DariusMom - I just wanted to say that your post was VERY thoughtful and informative, and definitely reinforces to me that the path of a career that I am taking NOW is the right one for US (after 11 years happily staying home with my babies). Thank you for offering a very balanced and informative side to the discussion, bringing up things that hadn't been addressed yet!
I'm glad you took in the spirit I intended it. This issue can be so fraught and I was slightly worried I'd get self-righteous responses such as, "*I* priortize time with my children over retirement." Of course, this is perfectly valid, but it's generally the tone in which it's said IRL that drives me crazy . . . .
Anyway, I do think that women forget about the long-term benefits of staying economically active and only look at the calculation of X amount at the end of every month divided by daycare costs and it's far more complicated than that.
Honestly, I ignore the studies and just do what feels right. I was a SAHM for my DS first 10 months or so, and we lived in an extended family situation where daddy and I roomshared with DS. We decided we wanted a little more room, so we moved into a different house outside of town. Unfortunately, within a couple of days of moving in and tallying up the future bills, we found that my husband's income would not be enough to support the household like we thought and I was immediately forced to find a job. The only one I could land in the time I had was a part time, minimum wage fast food job with hours that made it seem like full time with the way we had to work daycare, which was a large expense thrown in to what we were already facing (the only thing saving our hide right now is after my mother, who was my primary babysitter left state, the daycare is allowing me to bring DS in whenever I need them and only pay my usual two days. Otherwise I would have been forced to quit.) My husband wanted me to still be a SAHM, but he works an already dangerous job and picking up enough hours on the side wouldn't be healthy. I would go back to being a SAHM in a heartbeat, but this at least gives me interaction with people my own age lol and I am making enough that I can start taking yoga out of the home again. My husband and I have been a little more stressed, we prefer a simpler way of things so we are going to start being more self-supporting (growing our own food, etc.) so that I may eventually go back to being at home. Also, while the daycare must run by the standards of the state, they also use common sense and respect that my son is on a special diet and go out of their way to accomodate. His teacher is also very good, not only abiding by my wishes but going against policy and not smearing my son in their preservative-loaded sunscreen that he breaks out with and refusing to give him anything with artificial colors or flavors.
Almost every co-worker of mine and most family members have asked me why I am not going for management somewhere with my past experience, especially since we just promoted 3 new managers and have a new chain restraunt coming to town. My husband and I don't believe money buys happiness. Sure, it can make you more comfortable, but the stress that comes with it isn't comfortable. My husband remembers the anxiety attacks and high blood pressure from some of my management jobs before, mostly from the higher ups wanting to play stupid games. It wasn't worth it, and it's not worth it to stick your kid in daycare for that unless it's something you trully want to do and can manage to get through the BS. Personally, I think what you have is awesome, especially if you guys do decide to move. How would your DD take that though if you did move? Does she see a lot of family?
follow your heart. I was a SAHM for 7 years. I have no regrets, not a second of regret. I loved the time I had with my babies and I think it was so important for them. My littlest is in preschool earlier than my other kids and I am absolutely sure he would have done better if I had spent the year doing social stuff with him instead of throwing him into a mob with 2 teachers he'd never met.
There are some preschools that acclimate kids more gently and there are some kids/families (personality IS genetic) that can jump right in to a group and do great but we are not those kind of people. And it is okay to respect that in ourselves and in our children.