This is a challenging topic and a challenging post to write. Let me start with a quick story on this topic.
When first discussing having a baby, I was arrogant, assumptive and narrow-minded when I assumed that my wife would stay home and take care of the baby. She had been working since she was 16, worked her way through college and was having a nice career and there I was just accepting that it was to be put on hold. When my wife asked me why I thought she should stop, it was an easy answer. "Because my mother did", was my quick response. Her even quicker response was, "Well, my mother didn't".
Oops. That was brutal. My narrow world view came to a halt and we had to have a real discussion on what we both wanted for ourselves as individuals and as a family. We ended up with my wife and I both working and had live-in nannies for seven years (more blog fodder, for sure). It's over 20 years later and the decisions and the choices haven't changed all that much.
Before I get to what I see as my key point, let me add two more points of clarification
- With Jobs and Careers, the operational word isn't away "versus" as I have used in the title. Although it is true that there can be a difference between having a job and pursuing a career, you might have a job that is part of your career pursuit where "versus" is clearly the wrong word. For the purposed of this blog entry, however, it is a choice between the two.
- In my case we had a husband-wife team decision with the discussion about my wife staying home, but the decision of who will be the primary caregiver is the same for any type of parental unit - single, dual, or even a larger family unit.
Although it often doesn't feel that way, the decision made - - your personal decision - - is the right answer. Getting very gender specific, when it comes to having a baby I remain convinced that whether a woman decides to stay at home or return to work after the baby is born, society will ensure that she feels like she made the wrong decision. You are wrong to leave the baby to someone other than the natural mother or you are inadequate or wrong if you couldn't pursue your career. The lack of balance between men and women is just too pervasive, still.
I parse the having a baby decision into two parts.
- Looking into your finances to see if you need your income, either to live or as part of financing childcare.
- After you have the baby are you finally able to decide if one of you wants to stay at home.
The net of it is that if you want to be a stay at home parent but you cannot afford it, it would be better to return to work after your leave is up and have a job. Don't return to a "career job" because it really isn't what you want to do and you'll endure more pressure than you probably want or need. If you want to have a career, whether or need to work or not, you can! Just know it just requires more balancing of work-life. People have been doing it successfully for a long time.
Based your decision on the facts, which include all your perfectly acceptable emotional facts. And guess what - you are right! Don't look back and don't let anyone try to tell you otherwise.