I get asked often “Why would you want to be a stay at home mom?” or “How can you afford to be a stay at home mom?”
I have taken my time and thought how best to give an answer that didn’t persist societies idea of a ‘lazy mom’ who views herself ‘too good to work’. The following is my attempt to explain to those who haven’t lived through what I dub “the struggle”.
Let me begin by giving a deeper introduction as to who I am.
I am a 27 year old career hopping – college dropout – mother of two. Yes, you read that right, that’s me. I dropped out of my final year (just two semesters shy of my Bachelors degree) because of economic hardships that I will delve into later.
WHY on earth would I put that out there for everyone to read? Because I want to share the reality of poverty, parenthood, and personal sacrifice with the world.
What the hell happened?
I am a licensed cosmetologist who worked long hours in a salon where I made decent money but the work schedule more often than not was not accommodated by the traditional daycare hours. I had to scramble daily to find someone trustworthy to look after my child which often required additional childcare costs and tremendous effort from my parents to fill the gaps that were left.
After three years of shuffling my son and the schedules of my support network …. I decided that something had to give. I HAD to do something else to put me on the path of a convenient 9-5. Like most young adults today, I thought that college was the only logical stepping stone to that desired end state my family needed.
I started my college ‘career’ through an Adult Degree program; A program that had been marketed to reach a degree hybrid style (in person and online) or have the most convenient option – obtain a degree completely online. (side note: marketing is misleading – even from state universities – they will market programs too good to be true to get you enrolled and indebted to the federal government. Woo hoo, it is going to take me a while to pay them that $30k+ back. Sorry, not sorry.)
When I started school, I was again living with my parents because they were gracious enough to clear out a space in their basement for me to sleep – of course they cleared a room for the precious grandbaby but I was a-ok with living in the dungeon because it seemed fitting. An added bonus to living back at home was that I had access to round the clock childcare – you have to love sympathetic grandparents.
I was able to work part-time and go to school full-time without having to worry a tremendous amount about who was going to pick up my child from school when work or class was running late. I was able to commute an hour and a half to campus and hit the books – telling myself that I would be able to make up the nights I didn’t tuck in my first born because I would have the freedom to be home with him more in the future. Well, that was the plan.
Fast forward three years…
Today I am married with two wonderful children (three if you count my husband) with a limited support system locally. We live close enough to visit, but life has changed dramatically for us all.
My mother – who often filled the gaps in childcare without even contemplating how inconvenient it was for herself – is now disabled with a traumatic brain injury. My father is still working more hours than a retired fifty year old veteran should ever have to, to provide for himself and my mother. So off to daycare BOTH children went as I commuted to campus three days a week (long days where the commute began at 6 am and didn’t put me in my bed until sometimes past 10 pm) and I worked a part-time minimum wage job while my husband was off grinding to provide for a family of four.
Two parents working – they should have no problems making ends meet, right? Wrong! We found ourselves neck-deep in daycare costs and often finding ourselves coming up short.
Finally one day, my husband and I sat down to figure out what the hell we were doing wrong. We wanted to know how it was possible for us both to personally sacrifice so much of our time away from our children and still barely get by living pay check to paycheck. We had already cut out all the non-essentials – no cable TV, we cook most of our meals at home, and we have NO social life. We don’t have car payments on our ten year old vehicle and we buy most things second-hand – so why were we still bleeding money?
That is when it dawned on us that I was essentially paying to work – not just working for free. We knew then it was time for a dramatic shift.
I will break down what daycare and commuting costs looked like for our family.
It cost $210 a week for both children to have childcare for the hours my husband and I are at work or school. ($180 for my daughter full-time, $30 a week for before and after school care for my son). Monthly that amounts to $840 JUST in childcare costs, that is well over $10,000 yearly in child care costs. Many families are finding the rising cost of childcare to be hard to afford, as a result we see the rates of stay at home parents rising nationally.
Commuting to school was about 74 miles each way, 148 miles daily. Commuting to my part-time job was only about 34 miles a day. That was 515 miles put on my 2000 Buick Century a week – that is 2038 miles a month of commuting. The beast (my Buick) only gets approximately 21 mpg. I estimate fuel costs to be around $340 a month (fuel costs at the time to were pushing $3.50 a gallon), around $4,100 yearly.
Put those costs together, $14,100 (+/- for holiday breaks and summer care) and that is well over what I personally brought in working part-time – hell, even FULL TIME at minimum wage.
I left school, took my children out of daycare and quit my job outside the home. I now work for myself with a wonderful company that highlights the non-toxic lifestyle we try to live and I get to actually get to keep the income generated instead of handing those monies over to a stand in caretaker. (If you want to know what I do from home, click here.)
We are not the only family that has had to make the difficult choice to have a sole earner while the other parent stays home with the little ones. It was a choice we made out of necessity. A choice that I would make over and over again.
So, take away from this what you will, but the answer to the above question really is quite simple: economics. Our family simply cannot AFFORD for me to work outside of our home. Sounds pretty silly doesn’t it… but for many families like my own it is a hard truth.
Next time you hear about a mom or dad staying home to raise their children – don’t automatically get judgmental and think they are taking the lazy way out. Instead, think about the financial burdens they are escaping and the rational decision they made for their families current needs.
Are you a stay at home mom or dad? I would love to hear your views and reasons for choosing to stay home – are they the same or do they differ? Please comment and share!