job, if you go back to work he's also not going to respect the parenting you do at the end of a day at the office. Either way, his attitude needs to change.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:40 AM on August 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

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