Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Great Debate

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.

13 comments:

  1. I definitely think that it is wonderful to have the choice. I respect both stay at home moms and working moms. We all are superstars :)

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  2. As much as I wanted to stay home with our girls, it wasn't an option and that is how we decided to both keep working.

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  3. I think it's great to have a choice. We kind of have a choice in that we probably could make it on just my husbands income but I have been at my job for 17 years and could officially retire when I make 20 years. Granted it would not be that much money but I could retire at that point if I wanted to. The other side is my insurance (which all of us are on) is way better than his company's. Even if money and retirement wasn't an issue I just don't know that I could stay home. I mean I'm sure I'll want to spend 24/7 with my child but I would think at some point I would feel I needed an "adult" break if that makes any sense. Maybe stay home for the first year and see how it goes?? Then if you feel like you want to work again look for something then.

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  4. Being a SAHM was never in consideration for a number of reasons--financial and personal preference, although we could feasibly live off one salary if needed. However, in touring day cares I actually realized that they would do a better job teaching and entertaining my child for that portion of the day than I would. There are some pretty spectacular people who can and will take the time to make every part of the baby's day about learning and fun. I personally don't have the drive or the creativity to come up with the activities that they can in day care. It's an expensive prospect, but one that seems worth it to me. This might be a bigger consideration once you're out of the infant stage, but I've been very impressed with what the daycares have to offer.

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  5. I am lucky to also have a choice. I haven't yet decided what I'm going to do though. Your sentence about sounding like you think you're too good/smart to be a SAHM is something that runs through my head too - I don't want to "waste" my...what? Talents? Brain? if I'm "just" a SAHM. I'm worried I might go crazy without additional mental stimulation or adult contact. But at the same time, even though I like my job (overall) I also feel like A) is there any more important job in the world than raising your child? And B) why would I choose to work just to have most of my paycheck go to having someone else raise my child? Sooooo I guess what I'm saying is I have no friggin clue either. I am taking the full 12 week maternity leave and as far as my work knows, I am planning to come back full time after that. But really, I haven't decided. I'm hoping that towards the end of the 3 months I will just KNOW. Great answer, right?

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    1. I should also mention that if I choose not to go back to work, I anticipate that I will still need to have some sort of outside SOMETHING that feels fulfilling to me. Volunteer work or something like that. But honestly, who knows. What I currently picture motherhood to be like is probably completely inaccurate and I'll be laughing at myself down the road for being so naive.

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  6. Hope you are able to make your choice - I know it's so hard!!!

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  7. This is a huge topic in everyone's home at one point or another when expanding a family. It's a very hard decision. We are still undecided about whether I will continue working, stay at home, or work part time. For us, I am not sure we could live off of one income only, at least right now. Maybe in the near future. But I also have a very good job with great benefits and I work for some really amazing people. I'm not sure that I want to give that up. My struggle is that I desire to be a SAHM more so than a working mom... who knows..... The struggle is real, and there is no shame in whatever decision you make. :) XOX Good luck!

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  8. I'm reserving the right to change my mind in a few months, but for now my plan is to go back to work. While we could probably manage ok on one salary, our standard of living would definitely drop significantly. Also, I think more so than thinking I'd be "wasting" my education, I feel like I wouldn't feel as stimulated and challenged without working. I gripe a lot about my job IRL, but the truth is I really enjoy it and couldn't imagine myself not doing something like it. If I hated it then the decision might be a lot different. I don't necessarily think one path is better than the other, but each has its own benefits and drawbacks and you need to be conscious of how you're going to handle those to make sure your kid gets the right blend of socialization/stimulation/parent attention that he/she needs.

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    1. I should also add that being Canadian I'm completely spoiled with a full year of combined maternity/parental leave, so I'm not faced with the dilemma of sending a teeny 12 week old baby to daycare. I guess that makes my input totally irrelevant? ;) I think it's a much different consideration for US moms. Not an easy call to make at all!

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  9. First, I hate the fact that you even need to preface this as a controversial topic. It shouldn't be. I think both avenues are very challenging and it's nobody else's business what each individual family decides to do. Second, I think you have the perfect scenario! This gives you the opportunity to quit the job you hate, and go back to work when you are ready I don't think any mom, or very few at least, are ready to go back to work at the end of 12 weeks or sooner. Our babies are still so brand new, most women are still sleep deprived, and they grow and change so dang fast! Canada definitely has it right by having year long maternity leaves. For us, the decision was easy. Almost my entire paycheck would have gone to paying daycare for two. It wasn't worth it and I was in no way ready to go back to work. Now, after 15 months, I would consider at least a very part time job. Staying home is HARD. However, it would need to either be at night or on weekends, because again, we can't afford a babysitter and I wouldn't be making enough to consider otherwise. If I were you and I was still tossing the idea around, I would hold off on deciding, coach this next year, and go from there. That's just what I would do though. You will know when the time comes. It's fantastic that you have the options you do!

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  10. To be honest, I skimmed your post to come down here because, of course, I can read your reasons all I want but your reasons in my head are still going to come out differently, so I wanted to put down my reasons before reading yours.

    First of all, I don't exactly have a choice (although I do). We definitely had plenty of time with the DINK life, but we support my mother, so that's quite a drain--one that also relieves our entire childcare expense burden, so the choice is obvious. However, if I really wanted to stay home, we could figure things out and manage.

    Second, I have to admit that I feel like our double-income has allowed us to expand our lifestyle to include things that aren't necessary but have come to feel like it, things I'm not willing to give up. This includes certain activities for the kids and other luxuries. It is what it is. If one of us lost our job, we could cut out a whole lot before we were really in dire straits.

    Finally, though, I realize (somewhat grudgingly) that my desires to stay at home stem almost entirely from a disappointment with my career, not a positive desire for SAHM-ing. I don't think I would be a very good SAHM, frankly. I'd have fun with the kids, and I might step up to the plate as far as doing educational and fun stuff, but the other stuff--the cooking and cleaning--would go right out the window. I don't do it much as it is, and I'll admit that working a full-time job is mostly just an excuse. I wouldn't expect myself to do it all, but I could definitely do more than I do. Part of me would love to be with my kids that much, but I don't think I'd be fulfilled, certainly not on a long-term scale. I have dreams for my career that I've had, literally, ever since I can remember, and it's hard to keep them alive when I feel like I'm so off-track, but they're not totally gone. I'd rather try to give that one or two more good shots before I decide to go a different direction, whether that's as a SAHM or as a different career, maybe in a different field all together. I also think that, as soon as the kids were both in school, I'd spend my whole day reading Cracked and playing games, and I know that's just as bad for my psyche as it is hard for me to resist.

    I think those are the things to think about--what are the positive influences on your decision? What are the things you actively want, and are looking forward to? What does the financial landscape look like? I wish my maternity leave had been longer, but it wasn't, and I would've had to transition back to work at some point or another. I was a little glad to rip off the band-aid, as it were. I even said I'd almost rather have had some leave to recover from the birth, then gone back to work, then had some more leave right around or after they were six months old. But then, for me, since they only get more fun, I think it would've been harder and harder to go back if I'd had longer.

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    1. Oh, and the whole thing about someone else "raising" your baby is, frankly, crazy that it's even an idea that comes up! In communities/cultures where the women don't work, throughout history, other people raise their kids all the time! Kids go from house to house, every mom is responsible for every other mom's kid, and it's not like those moms never have anything they have to do, just because they don't have a structured out-of-the-home job. It's that whole "it takes a village" thing. Kids benefit from having parent-like figures in their lives who aren't just their parents, and they never forget who their parents actually are, like some people seem to be afraid they'll do. :.) I don't say ANY of this to try to convince you one way or another, but as a full-time, work-out-of-the-house mom, I see firsthand how much my kids can love another care provider (my mom) and even prefer her in certain situations over me or my husband, and how that only adds to their love for us, their respect for us, and their joy in being with us (and vice versa).

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