Balance, Hopes, Work

Deciding to Jump: To Go Back to Work, Or Not?

It's the sweet, quiet moments like these I hate to give up.
It’s the sweet, quiet moments like these I hate to give up.

I am standing on the edge of one of the biggest jumps of my life. Either I go back to work part-time as an intervention teacher and attempt to juggle my dream of writing into the mix of afterwork motherhood, or I take a deep breath, and jump straight into life as a stay-at-home mom and writer.

For many, the answer seems easy. JUMP. But the decision is much more layered than I expected. I love my school, my students, my coworkers. Some days I feel on the verge of going stir crazy at home. I have a part-time job waiting that may never be there again. The predictability of a work schedule, a paycheck, and good health insurance speaks to my cautious nature. Returning to work is somehow the less frightening choice.

With a face like this, it is hard to leave home.
With a face like this, it is hard to leave home.

Then, there is my daughter. Our biological strings are still firmly attached. When I am away, she is constantly on my mind, pulling at my body for milk. Every day she does something new, something I do not want to miss. While part-time work may give me the chance to catch many of these moments, it does not leave as much space for writing. As it is, I have to sneak my words in a few at a time, while she is sleeping or while I do not have to use my precious childcare hours for some other endeavor, like getting my teeth cleaned or running to the grocery store. And then, of course, there are other family circumstances that must go unmentioned.

A friend and I talked this week about how mothers feel pressured to be supermom and do everything, but the truth is, I don’t feel pressured, I just wish I could do everything. If only I could be in three places at once, mothering, writing, and working.  Obviously mothering wins on that list, but between writing and working, I do not have it figured out and the battle is agonizing.

Returning to work is the known. Taking the leap of faith is the unknown, but so far motherhood has been one huge leap of faith, from our decision to see if it happens, to hoping every moment of every day she would be born healthy, to the daily trial and error of new parenting. In order to make this jump work, we will need to restructure everything, to change the way we live.

Even as I write this, I feel aware of how lucky I am to be able to make this choice– but I also think the choice is within reach for many more women than they realize, it just requires a possibly uncomfortable amount of change.

If you have been in my shoes before, how did you come to a decision? Did you jump impulsively or was it clear one option outweighed the other? For me, it has been much harder to decide than I ever expected.

22 thoughts on “Deciding to Jump: To Go Back to Work, Or Not?”

  1. Reblogged this on oliviaobryon and commented:
    Still a little rough around the edges, but working on a new blog to separate out some of my more personal writing– I will still be blogging @ oliviaobryon about writing/teaching/travel, but also want to see what it is like to take a more focused approach in the blog world. If you enjoy my mommy posts, I invite you to follow Leap of Mama too!


  2. Wish I could help you … I don’t want this to sound like a whine, because it isn’t … but fathers, generally speaking, don’t have this choice to make. I know I didn’t. Although for the last ten years, I have struggled with my desire to make the leap to writing. Only it has never really been an option with me being the money-earner in the family. Unless and until I can figure out a way that writing would replace my job-based income, there really isn’t any option available to me. You lay out a lot of the pros and cons of each path.

    The one issue that you barely touch on is the stir crazy feeling you have every once in awhile. I think you fear that your life, if you don’t go back to work, will be much more isolated than if you go back to work. You’ll lose touch with the world, with people, with adults, with the friends you have made. It only ends up that way if you let it. There are all sorts of things you can do to ensure that you’re still out there in the world and all sorts of ways that you can also have a piece of your life that remains yours and yours alone. In addition, as your daughter gets older, there will be many more opportunities to experience the world with her as well. You won’t be cooped up in the house for very much longer.

    My own view is that if I had the opportunity that you have, I wouldn’t hesitate. I’d try the life of a stay at home father and writer. Without hesitation.


    1. I definitely feel fortunate to be the mom in this scenario, although being the mom also comes with other jobs too, like being the last line of defense in quieting the baby 😉 I can only imagine how hard it must be for dads to march back to work. It has definitely been an adjustment in our family.

      And, you are right. It will be up to me not to go stir crazy. I can keep it from happening and she will be more and more capable of getting out of the house in the coming months/years, and I can still maintain myself without a “career.” It has always been my dream to have no excuse not to write, but sometimes dreams feel a little scary when they are suddenly within reach. Silly, I know.

      Thank you for sharing your perspective, it helps. I know you appreciate the desire to write and have more control over time… I feel lucky to be in the position I am, I just did not realize it would be so hard to let go of the “work” part of myself.


      1. It’s funny … as long as I have worked, I have been ready to let go of the “work” part of myself because I just don’t think it’s a part of who I really am. I understand other people aren’t like me, but I live for the moment when I can live my life based on my own definition of who and what I am rather than what I have to be to support my family, play the role, wear the uniform, and do the things needed to conform to expectations and fulfill my responsibilities.


      2. I think you are onto something there. Teaching has become a beloved part of my identity. Easier to let go the role you never loved. Have you read the Four Hour Workweek? I haven’t, but a friend is reading it this week and I liked the concept of people not wanting to be rich so much as to have the time to be carefree. Maybe carefree isn’t the right word for some of us, but an interesting thought that it is less about money and more about time. I hope you find your time soon.


      3. A book I read a couple of years ago related this story … the author was in Africa, telling a villager about how early in the 20th century, workers went on strike to get a 40 hour work week. The villager laughed at the idea that workers had to go on strike to get the “benefit” of a 40 hour work week because working that many hours is unheard of there. If I had the creativity and imagination to be different about 25 years ago, I would have done things dramatically different back then. But, I was totally locked into the idea of work and responsibility and this is how you’re supposed to do things. Oh, how I wish I could go back and advise that guy to think outside the box.


      4. Makes me wonder how many other places don’t have 40 hour work weeks either. I definitely think it is too much. Great story. It must be frustrating to look back with regret, but I get it. It feels strange not being part of the convention, which is part of why my decision is hard for me. I like what one of my cousins said about picking the life I want to live, reminded me of the macro picture instead of the day-to-day. You still have years left, I have a good feeling you’ll make a lot of changes with that retirement you talk about!


      5. Yes. If you have the opportunity to do so you should definitely pick the life you want to live. Only problem is that changes over the years. So pick the life you want to live today in a way that provides you the flexibility to adjust five and ten and twenty years from now. Sounds so easy, right?


  3. I had no choice. I am a full time working mom. I am about to go back to work after having my second son. I pumped at work before, and will again. I would love the option of a part time job. Keeping my professional mind engaged, but having more time at home… I have struggled with this from time to time. But what I’ve realized is, there’s no right or wrong, no best or worst. I make the best of what we’re given. I am happy. Therefore I’m a happy wife, mother, and woman.


    1. Thank you for the wonderful reminder that there is no right or wrong, best of worst. I know many moms in your shoes, who work hard outside the home to support their families. I am inspired by your positive attitude and reminder that it all works out in the end, no matter which path is taken.


  4. Wow..such a hard decision. I have no idea what I would do in your shoes and I don’t have any similar experiences, but I can see the rewards of both paths. Reminds me, again, of Dear Sugar’s Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us. Whatever decision you make will be the right one, my dear friend! Keep me posted and call/text/email anytime of course :).

    Also: I love the new blog theme!! So very inspiring, congratulations on the launch ❤


    1. Oh how I love Dear Sugar’s Ghost Ship. So, so true my beloved friend, thank you for reminding me of her beautiful analogy. I think I know which ghost I am willing to encounter in my future life… I’ll keep you posted! And, thanks for the congrats, it feels intimidating to try something new, but I have lots of thoughts to share on this– let’s chat sometime soon!


  5. I don’t think you can choose wrong here, Olivia. You have a tray before you of lovely choices and your regret is that you can only choose one and not have it all. Whatever you choose will be good!

    For me, I chose for the short-term (which is still quite a long short-term). My children are little for so short a time and I don’t want to miss it or them to miss me. If I wanted to work or travel (both things I’ve loved), I knew I could make those choices later. The children wont wait, though. That said, my right choice isn’t everyone’s. And there are very rough days for sure. I have never, ever regretted it though.


    1. Beautifully put Chloe. It is so true, our babies are little for only a brief period of time, work will always be there in some form or another. This is something that has tugged at my heart throughout my decision-making process, thank you for the reminder. And, I agree, it’s not such a bad position to be in, I’m grateful to have the choice.


  6. I remember that time so well. Sasha was born, I took three months off, then John did, and all the while we made our preparations for going back to work. We checked out many child care situations and nannies, and made our careful choice. I dropped her off the first day. When I picked her up at the end of the day, they ruefully described her day. She had cried every minute, all day long. I was sure she would adjust. She didn’t. After three weeks, I quit a job I loved with colleagues I loved with absolutely no hesitation and I have never regretted it for a moment. For the first time (being an artist, after all), someone else’s needs came first. Maybe somewhere there was a child care situation that would have worked for her, but it wasn’t available to us at the time. We didn’t have the family support many of our co-workers have. My parents were a thousand miles away, with careers of their own that they loved. Every situation is different and everyone makes a significant choice. My sister put both her children in full-time daycare so she could go back to her high-powered career. Her children were immediately happy and thrived. I never felt isolated–there were always other parents and children to meet. I was able to free-lance more and more each year until I was ready to go back to an actual “job.” And now that I feel released from most of those parental responsibilities and can go back to being an artist if I want to, I am completely at peace with my decision. For me, that’s the most important thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ruth, it is so fascinating to me how different every child is, how Sasha could scream all day and your sister’s children could be fine. It is also nice to hear your experience, as another creative soul. And, I completely get what you’re saying about not feeling isolated if you put yourself out there to meet other families, I need to do a better job of this myself– maybe when my life does not revolve around such an erratic nap schedule! Glad to hear you found peace in your decision, I think I know which decision will bring me more peace, just need to tinker with those pros and cons a couple more times… 😉


      1. I’m glad you are approaching a peaceful resolution. As many wise people have commented here–either way will be a rich choice. And I add, coming to a decision can be the hardest part. Once you decide you can dive into the next great adventure, and let go of the path not taken.


  7. I hope I don’t sound like a horrible person, but I just couldn’t stay home full time with my kids. I worked as a teacher and it was the perfect balance. I was home by 3:30 every day, took all my leave days every year, and had summers and breaks. It made me a more patient mom, and we always had a good balance of grandparents, in-home care, and pre-school. We surrounded the kids with people who love them, and I was a better mom because of my time to re-charge away from them. When I tried to stay home, I found myself frustrated or distracted often. When I went back to work, we could afford someone to help us clean the house once a week, and everything, when I was home, was focused on the kids.

    I can honestly say I have two of the most kind, generous, smart, focused, loving boys I know. I believe in the village concept. I also believe not everyone is alike, and I know many wonderful stay-home moms. There’s no right way–you have to do what makes most sense to you.


    1. You don’t sound terrible at all, I completely get it, which is why I’m having a hard time. It sounds like your child care scenario was great, that really helps. I also agree that teaching is a wonderful schedule because of the breaks. For me it is also about whether I’m passing up the chance to spend more time writing while her grandma takes care of her at home, it has always been a dream, but it feels scary walking away from a job I care about. Thanks for sharing your experience, it is nice to hear from a mom without regrets!


  8. This was actually a crazy tough decision for me as well. I intended on going back to work six weeks postpartum, but a misunderstanding with scheduling turned me into a SAHM. I’ve also been in college since she was born. Here’s some factors that came into play for me…
    1.) I’m the kind of person who needs structure to perform best. Having even a part-time job helps me stay on top of my game.
    2.) It’s always been important to me to contribute monetarily to my household. I thought that I’d feel okay with doing all the house chores in exchange for not doing that, but I wasn’t.
    3.) With factors 1 & 2 in mind, I also really need to spend time with my daughter. Like a lot of time. I had her in full-time daycare this last semester and it killed me. I hated being away from her so much.


    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I really identify with all three of your factors; I crave structure, I have always contributed monetarily, and I also want to spend (a lot of) time with my daughter. I had no idea before she was born what a difficult decision it would be. Helps to know that other moms relate! So easy to go crazy overthinking it all, too.


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