Care and Feeding

Single Parent Sacrifices

I’m a single mother. Should I just keep my well-paying job even if it’ll make me miserable?

Smiling woman wearing business clothes holding an infant in her arms.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Dear Care and Feeding,

How do you think about career choices and money as a parent? I’m the single mother of an infant, and I have a great job. It comes with nearly unshakeable job security, pretty good money, amazing health insurance, a pension, and other excellent benefits. This job is about to move us internationally, where the pay will be better, I’ll get more vacation time, and I will be able to afford in-home help (nanny, housekeeper) that I can’t afford in the states.

The problem? I do not want to go. Just thinking about moving overseas for three to four years makes me feel sick and miserable. Unfortunately, if I don’t take the transfer, I have to leave my company. So I have to decide whether I should change jobs—which likely means less money and less job security—or suck it up and go.

I know that many people are single parents without the amazing job that I currently have and do just fine, but do I owe it to my daughter to prioritize our resources? Or should I chuck it all and find something that doesn’t make me sick inside just to think about?

—Go or No-Go

Dear GNG,

While economic resources are most certainly a priority for any parent, they aren’t the only priority. Your goal is to establish a life that works for both your child and you, and simply having adequate child care and vacation time isn’t the only thing you should consider; you also deserve to have a day-to-day existence that won’t make you miserable.

One of the most difficult challenges of single parenthood is learning to care for yourself while caring for your child, and that often comes without having much of a soft place to land. It’s all on you—but instead of treating your needs and concerns as little more than the makings of noble sacrifices, you’ve got to figure out a way to include yourself in the equation more often than not.

If you are able to part ways with your current employer without putting yourself in some sort of financial peril, then I think that’s exactly what you ought to do. However, if leaving this role would find you vulnerable to a long period of unemployment and/or serious money woes, it may be the case that going abroad is the right move.

Do you have time to begin a job search that would allow you to see what else may be out there before officially deciding that you won’t be joining your colleagues overseas? Ideally, you will find another opportunity that provides, at the very least, a lifestyle that you can live with, and if not, you can go abroad knowing that you are making a necessary—and, ideally, temporary—move in the best interest of your family. I’m so sorry that you’re in such a tough predicament. Wishing you all the best as you figure out how to proceed.

—Jamilah