Forbes just published a survey that shows that 84% of working women want to stay home with kids . The new job that everyone wants is stay-at-home mom. This makes sense to me. It’s clear that women don’t want to bust through the glass ceiling, or they’d have done it by now. And it’s clear that men are not pulled by kids in nearly the same way women are, because women’s careers tank when they have kids and mens’ careers don’t.
So now that we are acknowledging that women aspire to stay home with kids, the question remains, “What should women do in their twenties to get to that life they want in their thirties?”
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, is famous for telling women don’t quit before you quit. She says women should see if they want to stay home with kids before they start fading out of the their work life. This is great advice for the 16% of women who don’t want to stay home with kids. But for everyone else, it seems very smart to start preparing to shift your work life to accommodate the shift in your identity to becoming a mom.
Here’s how to make that shift work for you:
1. Know your personality type.
Take the Myers Briggs test. Reading your score is like going to a fortune teller. It’ll tell you a lot about what it’s going to be like for you after you have kids.
If you are an INTJ or INTP you are most likely to not want kids. And if you have kids, it won’t be terribly difficult for you to compartmentalize and go to work during the day. If you are an ENTJ, less than 1% of all women, you are so performance-driven that you will likely keep working even after you have kids. For everyone else, it’s likely that you will want to stay home with kids. That’s where we get the 84% of women wanting to stay home.
Sidenote: The personality type that will have the most difficult time managing kids and a career is ENFJ because you are ambitious and also very committed, so you will struggle between commitment to work and commitment to kids and you’ll have a very hard time giving up either or feeling like you ever got it right.
2. Understand that your job performance is ephemeral.
For those of you who will fall into the 84%, understand that the life you have as a high performer at work (or a low performer) is going to end when you have kids. Priorities will change, and it will not matter that you are a high performer because you will not choose to sustain that when you have kids. Work is a place where you get external rewards for being smart and productive and a good team member. You do not get that at home. So you need to figure out how to get what you need in your twenties if you want to stay home in your 30s. Don’t get addicted to people telling you how great you are. You have to give that up to stay home with kids. Kids do not give performance reviews. They give tantrums.
The hardest part about leaving the workforce is not the money. That’s hard the first few months. Over the long haul, the hardest part is that you miss workplace accolades. Your identity as a strong performer at work will fade, because we don’t have a way to rank parenting skills. So be careful to not make top performer an identity that’s hard to give up. The harder it is to give up, the more you will be torn when you feel the urge to stay home with your kids.
Sidenote: Go to yoga. Learn to be with yourself because you like yourself instead of to impress people. Really. I’ve done Ashtanga for 15 years, and the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how to get good at something because it feels good rather than because others believe you’re good.
3. Live below your means.
You know at age 23 if it’s likely that you’ll want to stay home with kids. Which means the minute you get married you should adjust your spending for one income. This will always keep the door open for you to stay home with kids. The biggest reason that women who want to stay home with kids don’t is because the family has become dependent on the second income. Don’t let that happen.
So living below your means isn’t about frugality and savings. It’s about making sure you’ll feel like you can stay home with your kids.
Ways to get along on one income are living in a small house, living in a low-cost-of-living city, having friends who also live on one income. Because your sense of financial well-being is mostly dependent on you feeling as well off as your friends are.
4. Pick your spouse carefully.
If you want to stay home with kids, don’t marry a guy who can’t earn a living. If you want to stay home with kids, make it clear that even though you earn more than the guy, the guy will be the breadwinner. If you want to stay home with kids then you put all your financial hopes in the guy’s career. Whatever his earning ability is, then that is your earning ability, because you are a team, and he is the breadwinner.
Here’s something about stay-at-home moms: they all want full-time nannies. It’s indulgent, yes. But it’s nice. Really nice. I tell you this to let you know that if you marry rich, staying at home will be easier than if you don’t marry rich. But you already knew that.
Sidenote for women who don’t want kids. If you have even read this far: Even high-earning women want to be with men who earn more than they do.
5. Start freelancing before you have kids.
The best way to stay home with kids and not lose your mind from boredom is to pay someone to take care of your kids while you do freelance work. If you read the Forbes survey of women carefully, you can see that women want some sort of interesting work while they are home with their kids. This is also consistent with Pew Research surveys which find that most women with kids would like to stay home with kids and have some sort of part-time work on the side.
When you think plan remember that you should not plan to do anything more than break-even on this work. This is not moneymaking work. This is work that addresses the fact that you miss the workforce. You’ll miss accolades for a job well done. You’ll miss being paid to be smart. You’ll miss being thought good at what you do. Establishing a freelance career to address those needs is reasonable and do-able.
But you have to start early, before the kids start coming. Because once they’re here, you won’t have time or energy to build up a new business. That is a full-time job and you won’t want a full-time job. Freelancing with the clients you established is a very part time job. And that will make you happy. For every personality type there is a part-time track that will feel fulfilling to you. You just have to find it. Remember to be true to your type if you’re an S you need to be following rules, if you’re an N you need to follow your ideas. Learn your type and pick part-time work that caters to that, rather than striving to earn a lot of money.
6. Accept that you will fall behind.
Women are performing at a higher level at work than men are right now. So, statistically speaking, when you decide to stay home with kids, the people you were better than will start moving ahead of you. It will kill you. Prepare for this. It works best to think of your career as a time in your life. You were a high performer when you did it, but now it’s over. It’s like being the head cheerleader. You were great when you did it, but high school is over and you’re onto the next challenge.
The good news is that for women who hate work, and never find their place to fit in, everyone starts over when they have kids. No one has been a mom before, everyone has a new identity and you have a fresh chance to fit in and do well among the 87% who think staying home with kids is the ultimate job to have.