For those who have been following my comments on other blogs by now you know my wife went back to work. What I have yet to touch on is why. I suspect the reasons may resonate with others. I also believe it may serve as a warning for those considering becoming a stay at home parent or retiring early.
Why my Wife Became a Stay at Home Parent
In October of last year my wife decided to become a stay at home parent. I wrote a whole series on the impact effects of doing so. In those posts I cursory mentioned that my wife stopped working to allow her to spend more time with the kids. This was what she left work too.
Leaving Work to Do?
Personal finance gurus and anyone who really understands what it is like to change your life style will point out that if you do choose to leave work voluntarily, you need to leave work to do something else. If you leave one thing that drives you, whether it makes you happy or not, you need to go to something that also keeps you driven or you will fail. This is especially true for those in high end careers.
Engineers and Drive
Someone like my wife, who is an engineer, is used to going full bore on everything in pursuit of success. She started with engineering school which I swear sometimes treats the college process as an exercise in survival of the fittest. Both of us remember the first week in college being told look to our left and right. One of those people would not graduate. I can validate that was true in both our cases. After college she entered a career that required 60-70 hour work weeks. For anyone that tells you that engineering is the easy way to wealth, take heed there is a reason it pays well. Easy is not what I would call it.
Kids as a Passion
But I digress, there are plenty of difficult careers. The point here is to be successful leaving work you must be dedicated to the passion you go to. My wife is just as dedicated to our kids. She left work to spend time with our kids. From that respect her choice to be a stay at home parent has been very successful. Our youngest is currently at home all day. Our oldest spends about 6 hours a day in a public preschool. They do all sorts of things: Go to the library, play groups, various educational activities, museums, etc. I can attest that staying at home is not an easy choice or job either. It is not one yours truly would be fit to survive.
Something was missing, why my wife went back to work
However, doing so was not enough. She missed being able to see the success and enjoyment of her engineering work. She missed being able to say she was an engineer. She even worried that our kids would not be able to tell others what Mommy does for a career. Altogether something was missing from her life, she enjoys spending time with our children but it was not enough. Enter contract work.
Early Retirees, leaving work, and Side Hustles; not about Finances
It’s not an uncommon refrain of those who retire or leave work. They find a side hustle. Almost every one of the early retirees out there have a side hustle. Think Save Retire for example retired to running a video blog and working on rock start finance projects. Countless others have similar situations. In every case, just like in my wife’s, these are not decisions about finances. My wife is not going back to work to make a few dollars. Her job will be helpful to retirement funding, but she started down this path before even knowing what she would get paid. Why? Because work is part of her being. That side hustle is part of what drives her, and she needs some of that in her life. I suspect anyone who is truly a driven person will experience a similar need when they leave work.
So, what is my wife going back to work to do?
My wife will be doing work for a different department at her prior company essentially doing the same thing she was before. She enjoyed it before so I am sure she will enjoy it again. The difference is she will now be doing so at a rate of about 10 hours a week as a contractor. This is an important distinction as she can work from home and has the flexibility to choose her hours in the context of her contracted deliverables. She has maintained the ability to spend the time she wants with our kids, while allowing her to have a career. Ultimately, she has managed to pursue both her passions, and do so under her own terms. Cool.
An Unintended Plus Side, Money and going back to work
I mentioned before this move was not about money. It wasn’t. She even had asked before this all started to work part time for her employer. They declined. Ironically, as a ten hour a week contractor she will now make marginally less than what she made previously working full time. The first words out of my mouth after I saw she now makes more an hour than I do was a joke about being a kept man. Ultimately, it will have an impact on our retirement, perhaps as high as an extra year of expenses in savings annually.
Social Security and going back to work
Moreover, it will increase her social security. Social security pays out based on an average of your 35 highest paying years. For those that retire early or become a stay at home parent this is especially a concern as any years you have not made income is a year that is averaged as 0. By leaving work early, you risk receiving significantly less in social security (we will ignore the political points about risks to social security). By working ten hours a week my wife is still adding to her social security measured earnings.
Bringing it All Together. Why my wife went back to work
I wrote all of this down for an important reason. As a look at my wife’s situation I see an important message. If you’re a driven person working, you will be a driven person once you retire or become a stay it home parent. You cannot just shut it off. As such to be truly happy you should look for a part time side hustle to complement the other now larger parts of your life. Sure the money might help also, but likely such a hustle won’t be about the money.
For those who have left work or are contemplating doing so, do you have a side hustle?