Prior to becoming a mother, I thought I would never want to stay home with my children or work less hours to be with my children more during the work week. I wanted a career, I wanted to be successful in the workplace, and I wanted to make money. Well, if there is one piece of advice I can offer to women who are expecting their first child or adopting their first child, it would be that nothing and no one — not even yourself or your own mother — can prepare you for motherhood.
After I had my son almost four years ago, I realized that I wanted to work less or not at all to spend more time raising him. Why? Because I discovered that I had more love in my heart than I knew was possible, and because I discovered that I had a special bond with him that was stronger than any connection I had to anyone else. I wanted to stay home with him also because part of me was and still is a major control freak and I wanted to make sure that he was getting the attention and care he needed and deserved during the day.
I wanted to make sure my son’s food was cut up small enough so he would not choke. I wanted to make sure he was playing with toys that were not choking hazards. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t put in the pack-and-play with a pillow during nap time so he would not suffocate. Are you sensing a pattern here? Yeah, I am a control freak and a worrywart. Being away from my son for more than eight hours a day was awful. But I eventually got used to it, and it was easier knowing that my grandma and aunt were watching my son instead of some stranger. After I had my daughter, though, I had a different job that I was discovering was not right for me. Going back to work was awful, and it just got worse. I wanted to be with both of my kids and I wanted out of my job.
Fortunately, many women are lucky to have options these days when it comes to work, school and family life. Women have the ability to work outside of the home to further their careers and earn an income while also being stellar moms. Women have the ability to go back to school or finish school while also raising their kids. Women also have the ability to stay at home with their young children so that they can monitor and choose how their children are spending their days. Unfortunately, all of these options require sacrifices and a lot of juggling.
When both parents work, finding child care and being able to afford child care can be extremely stressful, both financially and emotionally. How do you find a child care provider you can trust? Will you need to cut other expenses to afford child care? When moms or dads are working toward their educational goals while raising their kids, they need to be very strict about how they manage their time with their kids and their studying time. This may mean that parents may not be able to go to special events or family gatherings as much as they would like to, and they may feel like they are missing out on bonding activities. When one parent stays home, families may need to carefully monitor their expenses in order to afford living off of one income while raising kids, and this can be stressful and frustrating, too.
Yes, mothers do have options. But some of these options are not really options for women. This is a tough reality to face. Some moms can’t work because daycare expenses would break the bank. Some moms choose to put off their education because they don’t want to sacrifice time with their kids when their kids are young. And some moms can’t quit their jobs because doing so would break the bank. Yes, this is a tough reality to face for me. I want to stay home more with my kids, but I also have debt. In order to make this work on a temporary basis, I need to start getting creative, and I need to focus on the possibilities instead of the roadblocks.
How can I make it an option to stay at home with my kids more while also finding employment that is meaningful and allows me to gain new skills and further develop my strengths? Ideally, I should have figured this out prior to leaving my job. I get that. I should have come up with a plan A, B, C, D, E, F and G, which is something I normally do when it comes to making a huge decision like this. Instead, I have decided to wing it. Yikes!
Staying home full-time with my kids is not an option because I have some massive student loan debt. With a bachelor’s degree comes student loans. This is not news to anyone. However, a lot of college kids don’t realize how much they will be paying for their education if they are financing it all on their own. In my case, I can only blame myself for my student loan debt because I did not put the effort into figuring out how much I would actually owe after going to a private university in the Twin Cities for four years. I did save money by living with my parents during my junior and senior years of college and by also taking some of my electives at a community college. Yet, I was still bitch slapped with a statement after graduation showing that I owed nearly 100 g’s. Damn that accrued interest! Word of advice kids: Borrow money wisely and make sure you understand how much you will owe when you are financing your education. Your monthly student loan payments may be almost as much as your mortgage payment.
Luckily, my husband does not have student loan debt, but we do have a mortgage, car payments and other expenses that come along with owning a home and having kids. We are saving money by not sending the kids to daycare right now, but we still have to figure out how to pay for the other bills my income was going toward every month.
Obviously, the easiest way to afford not working right now is to cut expenses and to spend money wisely. But discussing ways to cut expenses and spend less money is going to take up another post if not more. Let’s save that for next time.