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Working parents: quality of life/financial wellbeing?

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
My sister and I have had this argument now for over a year. She thinks I'm crazy to not put 2.5yo DD in full-time daycare and make a better salary so we can eventually buy a home, pay off some debt, not live paycheck-to-paycheck.

We rent an apt. in California because the cost of living is outrageous here and sadly, we are in some debt and cannot afford to buy a house and don't see that being a reality any time soon.

I do wish we could make more money.
One option would be for my husband to transfer his job to a state that isn't failing-- like North Dakota or Montana. Not to mention MUCH lower cost of living. My sister thinks it's absurd and I could just go back to work full time and make more money.

I currently work as a freelancer from home. No, I don't make that much but I also only average 15-25 hours a week. That's pretty darn good considering I am with my DD full time and not paying the high cost for childcare, vehicle expenses, business lunches, clothing. There are drawbacks of course, like stress on project deadlines and having to sit DD in front of the TV, but for my family, it's working. What's so frustrating is having people tell me I don't really "work" because it is from home!

I know daycare can be great for some families. I have considered a nanny. But from most moms I've talked to, it's really tough and they wish it were different or wish they had a choice to WAH or part-time. Daycare in CA is not very affordable or the quality of the care isn't great. I personally think it's heartwrenching to have a young child in daycare for upwards of even 10-12 hours. In my profession-- this would be my DD. I used to work 50-60 hour weeks including holidays. Not fun.

I'm not looking to judge anyone and this should not be a discussion on what's better or worse because that is so variable.

Are there studies/articles out there from reputable sources that talk about full-time parents and the effects on young children good or bad? What about quality of life overall? Can it really be that much better for families financially or would it balance out? Could anyone chime in on BTDT from both sides of SAHM to going back to work full-time?

I'd really love to discuss this!
post #2 of 33

I'm not sure I've BTDT but I was an SAHM for 5 years before going back to work 3 years ago when DD was 4.5.  I found the transition really tough and felt guilty for not being there initially.  While being an SAHM, I worked part time and did some freelance writing for $$$.


Now, I wouldn't be an SAHM again.  For us, financially, it's made a huge difference me being back at work (but, DD is at school so we're only paying for after school care).   For me personally, it's made a huge difference because I earn ok money and I like earning my own money and  the sense of independence and confidence it brings.  I also like the fact my DD no longer sees me in a traditional role, that my partnership with DH now is more equal (whereas before I felt as if he didn't really 'get' that I worked too as an SAHM) and I really, really, really like the adult contact I get during the day and the fact I can avoid all the school/mum political bullshit. 


I don't know if I'd go back to being an SAHM if I had another child, tbh.  That really suprises me because I thought it was the best option, but now I"m not so sure.  And DD is doing just fine.  Childcare is the tricky thing though - finding that person/daycare you like is 90% of the battle.   Like you, I don't think there's any right or wrong answer to this - I do know that when I see SAHMs at DD's  school, I don't envy them.  I like being a working parent :) 

post #3 of 33

tilly, i think those studies would be very interesting to read if you can find any! 


I also work part time, sometimes at my office, other times doing paperwork at home while wearing our 3 month old.  For us, 2 incomes is a must, as we would not be able to pay basic bills on just dh's salary.  that said, i have lots of family nearby so they help with childcare a lot.  I think the amount of childcare that's appropriate depends as much on the type of child you have as anything else.  my dd is 3.5 now, and she NEEDS interaction with other children on a daily basis.  she loves her school (which she attends 4 days a week, 9-2:30) and i use those hours to work and get chores done.  ds will be there with her in september.  If i were a SAHM, both dd and I would be miserable, because she's a very outgoing, energetic child who needs constant entertainment.  She's not even interested in TV, so that's not even an option when i'm desperate.  (i wish it were).  


i think if you're happy with your arrangement, and it works for you and your child/children, then don't change it.  i don't feel guilty for working, becuase i know there just isn't any other option.  i've made the best arrangements i can for my kids, and it will have to be enough.  


as for how it affects my dd-- she has always been very independent, and i think her school has helped foster that.  she's at a wonderful school who's motto is *its not our job to tell you how to parent* ie--they are fine with limited vax, cloth diapers, homemade lunches, etc, and are willing to support me in my choices.  they practice gentle discipline, even offer classes on it, so i know she's being treated with respect.  she is there 22 hours/week and that seems to be just enough for her.  she's with my mom about 10 additional hours a week. the arrangement works for us.  what i ear outweighs what i spend on childcare, so that's a bonus too. 


the decision is so multifaceted. there's no "one size fits all" answer.  


tapioca-- i hadn't even considered the drama/politics of dealing with other moms once dd is in real school.  oh my. 

post #4 of 33

sorry chiromama! lol.

post #5 of 33

Yes, Tillymonster, BTDT in a way, except I worked crazy hours and overtime (as an employee, then freelance) and DH stayed home for 8 years. The last three years he was with 2 kids and going to grad school, so we used some part-time preschool so he could study. When DD2 entered kindergarten, he got a full-time teaching job, and we sort of switched. I now handle a lot of the household stuff, all the kids' school stuff (pick up/drop off, activities), and trade with friends for after-school care, so I can keep working. I still work anywhere from 10 to 30 or so hrs. a week during the school year. My schedule is pretty flexible and depends a lot on when work comes in.


We are in the same situation in that we are paying off a student loan, rent an apartment, and don't see a house in our future in our fairly expensive area (where we want to stay). I struggle with comparing our situation to people we know who earn a whole lot more and feeling down about that. Then I think about why we wanted one of us to stay home and how great that was, and how much I think it's important that I'm around now that the kids are getting into the pre-teen/teen years. I love my work, and I want to keep working, but I can't say I miss the full-time plus overtime life. The stress was killing me. And DH is a teacher, so has summers off. We have definitely traded time off and flexibility for money, and for our family it has been the right trade.


Bottom line - I think kids do fine in day care, and I think they do fine with an at-home parent. We decided that we wanted an at-home parent, and our kids are doing fine. We are not as far along financially and career-wise as other parents, and I worry about that sometimes, but that's the trade-off, and we have to accept that.


PS LOL about the school politics - yes!

post #6 of 33
Thread Starter 

Yeah we aren't even in the school age years so I'm not *there* yet. I really don't like any kind of cliches especially "mom" cliques. Why? Because I never ever fit in with them! I was in a Facebook group that I ended up leaving because I merely talked about breastfeeding and how strongly I felt about it. O_o


I'd really like to see some studies or articles as well, but I know this is a touchy subject. From the AP-biased articles I've read, it really supports the mom being there for baby, which ultimately means, not working. Or not much.


But I DO work. Just not a lot and not in an office. For some reason this is not accepted as working! I find that my DH trivializes it and my family? Well they blurt out CONSTANTLY that I don't work. Like I sit on my butt all day and eat bon bons? I mean really? UGH! I know I will do what's right for my family and myself in the end, but it would be nice to have something backing me up.


My DD is not outgoing and very sensitive to other kids especially if they get in her personal space. She's been this way since birth. It's just her. My sister thinks its because I never "socialized" her (what?!?!?) even though she's been everywhere. Concerts, story times, play groups, you name it. We've done it. We just finished up a tumbling class which she was hot/cold about the entire time. She is never comfortable in crowded places, she doesn't *play* with kids yet and is just starting to say hi interact, but she is so shy, she doesn't initiate. I feel like a daycare situation would be so hard for her! But this is not the only reason. I'm of the mindset that if I can do it without it costing extra money, I do it. Daycare, a nanny, whatever... costs money. Even if I'm making money at the same time, it never seems worth it.


I really miss the team environment I used to work in. I miss adult interaction. My poor DH gets an EARFUL every evening when he gets home. But as DD gets older, I notice this getting easier to deal with. Now I'm looking forward to a #2 but not the dreaded isolation. Any other ladies out there that can tell me their story?


Edit: Yes Ragana yes! This is what I *needed* to hear. I want that flexibility and I'd rather have it then money. Sometimes... it's hard. ;( But you are there for your kids too... I'm thinking for me, this might be better.

post #7 of 33

Studies - I think you'll find studies supporting both sides! I personally ignore those and go with what is good for my family. I think those studies prove very little and stoke the mommy wars. It's definitely hard when you're getting outside pressure, like you are from your sister. If you are comfortable with your situation, you may just have to make that topic off-limits. I also have family members who discuss my choices, and lately I've been realizing that they do it because I LET THEM. Stop letting them question your family's business.


Regarding your work not being treated like work - it's definitely work! Seems problematic if your DH trivializes it - have you ever sat down and talked about how important your work is to you? I think this is the same issue as above. Maybe you can think of some comments to shut down that line of talk - "Actually, I run my own successful XYZ company/work successfully as an XYZ while taking care of my family." And then change the subject! I simply don't bring up my work much to my family.


PS DH never got a job during his at-home tenure because the cost of daycare, commuting, etc. would have knocked out any extra money we thought we would get, and he would have been away from the girls - not worth it. Conversely, my sister keeps working although it probably ends up costing her sometimes so that she can retain contacts in her field and keep her business up. It just depends on why you are working. Sometimes it's purely a mathematical decision.

post #8 of 33
Originally Posted by tillymonster View Post


My DD is not outgoing and very sensitive to other kids especially if they get in her personal space. She's been this way since birth. It's just her. My sister thinks its because I never "socialized" her (what?!?!?) even though she's been everywhere.

Your sister is smoking crack and you can tell her I said that. haha.


Look, when I was home with DD DD was the opposite of your child.  From the get go she was the kind of kid that wanted to be out & about.  I ended up doing endless classes (I'm an introvert homebody, so this was NOT my choice) just to give myself a break and give her the external people stimulation she clearly needed.


Fast forward 8 years and she's still an outgoing people person.  Yet I was home with her for 5 years and she did not daycare for the first 2.5. 


I sound like your daughter - I was very anxious and shy and I still don't like crowds.  I think if that's the kid you've got on your hands you're doing the right thing.  THumbs up mama.

post #9 of 33
Originally Posted by Ragana View Post

Studies - I think you'll find studies supporting both sides! I personally ignore those and go with what is good for my family. I think those studies prove very little and stoke the mommy wars.

I agree with this.  The only one I am aware of was by a guy on Quebec's daycare system - there daycare is only $7 per day so a very popular option.  Anyway, there was something about how kids under 2 were stressed out by daycare, but after 2 they were okay.  Otherwise everything I've read indicates that it's the quality of care that counts, whether in home or at a daycare.

post #10 of 33
Originally Posted by tillymonster View Post

Are there studies/articles out there from reputable sources that talk about full-time parents and the effects on young children good or bad? What about quality of life overall? Can it really be that much better for families financially or would it balance out? Could anyone chime in on BTDT from both sides of SAHM to going back to work full-time?
I'd really love to discuss this!


This is a great question! I've been part-time, full-time and SAHM in my (admittedly brief to date) tenure as a mom. happytears.gifDD is 2 1/2. I'm expecting another one in January.


When DD was born, I had a part-time job at the university that paid very little, but provided health insurance and was flexible. We were kind of poor at that point, though. Not really below the poverty line, but not comfortable either, IYKWIM. I went back to work full-time 2 years ago. I didn't have a lot of flexibility in my position to deal with family issues. (high school math teacher, so couldn't be late, or work from home or anything). It was an absolute nightmare to figure out daycare coverage for a sick kid, and I burned through my sick time by 3 months into the school year. (Bad run of ear infections).

Both of us decided that flexibility trumps money, and we have both since left our day jobs and started working as freelancers. biggrinbounce.gifIt's awesome to be home together. It was a big scary decision, but so far, so good. We do freelance web development and writing work, I sell books and tutor, and we work on an organic farm.


But anyway, back to your question, I just started hunting for actual studies on this topic. Usually the articles you see are some mother's perspective on why one way worked over another. I want some data! Couldn't find much, but this paper did catch my eye. 



This paper looks at the issue:




I really thought I wanted to be a SAHM, but now that I don't "go to work", I realize that I still like working. I just like working for myself, having the flexibility to address my personal needs and my child's needs as necessary. Also, adding another kid to the mix, with yet another daycare bill and more potential sick days, etc., etc. If I was earning more at my job, it might be different. 

post #11 of 33
Tilley, could u possibly arrange for your dh to provide u with a break a few hours a week so u can work uninterrupted? That's part of our child care routine and I find that dh does pay more attention to the fact that I work we he sees me visibly exit the room without the kids. I don't mean to offers solutions that weren't necessarily asked for, but I thought I'd share what's worked well for us. I worked from home for several months ( with dd in tow) and I can totally relate to people not respecting what u do as real work. It's ridiculous. Good luck mama!
post #12 of 33

Another point - I don't know how your business is set up, but if you have a business account, business cards, etc. would you feel like you project more as a business person? That's just a thought. Sometimes I need to "play the part."

post #13 of 33

As pp’s mentioned, I do not think there is one right answer to this.  There are so many variables.


I intended to continue working after having children, but I quit one week prior to our last IVF transfer and never went back to work.  It has been the right choice for us for several reasons:

  • I worked really long days, had a long commute, and no flexibility.  I did not see that changing after I had children.
  • We have no family to help with childcare on a daily basis or if one of the children were ill or to take the children to after school activities.
  • My children have health issues that required lots of therapy and doctors visits. (Also a reason for me to work since we need better insurance and more $$ for medical bills.  But I couldn’t imagine taking so much time off for medical appointments.)
  • We had savings to help pay for medical bills and other unexpected expenses.
  • We are older parents and already had a house and most things we need.
  • Since we are older, I had already put in almost twenty years in my career and didn’t feel like I was missing anything.
  • My husband and I have been together 25 years and I helped to support our household financially until we had children.  (for some reason that mattered to me.  I have a difficult time allowing someone to take care of me.)
  • I am a better mother when I am not stressed out.  Working my job while parenting would have resulted in a much more stressful life.
  • My husband’s job is not flexible at all and he has no vacation days, personal days, etc.


It has been difficult to cut our income in half and I can see positives to going back to work – especially now that the kids are in school.  I do not think it w/h harmed my children to go to daycare or have a nanny and I can see ways it would have enriched their lives.    If I worked we could pay people to do much of what I do here at home.  Part of me would like to go back to work now, but then something happens that reminds me why I am home.  If I could find a part-time, flexible, great paying, near home or WAH job, I would take it.  I have considered going back to school and completely changing careers.


I think your PT, WAH gig sounds great.  I would ignore people telling you it is not work.  It sounds like you are keeping yourself active in your field and when/if the time comes you could jump back into the work force.  I know many families who stay home and struggle financially when their children are young and then have years to work after they get a little older.  It seems as though it all works out.  In our case, we just reversed the order.


I also think some people are unhappy because they didn’t have a choice.  You do have a choice.   If you choose to go back to work you will be going into the work force knowing you have another option.


I often discount what I do as a SAHM but my husband reminds me how important it is.  If he did not believe that and support our decision to have me SAH, staying home would be more difficult.


eta...I agree with MamaBookworm...flexibility (or lack of) can really make a difference in how working affects quality of life.

post #14 of 33
[quote name="chiromama01" url="/
i think if you're happy with your arrangement, and it works for you and your child/children, then don't change it.

yeahthat.gif I have to agree with the above. Your DD will only be young once. I have mostly worked P/T and stayed at home P/T. That is the perfect balance for me. We also rent an apartment in a nice neighborhood with great schools. I have found a real freedom in it. Money and owning a home are not everything. I value time and freedom. But that's just me.
post #15 of 33

I don't work at a high class job.  And I am still shocked by how much it costs to work.  Clothes, gas, convenience foods, all the stuff that falls through the cracks, too tired or distracted to shop well.  I really do not think I end up with much  more than I did when i worked part time.    and I do not even have to factor in child care because my kids are old enough stay home by themselves.  

Honestly, I think your idea to move to a lower cost of living area is excellent.  Provided you and your husband can get work.  also since you have a part time solution that is working for you i would hold on to that. Unless you could earn a substantial amount more I don't think working full time will have a financial payout that is any better in the long run.

post #16 of 33
I have done the sahm, student mom, a little working at home as a nanny, and wohm and I each had good and bad parts. I think you need to choose what works for your family. I don't think childcare is a bad thing, my dd has had mostly good experiences. Coming from the perspective of living pay check to paycheck though I do have to wonder if you appear stressed out about money and if that is why your sister is pushing you to work. Living with very little money brings small stressors that tend to pile up and i have noticed they affect a lot of my parenting. My family sometimes recognizes my stress before I do and their pushing comes from love not from a place of judgment and that is why I mention this.
post #17 of 33

On another note I relate to your sister.  It is hard seeing someone struggle or just make it financially when you know (or think) they could just move and do better.  We moved to the middle of nowhere and DH and I both have amazing high paying jobs that go Mon-Fri 9-5.  We have next to no commute and generous vacation.  I keep telling my best friend to move here and get a job.  Her and her DH were both laid off just a couple months ago but she won't move.  And she has no kids.  I keep banging my head because I just want her to be in a more financially stable place.


I think for some people financial well-being is very important.

(I also have the benefit of living in Canada and we get a year off with our babies so that helps with working.)

post #18 of 33

"Just move" is a tough one. We live in an expensive area & would be better off financially in a less expensive area, but then we wouldn't have the beach, the great diversity here, family within a few blocks, the kids' Spanish program, etc. Not everyone can find a high-paying job in the middle of nowhere (but I'm definitely intrigued that you did, JoyFilled thumb.gif)

post #19 of 33
Thread Starter 

Oh to be a Canadian! I've been friends with a gal from Sask. and oh do I envy her! Affordable childcare (yes like $7 a day!), good schools (she learned English and French) and good life/work balance with vaca and mat. leave. But she's not miles away from the beach, mountains, skiing, big city and all it offers. If you are doing good financially though... We are not.


And yeah I know my sister must be EXTREMELY annoyed with my money struggles but she should know better. Why? I'm switching career paths-- it takes time to adjust. DH makes decent money but because of past debts-- we are suffering (mostly due to me not going RIGHT back to work after the baby was born!). I want to live a healthier lifestyle meaning whole foods. That is much more expensive then cheap ground beef with pasta every night. Or rice and beans. Ugh! This is how I grew up! Lower middle class in CA with crap food everyday and my family having to move from county to county for work. I do not want that for my daughter. We've already moved once while I was seven months pregnant with her then again when she was 2. So yeah, I need the financial wellbeing more then I care to admit. 

My DH doesn't trivialize my work as much anymore especially when he sees the bank account! I'm buying the groceries with that money! And he totally gives me tons of time on weekends/evenings to work. It's the only way I can manage 25hrs a week. 

If I was to choose childcare-- it's ATLEAST HALF what I get paid an hour. Or DH watches DD for free! Pretty easy decision. I am going to keep it the way it is for now and yeah-- maybe I'll jump back into an office job or better yet, work for myself and get a great nanny. 

If we did move to another state DH is taking his decent pay plus bonus to a city/state that costs FAR LESS. It's a total win-win. Except we would miss the weather and our family/friends dearly and are struggling to figure out what would be best. It's such a hard decision.

Keep the post coming. I'm reading through them all and they are REALLY helping me. Thanks ladies!

post #20 of 33

For you (and for me), quality of life means spending all the time you can with your daughter, not having your own home or two cars, or fancy vacations or any of that stuff. Everyone's ideas of what a quality life is are different. Simply tell your sister that your happiness comes from your child, not from money. Easy peasy.


If you're putting your daughter in the school system at some point, you can work more hours, work away from the home then. You can buy the house, car, vacation etc when she doesn't need her momma so much. :)

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