Evidence-Based Quitting

cartoon7633My Myers-Briggs personality profile is ENFJ. The F stands for feeling and it’s a strong F… I feel ALL the feels, and deeply.

So when I “think” about quitting, I’m more accurately “feeling” about it. Thankfully I’m married to an ISTJ (yep, the T stands for thinking), who is logical and measured in his evaluation of big decisions. Eric’s thoughtful questions remind me that quitting on a feeling is not a good way to decide. Which leads me to my suggestion for moms: evidence-based quitting.

“Evidence-based” is a term I’ve learned working in the healthcare industry for the last four years. It is: the conscientious use of current best evidence in making decisions about patient care (Sackett, Straus, Richardson, Rosenberg, & Haynes, 2000). It seeks to base decisions on evidence, specific situations, and ever-changing realities. It does not merely rely on tradition or gut feeling – although they are still considered.

I think there are some parallels for moms on how to think about the decision to stay at or quit their jobs. The decision to work inside the home vs. outside the home is so full of emotion, tradition & expectations that it can be hard to sift through it and even when you do, hard to feel confident long-term about your decision. For such a big decision, who wants to have to keep making it over and over again? That’s exhausting.

Enter, evidence-based quitting – a process of evaluation in which moms require a certain level of rigor and research before making a job decision. This could involve some or all of the following:

  • Inclusive pro/con list – In addition to your own personal assessment, talk with moms of different choices, backgrounds, and economic levels. Once you have this, take time to imagine the alternatives. Don’t allow yourself to assume the grass is greener on the other side.
  • Literature review – What do the scholarly articles and books say? What evidence is there (for and against) working outside the home?
  • Family audit – How are your kids doing? How is your overall family doing? How are you doing? Ask them for feedback.
  • Laser it – Tease out your primary reason for wanting to quit and evaluate if quitting will really resolve this tension. Are there other ways to accomplish your goal without quitting?
  • Consider the future you – While you may prefer not to work now, will you want to work later? If so, come up with a professional development plan for your time out. Work with a mentor on how to “off ramp” and “on ramp” effectively.
  • Release branch – This is something I have learned from Eric and the world of engineer personality types. They never make an important decision fast! Even once you have made your decision, “release branch” for a few weeks or months and pay attention to your thoughts, questions, concerns, doubts, etc. during that time.

A few examples of things I’ve felt real hard, but didn’t pass the evidence-based quitting test:

When I wanted to quit because, after our first child was born, I couldn’t keep the house clean… we decided to hire a cleaning service twice a month. I said to myself, Veronica, don’t quit your career over dishes and clutter.

When I wanted to quit because I didn’t feel like I was doing anything well and always dropping a ball somewhere… my loved ones reassured me that I was doing great, and that I was being too hard on myself. Don’t quit because of perfectionism.

When I wanted to quit because the demand of doctors’ appointments, kid sick days, dental cleanings, etc. didn’t jive with my meeting-heavy, face-time-requiring job… Eric agreed to be first to handle these events since he has a more flexible job. Don’t quit over kids’ schedules.

When I wanted to quit because I didn’t feel like I was getting enough quality time with the girls… we made schedule changes that allowed for more playtime before the evening bedtime routine. Don’t quit over logistics.

When I wanted to quit because work was hard, or the big grant wasn’t awarded, or the results were underwhelming, or I questioned my impact… I asked for feedback and looked for areas of improvement. Don’t quit over failure.

When I wanted to quit that time my daughter suggested we play mom and kid, and she set it up by saying “you be the kid and I’ll be the mom. When I leave for work you cry because I’m gone ok?”… or when every day (for a season) dropping her off at daycare involved tears… Eric reminded me that kids (especially mine!) have big feelings too and that daycare was great for socialization and learning. He also agreed to take the majority of drop-offs and pick-ups after that. Don’t quit over mom guilt.

While the above examples might sound silly and like an over simplification, it has been useful for me over the years in my “I can’t do this, I should just quit” moments to tease out that feeling to a specific challenge that is bringing me to that conclusion – and forcing an evidence-based process to evaluate the issue. So far (almost 5 years in to working full-time with kids), the evidence (for me) continues to point to working outside of the home.

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