A Mother’s Struggle Between Work And Kids


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The following was written by Mrs FFB.  As you may remember, before the school year started we made the decision that my wife wouldn’t return to work (in education) and instead stay home to raise the kids.  Below is her rationale.  Enjoy!

I remember when I was in college and I had this end term goal of having a career, making my own money, buying my own things and being a “professional” woman.  The thing is, ever since I was a little girl, I also always had a dream of being a mom. I never knew or could ever even imagine how these two, opposing aspirations would collide with each other in my future life.

When I was in college I had this assistant teacher position in a nursery/daycare. I remember working the “extended” day which ran until 6pm and feeling so awful for these young children who were still in the daycare center.  I was so judgmental of these mothers: “This is wrong!”, “How could they leave their babies here until 6pm!” “A young child should be in their home during this time of the day!” I was real heated about this topic. ….Little did I know at the young age of 19 years old, that this would be my life one day.

So I graduated college and nabbed myself a teaching position for September. I was so excited about this upcoming career and making “good” money (up until that point, I had made minimum wage working the daycare).  It turns out that I was pregnant and expecting in January but I didn’t care and wasn’t going to let the pregnancy get in the way of working. I didn’t tell the principal during my interview that I was pregnant and just showed up the day after labor day all prego.  Luckily, I wasn’t really showing, but by October there was a buzz going around the school and I finally told the principal but assured him that I would return to work in 6 weeks.

I had no idea what I was in for. When my daughter was born, I fell in love times 1000 and I couldn’t bare the idea of leaving my little baby.  So I took off the rest of the school year and returned to work that following September.

That September became the beginning of a long, hard phase in my life: working mom (and for a few years -single, working mom).  My daughter was 8 months old and I had a stay at home friend of mine babysit my daughter.  The problem with this friend was that she lived really far and out of the way.  So I had this awful drive to her home each morning.  Not to mention that I barely had any sleep.  I remember nights when my daughter would just wake up and stay up- we’d watch Elmopalooza! in the dark wee hours of the morning.  Then I was expected to be a completely functional teacher for a very challenging class.

When my daughter turned two I enrolled her in daycare. So this was my life for a number of years: late to work every morning, trying to get a difficult toddler ready to leave the house, driving haphazardly to the daycare, rushing her into the daycare and then running out to my car and racing to get to the school.  On top of all this stress, I was going to graduate school and because I was a poor single mom, I worked afterschool too.  There were some nights when we didn’t get home until 10 pm.  Then we’d have to get up early and do it all over again.

It was very hard and depressing, so not what I thought motherhood would be like.  So when I was engaged to be married (with the wonderful FFB, edit) and knew that I wanted to have more children, I vowed and proclaimed that I would stay home at least 2 years with my child due to the trauma I experienced with being a working mom with my daughter.

Four months after we were married, I was pregnant.  It was one of the happiest, most pleasant phases of my life.  I actually was ok with going to work at this point.  My daughter was a bit older, in first grade now and I new that I was taking a long leave of absence.  I literally worked up until the day I delivered the baby.

Somewhere during the childcare leave, I started to feel pressured to return to work in September and against my original plans to stay home for at least 2 years, I decided to go back to work… again.  It was the year of hell.  My son was 8 months old and I put him in daycare.  I remember bringing him to the “wobbler” room and thinking about how surreal it all was.  8 babies sitting in little high chairs and wondering about how well a daycare worker, who is paid minimum wage, was going to care for my son.  I felt so bad and guilty.  Not even 2 weeks into daycare, my son got sick.  Then he was sick every single week with some kind of cold virus.  Either he was just getting a cold or getting over a cold.  I was constantly at the pediatrician’s and at one point he was even on a nebulizer for respiratory distress.  It was so horrible to know that I needed to stay home with my sick son but also face the repercussions of being absent from the job.  I felt that my son was more important so I would always stay home with him when he was sick but i still found the whole scenario agonizing and extremely distressing.  I hated having to call into to work, over and over again as it turns out – 17 times! After a while, i just accepted the fact that maybe I would get fired or get written up or something.  I didn’t even care at that point.

I was so spent. I too become sick often and was severely sleep deprived. I sucked at the job cause I was so distraught over my decision to return to work, taking care of a sick baby and lack of sleep.  It was just terrible. One morning I was so tired and in such a rush that I crashed our car in the garage!  I knew that things were really bad at this point.

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So I persevered and made it until the end of the school year and had this long summer vacation to look forward to.  I pulled my son out of daycare and enjoyed every second with my children but then we got to the end of August and the anxiety of returning back to work started to over take me.

After a friend of mine made an enlightening comment to me about why wouldn’t I just return to work when my son was older (since my leave permits that), then why wouldn’t I just do that?  So I started to really sit on this idea.  Why was I so afraid to follow my dream of being a  stay at home mom?  There is my whole life to work but only like 4-5 years of a child’s life when they really, really need their mothers.  So why was i doing this to us?  Maybe I wouldn’t have any more kids and I would’ve missed my only chance to do the “right” thing (for us).  I missed out on all those years with my daughter and was doing the same damn thing, 7 years later to my son.  Now when my daughter was little, I was a single mom and didn’t have a choice.  But now I had a husband and our financial situation was solid, so why not just try it?  “I could always go back to work the following year,” I pleaded with my husband.

I have to tell you, I am so happy now.  I can wake up in the morning.  I don’t curse the sun for rising like I used to. I no longer have grim thoughts of despair about the day ahead of me, ” how am I going to make it through the day,” “why can’t it be Saturday,” “I am sooo tired, I can’t do this,” or my favorite –  “what if I just quit and not even call or show up?!?”  Now I wake up get my daughter ready for school and I don’t have to drag my 23 month old son out in the wee hours of the morning.  He gets to bumble around HIS home, eating breakfast at his leisure.  We got to the park, we do errands, we make meals, visit other stay at home moms… Life is truly wonderful now!  I am so happy and so is my son and daughter!  I realize now that when they would give me a hard time in the morning, they were just reacting to being rushed and all the stress I would put on them.  Now things are so pleasant.

We had to make a lot of changes to accommodate to one income and we certainly aren’t living the lifestyle I imagined we would’ve been at this point in my life, but we are happy now!

photo credit: maessive

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Published or updated March 30, 2013.

Comments

  1. I’ve known for a while that I want at least one parent in the household to stay home for a year or two when kids come along, or even to have both parents working part-time. So since getting married, we have been agressively saving and paying off our mortgage. Our goal is to have our mortgage paid off before children, as well as some considerable savings and a quality of life that can be sustained on one income. I work in early childhood, so I know how important the earliest years are. I also know I don’t like going to work on little sleep, so we’re planning accordingly.

  2. I’m a stay-at-home Mom who, now that my kids are 8&12, has gone back to work 12 hours a week as a Daycare employee. So if you could hear someone screaming “AMEN!! PREACH IT”, that was me. :O)

    I hang out all day with tired little kids who need their Moms and Dads. I can’t help but wonder WHAT is so important about their job that it’s worth corralling their kids to daycare for 8-11 hours a day? I’m honored to walk the daycare kids to their first days of pre-school, But I silently wonder “Why isn’t your Mommy here instead”?

    I would have more patience if I hadn’t lived the last 12 years of my life at home. We lived simply, but we never suffered or lacked for anything. It was a joy to be greeted every morning by my kids little faces and not have to rush. It’s a gift I am grateful for every time I go to work and see sleepy-eyed kids fighting back tears.

    I know there are situations where both parents have to work. But more often than not, they work so that they can afford the house they want, the vacations they want, the cars they want, the clothes they want. There is nothing wrong with wanting those things, but I don’t understand why it trumps what our children want – the time to bond and be close to us, and to opt out of the mad rush of adulthood.

    You are doing the right thing. I live with a sense of pure joy knowing I gave my kids THE BEST, not my exhausted leftovers.

    Kudos to you.

  3. Very real story. Children are truly a FULL time job. Take those few years to get to better know your children. I have known several people who have had children and have had the same stress and tension involved with it. It is important to know when your children need you, no matter where you are in your life.

  4. I’m so glad that you were able to make that choice. I have been able to stay home with all my children and I can’t imagine how chaotic our life would be if I worked full-time outside the home. I can barely fit in a few hours of work each day, and I work in our basement!

    I know that I am very blessed, but we’ve made some sacrifices as well. I dream of a world where there can be a happy middle ground – fulfilling part time work, good quality child care, and job flexibility.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  5. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and I am so thankful that she was. I learned how to read at age 3 and never went to daycare. My husband’s mom stayed at home as well, and when he and I start a family I will also be staying home. Like the commenter above, we are having to plan accordingly which means putting less of our money toward “stuff” and more of it toward paying down loans and mortgages, but I know it will all be worth it someday. I’m so glad you are happy with your decision to stay home with your son – I applaud you!

    Hannah’s last blog post..How to Operate a Lavazza Espresso Machine: Lavazza BLUE LB 1000

  6. Hi Mrs.FFB

    I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading your article. You really should post more often. My wife recently quit her job as well to take care of our little daughter and it was easily the best decision we ever made. Congrats!

    Steve C |MyWifeQuitHerJob.com’s last blog post..How These Businesses Made Me A Customer For Life

  7. Great post , Mrs FFB!
    Thanks for sharing.

    My wife has been a SAHM for the past 5 years. It’s been hard at times, and we’ve had to make many sacrifices (our laptop is 10 years old, for crying out loud!), but we wouldn’t change a thing. The rewards have been well worth it. Still, I secretly dream of the day when my wife returns to the office and begins receiving a paycheck again. OK, not so secretly. ;-)

    Joe’s last blog post..Nuru Cards – a great stocking stuffer!

  8. I am also a SAHM for my 2 beautiful girls and I love every minute of it. The only tough part is now that the economy is so bad, we are struggling financially. The great news is that I have found a wonderful home based business that not only helps us financially but also make us be healthier at the same time.

    I would love to share this opportunity with other SAHM that is looking to earn extra income. If you are interested, please visit my website (www.themomteam.com/sarahneno or email me at sarah.neno@gmail.com

    Happy Holidays!

  9. Great post, Mrs. FFB. Thanks for sharing. Mrs. PT is about to be home with our little girl while she finished grad school. I hope she’s just as happy. I’ll be sure and share this post with her.

    PT Money’s last blog post..PYF Challenge Update: New Promo Videos Unveiled

  10. MY mom raised us up alone cause my father died. I am sure that it was not easy for her. THere was not internet at that time.

    Elroy’s last blog post..The Future of Stock Research

  11. Thank you for sharing your story! We all have different experiences, and it’s nice to get different perspectives. I feel very blessed because I can work from home — I get the best of both worlds. But I know not everyone has the same opportunities.

    Miranda’s last blog post..Tax Preparation: Charity Donations from CharityDeductions.com

  12. Good for you, Mrs. FFB, for doing what was best for your kids and your family and most importantly, yourself! I think women often try to do too much–who are we competing with? And we don’t give ourselves permission to do what we really want to do.

    I struggled with chronic pain from back problems, migraines and other health problems for years while working full-time before the bright idea of working part-time occurred to me. There was no reason I couldn’t have done it earlier, because my husband had a secure, well-paying job with a flexible schedule that he loved and no health problems.

    Working part-time has freed me up to improve both our lives in countless other ways and given me a stress-free life–now I rarely have to call in sick and exercise and weight-loss have helped my other health problems as well. The migraines disappeared the minute I didn’t have to be at a computer terminal eight hours a day!

    Life is too short…

    Beatriz/Mindful Money’s last blog post..Free Miami!

  13. Great post!! I know the stress of being a single working mom. My son is now 3 1/2 and I was pregnant at 19. Not only does have to go to daycare but my parents at night bc I work night shift 13 hr shifts and 2 jobs(at least finished school) so we can live in our house and afford life. We get a lot of time together bc I sacrifice sleep. He is already reading and I’m told how great he is to be around at his daycare, which makes me know I’m doing a good job.

    I wish I could be a stay at home mom, but for now it’s a dream bc at my age it seems no one my age is mature enough. I give you credit for what u have done and the struggles you handled.

    Great pic as well!!!

  14. Thank you all for your great responses! It’s so rewarding to see so much support.

  15. My wife and I have already discussed the idea of her working when we have children and we have decided that she shouldn’t. (Although I’ll be honest, I told her I would be a stay at home Dad and she could work. That didn’t go over very well!). Glad you made the decision to stay at home. Your child will be much better off in the long run.

  16. @ Patrick – To be honest we discussed my staying at home while my wife works but we decided it would be better if she stayed.

  17. “We are happy now”. And in the future? When he leaves you and you can’t earn enough to give the kids any reasonable standard of living? Or when the kids leave home and you get a chance to achieve a little and realize that you have wasted a life that could have achieved a lot?

    • That’s a negative way to look at things Jade. Why would you assume I’d leave my wife and kids? A big part of my wife staying home is because she values her time raising the kids over going to work so there would be no issue of wasting her time. And besides, my wife is successful in her career; she was actually making more than me! She has both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and if she ever wanted to go back to work she would be able to find a job relatively easily.

      I’m not sure where this negativity comes from. If it comes from personal experience then I’m sorry you had to go through that.

      • Someone needs to defend Jade, who obviously is reacting due to experience. You all have overlooked the upkeep of a career that is necessary while working. When you plan to return when your kids are older, you will undoubtedly be valued less than a candidate who always worked. They will have the experience and networking that you will have lost during those years.

        I would also have liked to have worked less for both my boys, but they benefit from my professionalism. Jade obviously was coming from this same place.

        • I appreciate the analysis. For every person the decision is different and many factors play into the decision. For some careers it is important to keep up with networking and current practices. Still, Jade’s remark seems to come from a place of bad experience. There’s more than keeping up career prospects here.

          She mentions “you have wasted a life that could have achieved a lot.” For my wife and I, taking care of the kids and raising them in a way that matches our morals and ethics will never be a waste of time or effort.

  18. I can so relate to this story. I too experienced the same things except I am a single mom of 7, (two non bios). I lost my job because my employment wouldn’t give me time to take my toddler to evaluations. I was taking extended lunches here and there, but they were still unhappy. Shortly after losing my job, my youngest son was diagnosed with autism…

    Fortunately, I learned how to make income online and am able to stay home. (Of course, I also stretch my budget immensely.)

    Enjoy these very important years. You can never get them back..

    BTW, great post!

    :)

    supermom_in_ny’s last blog post..Win a Free Copy of Suze Orman’s Book 2009 Action Plan

    • Thanks Supermom! Seven kids…I can’t even imagine the logistics of that. Just shows that we can do anything if we have to!

  19. I am crying as I write this. I want so much to get the honor of being an at home mom, but my husband and I are both elementary teachers and staying home is not in the cards. Instead I am the first mom there at the end of the day and haven’t had a night-out in the three years I’ve been a parent~I want to be with them every moment I can. I never let them see me cry about this, but it happens every evening. I hope every momma treasures every moment we get to spend with our children. I also hope to win the lotto..or anything that would allow me to stay home for a couple of years.

    • @ Anna – It’s definitely tough. My wife worked for a long time before she could even seriously consider staying home (I find plenty of days when I would rather be home with the kids too). Keep at it and scrimp and save. Staying home might not be as tough as you think.

  20. Wow, this is a great article and comments, thanks! I’m 36 y.o., at the crossroads right now. I have a 16 m.o. going to daycare and I hope to have another kid soon. Part of me wants to stay home the next 2-5 years if I can go on leave and keep my job, but part of me wants to keep working also to keep up pension, IRA and 401k rolling. I’m also concerned that most of us earn less than men, so keeping on working will keep our salaries and skills up for the future if and when we get divorced or widowed. I read the book “Freakonomics” and their studies show that working moms don’t hurt their kids’ success or development later on in life. When I’m home, I make sure I’m 100% present for my baby–we go to the library, parks, museums, read and play….Anyway, I am still really thinking hard about this–a successful, home based business that isn’t too labor-intensive might be the answer (reading 4 Hour Work Week and One Minute Millionaire for ideas). Will keep thinking and exploring, thanks!…..

    • @ Karyl – For sure it’s a tough decision and one of the toughest we’ve had to make as a family. Even now we think of how better off we’d be financially if my wife was working. But money aside, all the other stresses are gone. No more running like a madman in the morning. No more sicknesses every two weeks and days off from work. My son and wife are truly enjoying their time together and my daughter gets the benefit of my wife being there for her after school to help with homework and such.

      If you think you can swing not working then perhaps you should try? Those early years can’t be replaced. See if you can set up a budget that would mimic not working now. If nothing else you might put a lot away in savings for when you have another child.

      Again, it is tough and sometimes have a stay at home parent isn’t an option. Sounds like you spend some great quality time with your kid when you can!

  21. By far the best and most important story about the whole essence of frugality. It’s not about being cheap, saving money, living on less. It’s about why. This is the why. Well said!

    Jill Blevins’s last blog post..Advice-Giving Relatives

  22. It is easier when both partners agree to be frugal and not always want the latest new gadget or to keep their old car and not buy a new one. Not so easy when one wants to buy a new car as soon as the old one has one repair or when they want to continue to live like there is no recession. And then one day one partner says, “I don’t want to work anymore, I want to stay home with the kids.” yet you have both lived your lives for the past 10 years spending money based on two incomes, going into debt based on two incomes and now suddenly it makes all the sense in the world to remove one income because someone wants to stop working???

    Not saying this is your case. It is my case though.

    • That’s definitely tough. You really have to make sure you’re on the same page as your spouse with finances and a life plan in general.

  23. you got a great post here. This only shows how mothers give a lot of sacrifices not just for the family but most importantly to their children. thus, some are into online business for it does give them a chance to earn and at the same time taking good care of the kids at home. Time management plays an important in order to this.
    .-= Misty´s last blog .. =-.

  24. I like the way you presented the matter.
    thank you for the post.
    keep going on.

  25. If companies offered more part-time professional positions then parents could have the best of both worlds. Too bad this isn’t the case, it’s either give up the career you spent years to build or miss out on all of the precious moments of those first few years.

    Very well-written story, I really related to and appreciated your honesty. Thanks for sharing, I felt like I was reading a recount of my son’s first year. I too ended up quitting and staying home and it was the best decision despite our dwindling savings and career sacrifice…I feel like I’ve gained so much more.

    • Thanks, I’ll pass on the compliments to my wife.

      The landscape of the workplace is changing, though slowly. I think we’re seeing more families that want to have a parent home for the kids. Hopefully this means companies will come up with better ways to employ people.

  26. financialwizardess says:

    Oh how I wish I had a job where there were off ramps and on ramps. I went into a traditionally male field because it pays very well, but there is no flexibility whatsoever. I get a short maternity leave (6 weeks), but no options for “coming back in a few years”. They would laugh at that. It takes them time and investment to replace me, and then my job would be given to that new person and they would not have a position for me anymore. I definately see the advantages to working in education or some government jobs like my friends do. They will always have the option to take a few years off. It’s unheard of in my field. However, I am glad that I have the opportunity to save a lot of money to keep from being a burden to my children the way my parents have been a burden to me. I hope someday they realize that the sacrifice I made was to give them freedom from worrying about how mommy and daddy will keep a roof over their heads. Enjoy your time with your kids. I enjoy every minute I have with mine even though it’s precious little.

    • Sacrifice takes on so many different forms. We do what we have to do, to provide what is best for our kids. Sounds like you appreciate the time you do have with your children. That’s something that pays off over time in their lives.

  27. Great post, I really needed it. I am a Middle School Theatre teacher and went back to work when my little girl was 5 months old. My hubbie and I weren’t exactly struggling but moved to the USA from another country and lost most of our savings in the process. It then took me two years to get my certification and find a great teaching position that I loved. The day I found out I got the job I also found out I was pregnant! I did not even consider leaving my job, but when I came back after a lovely summer with my lo and dropped her off at day care I died a little inside. I cried every day, and no it did not get better! She is 10 months old now and on her seventh round of antibiotics and even if she was 100% healthy I would still miss having her with me. I work up to 10 hour days, rehearsing for plays and I get to spend about 2 hours a day with her. My husband works long hours, our home is always a mess, weekends are spent running errands and I feel like I am letting someone else raise my child. We are so stressed all the time that we end up fighting about every little thing, and we have no time to enjoy life or our little angel. I finally decided to resign. Financially it is definitely not the right decision for us, we will have to cut back a lot and save less, but we will make it. No matter how many times I tried to convince myself that I was doing what was best for my child by working, I kept thinking that for me it is not right that she is spending more waking hours with strangers than with me. I have felt incredibly guilty for not being strong enough to do both successfully. I have felt that there must be something wrong with me for not being able to cope with missing out on my childs life, but after reading this post I feel a little better. I have three days of work left, and am nervous when I think about the uncertainty that the future will bring, but I know that this is the right thing for my little girl. And I thank my husband for supporting my decision!

    • It’s really a shame that our society has gotten to where a 2-income family is almost a necessity.

      It’s tough on one income but it can be done. You’ll quickly find out those things that are really luxuries that you don’t need anymore.

      Don’t ever feel guilty because you don’t think you have enough time for a job and raising your child. Raising a child is a career in its own!

      Best of luck with your new role as stay at home mom! Enjoy it.

  28. My heart broke when I read this. I am also a teacher and have a 3 year old and a 1 year old. When my son was born my husband and I made the decision we will alternate shifts, I worked during the AM and he worked during the PM it worked out perfect! Once I had my daughter my husband got another job and I took a year leave and stayed home. Now my year is up and its time to go back to work. My heart breaks since my little girl is so attached to me and my son has never been in daycare.
    I have to be at work at 7:30AM and before that I have to get the kids ready and drop them off at daycare. How in the world is this going to work out? I have loved my time with my kids and I have enjoyed every smile, every hug, everything about staying at home with them. Unfortunately we have been living off our credit cards and I HAVE to go back to work. I have 2 weeks left with them and am praying to God to give me the strength I need to leave them in daycare. =(

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