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My Career Change as a Working Mom
This past week I quit my job of ten and a half years. It was the second largest, voluntary decision, that I have made in my entire life. This decision was three years in the making. I had my first child in October 2012 and went back to work in January 2013. I learned really fast that Corporate America is not a place that understands family-friendly policies. For example, the majority of companies offer no return-to-work support for new moms.
I quickly realized that the 8am-5pm grind (not including drive time) was going to take its toll on me as a new mom so I started to frantically look for an alternative. It wasn’t feasible to stop working and despite my best Google searches, I never seemed to be able to find the answers I needed. That was when I decided to start my own blog, Redefining Mom, back in July 2013. Soon after I stumbled across Working Moms Against Guilt and found that a lot of women felt the same exact way I did, overwhelmed.
Finding a Support System
Finding support from other moms online has been great, but there was still a voice in my head telling me that I could find a better balance that worked for my family. It felt impossible, I spent my entire 20s at the same Fortune 100 company, the best company to work for in my hometown. What would I do? Where would I go?
I spent 2015 convinced that the only way I was going to ever get the flexibility I wanted was to go out on my own. I spent countless hours researching different ways to freelance, the tax implications, LLCs, etc. I started to ramp up my blog again and attended a Mom Conference this past November. I kept telling myself that 2016 was going to be my year, the year I made my own schedule and succeeded by hard work and determination.
As they say, you usually find what you are looking for the moment you stop looking for it. An amazing opportunity presented itself with a smaller company in the same line of business as my current job. The opportunity was exactly what I had been looking for and thought I’d never find three years ago. I realize to many this may sound like luck and in many ways it is, but I’ve had the last month to sit back and think about it and I came up with five things for a working mom to consider before making a career change.
#1 What Are Your Values?
Last year I read an amazing article by Liz McGrory called How to stop the Working Moms struggle between work and life. In this article, she focuses on helping working moms define their values. What I took away from it was that if you understand your core values in life, the decisions you make, albeit tough at times, become much easier.
Liz says, “Knowing your values makes it easier to say no to others and yes to you. It makes saying no easier because your values are clear in your mind, you can easily speak to them.”
After I read this article I determined that a core value of mine was flexibility. Specifically, the ability to drop off/pick up after school without using wrap care. I knew that I wanted to keep working and that my family depended on my salary but I struggled with accepting that I couldn’t pick my daughter up from school every day. I talked about this in an article I wrote called Time Equals Productivity in Corporate America where I explain my frustrations surrounding a typical Corporate America office job.
The rise of technology means that work follows (most) of us 24/7. The idea of an 8-5 workday is antiquated and I was increasingly frustrated that I was stuck in a situation that didn’t agree with my outlook. This made it easy for me to identify my values as a working mom.
#2 Family First
Once you become a mom, everything you do is with the consideration of your family. Does this mean that you shouldn’t work? Absolutely not! This topic has been extensively researched and talked about. There are many amazing benefits to being a working mom. My point is, ultimately, everything we do as a mom has our family’s best interest at heart. If a chance for a more flexible schedule never came my way, I would have stayed at my job because my family depends on my income. I would have stayed because I am a more productive person when I am challenged.
It’s important to identify what is important to you and your family and make it a priority in your career decisions.
#3 What is Best for Your Wellbeing?
Are you able to take care of yourself in your current career? Do you have time to eat healthy and workout? Are you happy most of the time? Are you fulfilled? Do you time to dedicate exclusively to your husband and kids?
Evaluating the root cause of your unhappiness and determining if it is really your current job situation holding you back is critical. Do not knee-jerk and make a decision to quit your job if it’s not really the root of the problem.
Often times we can mask the real source of our unhappiness by blaming it on a more obvious factor. For example, your husband may be less than helpful around the house. This may compound the difficulty of keeping up with your career, leading you to believe your job is to blame. Is it? Or if your husband helped out a little bit more would your career be more manageable?
Ask yourself these questions before making a final decision.
#4 Square Peg/Round Hole
Is your current position just not a fit for your personality or personal belief system? Do you find that no matter how hard you try it’s simply not good enough? Does your work team understand the demands you have at home as a mom?
Sometimes no matter how hard you try to fit in or make a work situation fit into your life, it just won’t. I’ve experience both. I’ve had work hours that just didn’t work for my family and a team environment I just did not fit into.
It is okay to be you and not change to fit in. Being the outcast can be hard and it can make you feel like something is wrong with you. There isn’t. Refer back to point #1 about your values. You are uniquely you and not everyone on earth will appreciate or accept that. That’s okay but it’s also a great sign that it is time to move on.
#5 Employee Benefits
Don’t forget that benefits can be up to 30% of your total compensation when you factor in what your employer does or does not pay for.
Do you carry the benefits for your family? This is an important consideration when deciding whether or not to change jobs or switch companies. Health, dental, and vision are all important considerations but they are not the only benefits you need to look at. To name a few:
- Maternity leave
- Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policies
- Disability- short & long term
- Flexible spending accounts for healthcare and daycare
- Life insurance
- 401k options
Some states mandate better policies than what you can get at a federal level under FMLA. I wrote an article about this issue called The Problem with Maternity Leave in the United States. It is important to remember that while we have very few protections for family leave in the United States, many employers have started to negotiate family-friendly policies to retain good talent.
A top consideration of mine was paid maternity leave before I made the decision to leave my current employer. My current employer is a Fortune 100 company that must comply with FMLA. For pay they offered 6 weeks at 66.5% for a vaginal delivery. At my new company that has 15 employees, I negotiated for 12 weeks of fully paid maternity leave as part of my contract. Flexible policies are possible and you can find them. Do not be discouraged!