Saturday, January 31, 2015

Making Decisions With Confidence - When Deciding to Stay Home or Work

The Stay At Home Mom Vs Working Mom decision is a probably one of the most internal struggles women go through because it typically involves issues like these:

Uncertainty - You honestly don’t know how you are going to feel until after the baby comes.
Complexity - It depends on the situation...each mother has different family dynamics, different needs, different jobs, different backgrounds and different children.   
High Risk - the impact of the decision may be significant. 
Alternatives - Each has its own pros and cons. 
Interpersonal - Difficult to predict how other people will react.

A lot of people wonder how some mothers adjust perfectly to the transition of quitting their job and staying home and/or staying home but go back to work and be extremely happy with their choice, what's it like and whether they could do it too.  

Well I can tell them because I've done it.  I've reflected on this for some time and noticed two things.

First, I feel that many women postpartum rely too much on luck, timing, or instinct to make a decision, on top of being sleep deprived and overwhelmed with the well-meaning but unsolicited advice on motherhood.  Second, women on both sides that are unhappy with their decisions more often than not, try more vigorously to defend them than those who are happy with their choices and just move on with their lives.  

When it comes to something as serious as working or stay home, you need to be objective, not emotional.  You need a systematic approach to decisions so that no matter what type of decision you have to make, you can make decisions with confidence…and never feel guilty as an end result.  

The best way to make a big decision, as I discovered is to use an effective and systematic process, known as Critical Thinking.   

There are three Steps to Critical Thinking: (1) understanding the issue, (2) analyze the problem, and (3) explore options/alternatives.  

If you don't do the first two steps effectively, you cannot do the third step.  Let's take a look at each one in more detail.  

1.  Really Understanding The Issue  
Very often, you look at something on the surface and think “Well this is obviously the problem, it’s what we got to solve, very simple – problem solved”  But when you dig deep into it, you realize the problem you’re actually dealing with isn’t the problem at all.  Get to the bottom of it and understand the problem it is you are trying to solve.  

2.  Analyze The Problem 
Making sure you understand the facts and numbers in front of you.  This step is crucial.  
You can’t make a good decision about staying home or going back to work unless you’ve really done your homework, you have the facts and data, and you’ve had that rigorous analysis performed.  

In the spirit of staying home vs working, I want to stress that it is very important to discern facts from logical fallacies—statements designed to manipulate a reader by appealing to emotions rather than intellect.  There are many logical fallacies in both sides of the Mommy Wars but I won’t list them here.  Use facts – not logical fallicies as basis for your decision. 

Staying home vs Working more often than not involves a cost benefit analysis to determine important things like (1) will you continue to grow savings and (2) is it worth your time and resources as a result of choosing one or the other.  

You can include intangible items to the analysis but please consider that including intangible items and estimating a value for these items within the analysis brings more subjectivity into the decision making process, and as I said earlier, the decision must be an objective one in order to make the decision with confidence.

This is purely subjective, don't add this to your analysis.
There is plenty of market research from Procter & Gamble
that American women clean 4 hours a week instead of 14.  

Here's one example in how to be objective in a cost benefit analysis of staying home vs working: 
The take-home pay on one income needs to be smaller than you think.  If with an employer matching 401k, the breadwinner should increase retirement contributions by 10% because women outlive their men and need something to live off, the 50% of his SSN benefits isn't just going to cut it.  The breadwinner also needs to bump up the life insurance premiums to cover expenses without problems for at least a year in the event the breadwinner dies.  Depending on the employer, health insurance premiums are more expensive when you add a second child and beyond.  This results in the take-home pay being smaller and needs to be considered if you're serious in going off on one income - you do need to mitigate the risk by budgeting for these things rather than just hope for the best.    

3. Explore The Options
The truth is that rarely, there are immediate answers to a problem.  There are always several, and it’s really about exploring all those options and making sure you made the right decision in the end.  

Explore all options

There isn’t a one-size fits all solution when it comes to staying home or going back to work…there are multiple solutions and it’s very important to explore those in depth. 

Repeat this 20 times

In terms of making the decision around the best approach, you ask questions such as

“How important is ____ to me/us?” 

“What are some things we truly could not live without?”

“How sustainable is this option for our family if we continue this approach?”

“What are my options in the future if I choose X or Y?”

In conclusion, these were the steps I took when I approached the decision of quitting my previous job to stay home and again a few months later when approached with the decision of returning to work or continuing to stay home.  

After reviewing all aspects of the situation and giving careful, thoughtful consideration, I made my decision.  Both times, it turned out to be a really great decision for the situation at hand and it resulted in broader opportunities and certainly less stress for the family.  Everyone came out happy in the end.  

Now go and make your decision and respect the decisions of others. 

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