I'm going to broach a controversial topic that I am aware has started and fueled all kinds of Mommy Wars. Let's talk Stay At Home Moms vs. Working Moms. I don't really want to be controversial or start a war here, what I want to know is how you made the decision (or are working on making the decision) about what the best option is for you and your family.
Well, to be entire truthful, what I really want to know is what the best option is for me and my family.
I know that many families don't actually have much of a choice. It's purely a financial decision about whether they can afford child care or if they can afford to feed their family on a single income. I do recognize how lucky I am that, for at least right now, I do have a choice. But that doesn't mean it's easy.
We are in a good place financially. That can happen when you have a Double Income No Kids lifestyle for nearly five years. When Bobby and I first got married, we were poor. I was just out of college, unemployed, and Bobby was making $9.00 an hour. We lived in a tiny basement apartment and ate A LOT of Mac n Cheese. Luckily I had a few thousand dollars in savings, or we would have been in big trouble. But eventually I got a job, Bobby kept getting promotions and raises, and with a year or so, we were doing much better. Plus, we both had supplemental income from coaching. (Ha!) Okay, that's kind of a joke. Coaching takes up waaaaay more time than the stipend makes up for. I think I make like $.0003 an hour coaching. But back then, what I had was time, and no money, so it seemed like a reasonable tradeoff.
After we bought our house, we set a certain goal amount for how much savings we thought we should have before expanding our family. After a year or so, we hit our goal and started trying for a baby. Since it took us an extra two years after that to even get pregnant (and no fertility treatments) - and we were still socking away savings - we're at a pretty comfortable place right now. Call it an unexpected blessing of infertility.
I've been at my current job for a little over four years, and I have become increasingly unhappy with it for the last year or so. If I hadn't gotten pregnant last summer, I would have been job searching for something new anyway and quit as soon as I found something. I needed to get out. I needed a change. Obviously pregnancy isn't the ideal time to job search, but it does make an excellent way to leave a job you're unhappy with, without burning any bridges. Everyone is extremely happy for me to be able to stay home with my baby - I have a feeling there would be much harder feelings had I just left for something better.
My last day is April 3, the end of my 37th week of pregnancy. It's pretty awesome to know that I can take my time and not worry too much about official "maternity leave." I know that if I were staying at my job, I would be pressured into working up until my due date to maximize my time off, plus checking in, working from home, and getting things done much sooner than I would be ready. It'll be nice to not have to care if things are falling apart without me. I'll officially be a stay at home mom.
But I'm not sure I want to be.
I'm about to say some things, and I know how they're going to sound. It's going to sound like I think I'm too good/smart/etc. to be a stay at home mom. And that's not the way I want it to sound. These are all confusing feelings, and the only reason I'm writing them is to attempt to sort them out.
Here's the thing: I went to school for four years. I paid a huge sum for my education. I did all that because I want to be working in my field, and I want to be making a difference and contributing to society. Is it all just a huge waste if I stay home and never use my education again? How do I justify that? I really don't know if I could be "fulfilled" in the same way by being a stay at home mom as I am when I'm writing and designing and creating. I'm sure many moms are. I know some consider it the most meaningful job they'll ever do. I don't think I'm that kind of person though. I think I would feel like I'm being lazy. And cheating myself out of my dreams.
On the other side, should I even be having a baby if I'm so selfish? What's the point of having a kid if you're going to give it to someone else for the majority of their lives to raise? Plus, child care in our town is expensive and really hard to get into - especially for newborns. It makes very little sense for us to put a newborn in day care that would eat up nearly my entire paycheck. I'm lucky that my parents are local and my dad is retired, so we do have the option of some short-term care, but I know he wouldn't be interested in doing 40 hours a week of day care, and I would never ask/expect him to.
I'm also lucky that my field (writing/graphic design) has the possibility for freelance work. I could work from home on some projects, but starting a business, building clients, etc. is really time consuming if I plan to make any decent money from it. I would also have the added expense of upgrading my home computer and software to be able to do it.
I've been asked about tutoring, which would be great, but then I would need a babysitter or to work in the evenings once Bobby's home - and that would cut into my ability to coach, at least in the fall. But it's a possibility.
I've also been asked about subbing, which I don't have my teaching license, but our school district is considered "high need" and can use subs without teaching licenses, as long as they have degrees in the subject. It's a possibility, but I've never actually taught a class, only tutored one-on-one and in smaller groups. It's a bit scary. Plus I would need a babysitter on days that I subbed.
So all of these things are jumbled up in my head, and I'm wondering what the heck I'm supposed to do with my life. I feel like I'm 18 again. Or 22.
I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP!
I'm sort of thinking about not doing anything until my volleyball season is over next October - but if I want to get into something in the schools, that might be too late. Should I be thinking about giving up coaching for awhile? I have discussed this with Bobby, but he's not much help. He tells me he wants me to do whatever makes me happy. Ugh. The nerve of the guy, right? So difficult.
Are any of you career counselors? Tell me what I should do, please! Or at least share your stories about how you made/are making your decision about what to do.