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I Wish There Were A Better Way ....

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Most parents today don't have the luxury of staying at home to raise the kids. We're living in a double-income society, where both parents have to work to pay for rent, bills and childcare. And I want to ask: Is there a better way? Are we doing it all wrong?

stressed mom

Notes from a New Mom: I am seriously questioning whether living in a tent in Alaska -- i.e., moving to a different state and getting rid of all of my comforts -- would somehow make life better. At this point, I've got a daughter who's being taken care of by someone else all day, I feel guilty to be at work ... and yet, what are my choices? I certainly don't want to give up my career, but there seems to be no balance between the job and home. Isn't there something wrong with the fact that another person is raising my kid? Isn't it crazy that I am paying someone more than half my paycheck to be with my little girl all day? Don't you feel torn and tired of struggling to (barely) make ends meet? And for what? Where is the payoff?

They are doing it differently in other countries. My girlfriend who lives in the Netherlands works part-time, has health insurance from her part-time gig and seems to still take at least two vacations a year. She and her husband live modestly, but they are happy -- and one of them gets to be at home at least part of the week. We, on the other hand, seem to be working our a$ off, and are still barely able to put any money in savings for the future! And as for a vacation ... HA! What a joke!

I know many of you might get angry and tell me I should stay home, I should try to live on less, I should blah blah blah -- but that isn't really my point. My point is, all of us are struggling to make ends meet. Many of us don't see our kids and are making sacrifices -- whether they be giving up our career to be with our kids, living in a place or area we don't like or doing a job that isn't our dream. Most of us, in some capacity, are wondering if there is a better way.

What if we just all lived in a commune, ate from a garden, homeschooled our kids and ran around naked all day? No, not the last part ... but is there a better way? Aren't you frustrated with the struggle?

I am.

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22 comments so far | Post a comment now
Random Thoughts of a Jersey Mom February 25, 2010, 12:46 PM

I understand your struggle. It took awhile for me to decide that I want to stay at home with my two boys instead of watching them through the web-cam (to see what they were doing at day care). It made me sad to see that they’d put their jackets on in the middle of the day and look out the door to see when I’m coming to pick them up. The caretakers would ask them to put their jackets back into their cubby since it would be at least another 6 hrs before I arrive… I’m happy being a stay-at-home mom now. I hope you will be able to find your balance too! =)

Anonymous Mom February 25, 2010, 1:29 PM

I’m a divorced mom and I hear ya. Even when I come home, I’m usually so tired that I don’t have nearly the energy I’d like to play with my little girl. But I can’t cut back anymore. I have to work, that’s all there is to it. I can’t take her to Disneyworld, I can’t even take a vacation longer than a weekend. My house is a disaster. Maybe I should start learning Dutch and move near your friend! (I’m only halfway kidding.)

lisa February 25, 2010, 2:11 PM

Omg i completely understand and feel the same way, i literally have asked myself if there is something else I should be doing, someplace else we should live, or what I am doing wrong. I think you are so right on that most parents feel this struggle — good to know I’m not alone in this one and NO I do not blame you for working— you are working to provide for your children and that is what you need to do..

I’ll move to a commune with you! haha

mercaties February 25, 2010, 2:17 PM

For some of us going back to work is not a choice. Our kids need food to eat and a roof over their head. My husband and I work opposit shifts so one of us is always home with our youngest (the oldest is in school anyways) But yes it’s hard. My husband works 5am-2pm and I work 3pm-12am So by the time I get home at midnight my house is totally wrecked.

Monica February 25, 2010, 3:14 PM

I’m in Mercaties’ boat in terms of different shifts. I used to work for a newspaper from 5 pm. until 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday for about 8 years. I left when I had my first child to go work a more traditional schedule, which I hated the thought of because I have never been the traditional sort. But I wanted regular times to be with my son like other people got, so THAT was a sacrifice on my part. After 4 1/2 years at that next job (which I ended up hating to the core 2 years into it) and after having my 2nd child, I am now working a job for almost 5 years that I LOVE because it suits my talents and personality and because the fact that I have a family and life doesn’t make me a leper there; almost all of us do at my current job. So when kids need to go to the doctor or they are sick, I can take them or work from home. When there is a school function, I can go. My husband and I are also on opposite shifts so I am the morning parent to get them off to school and THEN I go to work, and he is the afternoon/early evening parent to be home when they get home. (I still come home to homework and a messy kitchen.) I tend to work more than 8 hours as well, partly because I love what I do but also because of the way my schedule is to suit the rest of my life. And I do work from home too, again because it’s a job that is suited to my personality and life so it’s not an intrusion. I enjoy it. Having said all that, just the fact that I work takes some time away from the kids and makes me tired (I have a business too) but honestly, while I’d love to see society prioritize family, I know I am blessed with my situation.

Yes, there needs to be a better way that satisfies as many of your needs and desires as possible. It took me 12 years to land where I am and I needed all those 12 years to get the experiences I did in order to be qualified. But it was worth it. I am blessed.

Black Iris February 25, 2010, 3:25 PM

I think it would be better if we really supported parents who wanted to stay home in America. Tax credits for child care, Social Security credits, health insurance, Unemployment Insurance - and maybe a small stipend.
There’s a lot of pain out there now because the bad economy forces some women who want to be with their children to go earn money.

Christina February 25, 2010, 6:41 PM

I second Black Iris! There should be a “professional parent” status for the mum or dad who stays home with the little ones. I am doing the SAHM thing with my twin boys right now, mainly because there is NO work in my niche field in the area we are currently living. So why does it cost an arm and a leg for adequate child care, but when a parent stays home it’s not valued? Caring for a child (in my case twin boys) is a full-time job, and most of us who stay at home end up doing more than our fair share of the household chores as well. It’s doubly maddening to me, because I used to work as a nanny.

sissy February 25, 2010, 7:13 PM

Who cares!!! My boyfriend thinks the same with me. He is eight years older than me, lol. We met online at~ A_g_e_m_i_n_g_l_e.c o m ~a nice and free place for younger women and older men, or older women and younger men, to interact with each other. Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

tennmom February 25, 2010, 7:44 PM

I feel blessed to be able to stay home. My late-husband and I were married for 10 years before our first daughter was born, had another daughter 2 years later.
Our family is not rich by any definition but with luck we will be able to continue living happily on my “now” husband’s salary.
When our older daughter (now 12) is old enough to drive herself and her sister to school, I will go back to work.
My skill set, my career will always be there. My daughters were only 1, 2, 3, etc for a year each & will only be 10 & 12, 11 & 13 etc once.
So what if we can’t afford to have an inground pool put in the backyard right now or buy a larger house. Our current house is larger than our needs.
I don’t desire more, bigger, better. I love being able to take my kids to school, pick them up, volunteer at their schools. There is no amount of money worth the joy of being there for my daughters.

Todd Thompson February 25, 2010, 8:08 PM

Have you ever considered starting a home-based business part-time?

I myself am working part-time on a home-based business so I can eventually spend more time with my kids.

Right now I am missing many precious moments… Last week my 3 yr. old daughter asked me “Daddy can you come watch my swimming lessons?” I really hated to tell her “No, Daddy will still be working when you are at swimming lessons.” February 25, 2010, 9:48 PM

As a Mom who left a career to raise my first, it is hard. Not just financially, but emotionally. But! It’s awesome too. And, it typically gets better financially. In the beginning, the shock is tremendous and stressful, but over time, the budget gets tighter and usually, the working spouse has increased income. But really, as much as miss my career, and I’ve been asked to go back, I love the fact that my girls are early potty trainers and I was there to help them. I love that I can volunteer in their class and know their teacher, well! Not because it matters, but it makes me feel secure. I love that when they’re sick or hurt, I don’t have to take time off work and feel guilty. It’s truly irreplaceable, but it’s not for everyone, so think long and hard. It is quite isolating and you will miss adults and the extra cash. Just my $.02. :)

*Big Mama* February 25, 2010, 9:50 PM

Totally valid points, and ones I deal with every day. As a single parent and a full time student, I have no other option but to work. I was able to be a SAHM during their infant-toddler years, and am thankful for that.

At this point, I still wish I could be a SAHM. I can always work and get more money, but I can’t get this time back that I miss with them. Or when I’m exhausted at the end of the day and forget to truly enjoy story time and snuggling, but rather am trying to get through it so I can crash. My exhaustion steals my happy time, and I wish I didn’t have to work.

If I had the option, I choose to stay at home in a heart beat. The time we have with our children as children is limited with a no money back guarantee; it’s gonna pass whether we like it or not. We have to cherish it now.

I say do what makes you feel good, girl, because there are no second chances! =D

TheMacMommy February 25, 2010, 11:15 PM

I’m also with Black Iris and Christina!

It’s crazy on all fronts in my opinion. We were JUST having this conversation the other day. I was in tears trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong when all I want to do is do right by my kids and husband.

I am a SAHM and my husband is a public school teacher. We have two little boys. We’re a family of 4 on one salary and it’s really low because of the budget cuts in this state. My husband has worked over the summers he usually has off, puts himself through school to keep up with professional and certification requirements and has taken on extra responsibilities to make more money. I freelance part time when I can but with a newborn, I’m limited as to what I can do while he’s this little. Up until recently, the kids and I qualified for (paid premium) Medicaid (Hubby is provided insurance as part of his compensation). A mistake was made on the way my husband’s paycheck gets distributed and when I got kicked off Medicaid after delivering my son, I tried to reapply and ended up costing my sons their coverage because we got disqualified for income eligibility. I tried to use my husband’s salary contract, but they needed the pay stubs instead. My husband pleaded with his HR dept. to correct the mistake and they finally did so now his paycheck will soon reflect (under) the amount to qualify. Here’s the kicker: they have now capped Medicaid in this state and are no longer accepting applications. There is a waiting list of ~8,000. I just crunched the numbers again. Even with my husband’s slightly increased salary which is only for this fiscal year, if we were to pay for the health insurance offered by his district, it would make his monthly take home pay less than one of our mortgages alone. (Yes, mortgages plural. One for the home and one that we used to pay for our student loans because the stafford rates were a joke and eating us alive.)

If there is another way, I don’t know what the hell it is. I’ve tried. I went back to work full time when my first son was 8 weeks old. It ripped my heart to shreds. More than half of MY paycheck was going to daycare all so that someone else could “care” for my baby. The job I had was awesome and I loved it but when I returned from maternity leave, they transfered me to a new site where I had to work hard to start all over again and the new staff did not appreciate me like they did at the previous site. I was working for peanuts, retirement and healthcare but we were all completely miserable and sick all the time because of the school and daycare germs. After my C-section, my immune system was shot. I couldn’t recover from all the illnesses thrown at me all the time. I couldn’t be there for my job nor could I be there for my family. At what point do you say enough is enough? I reached my breaking point, quit my job and have been home ever since.

Babies do NOT keep. They grow up so fast. I was determined I was not going to miss out on my children while they’re children. I didn’t sign up for that and I felt it was unfair to them for me to not be around. It’s also not fair they should miss out on opportunities in life either like traveling or enhanced learning opportunities because we can not afford it. Luckily they are little yet and we hope we can figure something out. Hopefully I’ll find something lucrative when they are in school full time. I just keep telling myself this poverty is temporary and that the struggles now will pay off later.

I couldn’t help thinking we would be ok when we embarked on the journey of parenthood because I looked at mine and my husband’s family and saw how they were able to do so much more with so much less.

If it weren’t for health insurance problems, we would be happy. We live extremely modest. We’re practically hippies. We’ve even tried growing our own food. We make as many sacrifices as we can but it’s never enough. In this country you either have to be just poor enough or very rich and the middle struggles to scrape by.

If healthcare were more affordable and not so restrictive and confusing, we could afford to contribute more to the economy, and our own retirement. It’s not like I’m asking for free healthcare. We can afford to pay a small amount - like what it used to cost years ago - before I don’t know what changed and made it so out of control.

I know there are people who have it much worse than we do and it keeps me humble but it’s also frustrating because I put myself through college because I was told back then it would raise my earning potential and that it was a win win. While that’s partly true, the debt it created is what carried me under. By the time I started working in my field and working my way up the ladder, the recession had begun and layoffs were the new norm. I moved to the other side of the country for better opportunities and even that didn’t help.

I waited to have children till I had achieved certain goals: get my degree, get married and have a home. I achieved all those goals and rewarded myself with children. I’m now 35, have the husband and two boys of my dreams with a cozy tiny home, but we are in so much debt and have no health insurance. Retirement and savings? What are those? Never mind that we’ll also need to be caring for our aging parents in the next 10 years.

We are educated and resourceful women who WANT to work hard whether it be inside the home, outside the home or some combination of both so why isn’t that enough to make us successful and financially secure? I don’t get it either. Thanks for this post, it does help to at least vent a little and see other people are going through the same hard time and I’m not just going crazy all by myself.

Justy February 25, 2010, 11:35 PM

Read the book “The Love Children” by Marilyn French. It’ll make you think more about it. Communes are idealistic and maybe not exactly the answer…

nina February 26, 2010, 2:40 AM

I totally understand your situation, that’s its why I chose not to have a full time job, not even a part time job, I work on call. I have a ba in psychology and I love the field but my baby is going to be, well, a baby only once and I don’t want to miss that. I work at a luxury hotel as a banquet server, and I get pay a lot more per hour than most people with a degree. I know, I didn’t go to school to be a waitress, but that’s my sacrifice so that I can be with her at least until she goes to school. Also I live with my parents and I’m a single mom.

Aprilcot26 February 26, 2010, 7:11 AM

I’m pregnant with my first right now and this is something that my husband and I have really been struggling with. I would love more than anything to be able to stay at home. My husband doesn’t see it as important because his mom worked full-time while my mom was a SAHM until my brother and I were in school. It already kills me to think that I may not be the first one to see her smile, or sit up, or take her first steps because she’s in daycare. Even by cutting back, we just cannot survive on his salary alone.

z February 26, 2010, 7:12 AM

I think many of the comments are great short-term solutions but I feel that there needs to be a cultural shift before we can get to the point that that many other countries are in. Most other countries value children, truly see them as the future, and therefore when someone decides to parent it’s seen as valuable work. In the U.S. it seems like the majority views children as a nuisance or a choice someone has made.
We need a change to support all parents regardless of working status. Support with childcare, support with medical insurance, support for parents. Only when there is a shift to move beyond the traditional thinking then will we get the support.

jackie February 26, 2010, 8:25 AM

So many of us in the same boat. I got home last night and realized I had seen my 4 month old baby 2 hours all week long. I forget what she looks like. Is this what life is about? it’s sad. it’s so sad. Why is there no balance? At some point I hope we can have health insurance for part time work like they do in other countries. I would love to be at home with my children a little bit more.

michelle February 26, 2010, 10:37 AM

I think Black Iris has a great idea, but to go along with that we also need WAY MORE support for working parents. The current state of things is inhumane and anti-family. My husband is Canadian and we came very close to moving back to Canada. One year’s paid maternity leave (it’s not paid at 100%, but many employers voluntarily top you up to get you to 100%), subsidized and high quality day care (after that nice year at home with your child), free health care (which allows more parents to choose to stay home permanently), and to top it all off a higher standard of living. Parents there are happier and less stressed, and don’t have to struggle as hard as we do for the same or better life for their children. There is really no mystery to this: we can find a better model in other developed countries, one of them right in our backyard.

Anonymous February 27, 2010, 4:42 PM

wine, wine, wine

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