i left the workforce during the pandemic

I Left the Workforce During the Pandemic

If you’ve spent any time on Facebook, Twitter, or a news site over the last six months, you’ve likely seen the headlines.  They read, “Significant Decline of Women in the Workforce due to the Pandemic” or “Women Forced to Choose Between Kids and Job Choose Kids” or something to that effect. 

It’s been widely publicized and analyzed that women were hit harder by the pandemic between lack of childcare, lack of social safety net, lack of time, and many other lacks. Millions of women left their jobs in 2020 and into early 2021 because they could not adapt and survive in a workforce that wouldn’t adapt to their needs. In March of 2021, I became one of those women. 

Preparing to Quit My Job 

I woke up on a Friday morning and prepared to put in my two-week notice at a job with a team and a boss that I loved but with expectations that I couldn’t realistically achieve in an 8, 10, or even 12 hour day. Like many other parents through COVID times, I was juggling work, a 3rd grader who has ADHD, a preschooler who was not going to preschool (and watched TV 8-10 hours a day), taking care of 2 dogs, the list goes on and on. I may have been working from home, but the time not commuting was spent working, doing dishes since we were all eating at home, or working some more

I have battled with anxiety for most of my life. With everything going on, I was having multiple panic attacks a day and increasingly unable to focus on anything. My mental health was in shambles, and it was because I could not juggle everything that was on my plate. There were many tearful discussions with my husband on what could give because I was floundering in pretty much every aspect of existence – which I know many other people have experienced throughout the pandemic. 

“Kristin, why don’t you just quit?” he said (I am incredibly fortunate to have a partner who supports me almost unquestioningly.) And so, that Friday morning, I did. I put in my two weeks that morning, but after a mental health crisis later that day, my boss and I mutually decided that I could be done immediately, with the promise that I could come back if I ever felt ready.

The Aftermath of Quitting During COVID

Once I told people in my family what I had done, there was a lot of judgment that came my direction. I heard things like, “Did you take the time to think about what that decision means?”, “It’s easier to get a new job while you have a job.” and “That’s going to impact your career in the future.” 

Many people in my life could not even imagine just leaving a job. I’m sure that it seemed hurried and rash to many people, but I had spent quite a bit of time before making the decision analyzing the numbers and making sure that I had a solid foundation without just my income. 

I’ve spent my entire career in the banking/finance industry, and as cheesy as it sounds, numbers are my thing. Even before it was a notion that I may need to leave my job, I knew that we would be okay. I track my net worth every month and have been preparing for a loss of income for over a decade. Along with my husband, I built up a solid amount of “FU Money” – the ability to use your money to get yourself out of a situation that is no longer serving you.

FU Money and Me

During the Great Recession, my family spent quite a bit of time (over a year non-consecutively) without a job at a time where we could in no way afford to be out of the job. We ended up having to short sell our house for half of what we bought it for because we could not afford to live there any longer. It was an incredibly scary and uncertain time for many, and definitely for us. 

After we recovered, I swore that we would never be in that position again and began our journey toward financial independence in earnest, beginning with paying off all our credit card debt and getting to a year’s worth of expenses in a savings account. I wasn’t preparing to leave my job, but I’d seen and experienced the risks of jobs leaving us. 

Our FU money doubles as a larger-than-usual emergency fund and has given us the freedom to make decisions that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to make. Things such as leaving a toxic job for one with a better work/life balance, selling our home, moving across the country to be closer to family, and now, temporarily leaving the 9-5 workforce would not have been possible without it. I cannot overstate the importance and the stress relief of an emergency/FU fund if you are not already working toward one. 

What Happens Next After Voluntarily Leaving the Workforce

I have now been out of the job for a month – the longest period I have not had a job since I was 14 years old, not including two 12-week maternity leaves. I have filled my time with helping my third grader, reading and writing with my preschooler, researching to prepare for my mother-in-law moving in with us, and many of the things I was not keeping up with before. 

I do not anticipate rejoining full-time employment until the kids are back in a classroom, but I am looking into part-time jobs. I have already contacted the university near me about finishing my bachelor’s that I still haven’t completed. I don’t anticipate having to touch our savings for at least a couple more months, even if I bring in nothing else income-related. 

Most of all, I’m focusing on my mental health and making sure to rest and recover from what is most certainly burnout. I am excited to see what the future holds because there are so many doors wide open for me to walk through when the time is right. And our FU fund means I’m the one in control. 

Kristin Knight

I have been in the financial services industry since 2004, where I started right out of high school. I realized pretty early on that I didn’t know a lot about money, and I realized not much later that a lot of others didn’t either.

I became a student of personal finance and read as much information as I could on how to handle your money. I wasn’t perfect, and I made a few mistakes, but I loved to learn, and I really loved to help people learn with me.

Kristin runs the website and blog Primarily Personal Finance.

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