Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Opportunity Cost of Motherhood

One of the first concepts I learned in Economics 101 (or whatever that fun charting, graphing class what called) was that of opportunity cost.  The definition of opportunity cost is the cost (not necessarily monetary) of the next best, or foregone, mutually exclusive alternative.  In this particular chapter of life, the opportunity cost of me choosing to be a stay-at-home mom is the 'cost' associated with advancing my career.  

Since time is a limited resource and we have to choose how we will use it, there will always be a cost associated with foregone alternatives.  For me, the initial choice to leave the work place did not come easily.  I knew I wanted to be home with my child (there was only one at the time), but I also wanted to continue my career.  I bought into the myth that women can have it all.  I tried every alternative work schedule imaginable before realizing that I needed to be home during this chapter of life.  There was not going to be a happy 'work-life' balance for me, regardless of how much training the Human Resource folks were dishing out.  I am a 100%, all in kind of person.  It was not possible to have it all, at least not at the same time.  Now, I know that some women are better at the juggling act than I am and many, many woman do not have the choice to stay home.  I am not trying to say one path is better or worse than the other, only that there are costs associated with our decisions. 

A recent blog post from a working mom drove this point home.  She sees things through a different lens.  Not the opportunity cost of leaving her career, but the cost of not being able to pal around with other 'mom friends', for lack of a better term.  When she sees the stay-at-home moms dropping their kids off at preschool in 'cute workout clothes', she might feel slightly disconnected, the same way I now feel disconnected from the woman in the business suit in front of me at Starbucks.  I think, "that used to be me" or "that could still be me" or even "will that ever be me again", but I chose for that not to be me, right now, in this particular chapter of life.  And, I can honestly say I am so very happy with that decision.  That does not mean there are not some days when I wonder what my career will look like when I return, but I am at peace in the present and I think that is the key.  If you are happy with your decision or at least at peace with your circumstances, than you are probably on the right path.  I knew God wanted me to be at home with our children and I honestly believe my children need me to at home with them, but it took me testing the waters in order for me to actually hear it, live it, and finally embrace it. 

When I think about returning to the workforce, I would love to teach a class in Mama 101.  In this class, we would discuss real world examples of how women, in particular, are faced with extremely tough life decisions that no college class and very few workplaces touch on.  We are always looking around as if other people have it all figured out.  (They don't!)  It seems we tend to be looking, deciphering, and sometimes even judging the 'other side'.  However, everyone's life circumstances, God-given gifts, and also God-given limitations are unique.  By praying to God for guidance and wisdom, I was able to embrace God's desire for me to be at home and therefore be able to live joyfully in the present.  It took a little time to get to this point, but I am certainly glad I trusted God.  

Psalm 28:7 says, "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song."

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