Starting a family had always been a desire of mine. When my husband and I found out that we were expecting near the end of 2020, I deeply started thinking about my familial values and what I wanted our child’s upbringing to look like.
I gave birth in May of 2021. Two years into a global pandemic, I was plagued with despair about what our childcare situation would be. Deciding on childcare can be an emotional journey. According to Motherly’s 2022 State of Motherhood survey data, childcare issues are the no. 1 reason millennial and Gen Z moms changed employers or employment status in 2021. And it was certainly why I changed mine.
My husband and I decided early on that daycare wasn’t something that we wanted as part of raising our child—for this one or any future children that we may have. And though some questioned us and mentioned how hard it might be to find adequate childcare, we were firm in our decision. Because though daycare works for some, it’s certainly not for everyone.
I valued the idea of one-on-one care for our son. That’s the kind of care I received growing up, and so did my husband. We were both raised by stay-at-home moms. I remember how impactful it was having my mother’s love shape me every day, and I wanted the same for my son. To be hands-on, not just when I became available after a long day at work with barely any energy left to give. But throughout the day, on a daily basis.
I wanted to be easily accessible to him and his every need. While I loved this idea, though, I knew I didn’t want to be the often traditional full-time SAHM. I still wanted to work in some capacity. It was all just about finding the right job that created a doable work/life balance.
When I gave birth to my son, I took the full extent of my maternity leave that was offered by my then-current job, and I fell in love with the endless time that I got to spend with him. I loved not having to depend on anyone else to watch him and not having to worry about missing any of his firsts while I was away at the office. I was able to send his dad videos every day of new things that he was doing and it kept us all connected.
When I returned to work, it became hard to balance tending to my little one full time while also working full time (my job had become remote when the pandemic hit, and then stayed remote). I had help with my son here and there, but most days I was keeping him entertained while I worked eight or more hours a day.
I had a boss who was graciously flexible with me and understanding of my childcare dilemmas. But the line of work began to require more days outside of the home, more days in the office, and more late nights, which cut into time I had to spend with my son and the routines I had put in place for him.
Because while working was important to my identity as a mother, my family always comes first. And I needed a career that would reflect those values.
As I evaluated my situation, I quickly realized how burnt out, empty and drained I felt after a day of work. The job wasn’t a field I truly wanted to be in. I wasn’t passionate about the work and it felt overwhelming more days than it did not. I dreaded my work weeks and looked forward to the weekends when I could detach myself from hundreds of emails, text messages, phone calls and Zoom meetings. I was slowly losing my work/life balance. And I did not like what that looked like for my family.
That’s when I made the conscious decision that there needed to be a switch in my career. I didn’t want to feel depleted day after day. I didn’t like offering that version of myself to my son or to my husband—and I didn’t like that version of myself for me either. She was exhausted. She was not happy. She spent so many days crying and stressing over childcare and wanting the best for her baby. My husband and I were slowly leaning towards me becoming a full-time SAHM, but I wasn’t at the point of wanting to completely give up my career and my additional income was still beneficial to our family at the time.
I needed something that allowed me to dedicate more time to my son and my family. Because while working was important to my identity as a mother, my family always comes first. And I needed a career that would reflect those values. Something I could thrive in without having to put away my “mama” or “wife” roles, but rather cohesively exist in those roles while still thriving as an employee.
My search for a different job was long and strenuous. Interview after interview. Rejection after rejection. I was a mama left feeling defeated.
But finally I found a job. The perfect fit. And it was an absolute blessing.
Related: We never stop needing our village
My career shift came at the best possible time. My sister had graduated and decided on a gap year between high school and college so she could figure some things out. I was offered a new part-time position, and we moved her in with us during the week to be an in-home nanny while I worked. And it’s a godsend: I have someone that I know and trust in-home catering to my son one-on-one, and that puts my mind at ease.
I fell in love with my new job and the version of myself that evolved through even just the first few weeks of working there. I felt lighter. Like a breath of fresh air. I felt happier and more at ease, and I had so much more of myself to give. To my son. To my husband. To my family and friends. To myself.
Because of Motherly’s 2022 State of Motherhood survey, I learned I wasn’t alone: 58% of millennial and Gen Z moms reported that the stress and financial burden of childcare has made them consider leaving the workforce. The emotional stress is what really got to me. So to have found something that works for me, I consider myself lucky. Because not every mother has a village. Some mothers don’t want to use daycare, but have to send their little ones anyway. Some mothers don’t find the perfect job for them, but work anyway. Some mothers don’t want to give up their careers, but still end up doing so.
I am so very thankful for my village that has linked together and wrapped their support around my family, particularly so my son is always within familial spaces. I’m thankful to my sister, most importantly, as his personal nanny, but also to my mother-in-law and my mom for stopping through to take him off my hands when they can, my dad who calls daily, and all the other ways people offer a helping hand from time to time.
I know this is just my story and there are many mamas who don’t have a village they can lean on. I know there are mamas who can’t find suitable work that values family as much as they do. And while the US childcare crisis doesn’t seem to be getting any better as quickly as we may need it to, hopefully more jobs will begin to make it easier for parents all around. By becoming more flexible. By valuing that family is just as important as work, and that the mental and emotional health of their employees also matter just as much.
Because it’s not just your village that helps to raise your family or your child. It’s the entire community. It’s society. It’s the world that we live in.
Motherly designed and administered this survey through Motherly’s subscribers list, social media and partner channels, resulting in more than 17,000 responses creating a clean, unweighted base of 10,001 responses. This report focuses on the Gen X cohort of 1197 respondents, millennial cohort of 8,558 respondents, and a Gen Z cohort of 246 respondents. Edge Research weighted the data to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the US female millennial cohort based on US Census data.