This week’s question comes from Abby. She asks:

I stayed home with my children for a few years, but I’m now looking for a job.
Thanks to my background (I have an advanced degree in public administration and
we live in Washington DC), I may have the luxury of competing job offers.

Here’s my dilemma: higher paying jobs in my field require frequent travel. My
children are still young, and my husband’s job is quite demanding. Since we
don’t need my income, it is tempting to accept a less stressful, lower paying
position with predictable hours – at least for a few years.

As I’ve considered this, some of my professional contacts have labeled it “the
mommy track” or even “career suicide.” But working full-time with two small
kids already seems ambitious.

How would you advise thinking about the trade-offs in such a situation?

Plonkee’s Opinion

It depends. It sounds a lot like you want someone to say that taking a job with more predictable hours won’t be career suicide. I’d love to be able to do that but I’m afraid I’ve no idea whether it would be true or not.

If you’re worried that people will judge you for leaving your family to travel for work, then stop worrying, they probably will. On the other hand, if you’re worried that people will judge you for giving up on your career, then also stop worrying, they probably will. As a parent, especially as a mother, you can’t win, so put that out of your mind.

As you state that you don’t *need* to go back to work, I assume that you’re doing so because you want to. In which case I’d suggest taking the job that you will find most fulfilling as long as it is practicable. Whether that means the lower paid, lesser status job or the higher paid, greater status job, doesn’t really matter.

The other thing to remember is that it’s not set in stone that your husband needs to have a demanding job with long hours. He’s as much a parent as you are, and could choose to sacrifice his career slightly if he wanted to. Sometimes it’s worth considering things outside the box in case there’s a solution that you haven’t thought of.

Gibble’s Advice

I might be wrong, but what I hear you saying between the lines is that you really would like to stay home. If you don’t need the income and want to stay home, than I would highly recommend doing that. I am a huge advocate of a stay at home mom (or Dad). I think it makes a huge positive difference in children’s lives.

What upsets me most are comments like “career suicide” and the “mommy track”. What’s wrong with that? The fruits of a typical career are nothing more than status, prestige and money. The fruits of the “mommy track” are a your children. That isn’t to say that women that decide to work careers aren’t good mothers, nor that their children are harmed, it just means that I think children are better off with a stay at home mom or parent.

I would do what you want you to do and disregard what other people think. The people that make these kinds of comments in mean them in a negative way have no clue how hard a stay at home Mom works. I work from home, and see my wife daily do the job of a stay at home Mom, and while different, her job is way harder than mine and frankly far more rewarding. People who think otherwise are just ignorant.
If you want to return to work, than by all means do so. If you want to stay home with your children and be a stay at home Mom, than that is wonderful news. Go where your heart leads you, not where your pocket book or other ignorant people pressure you.

As for your husband, is his job demanding or is he demanding of himself? Ask yourself this: What would happen if he cut back his hours some? Would they fire him? Probably not. Would his review suffer? Maybe. Would the extra income you would make, make up for the potential income loss in raises/bonuses he would possibly lose? I would suspect it would. I’d suggest both of you eliminate the financial pieces of all this, and really get to the core of why you want to work or why you want to stay home. Often the answer to these questions aren’t really financial.

Let us know what you decide to do!

Patrick’s Answer:

I think along the same lines as Glblguy here – “career suicide” and the “mommy track” are just buzz words. In my opinion, you shouldn’t worry about what your friends or professional contacts think. You should figure out what you want in life, and then find a way to make it happen.

If you and your husband are happy with his income and the current arrangement, then keep it that way. If you discover you would prefer to return to work full-time and he would prefer to stay at home or take a lesser paying, but less demanding job, then go for it. If you both want to work full-time high demanding jobs, then do it. The key is communicating and discovering which is the best option for your situation.

My wife and I are expecting our first child and recently had to make the decision of whether she should be a stay at home mom or a working mom. For us, the best choice was to have my wife stay at home. But that certainly doesn’t work for everyone. My readers left a bunch of great comments in the article and I invite you to visit it and read their perspectives… it may help you decide which option is best for you and your family. Best of luck!

Lynnae’s Response:

I’ve been a stay at home mom for 11 years now, and I don’t regret one moment of it. Recently my blog has given me the opportunity to travel, and while I enjoy going different places, it’s been incredibly hard to leave my family behind. And I won’t lie. It’s been hard on the kids, too, even though at 11 and 6 they’re a little bit older.

In fact, when my daughter (the 11 year old) was asked recently for a survey about one thing in her life she wishes she could change, her response was that her mom wouldn’t travel so much…and I’ve only been on 3 trips since October!

In the end, my response is to cut back on the travel schedule once I’m through the summer. I much prefer being a stay at home mom to being a career woman. That said, only you can make the choice that’s right for you. But make sure your choice is based on what’s right for you and your family, not what everyone else thinks is right.

Readers: What do you think? Any words of wisdom?

Photo by limaoscarjuliet.