"Should I quit my job?" is a question you might ask yourself when you no longer have the energy or desire to balance your work and home-life.
Maybe you are asking this question because of a life-changing event like becoming pregnant with your first child, giving birth and wanting to stay with your newborn, or having birthed a second child. It's a difficult choice for many to decide if they could or should leave their job.
Quitting a job shouldn't be an impulsive decision, because it affects your family's security as well as your future career prospects. To help you analyze your situation and decide if quitting is the right thing to do, try asking yourself the following seven questions.
1. Is a Temporary Crisis Making Me Want to Quit?
When you're having a crisis at work or your child is struggling in school, it's easy to think, "If only I could quit my job, all these problems would go away."
But if you resign rashly, you may find that your underlying problems remain and you've given up your income for nothing. Jumping to blame your work for your problems without thinking it through might become a costly mistake.
This is especially true for major life transitions, such as returning from maternity leave, starting a new job, or changing childcare. It's dangerous to make a big decision, like quitting your job, while something else big is happening in your life. Give yourself a few weeks to see if things simmer down.
In the meantime, write about what's going on at work in your journal. Be as honest as possible. Writing gives you the chance to sit and think about your problems, while thinking about things while you're loading the washer lets thoughts just come and go without deeper consideration. When you put your dilemmas in writing, it also gives you the chance to mull over what you wrote. Read it over the next day when you're in a different frame of mind, and see if a solution pops out at you.
2. Can I Afford to Quit?
You may be dying to quit, but being forced to default on your mortgage and car payments, as a result, can create even more stress. Now is a great time to review your finances. Start by reviewing your checking account and credit card statements to analyze how you are spending your income. There may be a way to cut some of your monthly costs and make quitting your job more feasible.
Try asking yourself the following questions:
- Are there any major fixed expenses I could decrease, such as moving to a smaller house or getting rid of a car?
- Could I find part-time work to help alleviate the drop in income? What type of job would help fill the gap and work with my new schedule?
- How much will I save on commuting, work clothes, child care and eating out, etc., if I quit? Consider situations such as busy work nights when it's just easier to spend money to pick up takeout than cook a cheap, healthy meal.
- What other expenses do I have that are a luxury and not a necessity? Could I imagine life without these perks, at least temporarily?
- Where do I shop? Are there other places I could shop to get more favorable prices and reduce my costs?
3. Am I Working to Pay for Childcare?
Maybe you're in a situation where you love your work but hate how much of your income goes to childcare. Your budget is the tightest when your children are under 5 or over 18 when you're paying for college. If you have preschoolers know that the cost of childcare will drop dramatically once they're in public school.
Try looking at the long-term picture when you write that monthly daycare check. It may be worth it to pay as much if not more for childcare if it's only for a few years. Especially if you're in a field where employment is tight.
4. How Easy Would It Be to Re-Enter the Workforce?
If you quit, would you be cutting yourself off from working in your field in the future? In many industries, there's a clear road from education to mid-career employment, and it's impossible to break in once you step off the path.
Look around you. Do you see older moms who took some time off? Or has everyone worked steadily since receiving their degree? Perhaps you could be a trailblazer who leans in!
If you are in a field that doesn't forgive breaks in employment, you must have a realistic view of your prospects for returning to work, while also remaining optimistic. Re-entry isn't as big of a concern if you dislike your job and want to change fields. Look into the career you would like to switch to, and see if you could prepare yourself for a change while spending more time at home.
5. Would Quitting Hurt My Family's Security?
Having money makes you feel like your family is secure. You can provide them with all of the things they need and maybe some things that they want like dance class, music lessons, or sports. If you quit would your family be secure, money-wise?
Maybe your spouse earns enough to pay your basic monthly bills. Or, if you're a single mom, you may count on having enough freelance or part-time work to manage. This is the time to be brutally honest and consider the worst-case scenario. Consider what you would do if your spouse was laid off, such as where you would find health insurance coverage, and if you would be able to have a financial safety net.
If you want to quit, have a backup plan first. Build up your savings so you can weather any financial storms that may come your way. Know where you could purchase health or dental insurance. If you are getting any discounts on insurance from your work, see whether you could afford to pay insurance at its full price on your own.
6. Can You Cut Back Your Hours Instead of Quitting?
Just cutting back on the time you spend at work may be enough to ease your stress over work/life balance. If you're already on the verge of giving your notice, there's nothing to lose by asking about part-time or flexible options. You never know when an employer might be open to negotiating a flexible schedule.
You can also conduct a job search for employment that is more flexible. Look around your organization for roles that might be at a similar level but not as demanding. Network with colleagues at other companies to see if you'd be happier somewhere else.
7. Would I Enjoy Being a Stay-At-Home Mom?
It's possible that every mother (and many fathers) have had stay-at-home-parent fantasies. While racing to work following another bout of separation anxiety at daycare drop-off, you spot a mom playing with her child in the park. "Oh, what I wouldn't give to be doing that right now!" you think to yourself.
Not so fast. The reality of the stay-at-home life isn't all roses and clover. There are a lot of mundane tasks that you'd be repeating on a daily basis without much gratitude. Being on duty 24-7 can also exhaust your patience, making parenting more challenging. Mental breaks are important, and many moms find that they enjoy their kids more by having focused time with them outside of the workday.
Many moms find that they actually need the respite of their job, and the interaction with other adults, as a break from the day-to-day routine of household tasks and child-rearing. Are you one of them? Give this question some thought. You owe it to yourself and your family to make sure you'd really be happy as a stay-at-home mom.
In the end, being a hands-on parent is a short-term job. Your baby will head off to elementary school in five years. Then in another 13 years, they graduate high school and go out into the world as young adults. Be careful not to make a hasty decision now that will have long-term implications for you, your family, your finances, and your career.