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'I can't afford to be a working mom'

Childcare costs meant that I would actually lose money by working.

By Parenting Magazine May 23, 2013 7:04PM

By Colleen Durno, as told to Elizabeth Jenkins     

Before I had kids, my days looked like this: up at 6:30 and out the door for a 30-minute run, followed by sit-ups, an energizing shower, and catching up on the Today show while getting dressed.

Bing: The organized mom

walletI made sure I had on makeup and heels, all before heading off to work at a job I loved with an investment firm. Now? I'm up at 5:00 with our 2-year-old twins and 6-month-old baby, changing diapers, offering bottles, playthings, and breakfast. No more morning runs, no more morning showers, and forget heels: These days I throw on sweatpants and make myself a cup of instant coffee to wake up!

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My profession required me to solve analytical problems. I always tried to go above and beyond, and yet I was never this tired. Motherhood is a different type of job. And the craziest part is, I can't even afford to go back to work.

I quit when the twins were born, and I remember thinking I would be a stay-at-home mom for a couple of years and then resume my career. I was nervous about it, but working just didn't make financial sense. More than 80 percent of what I was making would have gone toward our childcare costs. What happened next? A big surprise: Despite being told by my ob-gyn that I could not get pregnant again without fertility treatment due to my diminished ovarian reserves, I did.

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Before I found out I was expecting, I had spoken to my boss about coming back to work in a new, higher-paying position. Had I taken it, working would have made more sense financially. But I took myself out of the running when I realized that having three children in daycare or with a nanny meant I'd actually lose money by working. The fact that we live in Boston, one of the nation's most expensive cities for childcare, doesn't help matters, but we love the culture and the people here too much to leave.
I'd be lying if I didn't say that I miss having my own money. Giving up that autonomy was hard! I have returned to the status of "dependent" on someone else's tax return. Before I quit my job, I hadn't been on a budget in many years. If I wanted to get my hair done or go on a shopping spree at Target, I could do just that. Now, my husband, Matt, and I decide on a certain amount of money I can spend on essentials each month, and if I need to go beyond that amount, we have a discussion about it. I feel like a teenager again when I have to ask to buy certain items like a new shirt or item for the house. Matt and I also talk about money a lot now, which we never did before. I'm lucky and it hasn't caused any major disagreements, but it does add a level of stress to our lives that is new to our relationship.
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While some days still feel chaotic, I'm able to use the skills I learned at work -- organization, planning, and time management -- every day (somebody has to prep bottles and snacks in advance, as well as be quick on her feet). I now think of myself as the CEO of our house, which is my best work title yet.

 

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298Comments
May 31, 2013 4:42AM
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Maybe have dad help out a little more equally
May 31, 2013 4:13AM
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I have read many articles concerning whether it is 'worth' a mother going to work after having children. Most studies say most women who do work and have children and a husband who works 'normal hours' DO lose money in the long run. With the cost of clothing for work, cost of transportation, lunches, child care, etc., it is NOT worth going back to work while the children are still at home and not in school full time.  I think you'd have to be very high up in a business career to be able to afford all of the above and STILL have something left over at the end of the week and/or month to save or spend as you like.  So..I would think carefully before jumping back into the workforce if you have children still needing you in the home. My husband and I had 4 children (3 of them planned). I did go back to work part-time when the oldest was about 7. Maybe 16-20 hours a week. My husband worked 3rd shift-so I would find a job from 1-4 or 1-5 so he could watch the children after he woke up. I had several of these part-time jobs off and on over the span of several years. The money wasn't a lot, but it did help ease up the tightness of just living on my husband's salary.  My husband is now retired for 4 years, and I haven't worked in about 4-4 1/2 years, and we help to babysit some of our grandchildren 2-4 days a week.  We have learned to live on more than less than 1/2 of his working pay. It can be done and it isn't easy, but we are not starving and we are paying our bills.
May 31, 2013 4:00AM
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I have a large family so working and babysitting really wasn't too much of an issue with me. If you want to work and still have children you can do it, you just need a large support system. My children were planned, money put aside to get pregnant. Life gives you choices make them wisely don't have children you can't afford to have the end. 
May 31, 2013 3:58AM
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I can't afford NOT to be a working mom. it took me four years to make a meager $11.50 per hour and I can't give that up. my husband has a number of health issues and in his forties. employers refuse to hire him so he's a stay at home dad while I bring home the bacon. who knows if it'll ever ease up, but i'm grateful that I can support my family even if I've missed some really good moments.
May 31, 2013 3:55AM
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Good for Colleen Durno. She had a clerical job she enjoyed then had her babies, toyed with the idea of juggling a career and motherhood and ultimately decided to drop the career.
If life proves to come up roses then she or anyone else in the family will not experience health issues, go through death or divorce or widowhood so that extra income will not be needed. I find in this economy that it's always good for the family to have both parents bringing home a paycheck. Some women never reenter the workforce upon having children or never work (high school/college then marriage) then several years later find themselves applying for any or every job.
If only every woman could have the luxury of choosing to raise her children instead of paying others to look after them then perhaps more children would have a good childhood. Home cooked meals, bonding with the children through preparation of meals and looking over schoolwork and outdoor activities...

May 31, 2013 3:47AM
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This is what I am somewhat going through.After our first child was born I became a stay at home mom.I was planning to go back to work however childcare costs were pretty pricey so we decided that I just stay home unless I find something part time that is decent pay to outweigh the childcare cost.When I was really looking for work again I found out I was pregnant with our 2nd.To this day I still am a stay at home mom and I do have to ask my husband if I want something but thats ok because we have great communication and he mostly says yes,unless its a louis vuitton purse lol.Its hard work taking care of kids and husband but its worth it to me.
May 31, 2013 2:37AM
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I stayed home to raise are children too and although we had planned for this when we got married, it is not easy to give up who you are for the sake of raising your kids. Nothing can really prepare you for it. 

What I do think is a shame is that here we have a productive member of society how if given the opportunity is willing to go back to work,  However, she can't afford day care for her children,  but people who are on public asssistance get free or reduced day care and are forced to go to a training provided by public assistance which they don't want to attend. These programs are availabe because due to tax payers money, such as her husband's.

I think there is something wrong when people that don't work can get help with day care, but not  a mom that wants to work can't, Just saying

 

May 31, 2013 2:28AM
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O.K., so she couldn't handle a $4000-$4,500 a month child care bill. Her job wasn't too high end was it? She says she had a chance to have even a better paying job. Still couldn't handle the child care. So where is the husband's income in all this? She must have one, someone keeps getting her pregnant. "They" like the Boston area. Also, it's not that men think having a family is unimportant and are unwilling to make sacrifices to raise their kids. Until just real recently, that was their not their role in life, they went to work and the wives stayed home and took care of the home and the kids. It's not that men couldn't do it-they were doing something else. Frankly as a man, I can't think of a harder more demanding job than taking care of kids. To expect that you can do that and still have a career, especially when the kids are very young, might just be expecting too much. Some occupations do not allow for you to be away from your job for an extended period and to still be a success at it. Pick your priorities.
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