Doing what's right for YOU

When planning to have a baby, should you stay in a “meh” but flexible job or find a new job you’re excited about?

October 28, 2023

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Recently, we crowdsourced insights into whether to change jobs while trying to have a baby, and wow, when we crowdsource intel, we crowdsource solid, smart intel. I’m so impressed by and grateful for everyone’s thoughtfulness and willingness to share. Truly, thank you.

Reminder: We crowdsource topics where there’s no right or wrong answer – they’re incredibly personal decisions, and because of that, it can be helpful to hear from a variety of people who have considered things you haven’t thought to consider, have lived different experiences, are just a few steps ahead of you in this, etc. Also, while many people came down firmly in one camp, many people were nuanced – offering thoughts and considerations on both options. It’s truly a nuanced, personal issue.

So, please know there’s no right or wrong. There’s definitely no clear answer here – just things to consider. As one woman said:

“[T]here is probably no right answer, it is more about getting in touch with your own gut and navigating either path as best you can.”

Along those lines, READ (or skim) the WHOLE thing. I present the “stay” input first, but there are equally solid, counter-balancing thoughts about finding a new job now later in the article.

Here’s this article’s structure:

  • Reminder of the fact pattern;
  • Pro-staying thoughts;
  • A woman’s warning about staying in the job; 
  • Pro-leaving thoughts; 
  • Advice for the person who opts to stay in the job; and
  • Advice for the person who opts to look for a new job and, possibly, make the transition.  

Here we go.

The Fact Pattern:

A woman is planning to try to have kids very soon. She’s feeling meh about her current job – it pays okay (she’d like to make more but is comfortable), it’s all remote and she misses being with her team, and she knows she won’t stay there long-term. That said, it does seem parent-friendly, flexible, etc.

Should she look for a new job and transition now? Or wait to see how she feels once a baby enters the picture?

People’s thoughts in favor of staying in the job

Stay – Point 1: Stay because you won’t know how you’ll feel post-baby

One of the reasons this whole decision is so hard is that you don’t know how you’ll feel about your job after you have a baby. Your priorities can shift big time – or they might not. It’s hard to foresee, and there are few things in life (if any) that are as life-altering as having kids. 

This unknown doesn’t necessarily mean staying is the clear answer (some people in favor of job-searching raised it, too), but some people did recommend staying in more of a “wait and see” approach because you just don’t know how you’ll feel. Here’s what people said: 

  • “Wait and see – perspective on work might change after baby”; 
  • “I did love my job [that she stayed in] and still do. I wasn’t certain how much I would like being a mom, TBH. But I adore it. My priorities changed after kids, but my job/career has never been part of my identity, not sure why.”
  • “Wait and see. Don’t make sudden decisions now for such a huge unknown”

One woman also wrote in and shared, “I got offered a new, intense role internally at my company right when I returned to work from maternity leave after my first was born. I thought about it hard, but didn’t take it. Parenthood was such a transition, I felt like I needed a job where I could take the foot off the gas for a little while. Granted, I was happy with my compensation.” Slightly different scenario, but a great example of how priorities might change after the baby’s entered the picture.

Stay – Point 2: Stay if your current employer’s maternity leave policy is good (bc other places might not have a good one or you may not qualify for it if you move and quickly get pregnant)

Many people raised maternity leave policies as a factor in making this decision. (Ugh this frustrates me so much from a policy standpoint, but I won’t derail this article with my thoughts on that front.)

Many women advocated staying if you have a good maternity leave policy at the current job. This is particularly true in states and/or if the other potential employer companies where you wouldn’t qualify for leave unless you have worked for that employer for, e.g., six months, a year, etc.

Some women shared:

  • “Same situation here! I stayed… Baby due next week! Current firm has great mat leave so that was big consideration for me.”
  • “Stay if they have a good maternity leave. If you start somewhere new you might not get as much time.”
  • “Stay if there are maternity leave benefits. Stay = less work trying to navigate new [job].”
  • “Stay! To get the mat leave benefit if any. Sometimes you need 1 year at a job to qualify.”

Stay – Point 3: Flexibility (and remote work) post-baby is critical, so stay in your flexible job

My guess is everyone – whether in favor of staying in or leaving the current job – agrees that job flexibility of at least one parent is critical (unless you want to hire a lot of help or can rely heavily on family). 

What that means about your job depends on whether your partner (if you have one) has flexibility, the discussions you have with your partner about who plans to be the flexible parent, and how easily you think you can find a similarly flexible job in your industry and location (if you want a location-based job). As you’ll read later in the article, some of the women in favor of looking for other jobs obviously advocated for leaving – but emphasized the need to keep that flexibility in mind as a required attribute of a new employer.

Here’s what the women in favor of staying said:

  • “Work flexibility is absolutely priceless with kids. I have stayed in my role, and there were opportunities for advancement within the role/company so it hasn’t been stagnant. But I love being able to give more break power/emotional resources to my family when they need it. Society can sometimes tell us we need to be ambitious, make the most money, etc., but we don’t all the time, and not everyone wants to maximize career – it’s okay not to (assuming reasonable happiness in your job).”
  • “Wait and see – the flexibility will be invaluable when you’re returning after mat leave.”

We’ll revisit this point later, but I wanted to raise it here because I think it’s a good point:

  • “Having at least one parent with some flexibility can make the transition to working parenthood a little smoother, for sure. That said, I think we sometimes as women assume that something more rewarding / challenging won’t be flexible, and I’m not sure that is always the case (though I have seen both more- and less-flexible-than-expected companies play out in my friends group). I think it is worth knowing what else is out there ahead of time at least.”

Specific to the remote issue, another woman said, “If she’s planning on breastfeeding, it’s a lot easier working from home. I’ve done it three times. Two times were in times when I was in the office a lot and the last was when we were primarily working from home. It’s SO much easier not to schlep stuff and milk, let alone feel guilty about skipping meetings and stuff to pump. At home, I pumped with the camera off and just kept going. My milk supply was steady and I never had to supplement with formula (like with the other babes).” Note: This could apply for a new job as well – you just want to keep it in mind when job-searching.

Stay – Point 4: Familiarity post-baby is really nice

There’s something to be said about coming back to a familiar environment. Having a baby often changes so much in your life and you can be so tired a lot of the time that having something familiar to come back to could be really valuable, at least for some people. 

In the words of some women who wrote in:

  • “Soooo much better to adjust to having a baby in a job that’s comfortable! Then find new job.”
  • “It is nice to have a job you mostly know how to do, and a company you know who to navigate, after having kids.”

Stay – Point 5: Staying lets you take advantage of the goodwill you’ve built up at your current job

Another point that was raised was that staying means you get to “cash in” all of that goodwill you’ve created for yourself over the years of working there. In some women’s words: 

  • “I have been in current firm for 5 years and have earned an all star reputation. Having baby and ‘cashing in’ on that at current firm feels like the move, versus starting somewhere new and then taking mat leave out of the gate! I feel like I’ve earned ‘benefit of the doubt’ here. So I want to wait and see what it feels like when I come back – I figure I might, post baby, be glad having a job that I already know how to do well with ease… or I might struggle to reenter and want a fresh start with a new team that hasn’t established a baseline expectation for what my ‘normal’ performance looks like! I know could prob put in 60-70% of the effort and still be seen as a strong performer in a new setting… so I will play it by ear and see how I feel post leave. These are my thoughts on my last day of work before I am due next week 😅”
  • “Stay! Both for flexibility she already has and because she’ll have goodwill capital built up”
  • Related in a way: “I would stay until you feel you can give your new job your all. This is subjective/personal.” [I put this here because it kind of goes to this point – you can stay in your current job because of the good will even if you don’t perform super well, whereas you might feel the added pressure to prove yourself at a new job – that said, that pressure to prove yourself could still come up if you stay as you might feel the need to “prove yourself” now that you’re a mom… man, it’s so complicated and emotionally fraught.]

Stay – Point 6: There might be benefits to staying – and then starting a new job later, once you’re a mom

I’ve never thought of what one woman shared, and I find it super interesting. Someone, who works in a very male-dominated finance field, shared:

“I would rather get new job post-baby so I can establish new work rep based on new normal – versus drawing comparison to my pre-baby self – top talent, A player who works long hours. All subject to reeval post baby of course.

“Age is another consideration… I started at current firm at 25 and am now 30. I do think you get ‘anchored’ in how people perceive you age-wise / level-wise. Leadership values me here but they also anchor me as being more junior. I think entering a new firm as a married mom in my 30s anchors me very differently in seniority and building a new rep, versus here where they first knew me as a single 25yo.”

Very interesting. Curious what others thing – feel free to put it in the comments!

A sage word of warning about staying

I’m so appreciative of the woman who wrote in with the below because, despite all of the above (which still remains so valuable), it’s invaluable to hear the flip side, too: 

“Here’s my input on your Fact Pattern question because this was me for #1 baby and reliving this again as we plan for #2…

“I had a baby last year via IVF. Like the original poster, I felt meh about my job (had been there at this point for several years) but money was reasonable, tons of flexibility and work from home, and I had 12 weeks fully paid family leave and a 5-week fully paid sabbatical to use once baby came. Plus I’ve been there so long that I get a ton of vacation and other days off, which I wouldn’t get starting out in a new role. So I stayed. Reaped the benefits of paid family leave and used my sabbatical to go PT for a few months to ease back in. 

“Once back FT this past spring, I realized I was unhappy and wanted a new job. BUT we were starting to talk about baby #2 and I was (and still am!) exhausted and just couldn’t find it in me to job search. We’re now weeks away from transferring the next embryo and I am still at my current job. My boss in recent weeks has become a nightmare but I feel stuck as all my time is spent working, caring for current baby, prepping for baby #2 (all the doctor appointments!) and generally just exhausted. On top of this, in New York State, to qualify for paid family leave you need to be working at job 26 weeks (6 months), so if I want my leave as soon as baby born then need to start a new job early in new year. So now I’m really stuck. If baby #2 works out then most likely I’ll stick it through, take advantage of paid time off, and then quit. Or if it becomes too much once pregnant will quit closer to due date and use time to figure out what’s next.

“So all this to say, my initial reaction was stay and take advantage of flexibility and benefits you’ve built up. BUT in retrospect I’d say change now to set yourself up somewhere prior to baby arrival because once baby is here, it’s really exhausting and you don’t have mental space to deal with a job search. I’d also add to look up state’s paid family leave rules so if you need to be working at new job a certain amount of time to get benefits then you can time this correctly.”

So, segueing into thoughts around leaving now to find a new job…

People in favor of leaving the current job for a new one now

Leave – Point 1: Getting pregnant can take so long, so don’t wait to find a new job until after a baby because it might be a long time

This is one of my biggest concerns. One of the many unknowns in play here is how long it might take to get pregnant. If you stay and it takes longer than you’d want to get pregnant (very common), it could add to the resentment of the job and the stress associated with getting pregnant.

This concern was present in many comments:

  • “timing: ttc [trying to conceive] can be a really long process, so there is an argument to make the move now. It could be tough to sit in a job that isn’t fulfilling while you wait month after month for something to happen. Also re: timing: maternity leave can be a hormonal / emotionally tough time to be looking for something.”
  • “Job hunt in parallel with trying to get pregnant – either could take a while”
  • “Look at jobs now. Might not get pregnant right away. But stay if no great options come up.”

Leave – Point 2: Leaving is harder once you have a child

Referring back up to that warning about staying above, it’s likely harder to job search and start new when you have a baby or young kid. The severity of how hard depends on so many factors: your postpartum experience, your baby’s health, temperament and ability to sleep well (and yours, as a result), your support from your partner and others, and I’m sure other factors.

But I see the value of this point. Having a baby drastically alters your time and energy freedom, so it’s an important point I hadn’t fully considered.

That said, it’s harder, but not impossible. Moms find new jobs every day. It might not happen as fast as you’d like it to just because of your more limited time to job search, but it can happen.

Leave – Point 3: New jobs can have flexibility, too – just make sure to intentionally prioritize flexibility and maternity leave policies when looking

Some people raised the point that the current job doesn’t have the corner on flexibility in jobs. Other jobs can have flexibility, too – you just need to do your best to discern if a potential employer – and group you’d work for – has that flexibility. 

As some women shared, it’s worth looking for another job – but don’t sacrifice flexibility when looking:

  • “It’s so hard to know before having kids how your priorities will shift. It completely upended everything I thought I wanted out of my career (for the time being, at least). I would look around for another opportunity that also has similar parent-friendly policies and flexibility, but I definitely wouldn’t sacrifice those things right before having kids.”
  • “Having at least one parent with some flexibility can make the transition to working parenthood a little smoother, for sure. That said, I think we sometimes as women assume that something more rewarding / challenging won’t be flexible, and I’m not sure that is always the case (though I have seen both more and less flexible than expected companies play out in my friends group). I think it is worth knowing what else is out there ahead of time at least.” (repeat comment, but relevant here, so putting it here, too)
  • “Leave and find some place with good maternity leave & parental support.”

Leave – Point 4: For some, it’s important to LOVE your job when you have kids

The role of this factor in your decision might come down to what role you want your job to fill in your life. Know yourself here. If you can see how it’d be important for you to love your job when you have kids because it will take time away from your kids, then that’s an important thing to consider. If you’re okay with your job being, for lack of a better descriptor, “just your job,” and not so much part of your identity, maybe not loving it and being better able to just clock-in-and-out is more important than loving its substance.

I want to be clear here: I think there’s major value in both approaches – it just depends on what you want. The hardest part here is that you don’t know fully know what you’ll want after kids – you just have to guess.

As some women said:

  • “I’d encourage her to find a job she feels good about now. For me, after I had kids, it became even MORE  important for my job to be fulfilling because that was time I couldn’t spend with my kids. If you have the opportunity and privilege to make a work change that enables you to be more fulfilled, do it. It helps you be a more fulfilled parent, too.”
  • “New job – you need to love your job so leaving your babies is easier.” 

For what it’s worth, this resonates with my experience, too. When I was a new lawyer and single, I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. While I’ve grown to disagree with parts of it, there is a part in there that’s stuck with me. She advises taking the promotion / leaning into work before you have a baby and go on maternity leave so you’re excited to come back. At my second firm, where I was miserable, I recalled that part of Lean In and basically had this thought process, “We’re trying to have kids; I already dread this job; there’s no way I’m going to want to come back to it once I have a child.” It prompted me to leave and set up this business as best I could before I had our first daughter. Not sure me quitting law what Sandberg had in mind (ha), but the point stands – there’s value in being excited (or at least not dreading) your job before you have kids so you’re excited to come back to it. Granted, the person asking this question doesn’t dread her job – it’s just “meh” in her mind – so, it’s different than my experience. In some ways, my decision was an easier call. So, take it or leave it!

Leave – Point 5: Go now & you can always change again if it’s not the right fit

One woman pointed out that the decision to leave is not a forever decision. In her words, “Go now. You can change again after if it’s too much.”

I think it’s always critical to remember that no decision we make is forever. Sometimes, we put so much pressure on ourselves to make the “right” call with a somewhat implicit assumption that it’s our forever decision. It doesn’t have to be – life has chapters.

That said, just keep in mind the above – it might be harder to transition once you have a kid, so do your best to find the right fit. Don’t jump for a job with red flags if your current job has less of them.

Also, random point from me: if you leave your current job with bridges intact, there’s a solid shot you could go back.

Obviously, this is very personal and depends on your age, conversations with doctors, etc. That said, I wanted to share what two women said because it’s an important option to consider:

  • “Go for it now [i.e., move to a new job] (babies make things more complex) but allow 12 months to qualify for FMLA”
  • “TTC [trying to conceive] can be a lot, so would think about moving first if going to move. Also, lots of reasons to stay – wait until you know more, especially if work is okay/interesting”

A reminder: You can always look and decide not to leave 

A few women brought this point up, and it’s a good reminder:

“I think she should see what jobs are out there before deciding not to make a change.”

It’s obvious, but some people advised looking and then staying if you don’t find anything. And while that sounds obvious, I think it’s a nice reminder. Really absorbing that you’ll job search but not leave if you don’t a truly promising job with the non-negotiables you have prevents you from feeling desperate and jumping for a new job that isn’t the right fit. You’re not desperate: you have a good job, and you don’t need to settle for anything else that’s pointing to a meh or a lack of flexibility. To that end, be sure to get clear on your priorities and keep them front and center throughout the search so you’re not tempted by some exciting-sounding job that might not provide, e.g., the flexibility, WFH options (or not), etc. things you might care about (exciting opportunities have a tendency to blind me to what my original priorities were, but maybe that’s just me!).

Advice if she decides to stay or leave

Alright, that wraps up the factors people discussed considering regarding the decision of staying or leaving. I also asked for advice for our asker – whether she stays or leaves, so here it is:

Advice if she stays at her current job

Here’s the advice:

  • Regarding upcoming mat leave:
    • “Meet with HR and push for more flexibility and longer maternity leave”
    • “Maintain connections; set boundaries for maternity leave and expectations for return to work.”
    • “Get that raise/promotion before baby! Ask for flexibility if desired upon return from baby”
  • Regarding potential job search after-baby:
    • “Network and refresh resume [now in preparation]”
    • “Plan options for next move so that moving is easier if you want to (e.g., list jobs to apply to)”
    • “Plan to leave 6-12 mon after the baby is born. Coast the rest of the time.”
  • To help enjoy the job more in the meantime:
    • “Since meh with the role, are there other projects she could get involved in to spark joy?”

Advice for Leaving

Here’s the advice people had for her to keep in mind in the job search process. 

As mentioned, understand a potential employer’s maternity leave, how long you have to be there before it’s available, etc. Candidly, this is hard to do effectively without prejudicing yourself with some employers. I’m sure there are other options (feel free to comment with your ideas on this front!), but I can see talking to former employees (and potentially current employees) (especially from the group you’d join – or ask about that group specifically) to ask them questions about it and also, if the company touts themselves as “family-friendly,” asking for their explanation about what that means.

Daphne Delvaux, an employment litigator and creator of @themamattorney, suggests “ask[ing] if you can see the company handbook to better understand the company ethos and how you can apply your skills to their mission.”

Here’s what the women who wrote in said:

  • “I’d look into timing + if she needs to be at a new job for X months before maternity leave is available;”
  • “Paid sick leave separated from PTO has been a game-changer. I don’t hoard PTO now just in case!”
  • “Contact moms who work there. Ask HR dept. They need to know that this is a huge factor in attracting and retaining women.” (That said, I believe Daphne Delvaux, mentioned, would advise against flagging this for a potential employer as you have basically no rights as an applicant)
  • “Try to talk to people working for your (future) boss – groups can be really different!” [very true!]
  • “Wish it weren’t the case, but consider eligibility for health insurance & maternity leave.”
  • “If you are pregnant, tell them after you get offer. Be prepared to negotiate leave and walk if not.”
  • “Healthcare benefits, leave policy, hybrid/flexible work policy”
  • “Make sure flex means leaving early for a practice or coming in late bc of a Halloween parade”
  • “Look for women in leadership. No women partners/leaders =it’s hard to have kids & succeed”
  • Look for a job with some remote work options – you might really want that remote option when, e.g., breastfeeding; just having the option might be nice

Alright, that wraps up the crowdsourced brilliance. It’s so personal – hopefully, this helped you make your own informed decision

As frustrating as it might be – and hopefully, as freeing as it might be, there’s really no right or wrong here. Regardless of what you decide, I wish you all the best. My guess: it’ll all work out great long-term regardless of which decision you make. Having a kid can be hard no matter where you’re working, so don’t take it being hard (whatever you decide) as you having made a wrong call. Even hard outcomes can be the right call for you. And remember: you can always change your position. It might not happen as quickly as you’d ideally like, but it can happen over time. You got this – and enjoy this next chapter!

And if you, reader, have anything you want to add, please feel free to do so in the comments below or email me at ke***@ke********.com and I’ll add your comment to the article anonymously. Thank you!

Also, if anyone is interested, given it’s a related topic, here’s an article about how to prepare for maternity leave (another crowdsourced gem!). 

Thanks for being here!

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