Adapted from a recent online discussion.
I need help tackling a big decision. I’m a first-time mom (baby is 10 months old) currently staying at home. We moved for my spouse’s job before the baby came and I’m unemployed for the first time in my adult life. My skill set is very specific; there are no local job opportunities.
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I have a possible job opportunity that is well matched skill-wise, but requires a lengthy daily commute and semi-frequent out-of-town travel. My spouse works a rotating day-night shift, making child care a challenge. I currently look after the majority of child care, meals, household chores, bills, etc.
Some days I love being home with my child, and other days I feel like getting back into the workforce is the thing to do. Our family is in a different part of the country and we don’t have much of a support network here.
I’ve recently been diagnosed with postpartum anxiety but am starting to feel back to myself thanks to medication. I don’t know how to start to figure out which choice is best for me, my child, my spouse, our family. Can you give me some questions to think about that might help point me toward making a choice and feeling confident it’s a good fit?
— To Work or Not
DEAR TO WORK OR NOT: The big decision here is whether to be a full-time, at-home mom or to seek some kind of employment. The decision about this particular job is not big, it’s just an incremental decision in the course of the bigger decision.
So, start by asking yourself whether you want to work outside the house, and, more aptly, why you’ve come to consider it now. Is the opportunity driving the conversation? Your unease at being “unemployed”? A sense that being an at-home mom doesn’t suit you?
Also discuss with your husband where your preference tips — i.e., what amount of stress on your home life would overwhelm any benefits you get from working. That stress can be emotional (lost time with baby and spouse, bad professional fit, being pulled in too many directions), financial and logistical, including child care, which warrants its own category.
If you decide a job makes sense for you and your family, then you weigh this job on its merits alone. It sounds as if you have two solid reasons to say no to the current offer (commute, travel) and one solid one to say yes (uncommon skill match). So, all you need to do for this decision is figure out which trumps what.
If you decide you want a job but not this one, then you move on to the next big question: What kind of work do you want, can you get, and will best accommodate your priorities? Is a career change a viable option? Retraining?
Finally, as you toss all this around, strengthen your network a bit — find a mom’s group, a “parent’s day out”-type child-care cooperative, or a baby music or swimming or movement class, since all of these are basically new-parent mixers. While yours is technically a work-or-don’t question, it feels to me like a loneliness-and-fatigue question, and no wonder. Isolation and baby care just don’t mix.