As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m working part-time this year. I am so lucky that the combination of my in-law’s willingness to watch Monito for a half day and my administration’s willingness to scale back my schedule has allowed for a really wonderful childcare situation for us. It is truly the best of both worlds: we save money and know our child is being cared for by people who love him very much. We are so, so fortunate to have this opportunity and honestly, I don’t know how we’d make it worth otherwise.
Amazingly, my in-laws have agreed to watch Monito again next year, if I remain part-time. Again, I am so thankful that they are doing us this MASSIVE favor, something we could never repay, ever. The debt we owe them is large (they don’t see it that way, but I do) and I am so grateful.
But this situation is not without drawbacks for our family. Of course, the drawbacks only affect me. It’s hard to get back to the city to pick Monito up by 1pm, which is the time we agreed upon. It means I have to be walking out the door less than ten minutes after my last class, which is difficult logistically, as I have to prepare my room for an after school camp that uses my space. I drive during my lunch hour, which means I don’t get to eat with my staff. Without that opportunity to socialize my job becomes very isolating–I can go days without exchanging more than a few words with other adults. Leaving before lunch also means I miss my prep period, so all my grading and planning has to happen at home, and all my copies have to be made before class starts. Basically, this situation not only makes it a lot harder to teach, it strips my job of the thing I like most about it (actually, it’s the ONLY thing I like about it). It makes my work situation pretty unpleasant.
Of course, the shitty situation at work is worth it for the money we save and the amazing family-provided child care we get for our son. I briefly considered other options for next year, options that involve me working full time and Monito being in paid-for care, but it quickly became apparent that no other options worked for our family. I know that what we have is priceless, it just sucks that I’m the one who has to sacrifice to make it a reality. (And please know that I recognize the sacrifices my in-laws are making are far greater. Again, I’m forever indebted to them for doing this).
And the shitty work conditions are not the only sacrifices I am making. By working part-time I am putting my future financial security at risk. Every year I work 80%, I am contributing (and my district is matching) only 80% of my normal contribution to STRS (teacher social security). It might not seem like much now, but if I work part-time for many years, early in my 30s, it really adds up. Small amounts in retirement now produce big returns in 30+ years. Every year that I work part-time I’m hurting my retirement significantly.
I am a teacher. I don’t make much. I’m only able to put $300 into a 403b account every month and still pay my bills. Retirement might feel impossibly far away, but I need to be thinking about it now. I want to assume that Mi.Vida and I will be together when we retire and that combined, our savings and retirement will be enough for us to live off of. But that scenario is not a guarantee. I’ve watched three relationships come to an end recently; one was a 25-year marriage. I don’t just blindly assume we will make it for the long haul. I need to protect myself–I can’t depend on Mi.Vida’s ability to take care of me, for so many reasons.
I read recently that while most working mothers return full time after the birth of their first child, the number drops dramatically after the birth of their second. Logistically it becomes much harder to manage two children and frequently one parent needs to go part-time to make it all work. That parent is usually the mother. When I look ahead to when Osita is at school and Monito is still in child care, I can’t fathom how we’ll get everyone where they need to be if I’m leaving the house before the family is even awake. I won’t be surprised if I end up going part-time and coming in later, instead of leaving earlier, like I do now. And the idea that I could be doing that for three or more years (on top of the three years I’ve already been part-time) kind of terrifies me. That many years of reduced pay, and reduced retirement contributions, will make a huge difference down the road.
I wonder sometimes, how SAHMs do it. Financial security is probably the number one reason that I would be hesitant to stay at home. And while I think it would be hard not to contribute financially–and I don’t know what that would ultimately do to my identity–I would be even more worried about spending all those years, early in my life, not putting money away for later, and/or not contributing to social security or a pension (do they even have pensions anymore?).
My parents are approaching retirement age, and after five years unemployment (my father), they are in dire financial straits. Neither has been contributing to retirement in half a decade, and they’ve been taking a little from saving every month to make ends meet. They will be working five, maybe ten years longer than they expected, and they have been VERY good with their money throughout their life. Watching them struggle with financial challenges they never expected to face has me concerned for my own future. I need to be thinking about these things now, when I can really make a difference in what I have later.
I have a lot of issues with the fact that I’m the one who is part-time now and I will most probably be the one who is part-time later. It doesn’t seem fair that I’m the one who has to sacrifice her financial security over a prolonged period of time. I’ve raised my concerns with Mi.Vida and while he understands them, he doesn’t feel there is much we can do about it at this point. And I suppose there isn’t. As soon as our health insurance gets picked up by Mi.Vida’s work I’m going to start putting more into my 403b–and my kids’ college–accounts. Hopefully it will be enough to offset how much less I’m vesting in STRS. (And yes, I know we’ll never have enough to send them to college. Just the thought of how much that is going to cost terrifies me.)
Do you work part-time or stay at home? Are you at all worried about future financial security, things like retirement? Have you felt uncomfortable about the sacrifices you’ve made for your family?