Every single day, moms decide to put their careers on pause for family reasons. Are you one of them? According to a Women in the Workplace report by McKinsey and LeanIn, one out of three women is considering stepping back in her career or stepping out. Juggling motherhood and career is hard, but deciding to take or not take a career break can be even harder and there aren’t many resources to help you decide what’s best for you and your family.
Services are popping up to support mothers when they want to return to work. Returnship programs, for instance, offer on-the-job training to individuals who are looking to reenter the workforce after an extended career break, and retraining programs help moms enter the workforce with the skills needed in today’s workforce. But these resources do little for you when you’re considering leaving the workforce.
If you’re one of the millions of moms considering a career break, these seven questions will help you gain clarity and confidence in your decision.
Table of Contents
1. What am I hoping to gain by taking a career break?
It’s important to understand what’s driving your decision to leave to make sure your expectations about what you can accomplish on break are realistic. Something in your life probably feels off if you’re thinking about leaving your work. Make a list of the changes you’ll make if you take a career break, and the steps needed to make those changes happen. Having honest expectations about what you’ll need to work on when you’re out can help you decide if it’s the right step. Don’t leave the workforce and expect things to just fall in line.
2. How important is my professional identity to me?
If your professional identity has dominated your life for years, it’s not easy to just turn off that part of you when you leave the workforce. Something I hear often from moms who are considering a career break is, “I’ve worked my whole life. I don’t know what I’ll do if I leave work.”
The sense of business, the search for accomplishment, the need to be in charge, these feelings don’t go away overnight. Recognize it’ll take time to rebuild what’s lost and adjust to your new lifestyle.
3. Are we financially prepared for me to take a career break?
Taking a career break without understanding your budget could result in you racking up credit card debt or using up your savings faster than expected, putting you in the difficult position of needing to go back to work. Not really understanding our financial situation can also convince us we can’t afford to take a career break, even when changing spending habits and paying off debt may make it possible.
Track your expenses and make sure your spending is in line with what you value as a family. Ask yourself what trade-offs would your family be willing to make for you to be able to afford a career break.
READ MORE: Career Planning: Everything You Need To Know
4. Have I considered other work options?
Sometimes what we need is flexibility at work but we don’t ask. Who wants to talk about how they’re struggling with their boss? If you’re seriously considering a career break, it may be time to ask for a more flexible arrangement. If your employer says no, you know you’ve considered all your options. If your employer says yes, you’ve got more choices. Sometimes companies are open to flexible work options when the alternative is having a great employee leave. Don’t let your assumption of how the company will react dictate what you do.
5. Do I have a plan to get back into the workforce?
It’s easy to focus your attention on the decision to leave work, and then not think about it…until you want to return. But the best time to plan your return is during your exit. Lots will change during your time out, but your desire to return to some form of paid work at some point probably won’t. Keeping that in mind while you focus on family will help you find your path back when the time is right.
6. Do I know any mothers who have successfully returned after a career break?
You may have lots of examples of successful career break returners at work and in your social circle but not even know it! If there have been successful returners at work and the company already recognizes the value of returners, there may be a return-to-work path already designed. Talk to moms you know who have returned to work after an extended leave. They’re at your office, the playground, in your neighborhood – they’re everywhere even if you don’t realize it. I find that moms are more than willing to share what they’ve learned through the process! Build the support system so you feel supported in your exit and your return to work.
7. Will I regret not taking a career break?
A lot of times taking a career break doesn’t look like the right thing to do on paper, especially if only considering the financial impact. Maybe you’re exactly where you always intended to be professionally and just can’t imagine giving it up when you worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get where you are.
Leaving the workforce and the life you know can be scary. But there are things more important than work. There can be lots of reasons you feel like taking a career break is the right thing to do even if it doesn’t look like it on your pros and cons list. Every situation is different and it’s important to use your family’s values to guide your decision. Think about how you’ll look back at this moment in a few years and the possible outcomes from this point. Are you okay with it?
There are many different opinions on taking a motherhood career break. It’s important to make your decision based on your family’s values and goals, not based on the opinions of others. By going through these questions you can clarify what’s important to you, consider your options, and finally feel empowered to make your decision.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Before you consider a career break, check out 15 Realistic Ways To Achieve And Maintain Work-Life Balance.
CONNECT WITH DAILY MOM
💖 NEWSLETTER: DAILY READS IN YOUR INBOX 💖
Sign up to receive our picks for the best things to do, see and buy so you can relax and focus on more important tasks! Let us help you be the best version of yourself you can be!