One of the arguments against stay-at-home parenting that I hear is what a career killer it is to be out of the workforce for a number of years. Sometimes, it’s said that the impact of SAH parenting is worse for men because it’s unexpected for them to do so, other times it’s said to be worse for women because our lifetime earning potential is already so much less than men. Either way, it’s the most common reason I’ve heard for why I’m not helping myself (or my family) by staying at home with Nora.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about that, because I feel like I’ve developed so many new job skills since I quit my job…more than I would have developed if I had stayed on track. And I’m not just talking about time-management and planning and other soft-skills mom’s claim (although I’m working on those too!). In the last few months I have taught myself HTML and CSS. Sure, I wasn’t starting from scratch — I knew just enough to build fancy Facebook pages for my employers and a few friends — but I couldn’t have coded a whole website from nothing. I also couldn’t have edited together a reasonably good video, but now I’ve done that, too:
Of course, both of these things are related to Papoose, which would maybe technically mean I’m not going to be a SAH parent anymorebut I wouldn’t have decided to start Papoose if I hadn’t started staying home.
Another argument that I’ve heard quite a bit recently, and was one of the common responses to my guest blog on the NY Times, is that a parent should always be prepared for the worst case scenario – be it the working spouse’s job loss, divorce, or death. It’s irresponsible to SAH because if either of those things were to happen, I’d be screwed.
While I don’t disagree that the game plan could completely change in an instant, I actually think that I am MORE marketable now than I was before I quit my job, and definitely before she was born. If I hadn’t have gotten pregnant, I never would have started looking for a job and would probably still be a minion in a college admissions office with little advancement potential, a small paycheck, lots of travel away from Chris, mostly stressful co-workers, and most importantly little recognition for my hard work. Having Nora made me realize what a bad job situation I was in and motivated me to find the great Director-level position I started when she was eight weeks old. That job had everything the first didn’t, and I learned an amazing amount of things in a very short time — namely that if I’m given responsibility and trust, I can step up to the challenge and deliver. I could have stayed in that job for years, if not for the fact that it was taking me away from the cutest baby ever.
I took her on business trips with me for awhile, and even had a “regular” babysitter in California, but as she grew, I knew it wouldn’t have been a long term solution. And while week-long trips to one location is do-able, a night here and a night there is less so, which is why we jumped at the opportunity to move to Nantucket and have me at home.
It did cross my mind that future employers wouldn’t look kindly on a 7 month stint before a multi-year absence, but if all is successful, I’ll never have anyone but myself for a boss. And, if Papoose doesn’t work out, I have a completely different skill set to work from. Admissions was fun for a while and took me to a lot of interesting places but travel gets old — I could never happily do it long-term or if we have kids at home. If I keep building a portfolio of websites, I could walk down a completely different road from where I was headed before we have Nora.
I sort of migrated into recruiting based upon my college internship experience, not because I was really interested in it; it was just a means of supporting us while Chris finished school. Thanks to Nora, I feel like I finally have been able to develop skills related to my interests, which actually makes me excited about the possibility for my future careers.