On Being a Working Mom in America

I haven’t written about this in a long time, but it’s something I think about constantly. I am a working mom in America, a country where working mothers comprise half the workforce and yet earn not only less than men in their same positions but also less than women who don’t have kids. I am a working mom in America, one of the only developed nations without a national paid maternity leave. I am a working mom in America, where quality childcare is difficult to find, where most employers do not support flexible schedules and where women with children are frequently pushed onto the “mommy track” where they will get less responsibility and fewer promotions.

I will be the first to admit that, as far as working mothers go, I have it pretty darn good. As a teacher in a public school my salary is dependent on my level of education and my years of service in the district; there are no men (or childless women) at my level making more than me, and I don’t have to worry about men or younger, childless women getting promotions that I feel I deserve. While it can feel stifling to only take a miniscule step on the pay scale every year (I’m actually approaching the place where I no longer move up on the pay scale, I’ve been working in my district for so long), at least I know what I should be making and that no one is paying me less than anyone else.

There are other benefits to being a teacher, the obvious being the (cumulative) month off of school during the year and the eight weeks off during the summer. The hours are a double edged sword, I have to be in so early that I don’t see my kids in the morning (and my husband has to managed them without my help) but I’m also home earlier, so my kids aren’t in daycare until dinner time (yes, teachers work a full eight hour day, plus all the extra time they spend in meetings, planning and grading papers).

Being a teacher can also be restrictive. The nature of my job means there is very little flexibility when it comes to schedule. I have been lucky enough to have accommodating administrators and was able to create schedules that provided the wiggle room my family has needed over the years. But that has also meant that I have had to move to part-time (80%) which affects my financial security, especially my retirement. My family never once discussed if Mi.Vida should be the one to take the cut, even when we made exactly the same amount of money (I actually made marginally more than him for many years), and I imagine that is the case in many families. For most Americans, it’s the woman who leaves her job, or reduces her hours, when kids come.

Being a working mom is hard. Really hard. (And I know being a SAHM is hard too–I’m not trying to compare the two, I’m only speaking about my own experience here.) You constantly feel pulled in a million directions, with your job, your children, your partner, your friends, and your chores all vying for your attention. There is never enough time for any one thing and there is a constant awareness of how much you are failing everyone. You’re exhausted and behind at work, thinking about your kids and then you’re overwhelmed at home, distracted by work. You are plagued by guilt, judging yourself for the ways you’re not being the employee you want to be and deriding yourself all the ways you’re short-changing your children. (If you had time, you’d also beat yourself up for what a shitty wife you’ve become.) And if you weren’t judging yourself enough, you’re aware of others judging you too. Your co-workers question your commitment when you have to leave early to pick up your sick kid and other moms ask you what it’s like for someone else to raise your children for you. My in-laws favorite jab is the timeless, “We didn’t raise our kids that way,” with which they mean, “we raised our kids ourselves, we didn’t ask family, or pay strangers, to do it for us.”

There are some days when it feels like entirely too much, like I’m drowning in a pool of ever deepening expectation. Some days it feels like a rat race, like I’m just racing from one of my many personas to another, never inhabiting any of them fully. Sometimes my alarm goes off at 5:30am and I’m literally moving non-stop until 11:30 at night. During those 18 hours I transition from one identity to the another over a dozen times. It’s exhausting.

I recently read Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink and seethed with rage at how difficult mothers have in America today. While I don’t have as stressful a job as the author, I could relate to so much of her experience. Reading the statistics she listed about working moms in America left me feeling incredibly depressed. It shouldn’t have to be this hard. When the majority of families need two earners just to get by, it shouldn’t feel so impossible to make it work.

Mi.Vida and I live in the most expensive city in the United States (yes, both San Francisco’s rents and home prices (this is average dollars per square foot of living space) have surpassed New York City, and childcare also costs more here than anywhere in the country). With the current tech boom, the difference between the rich and the poor is greater than anywhere in the country. The middle class is being pushed out, and for a public school teacher and city employee, just making ends meet is a Sisyphus-ian endeavour. I know we could choose to live somewhere else, but this is our home. Mi.Vida grew up here and my family has been in the Bay Area for 20 years. Both sets of parents live nearby, and if we want to have them in our lives, we have to spend a lot of money to stay here.

Some days I wish Mi.Vida made enough for me to stay home (he’d have to make at least TWICE as much as he makes now). Some days I wish that there were other options, that I could stop working if it became too much. But I must also admit that most days I’m relieved that I don’t have a choice, because honestly, I don’t know how I’d make that choice. The unknowns of leaving my job, even for only 2-3 years, are so debilitating. What if I couldn’t find a job when I was ready to go back? What if I were only able to find a job that paid significantly less than my current job? What if I weren’t working and my husband lost his job and we lost our house? What if I hated being home full time? What if I loved it and never wanted to go back? I don’t know if I would have the courage to make those sacrifices, if the choice were available to me. I know the choice would torment me, no matter what I decision I made.

Being a working mom is hard, whether you have a choice or not, but it doesn’t have to be. There are lots of ways our government, and our  employers, can make it easier. In fact, it benefits individual business, and the nation as a whole, when dual earner families are supported. Flexible work schedules, production-based expectations (where employees are paid for what they produce and not how much face time they put in at the office) and increased sick leave all increase not only morale but creativity and productivity. Caring for children hones many valuable skills that are transferable in the workplace. If we valued care giving, and recognized how difficult it is and the skills necessary to do it well, maybe women wouldn’t be so afraid to leave a gaping hole in their resume when they stay home for several years. If part-time positions or job shares were more accepted and available, women wouldn’t have to make the definitive choice between working outside of the home or being confined to it.

I am a WOHM, and I don’t have any choice in the matter, but I wish I did. I wish other women, who do have choices, had more and better ones to choose from. I wish it weren’t such an all or nothing game, where striking a balance feels all but impossible not matter what you choose. I wish the work mothers do was valued and appreciated. I wish that systems were in place so that even if I couldn’t afford to leave my job completely, I still might spend more time with my family, and that I wouldn’t have to be terrified of the ramifications of doing that. I wish it were all just so very, very different.

If you are a working mom, what is the experience like for you? If you’re currently a stay at home mom, how did you make that choice? Do you think the US should do more to support dual earner families? Why or why not?

27 responses

  1. The longer I am a working mom, with my son in elementary school, the more strongly I feel that I need to be home more than I am. His afterschool program, while a good option for us currently, seems to be a lot more chaotic than I’d like – and the older kids seem to the the ones you’d label as “troublemakers.” I do not know how we can manage this schedule in the years where there is homework, and standardized tests.

    Having two working parents limits his chances of being involved with organized sports, too. This year sports is decent, it’s once a week on the weekends, but starting next year when he moves out of tee ball, baseball will be three nights a week. I am not sure how it’s possible to get it all done: homework, baseball, a healthy balanced dinner, AND a good night of sleep when we’re only getting our son at 5 or 5:30. How does that even work?

    The answer is, it doesn’t. Not well, anyway. We’re all maxed out: kids AND parents. I don’t know what the right answer is, but I know that one of the things I want, more than anything, is to make our life simpler. The more I think about it, the more the desire in me to stay home full time grows. And I need to figure out how to scale back slowly, so that eventually we CAN afford it. Or created my own business with my own hours so that I can pay the bills AND be home more. I want to give our family the gift of a simpler life SOMEHOW. And I keep thinking that the more I put it out there and try and make choices that help that, eventually we’ll get there.

    I hope.

    • This is really interesting. I guess because I’m a teacher, I assume it will be a bit easier when my kids are in school, but the reality is that I have a lot of commitments after the day is over, and it will be that much harder for my husband to get two kids to two different places when my daughter is in school. I keep thinking, SOON WE WON’T BE PAYING FOR CHILDCARE, IT WILL BE SO MUCH EASIER! But I wonder if that won’t be the case at all. Thanks for your perspective on this, it’s a valuable one.

  2. As a working Mom, I feel pulled in different directions. I once read an article that if working Moms are working 40+ hrs at work…then go home and work more PLUS work at home (kids, house work, etc.) she’s working at best, 80+ hrs. Seriously.

    I feel the guilt Oh do I feel it. I’m reminded by my Mom how she was a SAHM and made it work with 3 kids. I am reminded by the SAHM who judges me, slightly, for not taking care of my kids, making homemade food, crafts, etc…and by the men at work – as I work in a corporate environment – believe all women are good for, are making babies & taking care of them, while they bring home the bacon.

    I think the US is trying to implement government programs, raises in pay (hopefully) and attempting to see that the middle class, which is slowly being pushed out, makes up quite a bit of America. But there has to be more.

    In any event, I listen to a podcast called, One Bad Mother. Funny show about working Moms (so awesome)…and they had a show on working Moms and SAHM. They said, the main 3 things these Moms, ALL moms had in common were.
    1. We are always tired
    2. We never make enough time for ourselves
    3. Guilt. Always guilt. Guilt about making time. Guilt about working. Guilt about not working. Guilt about the kids, The Hubs….the list goes on.

    Anyhow, most wonderful post, eloquent as always!

    • I’ve had THREE women at my work tell me that I was going to “seriously regret” not making the sacrifices to stay at home with my young children. It drives me crazy because all of their husbands make tons of money, and they became teachers later in life, when their kids were older, not out of financial necessity but for other, personal reasons. I am not a teacher for personal reasons, I’m a teacher to pay my bills and hopefully see my kids a bit more than I would if I worked at different job. I hate when people tell me that I’m going to regret my choice, because it’s not a choice, and their flippant comments just compound my guilt. It drives me crazy.

      I’ve read that about WOHM moms as well. I don’t want to get into the who works harder–WOHM or SAHM–debate, but it drives me kind of crazy when people say that SAHM have a 24/7 job. Don’t ALL moms have a 24/7 job? Just because WOHM use childcare during the business day (or whenever they work) doesn’t mean they come home and have no responsibilities. We come home and spend the evenings and nights and mornings and weekends with our kids, doing all the same chores that SAHMs do (at least I do, I can’t afford for anyone to clean my house, or do my laundry, or any of that stuff). We make our kids’ meals and take care of them when they are sick and night parent them and all those things. I just don’t get SAHM have a 24/7 job line. ALL moms have a 24/7 job. EVERY SINGLE ONE. (And I’m not saying SAHM don’t work all day, because I KNOW they do. I don’t know if I could do that kind of work all day, I honestly don’t, which is one of the reasons I’m kind of relieved I don’t have a choice in the matter. I’m kind of terrified to have confirmation of my mom’s belief that I’d be a “miserable” SAHM.)

      And yes, you’re right about the three things that all moms are. Absolutely. We’re all exhausted, and bad about taking care of ourselves and guilt stricken about our choices.

  3. I was an older mother when I conceived Zoe — like many of us going through infertility… I was 38 and had a career of teaching behind me. I vividly remember the speech I gave to one of my morning classes at the community college where I told them that as both a mother and a teacher… (At the time I was co-parenting our five-year-old son halftime) that I felt for me I was not doing anything well. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned my own personal limitations and one of those is that I cannot balance simultaneous things and do them well, it just isn’t in me. I saw my mother struggle as a single parent and full-time working mother with no child support no living spouse and I know how difficult and grueling it can be. I remember the excruciating pain though at giving up my identity that I worked so hard for as a college instructor. I am not terrific at so many of the things that stay-at-home motherhood entails. I struggle because it’s not valued as work. How did I make the choice? Well, we could make the choice. We don’t both have new cars (or new cars all we have old models my husband drives a 12-year-old pickup truck )we won’t live in a fancy neighborhood like many of my husbands colleagues. We don’t go out to eat but maybe once a year together. We got all of our pieces in place and just sort of hold steady. The same 20-year-old furniture etc. my husband makes far more than what I did and my salary simply was not more than what we would pay in childcare. My husbands an attorney but not with a big firm. He’s self-employed — pays iall his own overhead pays two employees and then has a take-home salary of about twice what I made as a college instructor and I made about $38,000 a year. Everything else funnels back into the business. We can take a draw if something extraordinary happens and his widowed mother has enough financial cushion that she helps us out — like when we found the tiny cabin that was my husband’s dream. We never would’ve been able to make a down payment had it not been for his mother.

    My husband’s extended family is in Europe. Their lives are just very different there. They extend their family time, work no more than they have to, support the mothers who are working. Trust in their schools and childcare situations.

    As a lifelong feminist I’ve always believed that we need to support working mothers and part of that is having affordable childcare and maybe even free childcare in workplaces. Last story: at the community college where I taught there was a child care that students could use for free as well as instructors. One of the last years I was there the student council voted to close it. The students on the student council were not representative of the student body and that was one choice that sort of exemplified the gulf.

    So yes absolutely we should support dual earner families. It should not be this hard.

    I am in awe of all of the women I know who balance working & motherhood.

    Xo

    Pam

    • As a teacher who dreams one day of getting a community college position, and knowing how incredibly hard it is to get your foot in the door at those schools, and how coveted those positions are, I can understand how difficult it would to step away from that, especially knowing how hard it would be to go back. That is the kind of decision I don’t think I could make. It would be really hard and I don’t envy you having to make it. Do you think much about what your future plans are? Do you think you’ll stay at home as your daughter goes through school? Will you eventually try to reenter the workforce? If so, in what capacity.

      I think it would be really hard for me to let go of my professional identity, even though the “teacher” identity is a strange one because most people don’t respect teachers much or think of them as professionals. So I don’t get a lot of respect from being a teacher, but I do have a separate (and someone fulfilling) identity as teacher and I think that does benefit me in many ways. I would also feel very financially vulnerable, both as half of a couple and as a woman who might some day find herself alone. I have a cousin who has struggled greatly after a divorce because she’s been out of the workforce for so long, can’t find a good job and can’t live on the alimony and child support she was awarded (which doesn’t always come through anyway). Her situation affected me greatly, and I will admit, scared me quite a bit. I suspect that if I had the chance to stay at home I might not take it, primarily out of fear. Which is shitty to realize, because I don’t want to live my life dictated by fear.

      • In order to respond to this I actually poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down at the computer — which I rarely do these days — everything happens on my phone (I hate that infernal device — love/hate) Anyway. I completely hear you.

        You know from reading my blog that my father died when I was in kindergarten leaving my mother and me in dire dire straits. I won’t go into all of it here — but I will say that I saw her social security report not long ago and noted one year at 12, 000 . I don’t know that my life was ever governed by anything BUT fear, forever working without a net was terrifying. It has been life’s singular lesson in vulnerability and open-ness — allowing for G to take care of us in the way he can — and I take care of all of us in the way that I can — and I had to rewire my own fear about my own worth and capability — G and I have made sure we have insurance etc. — things my father never had. Let me be clear — we care for one another — but reconfiguring my own ideas about partnership were really challenging. Not only did I never imagine it for myself –I never had a model. ( My mother never remarried and so I lived a life without seeing partnership.)

        Giving up tenure — a hard-fought tenure — was in the moment — easy — because I knew what I wanted most was to be the mother my own mother could never be — I wanted that more than I wanted my work; it’s in retrospect now that Zoe’s four and a half — and W a freshman in High School next year — that I’ve thought in moments “what on earth did I do???” but, if I’m honest with myself — in my heart I wanted to publish and have a job beyond teaching Freshman Composition — my dream was larger than the job itself — and in giving it up perhaps I’ve made way for a new life ahead — but I can’t tell you what it might be. I’d like to finish that novel — publish with a local press –have a small but fulfilling literary life here locally. Times have changed for those with aspirations to being a mid-list novelist — so I really don’t know what is ahead. I frankly think that the early years are easy for child-care – we are seeing now with our teenaged son that those are the years you really need to be around — even when they fervently wish you weren’t. I may not re-enter the workforce –and lately I’ve been asking myself how I can be a better stay-at-home manager and mom. This is my work — my husband works his ass off and hates it half of the time — he deserves his own time “off” and so my challenge it to become better — at managing the money, the budget, the food, the cooking, the cleaning , the household repairs, the laundry, everything. Recently Z was frustrated that I couldn’t play with her — I had “work” to do — and I said “this is what my job is — does it look like fun?” And she very vociferously said “NO” — she’d seen me scooping cat litter and scrubbing cat vomit and bathing the dog and cleaning spilled milk — and then she paused and said “do you like it?” And I paused too — and answered truthfully “Sometimes I don’t really like all the yucky work but getting to be home and be your mom is the best job I could ever have…” and so, if I die as “mother of two” — and that’s it — I’m okay with that.

        I thought of this after it was clear that I had voiced an opinion that certainly comes from a privileged place. I thought about the factors that came together to allow me to stay at home — I guess what I was trying to say was that we did have to have hard conversations about what life would look like — and be honest with ourselves.

        I know the mothers of my brother’s children (they are a GLBT family) both would never have dreamed of giving up their very high profile careers to stay at home — in the culture they live in it made sense to hire a nanny in addition my own brother’s heavy involvement as “dad.” My husband has a ton of colleagues whose wives are also attorneys –whether by choice or design their lives became defined by dual incomes — and I’m sure in some cases some could not be dialed back — in others they preferred both to preserve their working identity and the life two incomes afforded them. When my husband and I moved in together two years prior to marrying — my income was always treated as extra. We lived on a single income and I took the max for retirement, saved as much as I could. He was nearly 40 then.

        I’m 42 now — my husband, at nearly 50, has been well into his career for all of this time, making our choice more possible — he made some savvy decisions in his 20s having bought a four-plex (four unit apartment) that we used to live in and now generates income. Those things are largely luck. We live in a relatively affordable city (who the hell wants to live in 40 below???) — he has a good job and for now, his health — his mother defrayed the costs we would have had to absorb for IVF and she is very generous — I never knew that parents did things like give their children money for down payments.

        The bottom line is that we should do more to make it possible for whatever configurations works for each family — if a woman wants to work –she should have access to wonderful and affordable child care;Families should be able, on a single income, to buy a home, afford insurance, feed their families.

        I never ever take my privilege for granted. I can’t tell you the number of times I sit in my car and am thankful for it all: a car that doesn’t break down, money for gas, not having to make decision in the grocery line for how much I can afford. Serious apologies to your readers if my earlier comment seemed to imply that frugality alone would make such a decision possible. I know it’s much more complex than that.

        Best wishes for you E — someone gave me the advice once about truly following your heart and gut — that to do that never leads in the wrong direction. Marianne Williamson always writes about love vs. fear. Making the choice I did — was maybe the first time in my life I didn’t let fear win.

        xo,

        Sorry this turned into a novel in and of itself.

  4. I am a physician but cut back to part-time when my kids were born. I feel very much like you by the fact that I am pulled in so many directions and feel like I half crap everything I do. It is very hard juggling all of it. For years I just wanted to quit and stay home but my large student debt loan was such that I couldn’t. It was actually more than our house. My loans are paid off now, though so that is good.

    • Juggling is definitely what it feels like. I’m always switching back and forth. I’m checking emails from parents while I wait for my daughter’s dinner to cook. I’m thinking about lesson plans for the next day when I snuggle my daughter before bed. I worry about what kind of day my daughter is having at school when my students are working in groups. I carry my phone with me everywhere in case the school calls to tell me my daughter is sick and needs to get picked up.

      We also have graduate school loans, but they have been paid down to the point where they don’t determine decisions like they used to. I will feel a great weight off my shoulders when I finally pay off my graduate school loans, and my credit card debt. Maybe then I can actually start saving.

  5. I feel really really REALLY fortunate that both my husband and I have flexible jobs and we are making it work in ways that seem a lot easier than other’ experiences. I am worried about what Serenity wrote about above, though—in many ways, daycare schedules make things really easy because they match our schedules quite well (other than this winter of many snow days, there are only 1-2 days a year that the school is closed and work is not, and our center has 6:30 AM-6:30 PM hours, though my kids are generally only there 9-5). I’m seriously contemplating part-time when B starts elementary school, so that I can be there when he gets home, rather than having to bus him off to an after-school program after a full day at school. Summers are another tough time for school kids—cobbling together multiple different camps and programs to get through three months when deep down I wish they could just be relaxing like I got to do as a kid… I see my friends and colleagues stressing about summer every year. Not looking forward to that.

    • I have to say, summers are THE REASON I became a teacher and it will be THE REASON I keep teaching, despite not finding it very fulfilling. I do love spending my summer with my kids, and I love that when my daughter’s school is closed, I’m off too. We get to spend two weeks together at Christmas, a few extra days around Easter, and once she’s in school we’ll get summers together. That is invaluable time, and I don’t take it for granted. It’s probably the thing that is keeping us sane, and I don’t know how dual earner parents who don’t have that time off do it. I wonder that all the time.

  6. I so get it. And like you, we live in an expensive area–Monterey. I grew up here, my elderly father is here, etc. We live in a modest house. I kind of resent comments like “oh we do without, we don’t drive fancy cars, etc.” that imply if only we did that, I could stay home too. Implying that since I work it must be to keep up some fancy lifestyle. (Sorry above commenter, but that’s how it sounds). We live very frugally. Life is just expensive. We spent over 100K in treatments to have our kids. That would have gone towards our house down payment and reduce our mortgage, but it didn’t. It’s not like we live in Pebble Beach. But the reality is we need both incomes and the great health insurance I get through work. We have no choice. And fortunately my kids go to a great day care center.

    It is so lame how our country treats working mothers. One of only 3 developed countries without paid maternity leave. And California is supposed to be the shining example, but not for everyone. There is SDI which gives up to 12 weeks pre/post birth disability AND 6 weeks paid family leave to bond (which really is not nearly enough but it is better than most states give). Well, I am a government employee and there is some sort of loophole where many govt employees don’t get SDI. So literally I got zero paid maternity leave. I went to work day after day sick as can be when pg with my 2nd (and my 1st but it was much worse with my 2nd), since I knew any day I took off would be one day less paid time with my baby.

    • I know what you mean about reading that implication into what some people say about the modest life they live to make it work. I think some imply that (I know a few women at my work were implying that because they straight out SAID that if I tried harder (like they did, evidently) I’d be able to make ends meet. I think other people (like Pam above) are just explaining the choices they made to make it work. We only have one car (which we bought used, for cash, right before our daughter was born), we don’t eat out much (pizza that costs $20 (literally, with tip) and lasts for three dinners–so less than $3.50 a meal), we never go on vacation, we don’t go out, we don’t even buy beer and soda to drink at home. Sure we see a movie ever 3-4 months, but the $100 we spend on that is not going to be the deciding factor on whether I could stay at home. After just three months of maternity leave we racked up $10K in debt, so yeah, it’s not going to work for me to not be making money. There is just no way and I HATE it when people tell me that it’s just a matter of sacrifices, and that anyone can make it work (again, most people are NOT saying this, at all).

  7. I love how you are talking about this important issue and how it is generating such a great discussion. On your recommendation I’m reading ‘all joy and no fun’ and I am enjoying it so much. I agree that it is so dismal how the US treats mothers. It will be such a shock for us coming from Canada. The fact that you we make it work is amazing; the price we pay with guilt and lack of time for self is saddening. Thank you so much for talking about this stuff!

    • Isn’t All Joy and No Fun so good! When I first heard about it I wasn’t interested but then I read it and LOVED it. Such a great book.

      I can imagine you are very unimpressed by our support systems (or lack there of) coming from Canada. Frankly, I’m embarrassed. We fail miserably at this stuff, especially when compared to countries like Canada, who have such amazing maternity leave support in place.

      Thanks for participating in the discussion.

  8. Sigh. I feel I could write a whole book on this subject, if only I could get my thoughts in order. I’m currently a SAHM and even though it is ridiculously hard and I am jealous of working moms for things like…wearing mascara or having a moment where they think about something else other than babies, I believe it is ultimately the harder way to go. I honestly don’t know how you juggle so much at once. I agree that America is just not set up for it. I don’t know what the solution is, and ultimately I think it would require an ideological shift for the entire nation away from go-go-go and money-money-money. In the meantime, whatever side of the page you fall on, it’s hard. I still agonize about being away from work and worry I will “fall behind” or that I am “wasting” my PhD. I also worry about judgement from my professional colleagues. But, I know I lucky to have a flexible career and a husband whose company is doing well enough to make it possible. Keep up the good work. You amaze me!

    • Well I don’t wear mascara, but I do get to think about stuff other than my kids. Unfortunately, in my line of work, usually I’m thinking about other people’s kids. 😉

      I think that is one thing that makes being a teacher different from other professions, is that I don’t get to spend time with other adults, or have the flexibility to run errands on my lunch break, or enjoy the things that I see other women tout as reasons they like to work outside the home. I leave my kids to go deal with dozens and dozens of other people’s kids. So yeah, it’s hard. I don’t get to have meaningful adult conversations, I don’t get to do productive things away from my kids, and yet I don’t get to be with my kids. If it weren’t for breaks and summer, I’d probably leave the teaching profession entirely.

  9. Have you read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s commencement speech? http://now.tufts.edu/anne-marie-slaughters-commencement-address … It is worth a read. She discusses how it takes both partners being willing to compromise, and she has stated in the past that women in America simply can’t “have it all”. I am currently a SAHM and I have 2 children, ages 3.5 and 1.5 … I returned to graduate school after my first was born, and currently am wrapping up my last 200 internship hours toward becoming a school counselor. I took on student loans (to the tune of around $70K after everything is said and done) to stay home. Was it the right choice? I have no idea. It seemed right at the time. I breastfed my first until 26 months and currently breastfeed my youngest, and I doubt I could have done that working. I too live in the Bay Area, and we live in a small apartment, we hardly eat out, etc. I don’t feel it would be worth the expense of childcare to go to work at this time. However, I know I have to go to work within the next year or so. Thanks for exploring this issue… It is complex, and it’s nice to hear others’ experiences.

    • I also like hearing other people’s experiences. This has been a really gratifying comment section. 😉

      I don’t think I’ve read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s commencement speech but I did read her article in The Atlantic (that was her right?) I actually really liked it. I’ll definitely read her commencement speech. Thanks for providing the link.

  10. Having two really does make the childcare situation a wash. If we had to hire a nanny or even do a nanny share I’d be making very little these first two years of my son’s life. The only reason it is working for us is that my in-laws are watching my son if I work part-time, so his childcare is only costing us $900 a month (the amount I lose being 80%). So together, both our kids’ childcare is $2K a month, which is hard for us to absorb. Really hard. I keep saying it will get better in a couple years but I don’t know if it will. What is after-K care costs nearly as much as my daughter’s current preschool/daycare situation? What then?

    I also went back to graduate school when my daughter was young and racked up a significant amount of debt. I’m not sure if it was the right choice. There are times I think maybe it was helpful, other times I’m sure it was a massively expensive mistake. I guess only time will tell.

  11. I am so ashamed of America every time I think of how we treat working parents (especially moms but we have no paid leave for any parents at all). I’m starting what amounts to work very soon and it’s a mess. This year it made sense for my spouse to take a part time job to watch the baby rather than putting her in childcare because the high cost of infant care was more than a job would have paid (and there wasn’t a job available either at that, pesky unemployment being high). We are unusual in that I’m going to be the primary income and that we’ve talked about how if it works better, my spouse will stay home with the kids, but probably only until a baby got to non-infant childcare rates since we find dual income important for our personal security. We decided that pharmacy school might only work if my spouse were home to care for a baby so I guess we are odd in that we’ve had the conversation about if we can afford for someone to stay home, it would be the one of us making less money and that’s not going to be me.

    I guess I’d add that it’s frustrating to me as a healthcare professional that we have such terrible work-life balance in that field. It’s awful in other professions too but I feel it’s especially stupid to try to help people get better/stay well while working so much it makes us sick and then working WHILE sick. Pharmacists rarely have normal hours or not consistently daytime hours and working one or two weekends a month is typical so it’s really hard to manage childcare unless the spouse is working a daytime only job or can work part time or not at all. It bugs the pants off of me that we have a staffed hospital at night and no childcare available. I can’t think of any hospital in the US that has on-site childcare yet it’s a place where there are oodles of employees who have children who need care. One employer I know of locally works with a childcare center to have 24 hour care available for workers on all 3 shifts but that’s unusual. Not everyone can work days but childcare outside of days is next to impossible to find. In our area it’s hard to find childcare after 5pm which means no commute is possible if you have 9-5 hours and many people commute an hour to work in the city.

    Now we have to drum up more conversation and get some political oomph behind having better conditions for families. We need paid parental leave, we need universally accessible high quality childcare.

    • I too am ashamed. It’s really horrible, and embarrassing. Sometimes I think our patriotism and our blind “America is the BEST!” attitude make us blind to the very really, very upsetting problems in our country. Yes it’s a great country but man, could it use some work.

      I never thought, until reading your post, about how hard it would be for heath care workers with crazy hours to get childcare. That must be so difficult! I can’t believe hospitals don’t provide help with that. It’s shocking. Why is this not something that people can get behind?!

      I agree that we need to drum up more conversation and get political oomph behind having better conditions behind families. Maybe if we stopped arguing with each other about stupid stuff like breastmilk vs formula, CIO vs co-sleeping and WOHM vs SAHM, we could actually rally around causes that we can all support, and make changes that will actually benefit us.

  12. I agree that the treatment of working moms in this country is awful. I am so sorry you struggle so much. I am fortunate to live in one of the most affordable cities in the country, so even though we struggle and sacrifice, we are able to pay our bills and still have me stay home on a teacher salary. I have found though, that my husband’s boss (the head football coach) is very inflexible when it comes to family time and hours away from home for him- it’s very frustrating- but I know that’s a different topic. At this point, it would be way harder logistically with Grayson and his unpredictability and care- for me to go back to work, but if I could, I would love to work part time. However, I do LOVE being a SAHM and that’s the main reason I do it.

  13. I don’t have much to add here, but I think part of what I find difficult (selfish as it will sound) is finding time for myself … I stand by the choice I made, but having no time for myself does affect my ability to be a good parent and employee … and more so, a good spouse. Those are the factors we don’t hear much about in the equation.

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