Should I stay or should I go now?
That’s both a song by The Clash and the big question many parents face regarding work. It’s not an easy choice. On the one hand, two incomes ease the budgetary constraints and prevent one person from shouldering the financial burden. On the other hand, childcare is not only incredibly expensive, but you feel like you’re missing out on your child’s life, especially during the early years.
So what’s the right call?
Well, that differs for everyone. For some families, having a stay-at-home parent simply isn’t an option. The finances absolutely don’t allow for it. In other families, the finances are more than ample, and the decision comes down to career considerations.
In my family, the decision came down to the need for sanity and missing my kid.
I made the decision to stay home when my oldest was a toddler — about 18 months or so. At the time, I was working in sales, and my hours were erratic at best. My husband worked in IT, which also demanded erratic hours and lots of travel time going from client to client.
We had to juggle our schedules for pick-ups and drop-offs at the babysitter’s, who lived 30 minutes north of us (and an hour from each of our jobs); we also had to juggle well-child checkups, sick days, and all of the other unpredictable aspects of raising a baby. We began to feel like most days we only saw each other long enough to grab a quick bite to eat and hand off our son.
I missed my husband, but more importantly, I missed my son terribly. I hated leaving him with the sitter. It broke my heart. I felt like I was missing out on his life; I wasn’t getting to see all the fun stuff that 18-month-olds do, and I was being told about it after the fact.
Finally, I realized that almost my entire pay was being eaten up by childcare expenses and the gas it took to drive all over town trying to juggle everything. It seemed ridiculous to me to be running myself ragged for what seemed like no good reason (and a job I didn’t even enjoy).
The final straw came when my husband came home from work one day to find me sitting on the living room floor crying. My son had said his first “sentence,” and I had missed it! A woman I’d known a matter of months had experienced a major milestone in my child’s life, not me.
I was done.
My husband and I sat down and went through our budget. Taking away my sales commissions would definitely impact our finances, but when we considered the amount of money we would be saving no longer paying the sitter (and the savings in gas), it almost balanced out. We decided it was worth it to tighten our belts and have me stay home, rather than miss out on any more of our child’s life.
Living on one income isn’t always easy. We’ve definitely had to make some sacrifices here and there to make it work, such as taking fewer vacations, and putting a pin in my career.
But at the end of the day, it was worth it for us.
Nowadays, I am finishing up a bachelor’s degree (distance learning, naturally), and I am pursuing this freelance writing thing (thanks Yahoo). I may decide to go back to work once my youngest is in school full time. Then again, maybe I won’t.
Either way, I will be forever grateful for my decision to stay home with my kids during their formative years. It was well worth all the sacrifices. And no, I don’t miss sales.