Thursday, August 08, 2013

Something to talk about

A friend posted a link to the New York Times article following up with the moms from the "Opt-Out Revolution" 10 years ago.  It's an easy read, so go take a look and come back.  I'll wait.  :)

It didn't seem entirely surprising to me.  Of course it's hard to return to work after an extended time out, of course you'll earn less money than if you stayed, and of course you won't be able to just "jump back in" where you left off.

One of the things I heard a lot when I was contemplating quitting my job (and it was a lot of contemplation, 3.5 years' worth) was how irresponsible it is to stop earning my own money.

It's all about one's personal risk tolerance, though.  I think it's also about the natural balance between focusing on NOW vs the future.  Some people are planners and risk averse, so they are more likely to make decisions now that will ensure fewer bad things happening in the future. For example, keeping a good job now because who knows what might be available a few years from now.

I thought I was in that category. When I learned to drive, I would figure out a plan that involved the least number of lane changes required, because changing lanes seemed more dangerous and terrifying to me.  I'm not much of a gambler. I have no desire to skydive, bungee jump or parasail.

I won't lie. I am freaked out about not having my own paycheck.  (Though my Etsy shop is doing a good job sustaining my craft supply addiction.)  But I am (mostly) zen about The Future.

Maybe I'm being naive or blissfully ignorant about the Bad Things That Could Happen but I don't want to make decision out of fear of what might happen. If the trouble comes, then I'll go back to work full time. I might be penalized for "opting out", but I'm aware of that.  My more relaxed days now are worth it *to me*.

The lesson I learned from the NYT article, though, is a HUGE one. I think it's essential for both partners to continually evaluate the arrangement and TALK ABOUT IT.  All the freakin' time. Until you're sick of talking about it.

Are we happy where we are? Are expectations unrealistic or uncomfortable? What does the money situation look like now, and in 6 months?  Do we want to trade places?  What's bothering you right now about this arrangement?

I guess I read the article differently from most - I felt like the key issue with all of the women interviewed was in their marriage, not their decision not to work. It seemed like in some cases, the mom was the default as the stay-home parent, when maybe that wasn't the best choice. In other cases, it seemed like the partnership shifted over time and the new expectations or desires were not explicitly discussed. But I saw that as a communication issue, not "proof" that "opting out" is a bad idea universally.

In addition to my husband, I've known several people, both male and female, who took a year or longer break from working for all sorts of different reasons. I'm heartened by the fact that none of them have had issues finding interesting, well-paying work when they were finally ready to go back.  That inspires me to keep working on constructing the life I want right now.

So for now, I'm still waiting for that perfect part-time PM job to come along.

It takes a while for it all to come together.



  1. Honestly? My thought when reading that article was trying to figure out why a woman who was earning $500k a year was fighting with her husband about the laundry. It is possible to hire people to do laundry! Neither of you had to do it! You can also have a roster of back-up sitters on file if your nanny is sick. It's much cheaper than quitting a $500k job. But it seems -- from the subsequent divorce, and her husband's did-he-say-that comment in the article -- that there were additional problems in that marriage.

    The other take-away was that there are ways to take time out that preserve or build your career capital, and ways that don't. Probably best to go for the former.

  2. I think your takeaway is a good one. I find myself shying away from talking about it b/c I feel uncomfortable but that is not the healthiest way to exist in a relationship.

  3. Very interesting. Reading that I feel very fortunate to have had 30+ years at home with my 5 children (now ages 13-32), and equally lucky to not have been caught up in the money trap. It's not easy, especially funding private school, and the future is definitely not secure, but it is a decision we made at the very beginning of our marriage, and it's worked for us. It WAS easier when the economy was strong and this kind of sums up my fears, "Author Leslie Bennetts predicted in her 2007 book, “The Feminine Mistake,” that by making themselves financially dependent upon their men — particularly at a time when no man could depend upon his job — they have made a colossal error."

    1. Yes, that's definitely something to worry about. But like Laura mentions above, as long as you keep doing things to increase your skills, even if they're not directly related to your old job, I think you can reinvent a new career for yourself when you *have* to. (or are ready to!)

  4. I'm afraid I didn't read the whole article but I think I got the gist. Me and hubby didn't really discuss the choice of leaving work, but I guess we fall into the 'too poor to afford childcare' category - if I went back to work on my previous earnings I would take home about £1.50 (approx $2.30) an hour after childcare fees had been taken off. I'd also have to take off travel costs to get to work it wouldn't be worth it! Hubby earns more so he stayed at work. We do always talk about it now though, and we discuss our plans for the future, at what point I should go back to work etc. I have a friend who makes me talk to him if I keep moaning to her! x


I love comments, so please leave me your thoughts. Thanks in advance!

sharing is nice

Related Posts with Thumbnails