A woman who takes a 2-3 year career break will sacrifice 30% of her potential lifetime earnings. Because most women who take a break have a goal to return to work at some point in the future, I strongly encourage women to find some opportunity to engage professionally during that pause even if in a very limited capacity. Keeping your skills sharp and staying relevant in your industry allows you to be prepared for the unexpected.
This is just the story of one woman.
Jane (not her real name) is a happy woman who paused the career where she was using her hard-earned (and expensive) master’s degree in favor of supporting her husband and his professional ambitions. They spent two decades together—he traveling and working his way up the corporate ladder while she stayed home raising their four children, homeschooling and serving on every committee at church and every non-profit board within 50 miles. Then something that Jane thought was unthinkable happened.
Jane’s husband came home and asked for a divorce. He left that night. There was no discussion and Jane had no idea that her husband was unhappy. In fact, Jane thought quite the opposite. Jane thought they were living their shared dream. By that Friday, he had changed his direct deposit to an account that Jane couldn’t access. Everything had changed.
I’m happy to skip to the ending of this awful story because I want you to know that Jane has overcome. Aside from the heartbreak, she struggled the most to find a way to apply her more than twenty year old skills–but after a couple of grueling years, she’s moved into a new condo with her children, has a flexible, full-time job and she ran a half marathon just a few months ago. She’s done what I’m not sure I would have had the courage to do. She’s rebuilt and created something that belongs to her and cannot be taken from her. She’s one of my heroes.
The caution that Jane’s story offered me is a simple one:
“Don’t be so busy giving your all to others that there is nothing left for you.”
If you can’t imagine what you would do if a “Jane Moment” happened to you, then I’m asking you to reprioritize yourself. Know that you can find the time to spare for your own professional development, for your sanity, for your confidence. You should always know that even though you wouldn’t change your circumstances today for anything that if something forced you into change, you would be ready.