Lately Mr. CMF and I have been grappling with a series of big life decisions. You know, the kind of decisions where there is really no “right” answer. The kind of decisions that, once explained to close friends or family, often elicit a response along the lines of, “you just have to decide what is right for you and your family.” I tend to dislike those kinds of decisions because they are hard to make.
Note: This post may contain affiliate links.
The Back Story
As many of our regular readers know, Mr. CMF and I recently adopted a baby girl. Adoption is a beautiful gift, but I have to tell you that it is much easier for me to say that and appreciate and truly understand it while standing on THIS side of the adoption. The other side, which we were standing on in the months and weeks leading up to the adoption, was MUCH more difficult.
During the last weeks and months of her pregnancy, our daughter’s birth mother was having a lot of emotional ups and downs associated with the pregnancy and pending adoption. Consequently there were many things that trickled down and caused frustration and emotions in us. There were actually so many things like that (and much more) happening in the weeks leading up to the adoption that we even contemplated NOT adopting. Choosing to go ahead with the adoption was a decision that we wrestled with for a period of time. After talking and thinking and talking some more, we finally came up with a way to decide what to do.
The Regret Test
We finally asked ourselves which decision we would potentially regret more: going ahead with the adoption or NOT going ahead with the adoption. Thinking of it in this way really put the decision in perspective, and made it much easier since the answer was clear. We had wanted children for so long. We knew that it was much more likely that we would regret NOT adopting. And now with a two month old daughter whom we adore and love with all our hearts, we know we made the right decision and that she was meant to be ours.
Putting the Regret Test into Action Again
We used the Regret Test again when it came time to decide whether I would go back to work or not. I’ve long thought that it would be ideal to stay at home for a while when we had kids, but I have to admit that I hesitated when it came time to actually pull the trigger. I think this is partly because I have known several women who profess that after two weeks of maternity leave they were going crazy and ready to head back to work. I wondered if I would be like that too.
But the other thing that had me hesitating on jumping into being a SAHM is that I still have student loan debt. I feel guilt over leaving the workforce (even temporarily) before my loans are paid off. It feels unfair to my hubby, even though he wants this too and even though we know that financially we can afford for me to stay at home (the loans may not get paid off as fast as they would if I kept working, but we can still pay them off, and early). Part of me felt that working at least until the loans were paid off was the “right” thing to do.
The Flip Side
But here’s the thing. Although I liked my work, I really cannot say that I liked my employer much at all (and I must tell you that it took a lot of thought to think of a way to say that which did not include the word “hate”). I’ll spare you most of the details, but suffice it to say that my employer was not nice to me on our journey to parenthood; there have been many times on this journey when I needed the cooperation of my employer, and this particular employer not only chose not to help me but rather usually chose to make things much worse for me.
One particularly unpleasant moment was when, without asking me or even telling me she was going to do it, my boss announced our upcoming adoption at a staff meeting. As a result, all my co-workers heard about our adoption two months before we told our parents and other family. And there was so much more. When I was working there I found myself muttering “I hate my life” under my breath multiple times a day.
Suffice it to say, a month into my leave (unpaid- my employer would not provide paid maternity leave to women who adopt), I realized that, despite being sleep-deprived, I was a million times happier. I love being a mommy. I magically stopped muttering to myself about hating my life. I felt dramatically different.
The Regret Test Repeated
Once again we asked ourselves which decision were we more likely to regret: me becoming a SAHM, or me continuing working. And again that made it easy. I really didn’t know how much longer I could last with that employer, AND in a few short weeks our daughter grew like a weed and I realized that I wanted to be there to watch it all happen. Without a doubt I knew that if I kept working for that employer and missed out on this time with our daughter that I would BIG TIME regret it. Despite being a PF blogger, I don’t think that money is always the most important factor in decision-making. So I quit my job. 🙂
The Advantage of the Regret Test
I think the advantage of the Regret Test is that it really puts the decision in perspective and enables you to look at the decision in light of the long view of your life. It automatically brings your priorities to the forefront and pushes all the extraneous crap to the background.
We all find ourselves at different crossroads in our lives from time to time and may struggle to determine which way to go. It’s certainly not necessary to ask yourself this question for every decision in your life, but for the big ones that require a lot of soul-searching, this may be a helpful strategy.
Suggested Reading: If you are interested in more information to help guide decision-making, a great book to check out is Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. Although these authors take a somewhat different approach to decision-making (and elaborate more, since they have a whole book on the subject!), they do an excellent job of laying out a process for decision making.
Have you ever used the Regret Test to help make big life decisions? What other strategies have you used to help with these types of decisions?
CMF’s favorite FREE money management tools!
Some of the best online tools out there for money management are at Personal Capital, and the awesome news is that they are all FREE! Cash flow tracker, 401(k) fee analyzer, investment checkup, net worth monitoring, and many more! I’m a net worth junkie, so the net worth monitor is my favorite. Check out my Personal Capital review here, or click here to check out all the awesome tools for yourself!