Am I wasting my Harvard degree if I stay home with kids?

I am an attorney, an ENTJ, and a new mom. I went to Harvard (twice) and worked in intellectually challenging, selective jobs since then. I’m currently in what was my dream job before I had a baby, but I’m miserable.

I miss my daughter. I like her daycare and I’m militant about seeing her as much as possible (every morning and night for dinner/bed), but I long for a richer family life. I also hate feeling bad at my job because I’m no longer single-minded about it. Every day is a blur of demands that I’m unable or unwilling to meet, which is torture for someone driven by achievement and deadlines. (Nearly 100% J on the MBTI.) After she goes to bed I work, eventually give up and pass out, then repeat. I also resent making very little money after turning down well-paying jobs for this more meaningful job.

We could afford for me to stay home if we budget very carefully, are planning more children soon, and would love to have a big family. But I worry that staying home now is is a waste of my education/training/past work, a failure to realize earning potential for my family, and a mistake given that I’m an ENTJ.

Part-time would be great, but, as you’ve noted, part-time versions of my kind of job don’t exist. Running a business would be an option (I love running things and budgeting), but I’m not creative and too risk-averse to be a good entrepreneur. I’m much better at ploughing through via hard work than coming up with an innovative way to make life easier.

Switching legal jobs would likely mean the same schedule and violating a four-year commitment to my current job. I’ve done a lot of research and have no idea what I would do beyond law, although I’m willing to try anything at this point. Including driving a city bus and/or being with my daughter and reading long-form articles.

I also thought I might not actually be an ENTJ given my emotional reaction to becoming a mother, lack of interest (before I began hating my job and paying for quality daycare) in making lots of money, and longstanding desire to do something “meaningful” as well as prestigious. But my ENTJ results have been consistent over ten years. Should I be another mom lawyer who quits? Work for more money? Or is there some third way I haven’t thought of?

Any advice you can offer is greatly appreciated!

P.S. If your son actually wants advice on going to Harvard, I’m happy to help however I can.

10 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    You have a really clear picture of your options.

    You are not an ENTJ. You are an ENFJ who functions like a T becuase that’s what school rewards and that’s what hierarchical organizations reward as well. You are super smart, so you are able to function as a not-great ENTJ instead of an ENFJ.

    But it’s catching up to you. Being in a world that values something you are not — that’s really hard to do. Since you are a high performer, you are willing to do the game because the reward (Harvard, dream job, etc) is worth it.

    But when there’s a kid in the picture, the equation falls apart. It’s not worth it to you to pretend to be someone else AND miss being with your baby. An ENFJ wanting to stop their high powered job and grow a family is totally normal.

    I think you are getting stuck on this:

    I worry that staying home now is is a waste of my education/training/past work, a failure to realize earning potential for my family, and a mistake given that I’m an ENTJ.

    The thing is, you’re not an ENTJ. You are an ENFJ and you value family too much to give it up for work. You’ve been a super-high performer and it’s hard to let that go.

    But why do people have to earn money and have a job in order to justify their education? That’s a really messed up way to view the world. Should only stupid people take care of kids all day? Should only women who vow to never be stay-at-home moms get access to top-flight education? The ramifications of thinking you cannot “waste” your education are very scary.

    Another way to think about things is that you are multi-talented and you succeed in everything you do. You were great at school. You were great at work. Now it’s time for family, and you will be great at it. But no one was ever great at growing a family if they had a full-time job outside the home. Life just doesn’t work that way. So it sounds to me like it’s time for you to quit your job.

    Sidenote: You want to have more kids. You will be positively blown away by how overwhelming it is to divide your time between two kids. If you’re having trouble giving up time with your baby now, just wait til there’s more than one kid.

    Another sidenote: I’m an ENTJ and I couldn’t stomach leaving the kids all day. And I talk to tons of ENTJs who are like that. So imagine how hard it is for an ENFJ.

    Okay. So if you’d like to talk about this more, we can do a coaching session to make a plan for you so you don’t feel so lost or uncertain. Or, maybe you will just quit your job easily and things will feel fine.


  2. Emily ENTP
    Emily ENTP says:

    I want to add to Penelope’s comment regarding justifying education through making lots of money. I grew up in a metro area that had an awful school system, but a lot of brilliant people flocked to the area. Parents who didn’t want to put their kids in that school system opt’d to homeschool, meaning there was an influx of stay at home mom’s who had their PhD’s in Chemistry. They pivoted (I think that works here) and opted to start teaching Chemistry classes for the home school co-op, which lead to homeschoolers getting 5s on their AP exams. I don’t know OP or their degrees, but I think there is definitely opportunity to angle her education and work experience into a “meaningful role” that fits the new standards of her life.

  3. Christine
    Christine says:

    Planning to take time away from work for a specific period of time has helped me to cope with the transition, both personally and socially.

    I am pregnant and I am taking four years off to have two children. During this time, I will also, as they say, “keep a toe in the water” for my career through self-study and freelance opportunities.

    The truth is that no one knows for certain where they will be in four or five years. I have no idea what it’s like to care for children full time. I could be counting down the minutes before I go back to work, or lengthening the time from four years to ten.

    However, what I do know is that I will take care of the most important thing to me to the best of my ability. I can go back to work after my children’s most vulnerable years — plenty of women do.

    Hope this helps.

  4. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Dear Harvard Mom,

    Echoing Penelope, there is no such thing as wasted education. You are an educated mother. You will find plenty of us who stay at home with our children, and find different ways to use our education.

    I also agree that the ENFJ typing for you is more accurate based on everything you have shared.

    Something that one of my IP lawyer friends did when she quit was to take a few clients with her that wouldn’t take up too much of her time while she stayed at home to unschool her kids.

  5. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    It’s unclear what type of legal work you do, but I bet you could get some contract work based on your Harvard J.D. alone. You could get paid an hourly wage to do work for smaller firms. This might be a way to ease into fulltime parenting. If after one or two projects, you realize you don’t like it, you can quit. Just an idea. Maybe contact some people in your network to see if they’d be interested in sending you extra work?

  6. Megan
    Megan says:

    You might be amazed at the part-time opportunities you will find. Different field, but I worked in very top-tier consulting. When I left after having a baby I was amazed at the opportunities that fell into my lap. It’s more work than I can do, and very flexible and lucrative. I always thought it would require a significant trade-off to leave, but it wasn’t true.

  7. Anna
    Anna says:

    About having two kids — I second that. The jump from zero kids to one was smaller for me than from one kid to two kids. I’m still new at it (the younger is only almost four months old) but am still trying to get a handle on how to do the dishes and comb my hair (teeth brushed maybe) while changing two sets of diapers, nursing both, sweeping the floor, and keeping the laundry in a good rotation. I relish the challenge and as well, am still able to keep up with solitary time to maintain interests. It’s just the practical side that is tough while taking care of two, for me. I’m getting better at taking care of two in terms of attention but even this can be actually funny, as in kind of difficult to the point of it being funny. Well, I’m an INTP and as happy as a clam with these challenges. But one was e.a.s.y (such as every single nap was time to get things done or rest) and two is a whole new planet (very akin to juggling – very… the mental and emotional sensation is literally the same). But for me it is fun, a blast really.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      I agree with this. One to two is a total complete change.

      To the OP-As an attorney, would it be possible for you to hire a nanny and/or housekeeper for the next 5 years? I recommend it for anyone that can make it work for all the reasons Anna lists above.

  8. Leonie
    Leonie says:

    As others have pointed out, there are many very educated mothers who choose to stay home with their children.

    I think a better way for the letter writer to frame this decision is in terms of what type of role model she wants to be for her child: (She has a JD so let’s say 4 years of undergrad plus 3 of law school and a few years work experience for 10 total.) Imagine that your daughter becomes devoted to gymnastics/tennis/violin/etc from age 5 to 15 and achieves a lot of success as a result of her hard work. At age 16, if she decides that this pursuit no longer makes her happy and she wants to move on to other things, would you tell her that she wasted her time? Or, would you be proud of her achievements and be excited for the next phase of her life?

    It really is no different for you. Be proud of your achievements and accept that priorities change with different phases of life. You might love being home with your children for a few years or their entire childhoods. Who knows? You’ve already achieved great career success, so be confident in knowing that if you decide to go back to the workplace, you’ll be able to.

    Good luck!

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