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I’m Scared to Tell My Kids I’m Going Back to Full-Time Work

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When my second child, a son, was born three years ago, I stepped off the career ladder. With two children under 2 years old at home, I couldn’t fathom how I would continue to ascend the corporate ladder and see my children more than an hour a day. When I declined to return to my law firm after my maternity leave, I took a giant leap of faith that I would find a law job that would allow me to spend more time at home.

When a part-time attorney position materialized, I seized it with both hands. And my part-time work did exactly what it should: It allowed me to make a financial contribution to my family and to keep my skills sharp enough that when I was ready to step back on the corporate ladder, I wouldn’t have to start back at the bottom rung.

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Now the time has come. I’m pretty sure I’m ready to move from part-time to full-time work. Well, pretty much almost probably ready. I’ve done lots of footwork to prepare for the shift: I arranged childcare, I organized a school carpool and I found a job with enough flexibility that I’ll be able to drop the kids off at school every day and make it home in time for dinner.

The only thing I haven’t done is tell my kids about the schedule change. Every time I open my mouth to tell them I’m going to be working more, this sickening lump inflates in my throat and I say nothing. I had every intention of preparing them by giving them lots of notice and assuring them that we’ll have special Mommy time on the weekends. We can still go to the library, play in the park and stop by the dry cleaners (the one with the lollipops) — we just have to do that on the weekends because now Mommy works every week day.

I’m scared they’ll freak out, and then I will too. I’m also scared they’ll shrug indifferently.

I’ve played the conversation over in my head dozens of times. In some versions, my kids fall prostrate on the floor and beg me to keep my regular schedule. They keen and wail for the loss of their Mommy days. They cry, I cry, and then I vow to play the lottery every week so both my husband and I can stay home forever and ever.

In other versions, they remain dry-eyed and ask lots of questions like little scientists. Who will pick us up? Can we see your new office? Can you still come to our tennis lesson? In that version, they are inquisitive and rational, and I respond in kind. I explain economic realities in a breezy way, they nod sagely and we share a family hug and proceed to play Candyland.

But the real version remains a mystery because I CAN’T DO IT! I’m scared they’ll freak out, and then I will too. I’m also scared they’ll shrug indifferently when I tell them, which will feel like a thousand rusty daggers plunged into my aching heart.

There’s no winning here.

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And the stalling is making it worse because it only gives me more time to agonize over their hypothetical reactions. So today. Today, I will tell them. I’ll give them the details and let them ask questions and have their feelings about this change.

Then, tonight when they go to bed, I’ll let myself have mine. I know this is the right thing for my family, but it won’t stop me from sobbing into my pillow for all that I will miss. It’s what I need to do to move forward.

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