I have been wanting to take a year off from work for a very long time. As the year gets closer to its end I have a lot to contemplate.
A young mother
The whole idea started after giving birth to my son, he’s 7 now. See I got pregnant while attending university and due to the situation I didn’t even take my full 6 weeks off to recoup. I had deadlines and metrics to meet if I wasn’t going to become another drop out statistic.
There were plenty of breaks thanks to the academic school term and because of how close I live to campus I spent lots of time back home with my baby. But I still felt I was missing a lot.
I remember telling my significant other ” You are going to have to make enough money to support us for a year, because for my next one I am going to take a whole year off. I’m not going to miss anything in that first year”
Well I have 2 babies now and that goal never came to pass. Though by that time, I had put in enough time to qualify for PFL, FMLA, CFRA and all those pro family programs it was still a limited amount of time. 6 weeks. A consolation prize compared to a year. But I took it and even optimized it. ( Another post I’m eager to write).
So I missed it, the goal but I still held out hope.
A year off, are you sure?
I still wanted a year off. But with debt and bills and by the way we have “free” childcare. There wasn’t a lot of support for the idea.
It’s a big mistake older women advised.
“You’ll lose financial security and be dependent on the man. ”
“It’ll kill your career”
“Why would you want to stay home, I couldn’t do that”
It wasn’t so much the career suicide comments that deterred me as much as the money. A lot of that debt was mine not my husband’s and I wanted to pay it off myself. I suffer from pride and stubbornness and wanted to prove “hey I got myself in this mess and I can get myself out”.
But I still wanted to take a year off.
So I accepted the fact I probably wasn’t going to take the first year off. I asked myself what my goal was really.
Simply I wanted to raise my kids but more specially be the one to imprint onto my daughter in her early years. I wanted to be a key player. Not the alternate. I know there are sentiments against this after all many household are now dual income, farming out the majority of childcare.
There is no argument in my mind that there are certain things you just won’t learn without putting in the time.
” Quality time happens with quantity time”
So with this I decided that I could still take a year off soon, but there was a limited window.
I only had until she turned 4. That would give me a year before she started school and she herself became less available.
So I started a count down, literally on excel.
Minnie Roamer is 2 now and Jr is 7. And it’s looking like next year will finally be the year.
Preparation for a year off
If you are in a dual income household* there are some steps that need to be taken. (* these same steps could also be applied if you are a single parent but you will probably need to make some adjustments)
Taking a year off from work is going to impact a lot on your household from schedules to routines. While those also need to be address the main and first thing is the math needs to make sense.
Financially it needs to work for a year off to happen.
- You need to understand your financial situation. As in you need to know how much debt you have and how much you have in savings and other liquid (easily accessible cash) assets. I would recommend having enough savings to cover 6 months* of all your spending.(* if your single you will clearly need to save over a years worth of spending )
- You need to know your cash flow. How much money is coming in? How much money is going out? In other words what are you earning and what are you spending.
- Identify the Gap. This is where you analyze the earnings with the spending and identify how much excess you have. This is the equivalent of when you hear someone say. I only live off 75% of my take home pay. That means they could function normally losing the extra 25% of income. You want that gap to equal your entire paycheck if possible. This will look different for everyone. For example if you are both equal earners you want the gap to be 50%. But if your spouse bring in 75% of the income then a 25% gap should equal your entire paycheck and you should be good
When your gap is good & savings are met , financially the math makes sense to take a year off. (High five)
What if your saving don’t add up to 6 months and your gap is very small?
Then you need to make a plan to cut your spending. (This should be a post on its own ) Here are some things to consider.
- Pay off your debt. Simplistic yes, but this can have a big impact in both how much you need to save and your gap. How? Here’s a table below.
- Reduce any other type of spending. Reducing your spending anywhere else will have the same affect as the above. The less you spend the bigger the gap and the less you need to save to cover you for 6 months.
If you spend $5,000 a month then you need $30,000 saved up to cover 6 months. If you only spend $3,000 then you’ll need $18,000 for 6 months. I’m sure you can guess that getting to $18k will be quicker then $30k.
This was pretty much the scenario for us. After we paid off all the student loans and the car loans our cash flow took a big hike up. As in the gap increased. Then we also realized that what we had saved( without adding anymore) covered more months then it had before.
But its not just about the money. Other things should also be discussed.
- Agree to have a spouse that keeps working. As in if the job starts to suck, they need to just stick it out or secure another job before quitting. ( At the very least agree to discuss options, I would want to avoid any disruptions in income)
- Make a schedule of things you want to Do. The new schedule is going to be strange and having an idea of why you wanted the time off to begin with will help you not feel antsy about it.
- Discuss changes in division of household tasks. But agree to post pone changes and expectations until after 6 weeks pass.
- Take 6 weeks to get use to new tempo. During my maternity leave this is how long it took me to finally find my groove at home. You will feel doubt, again the changes are going to feel weird.
- Finally let your mind stop working and decompress.
- Schedule to revisit situation, (finances, feeling, expectations) each quarter.
Just in case you are wondering, yes these are all thing we have done. Specifically the financial planning. I have had up to 8 weeks off of work continuously for maternity leave but I’m sure there’s other things that will come up mentally/ emotionally that I currently can’t foresee.
Have you ever thought about taking a year off of work? Maybe it was to be a full time parent maybe something else. How would you go about preparing for it?
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