To My Daughter: 3 Reasons Not to Leave the Workforce


By Rene Syler of Good Enough Mother

I read something the other day that stopped me in my tracks.

It was a piece in The New York Times Magazine about college-educated women who, a decade ago, “opted out” of their high-powered jobs so that they could stay at home with their kids. Two things surprised me about this story; first that it was 10 years ago.. I remember when this was being talked about, and met with some skepticism.

And secondly, that these women, obviously bright, well-educated and on-the-ball, were having a hard time getting back into the working world, not at all an unusual phenomenon.

But now, after a decade, these women who “opted out” making the decision they thought was the best for themselves and their families, are having second thoughts. And it’s proving late to try to get back in the game.

I was talking to my nearly 17-year-old daughter about this the other day and I reiterated to her what I told my friend and colleague Debbie Mitchell; never, ever opt out completely.

Now I realize a couple of things; I have the benefit of perspective. I know firsthand about the very long and arduous recession our country has been mired in. But there’s something else.

To that end, there are three reasons I told my daughter not to opt out completely.


As I stated above, our country is hobbling out of one of the worst recessions in recent memory. Prior to that everyone was flush with cash, this writer included. But since no one has a (working) crystal ball, it’s impossible to know what the future holds. But there is one certainty; time and technology, marches on. And it’s the technological piece of the puzzle that can waylay so many. Look at how much the world has changed in just 5 years (social media being one of the biggest shifts in communication). Can you imagine missing 10 or 12 years of advancements?


And when I say grown, I don’t mean grown and out of the house. What I’m talking about is the time (and it will come) when their dependence on you will be diminished. Though important, you will take up less space in their lives. Once they’re out spreading their wings, what’s left for you? You  need to make sure there’s something .. and that you have something left of yourself to give.


This was one of the big reasons I wrote Good Enough Mother in the first place. I believe that just because all these other people come into  your life, doesn’t mean you have to stop having your own dreams, goals and aspirations. There’s not a thing wrong with thinking about your future goals. That’s not selfish; that’s self preservation.

At the end of the day, every woman, my daughter included, will have to make the decision that’s best for her and her family. The trick is to make sure both of those are given equal consideration.

What do you think? Is (or was) opting out an option for you? What would you tell your kids?

Renee Syler is the blogger behind Good Enough Mother.