New parents may face the decision of staying at home with the kids or returning to work.
This is part of an occasional series addressing the problems that can arise after meeting a long-sought goal.
Janice Svastal was a school teacher who never thought she’d be a stay-at-home mom. And then she had her first baby.
Svastal’s son is now 6 years old and her daughter is 4, and she’s stayed home to raise them since they were born.
“I thought I’d be ready to go back,” the North Toronto resident says. She took an extended, 18-month maternity leave, but as she neared the deadline to submit paperwork to return to her teaching job, she says she “still didn’t feel ready to be back at work.”
Svastal says she knew she wanted to be with her children, but it was still hard to say goodbye to her colleagues and to put her career on hold indefinitely.
Experts say parents who choose to stay at home can struggle with a feeling of losing their identities, social isolation and adjusting to a new pace of life after deciding to put their careers on hiatus. Ashley King, a social worker at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, says parents often struggle with feeling like they’re not able to get things done or stick to timelines they normally would be able to have met. When this feeling arises, she says parents should step back and reflect on why they made the decision to stop working in the first place.
“There can be quite a lot of guilt or loss at the idea of what you thought your life might be,” said King, who works for the hospital’s family health team. “I think it really becomes ultimately about balance — that you feel like you are spending time with your family and committing to that, and that you as a person have other aspects of your life and smaller goals that you are working towards.”
Once kids come into the picture, King says, parents tend to pay more attention to the present. Some may struggle with the way their changing priorities may be perceived by friends or colleagues, she added.
To help adjust to her new life, Svastal joined North Toronto MOMs, a neighbourhood community group that organizes weekly meetups where she found support among people in similar situations. Now that her kids are a bit older, she’s also started taking art classes — something she studied in university that she said lets her be creative and do something “completely unrelated to mom stuff.”
Svastal said she is constantly assessing when she might start teaching again, grateful that her industry lends itself to part-time opportunities. She believes it’s possible to re-enter the workforce even after years of being out of it.
“The biggest thing I’d want to tell people deciding to (stay at home) is not to be afraid to do it,” she said. “I do not regret making the decision at all — that I’ve had this time with my kids because I would never get it back if I did go back to work.”
But while financial constraints make it impossible for many parents to stay home, for others the option might not feel right for personal reasons.
Tottenham, Ont., resident Elizabeth Pazzelli, 37, is the mother of two sons under the age of 4. She spends up to four hours a day commuting to a digital advertising sales job in Toronto. She tried a more flexible job with a lower salary, but found it less fulfilling.
“I’m always kind of struggling with how to balance working full time and doing something I enjoy, but also being there for (my family),” she said.
Pazzelli sought advice from Lee Weisser, a career counsellor and life coach at Careers by Design, when she felt like she was at a crossroads: to go back to a job downtown, or not.
Weisser said parents need to figure out what is best for both themselves and their children.
Weisser said, speaking generally, that many people tie their work into their identities. “In Toronto, our favourite question when we meet people is ‘What do you do?’ ” she said. “And for somebody who is a stay-at-home parent, it can be a real challenge to answer that and to feel confident about answering that.”
She said when making these decisions, people need to consider how their choice will impact them and their families financially, emotionally and socially.
“There is no one right way to deal with all of these changes,” she said. “And the workforce of the future is going to involve a lot more back and forth between people working, parenting, taking time for education, travelling — it’s not going to be the same kind of stability we’ve seen in the past.”
Aly Tsourounis, a member of the same moms’ group as Svastal, worked in public relations for eight years before she had her first child two years ago. Her initial plan was to go back to the full-time job she loved, but that changed when she had kids — she didn’t feel that she and her husband continuing to work demanding full-time jobs was the right choice for her family.
She decided freelancing was the best option for her and she now runs her own PR business. The change meant flexible hours and the ability to work from home, but no maternity leave when she had her second child earlier this year.
“I kind of made a career shift and found something that I loved, so I was willing to go with the sacrifices that come with that,” she said.
Tsourounis said while people have been supportive of her career choice, she thinks her colleagues may have been surprised. She said her decision not to return to work surprised herself, too.
“The only thing I would say looking back is to have a bit more confidence in my choices and in myself,” she said. “And to not feel any guilt about wanting that elusive kind of having it all, working and being present for my kids and creating the balance that works for me and for my family.”
Article by: theStar.com