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.
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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?
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I’d love to be a stay at home mom, but it’s the student loans (mostly my husband’s) that prevent that prevent that. I think about what would happen if my freelancing takes off or if my husband got a huge raise. Either I could stay home, or we could make progress on our loans, but not both. I’d feel guilty about the debt, but I’d feel guiltiest about not staying home if it were possible.
Dee S says
That’s where we are at. If I don’t stay home for these young years I think I would always regret it and probably feel the guilt too.
Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says
Dee, so excited for you that you chose what’s best for your heart and soul: money definitely cannot win out over peace and happiness, and I’m shocked that your employer doesn’t give paid maternity leave to women who adopt: that’s terrible!! We used the “regret test” when we bought our house in the suburbs, and we lived their happily for over a decade. It really does work!
Dee S says
I was also pretty unimpressed with the lack of paid maternity leave for adoption at that employer. In lieu of paid maternity leave they did offer an adoption credit for employees who adopt. So you can turn in some of your expenses for the adoption and get reimbursed. For us it covered less than 15% of the adoption expenses and did not amount to anywhere close to what I would have gotten if they had paid me maternity leave, however.
It sounds like you made the best decision for your family. And, when you do decide to go back to work, you can at least upgrade your employer. It sounds like your boss was an asshole.
Dee S says
Ha, yes I think an upgrade in the employer department would be indicated! I hope I never see that boss again.
Natalie @ Financegirl says
I really like this test! It seems like a great way to help make a decision if you’re having trouble. I think for some decisions it would be hard to use (say for a relationship b/c how would you know which you would regret? It would depend on how the relationship turns out). But otherwise, I think for decisions like the ones you discussed above, it’s great! And personally, I have never used the regret test. If I’m faced with a tough decision, I think about my visions and long term goals and make the choice that best fits within that path.
Dee S says
I think I’ve had a few relationships that it might have applied to (looking back I think the writing was on the wall for a while!) but I get what you are saying. Especially with relationships it can be hard to see what’s really going on because your emotions can cloud your thinking so much.
Kassandra @ More Than Just Money says
Your Regret Test is a good way to help you along in making decisions! It’s great that you and your husband were able to arrive at a life changing decision that has ultimately made you both happier Dee.
Dee S says
We think so too 🙂 I guess it’s another way of phrasing “gut check,” but it worked for us!
Erin @ Journey to Saving says
Framing situations like that certainly puts things into perspective. I’m so happy for you! It sounds like your boss wasn’t very professional, and I would have been a little mortified to have that announced at a meeting. You have to do what’s right for you. As you said, money isn’t everything, and it’s not worth it to continue being miserable, missing out on those mommy moments.
Dee S says
Well not only mortified but with adoption anything can happen at any time- it’s not a sure thing until you’re riding in your minivan with a baby in the back. 🙂 As a matter of fact, our daughter’s birth mother DID change her mind at the last minute, but luckily changed it back. We were trying very hard not to tell many people about the adoption in advance because it would have made the disappointment so much worse if it did not work out. Which is why I was unbelievably upset with my boss when she did that. I’m not missing her AT ALL since we made the decision for me to quit!!
Shannon @ Financially Blonde says
I go with something similar but it is more of my gut test, and it gives the same answer. When you feel something deeply and know that it is the path you absolutely have to take, then that is the right answer for you. Down the road you will always question some of those choices, but I have never regretted a single one that passed my gut test. The choice to be a SAHM mom is not an easy one and it is not an easy path, but if you feel that this is what you have to be doing, then that is your answer.
Dee S says
Thanks Shannon. I know in my heart that this is the right path at this point, but it definitely was not an easy decision! Sooo many things to take into account…
Aldo R @ Million Dollar Ninja says
The important thing is that you made what you felt was the right decision for your family. Just follow what you think is right and you’ll never regret anything.
Dee S says
Agreed! Sometimes it’s hard to shut out the noise and ignore others, but I know I would regret it much more if I chose NOT to be a SAHM at this point.
Sounds like you made a great decision, Dee! You will have no regrets and you can make up for lost time later. They are so precious when they are young and you need to maximize the time you spend together.
Dee S says
Thanks Debs! I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be a SAHM. Thanks for the support!
Regret and resentment must be the topics of the week! I think this regret test is a great way to approach things. When I have kids would I love to stay at home with them? I believe so. But, I am not sure if that will be financially feasible. Someone has to work. Right now both the wife and I plan on working, but things can change. Only thing I can do presently is diligently pay down debt and invest for our future.
Congrats on the adoption and new life focus! Does that mean you will be working on side hustling your blog more?
Dee S says
Thanks! Yes, I think I likely will be doing more side hustling now and in the future. Right now I’m still working on getting my footing as a new mom, but slowly I’m getting back into the groove and plan to do more side hustling.
Congrats on your baby girl! We used the Regret Test when I decided to be a SAHM to our son nearly 8 years ago–next week marks my exit from the workforce! I knew those 10 hours a day, every day, that I’d miss with him would be something I would most definitely miss. Have our finances been a mess? Of course! But we all know money doesn’t, and can’t, buy happiness. We are rich in love and have been able to give our family exactly what it needs when it’s needed.
Dee S says
That’s so wonderful that you’ve been able to spend these years at home with him. You are so right that money cannot buy happiness- and we really reached a point in our life where we decided that we had enough money to get by- what we really needed was more happiness.
Congratulations on the adoption and I’m happy for your new role as a mother!
Thanks for sharing this regret test… I plan on using this in a few life-changing decisions I’m currently facing. To be honest, just reading your post already confirmed the decision I have to make. Much thanks!
Dee S says
Thanks Maria, I’m glad it was helpful!
Kate @ Money Propeller says
That is totally a biggest life decision and I think you made a very good decision. When my aunt and uncle decided to adopt a baby girl, she chose to be a stay at home mom and even me, I chose that one also, that’s why I really love working as a Virtual Assistant. 🙂
Dee S says
Excellent! I really don’t think I’ll ever regret this decision. So far I am LOVING being a stay at home mommy!
Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says
Congratulations Dee on becoming a SAHM. I think we all have some sort litmus test we use when we a faced with a huge decision like you were. And maybe you would have felt differently had your employer been more supportive but even so – this was always your goal. She just helped you make the leap early.
Dee S says
Ha, that’s what I’ve been saying! I think I would have chosen this path anyway, but my employer made it MUCH easier by being so awful in the weeks and months leading up to the adoption!
I think it’s great you’re able to stay home! Definitely soak up those moments! Work (and a better boss) will always be there.
Dee S says
Thanks, I definitely agree 🙂
Broke Millennial says
I love this story and what a great test. I’m so glad you been able to move into a role you truly love and do it without regret. If only we could all be so courageous.
Dee S says
You make such a great point- I think it really did take a lot of courage. I didn’t necessarily feel that way in the weeks leading up to the decisions, but I think any time you face a huge life choice like that it takes courage to make a decision and move ahead- especially when it’s a decision to be a SAHM. For some reason in our society it’s a choice that is not always very highly regarded- I felt as if somehow I was letting all the feminists in the world down!
Zee @ Work-To-Not-Work says
I use this test fairly often myself. Except in my head I word it as “what would me in 10 years decide?”
Dee S says
That’s a great way to say it too- and same result emerges, I would imagine!
DC @ Young Adult Money says
I’ve never used the regret test, but it sounds like a great way to help make tough decisions. I’ll have to give it a try! By the way, congrats on becoming a Mom!
Dee S says
Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says
Any place that has you repeatedly saying “I hate my life”, even under your breath, is not worth staying at.
Dee S says
Too true. I think it’s hard to realize how far you’ve fallen from your ideal job/life until you step out of it one day and say “how the hell did I get here???” It’s much easier for me to see how miserable I was now that I’m a few weeks removed from it and there is so much more happiness in my life!
Jay @ ThinkingWealthy.com says
Congrats on the adoption! I’m sure you guys will do great.
Kayla @ Red Debted Stepchild says
I haven’t ever used the regret test, but it sounds like a good idea if you are at a true crossroads. Congrats on the adoption and on quitting your job!
I needed to read this today. I recently made a work related decision which I kind of regret, but I know long term I would regret the other decision more. This is a good way of thinking about it. No one on their deathbed says “I wish I could have worked more”.
Mrs. Frugalwoods says
I’m so happy for you and your decision–way to go for choosing what’s right for you. I employ the regret test all the time. Our biggest regret test is with our journey to early retirement–and we know we’d regret not doing it much more than the alternatives.
I like the idea of a regret test, and have often used something similar when making big life decisions..
I don’t think you will regret the decision to stay home with your new baby..
The time spent with your little ones should (and will) be some of the happiest years of your life..
Mel @ brokeGIRLrich says
I love the simplicity of this! I actually JUST read an article that’s sort of the exact same thing on the other side of the spectrum, where if you’re not saying “heck, yes!” to something, maybe you shouldn’t do it… but I think when it’s something you’re saying “heck, yes!” to and fear and logistical obstacles are holding you back, the which would I regret more test is a great way to keep plugging away at it.
Great post! I too am a SAHM, and it was a tough decision as well, because I felt guilty about not having an income to contribute. Fast forward 4 years, and it still continues to be the best decision for our family 🙂
Fantastic question. I just recently used this test to make some decisions and I am so excited. I think that this type of self-reflection helps to address the long-term, bigger picture questions that you need to ask yourself when making decions.
Looks like a very reasonable string of decisions to me. And well done on deciding to adopt – this is a wonderful gift. As to wrok, there is time for that and as you said I doubt you’d regret this decision. Ever.
I would love to be a stay at home mom. And even though people complain about finances, I have never heard a mom/dad say that they wish they would have went to work rather than stay at home with their babies.
NZ Muse says
I absolutely have – most significantly in deciding whether to take a 6 month break to travel fulltime. It’s my go-to framework, and sounds like it’s working for you guys too. I hope parenthood is treating you well!
Poor Student says
When I was born my mom had a full time job (even until now). Our family was struggling at that time so we needed both of my parents to work. As a result, I was babysat by our neighbor who worked as a midwife. I don’t know if she felt like she missed a lot of my childhood because of that though. I think if I have my own children I would choose to be a stay at home mom or work part time (anything that doesn’t require me to have 9-5 schedule) because I do wish for her to be more available when I was little. I think you made the right decision 🙂
i dont think you’ll regret your decision to become a mom, or to stay home.. nobody looks back on the time spent with young kids and says.. “i wish i spent less time with them”…
that is seriously messed up that your employer wouldn’t pay maternity leave for an adoption.. it is totally nuts, TBH. good riddance to that place..
Thanks Dee for your interesting article as always.
Dee S says
Thanks for stopping by!