We bought home Child #1 during fourth year of medical school.
Nobody told me how much my life would change. When he took his first breath, he took mine away. His birth signified the last time I would ever truly put myself first. And as he grew, it was like I had a second heart outside of my body — crawling, walking, running around in the world.
Soon, child #2 came during second year of residency, then Child #3 during the first fellowship.
After each of them, the looming question of whether I should go back to work or stay home. With three kids, that makes it three times that I’ve seriously had to ask myself this question. It was always my decision, as my husband was super supportive no matter what I decided. But it was never easy to make.
At first, I thought the question would be, “Should I stay home or go back?”
But that wording didn’t help me make a decision. “Should” is so subjective.
I was really asking myself this question:
“What suffering can I tolerate better?”
Now, that’s a question I can analyze better.
As you know, there are great things about me being a SAHP (stay-at-home parent) and a working parent. When I thrive, so does my family. So I chose to go back to work after each baby. And I’m happy to say that our kids are resilient, happy, wonderful human beings.
No doubt there are lots of outside pressures for going to work or staying home, which makes it hard to decide. Nobody has the right answer regarding which is best for you. Not your parents, your pastor or priest, parenting authorities and influencers, or the friends you most admire the most. Not even me.
However, there are some considerations that will help you discern deep into your soul and decide.
Here they are.
Case For Being A Stay-At-Home Parent
Ask these questions:
- If you leave your job, can you return to the same job or similar?
- Can your family afford to lose your income?
- Do you have other kids at home?
If they’re mostly yes, you have a good basis to stay at home.
Pros to being a SAHP:
- You get to be a luxury for everybody else. For example, you don’t have to coordinate vacations with your DrSpouse or kids’ schools. You can be there for your family in a pinch.
- You have the freedom to spend time with your kids any time and any way you want.
- You have more opportunities to make memories with your kids.
Cons to being a SAHP:
- There is a constant push and pull as all the littles need something from you at all times and no water cooler to take a break from them.
- You are really working 24/7. There are no “weekends” or “holidays” for you, or much of any break, when your DrSpouse is at the hospital.
- You’re watching your budget closely because you’re a single income household.
- You don’t get any awards for all of your hard work and sacrifices.
Case For Being A Working Parent
Ask these questions:
- Can you work part-time, flextime, or get on a custom track?
- Do you have access to excellent caretakers who act as extensions of yourself?
- Are your kids so social that they thrive around other kids?
If the answers to these questions are mostly yes, again, you’re probably going to be OK going back to work.
Pros to being a working parent:
- You get to help your family financially.
- After spending an entire weekend with your kids, you get to look forward to Mondays because, you know…you can finally relax.
- You get to use your talents to help society. (The wife of Physician Philosopher, for example, is a teacher who teaches other Kindergarten teachers. How awesome that there are people like her!)
- You have your accomplishments recognized.
Cons to being a working parent:
- You miss out on events during the daytime with your kids.
- You have to rely on and coordinate more help.
- You have additional costs like eating out, gasoline, and a professional wardrobe (unless you work from home).
If You Decide To Be A Stay-At-Home Parent, Keep All Options Open!
While I did not decide to be a SAHP, I completely support you 100% if you do. But I encourage you to stay active in your career field and keep your foot in the door. You want all options to be open to you.
Some ways to do this:
- Volunteer in your field
- Meet and network with people
- Do at least the minimum work to get your credentials, certifications, and licenses updated (doctors, nurses/PAs, teachers, really listen to this one!)
- Continue to learn through podcasts, blogs, continuing education credits, and books
I can’t tell you how many friends I have who have a hard time going back to work because their certifications and licenses are expired. Unless they go back to school or get re-certified, they’re kinda stuck.
Also, keeping your skills current gives you confidence, independence, and most of all…CHOICE.
You can choose to go back to work if you want to instead of being forced by the job market to stay home because nobody will hire you. I believe the best way to empower ourselves is to give ourselves as many options to choose from!
Back to the original question when deciding to stay home or go back to work:
“What suffering can you tolerate better?”
Friend, only you know that answer. But I know this: when you’re happy, everybody thrives.
We all suffer from guilt no matter what we decide. The fact that you’re carefully discerning means you are a good parent. In case nobody has told you this today, you are a good parent! If your family doesn’t look like other families, that’s fine! You are doing great!
Once you have your decision on what’s best for your family, be confident that you made the best decision.
I’m a hugger. I’m hugging and supporting you, friend.
To your strong medical family,