Is it worth it to be a working mom?

So the other day, I was thinking about the astounding amount of money Hubs and I pay for two measly days of daycare and a half day of babysitting for Grace. Since I am a freelance writer my income goes up and down, and some months it feels like it’s not worth it to work – financially, at least.

I threw together this little card and posted it on Facebook as I was contemplating the tiny amount of money I brought home last month:

daycare or work

And I asked the Honest Mom Facebook fans: Truth? Or sarcasm?

I was shocked at the response. It was one of the most commented on and shared Facebook posts I’ve ever done. 786 likes, 774 shares, 85 comments. Pretty big stuff for my page.

Obviously my ecard touched a nerve. And I can totally understand why – because I can empathize with both camps (working moms and SAHMs).

I used to work full-time. But when I was pregnant with Grace, I quit my job. I had had a complicated third trimester with Annie and  I was heading down the same road with Grace (early contractions due to stress because of – you guessed it – work). I did not want my baby or me to go through that stress again.

But even if I was having a smooth pregnancy, I likely still would have left. Because though I loved my job and my colleagues, I felt like my priorities were out of whack. I felt unbalanced.

I felt like I never saw Annie.

Monday through Friday, I dropped my two-year-old off at daycare at 8:00am and picked her up at 6pm. This meant I saw her for a total of two hours each day.

Two hours.

And they weren’t quality hours, either. They were consumed with eating and getting ready for school/bed. That was pretty much it.

It was killing me.

I knew Annie was in good hands. She loved daycare. I loved work. But I loved her more. And I missed her desperately.

Hubs and I went over the financial implications of me not working as much. I am fortunate that I am a copywriter and it’s something I can do from home as a freelancer. We knew we’d have to make some pretty decent adjustments, but we also knew I could ratchet up the freelancing gigs if needed.

Plus, Hubs was also missing Annie, and if I was home with her he figured he’d start working a day from home to maximize his time with her. And he’d also get extra time with her each day, since his short commute meant he usually got home by 5:30.

So I did it. I left my well-paying, ladder-climbing, fun yet stressful job. And I am now a part-time worker, part-time SAHM.

And I don’t regret it.

But honestly? I think I would if I wasn’t working at all.

When I left the corporate world, I was in a great place, career-wise. I had worked my BUTT OFF to get where I was. And I loved what I did. I couldn’t imagine leaving my career behind completely.

It’s not all about the money. The money is GREAT, of course. Earning a paycheck is very satisfying for me.

But for me, work isn’t just about money. It’s about professional and creative collaboration with adults I respect and enjoy working with. It’s about having a sense of pride and accomplishment in creating a successful email campaign, advertisement, or research paper.

And it’s also about … well … not being with my kids 24/7.

I’m not cut out to be a SAHM. If I was, I’d jump in and embrace the role whole-heartedly. But I’m not. I found that out in the years after Grace was born, when I basically was a SAHM.

I know that I’m a better mom because I have some separation from my kids a couple days a week.

I’m more patient and present with them when I’ve had my own time without them, doing something that has nothing to do with them.

This may sound unbelievable to SAHMs who love what they do. And the fact that I love working part-time yet enjoy my days home with Grace may sound crazy to full-time working moms who love what they do.

But there it is.

So, are those months where I bring home $56 after accounting for daycare/babysitting expenses worth it?

Hell, yes.

And that’s my final answer.


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36 Replies to “Is it worth it to be a working mom?”

  1. We sound SO alike. I also quit while pregnant. I went back to work when she was 9 mos old for just over a year and realized I was missing out and she was spending more time in daycare. So now I blog part-time and am a SAHM full-time-ish. Love this post!

  2. I agree with you. I have been both working and stay at home full time. I never loved staying home as much as I wanted to. I think we all need to accept each others choices instead o judging. You have a wonderul message and I agree with you!

  3. I'm struggling with this decision now. Thank you for not being on team work or SAH. It's a little hard to hear either argument when both scream that one way or the other is the only way. Wish me luck! =)

    1. I do wish you luck in making your decision Robin, and I wish you peace after you've made it. Remember that there will be difficult days, frustrating days, and totally amazing days no matter what you do. AND it's okay to change you mind again later on down the road, when life changes and you change you may find a different decision is right for you then.

  4. When we had both kids in daycare, I think we topped out at $617/wk. It ended up being something like $32K for the year – at which point you’ve bought an SUV, a year at a state school (plus room and board), and payed off a lot of credit/household debt. Since most of it is after-tax money, we calculated that I would need to have a job that makes at least $50-something thousand per year in order to afford daycare. (DH and I both do well, but he is higher compensated than I am, which means I’d be home if it had to come down to it.)

    After we did the math, it turned out that it was still a better deal for us to have both kids in – even though it really was a lot of money. Sure, we could’ve moved them to a less expensive place, but the switching costs were higher than we were willing to absorb. And, much like you noted so nicely, there’s a significant benefit from the intellectual stimulation you get from collaborating with other adults in a work environment.

    I think this is the struggle that many parents go through – moms and dads – SAHM, WFH, and WOH parents. It’s really tough trying to decide “what’s best” for you and your kids, when you’re bombarded with social messages, financial pressures, work pressures, etc., and EVERY situation is different. I’d never presume that I know what’s best for someone else’s family w/r/t daycare vs not; it’s a very personal decision. My guess is that you got such high response because it really is a raw nerve for so many, and no matter which decision you make, there’s often someone else (or even an inner voice) giving you a push to question yourself on some level about it.

  5. That card is 100% accurate for me. At my previous job, if it wasn’t for the fact that I carried the health insurance for the family my salary went entirely to daycare. When we saw the end of the year tax statements for our daycare for two kids, it was more than some of my single friends make in their full time jobs. Luckily, my current job was both a huge promotion and bump up financially, but for the last 4 months I’ve been living in a different state than my kids. And I still am writing this! They will move here hopefully as soon as kindergarten ends and our house sells. Which I hope won’t be much longer than another month. I love my kids and I love my job. For me, its definitely worth it. And in the long run this move is going to be so great for my family.

  6. I feel the same way, I work on a per diem basis sometimes I work as little as 1 day a week but it’s so worth it to have that time out of the house in the working world with adults.

  7. I would LOVE to be able to work part time and be with my kids the rest of the day(s). That would be so ideal. Unfortunately at the moment I'm the bread winner in the house and cant afford to go part time. 🙁 My time with the kids is short after work only having 1.5-2 hours with my son and 3-3.5 hours with my daughter and half of that time is dinner and bed routines. My job is just for the money so i can pay the bills and that includes ridiculos daycare costs.

  8. I feel the same way! Going part time at work felt great… although now I’m trying to blog and learn photography so I can leave that job for good because I am sick of corporate America 🙁 …. so basically now I’m doing like 3 jobs with part time daycare and pay only from one of them… writing this out I think I understand why my anxiety has been so high lately 😉

  9. I can 100% relate to this! I stay home now & I don't regret it because its precious time with my kids, but, I miss work, the feeling of success…sure I'm successful in picking up Legos 87 times per day & changing diapers & refereeing twin fights, but, honestly, that's not so fulfilling.

  10. In my opinion everyone should be allowed to be exactly the kind of mom that works best for their family. SAHM WAHM working full time or part time. We are all negotiating this crazy thing called raising kids as best we can. Moms should support each other, not judge for the choices the other mom has made.

  11. So you didn’t add that tag on Google+ (truth? or sarcasm?) which is where I saw your card, and I hadn’t read your post. I feel like a real douche bag now. Not that I was hateful but I found the card so hurtful, because I have heard and read things that are not sarcastic in anyway and imply that I would prefer to work than be with my son. Not the case, but my reality. Anyway, had to leave a comment now so that I could say I can empathize with what you’re saying, and understand.

  12. Good for you, JD. Great post! I'm the breadwinner in our family, like Christina, below, and I hate it. I am 42 and waited a long time for my son, and I'd give an arm to give it up and stay home with him. But I see your point – and I think you're right. Part time, to me, is probably the ideal situation. I hope to get there in the next year or two. At least I work from home, and that is a huge blessing.

  13. I haven’t worked since I’ve had kids, but I can agree with some of the sentiments that you’ve shared. I love writing and the online community that I interact with, and I get a little rush every time I make some money (no matter how small it is 😉 ). I think it’ so important for moms to have something of their own!

  14. I feel incredibly lucky that I am able to stay at home with my 2 old. although it is extremely tough financially, I feel like I would REGRET it for these young years because he's my only one. but at the same time I go crazy staying at home and having my whole world revolve around my son and bf. I have no personal anything. at one part I started a part time job only to make 2$ each day I worked after daycare. not including the gas to go to daycare then work then daycare then home. I only have 3 more years till he's in school and I don't get the option of seeing him when I want 🙁

  15. I hear where you are coming from. I find it funny when I tell people that I work-full time as a middle school teacher because the response is usually, “Oh, a teacher…that’s not REALLY working full-time…I mean, you are home by 4 and have the summers off.” I just laugh because the stress in my position (I also have some stipend positions in the building like running graduation and the 8th grade trip to DC) is outrageous, and show me a teacher who only works until 4 and doesn’t need to do something else, part-time in the summer and I’ll show you…well, I guess I won’t, because I don’t know any teachers like that. However, I’ve digressed…I love my job and I definitely think I am a better mother for being able to have something that is “for me” outside of the house. I’m re-energized when I go to work each day and I’m re-energized when my kids get off the bus each day. It’s a wonderful balance, for me.

  16. I was a SAHM. I’m grateful I had the opportunity. Very grateful. At the same time it was the hardest job I’ve ever done, and there came a point where it made me very twitchy. So I went to work part time and made just enough to cover child care.

  17. I would love the ability to freelance and work part time. I do miss that adult time. But I was a teacher in a VERY high stress district where extra time was expected – I was there 9-10 hours/day. I NEVER saw my kids and daycare was obscene. So leaving made financial and logical sense. BUT I hate that everyone is so touchy about their respective “camps”. We shouldn’t HAVE to justify. Decide what works for your family. End of story.

  18. I worked half and half for quite a while and found it the perfect balance. I could never have been a SAHM mom either, so it worked for all of us. I don’t regret it at all!! Sometimes it seems other moms feel they HAVE to stay at home full time in order to be a “good mom” and I feel badly for them that they believe that. It’s quality not quantity!!! Nice post:)

  19. That’s my life. You just basically wrote about my life, and I wholeheartedly agree. I’m also a freelancer, though I worked full-time (and then some) before my daughter was born, and then was a full-time SAHM for a year after she was born. What I have now is a really good balance, and I think working part-time makes me a better parent. I can be more present when Nora and I are together, since we’re not always 100% together with no breaks and no one to give a little relief from child-care responsibilities other than my husband (and let’s face it, that was starting to be a dynamic in my marriage that I didn’t love).

    So yes, I am very happy the way things stand right now. Although, since I am just starting out as a writer, I only break even on Nora’s preschool expenses about half the time. Does that make me feel a little guilty? Sometimes. But I know it’s worth it, and I know that the networking and free work I’m doing now will pay dividends in the long run, and that I’ll be able to work more down the line, once she starts school.

    So anyway, yes, well-said. *hat tip*

  20. Whenever it comes between my mental health and our financial health I have to weigh on the side of mental health, (within in reason of course!! Lol!). I always feel the money I need to spend to keep me functioning as a healthy happy mom is well worth it for everyone in my family! Thanks for a great post!!

  21. Also, yes. For me. I think it is a personal decision, obviously. I recently went back to work part-time and it is making me very happy. (That’s in addition to the, like, four cents an hour I get from my freelance writing.) On the other hand, if I was back full-time, regardless of the pay, I think I’d be suicidal right now, and I’m completely serious about that. Glad you’ve found your place. Not everyone can say that. xo

  22. I’m making all these decisions now. My son is two. For the past five years, I’ve been working full time (or nearly) on getting my doctorate. And not getting paid. I want to work again, but my husband works long hours, and I’m afraid that I’ll be too overwhelmed with a full-time job. And day care IS so expensive! But flexible jobs are difficult to find. And I do feel like it’s also a decision about my “mental” sanity. Staying home is tremendously hard too…

  23. I feel the exact same way! I am working full-time now and would love to find a part-time job in my field but, sadly, they are pretty much non-existent. But like you, I need the the creative outlet, having my own time without my kids. It truly keeps me sane, even though it’s stressful at the same time, if that makes any sense. It makes me sad that there’s still this “war” between working vs. SAHM moms. When are people going to see there is no right answer? What’s right for me may not be right for the mom down the street, and that’s okay. We’re all individuals with our own situations.

  24. I’ve been a SAHM since I got pregnant with my first (puking 5-7 times a day makes it hard to keep going to work), and I love it. I never understand why women feel the need to be so defensive about their decisions. I’m sure there are things that are easier about staying home, but I’m also sure there are things that are easier about working. It’s not as cut and dried as people like to make it seem. Your set up sounds pretty awesome, I’m glad you guys were able to find something that works for you! Every now and then I look at our finances and think about trying to find a job in my field, but the one time I actually got a job offer made me realize that I didn’t want to. I want to stay home with my kids. Sure, there are some days that I’m a little jealous of my husband when he leaves for work, but most of the time I’m so grateful that I was able to make the choice to stay at home.

  25. Completely agree with you here! This is such a huge dilemma for moms and, increasingly, dads. A middle ground is easier said than done sometimes (commitment to daycare costs plus fluctuating income is tricky) but for me it’s the holy grail of working parenthood.

  26. Amen. Tired of the squabbling over which is “right.” I’ve been a SAHM for about 4 years, and love it. Since I started blogging, and have been taking advantage of a free childcare option (about 4-6hrs/week) that my kids love, I LOVE it even more. 😀 Many moms AND kids do better with some part-time space away from each other.

  27. well said. Exactly what I’ve thought for the last ten years. My husband doesn’t quite get it, but he knows me well enough to know that he doesn’t want to see me crazy. again. 😉

  28. I hear ya. I felt the same exact way. I went back to work part-time after my 1st was born & I loved it. I said it was the best of both worlds. Then the part of the co. I worked for was sold off & I was out of a job. I found myself at home w/ a baby climbing the walls. Being a mother is a tough gig – the tasks are endless & your kids need you – so I was glad I could be home to provide the loving environment they needed, but it is definitely nice to have that balance.

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