The Best Laid Plans

hand with sand

This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2014.

For twelve years I worked as a software developer for a large financial corporation. When I became pregnant with my son there was no doubt in mind about working: I would continue receiving a paycheck and hire a nanny to watch over my son.

A few months before his birth my company decided to decrease the head count of my department. After twelve loyal years I sat in my manager’s office and learned of my fate. Two hundred employees were getting the boot and my name was included in that list.

Most people wouldn’t consider getting laid off the luckiest of days, but unlike previous cuts this one wasn’t immediate. Over the years I witnessed downsized employees being escorted from the premises by stern looking security guards. This time management decided to keep us on board a few months to wrap up our tasks, document everything we knew and pass on information to the contractors who would take over our jobs.

As luck would have it my last day on the job coincided with the birth of my first child. In fact, he was due just eight days before my scheduled termination date. My company offered a decent severance package, which included employer sponsored health care and two weeks of pay for every year of employment. If I stayed on board until my scheduled termination date I would receive the equivalent of twenty-four weeks of pay.

I wasted no time to updating my resume. I applied to a number of different positions and received requests for interviews quite quickly. Within a matter of weeks I was offered a higher paying job.

I spoke candidly to the recruiter. I let her know that I was pregnant and that I needed to stay on board for another few months. Surprisingly she agreed to the arrangement and delayed my start date until six months after my son’s due date.

Rather than returning to work twelve weeks after my son was born I would take on a new job after six months. My story hadn’t changed that much. I still planned to hold down a job.

But months after giving birth I had a complete change of heart. I decided I wasn’t ready to hand my son over to a nanny. I spoke candidly to my husband and we jointly decided that I would not return to work.

Luckily my husband and I saved a significant amount of money in those first twelve years out of college. We maximized our retirement accounts, we paid down our mortgage, we spent very little on groceries and entertainment, which made the financial decision to stay home less worrisome.

Still it wasn’t an easy decision to make.  As much as I wanted to be home with my son I mourned the decision to leave the workforce. I left behind a piece of myself. I also walked away from a six figure salary.

I still wonder when I will return to work and how hard it will be to find a job when I’m ready, but I do not regret my decision. I experienced the most magical year of my life during that first year out of the workforce.

I think many women have thought long and hard about this decision. Some of my friends knew they wanted to work, others have known they wanted to stay home, but there are a few like myself who have reversed their decisions.

My best advice to those considering having children is to set yourself up financially. You may have every intention of returning to work after the birth of your child, (I know I did), but sometimes your heart pushes you in a different direction.  Try to arrange your finances so that you can stay home if you desire.

3 thoughts on “The Best Laid Plans”

  1. I was glad, in a way, that I didn’t have to make a choice to stay home – it was made for me by Baby M’s health issues. But since being home with her for a year, I have wondered how on earth I would have been able to drop her at daycare or hand her off to a nanny and go to work, if things have been normal. It’s been the most magical year of my life, too, and I would not trade this experience for anything.

  2. This post really hit close to home for me. I was in a pretty good position at my work and was the breadwinner for our family when I found out I was pregnant. I worked almost up until my delivery date, and took the full 3 month maternity leave with every intention of going back to work, but now that our little guy is here, I couldn’t do it. I’ve always been frugal and we’ve had to tighten the budget a little, but we’re making it work so that I can be home for a few years with our child. But there’s a part of me that wonders how hard it will be to re-enter the workforce in a few years and if I’ll even be able to meet find a position that will meet the salary that I last had. I’m nervous, but at the same time, I know I made the right decision in staying home…

  3. This post made me think of Katrina Alcorn’s “Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink” I read it and listened to it on Audible recently. It’s always a juggling act being a parent and there is no universal correct answer. Babies are EXPENSIVE and work/life balance is challenged when families expand. Thanks for sharing your experience, there are so many women struggling with work/life, finances, childcare that appreciate having somewhere they can chat with other women in same situations.


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