Working to pay to work

This post is a prelude to another post I am working on (which has been tossing about my mind for a really long time) regarding being a working mom, and the factors and internal struggles that make being a working mom a one of honor and discrimination.

This post was inspired by an article that one of my Facebook friends shared via CNN Money entitled, “Moms: I can’t afford to work“. In this article it touches upon when the mother goes back to work the cost of childcare can be up to half of her take home pay. In many cases, depending on her salary, the cost for the mother to continue to work can be more expensive than if she were to be a stay at home mom. The less a mother earns, which is about 20% less than her male counterparts, the less cost effective keeping her career can be.

I know all too well how true this scenario is. After my daughter was born the cost of childcare was about $800/month. At the time I was bringing home about $1,800/month. My then husband and I split the household bills and each paid our own car notes and credit cards. Before I had the cost of daycare, I pretty much used 2/3rds of my paycheck to pay bills, and saved the rest. Once I started to have the childcare expense I wasn’t able to afford to contribute to the household expenses, so my then husband took on my half of the household bills, and I took on the childcare expense. Anything I had left over was saved, or was utilized for all the expenses of a growing baby (diapers, food, clothes, etc.). We got by well, but we weren’t able to save all that much.  As our salaries went up, so did the our taxes, and so did the cost of childcare. As time went on we saved less and less. When we started to talk about having more kids we realized childcare costs for two kids would be about $1,600/month, or pretty much my entire paycheck. If you add in the costs of commuting, lunches, and any other incidentals, it began to look like if I continued to work we’d actually lose money.

I was laid off from my job a few months before I found out I was pregnant with my son. With me being home and not having the cost of childcare, we lived in the same comfortable status as we were. We considered my lay-off a possible blessing in disguise.

After my ex-husband left, I was left with the reality that I needed a job, needed a steady income, needed to pay for childcare for two children. My problem was if I could get back to my old salary the cost of childcare would eat up my entire salary. Luckily with the proceedings for child support, my ex-husband is responsible for up to half the cost of childcare. Problem that still remained was that in the past my salary didn’t cover all my expenses and household expenses. The reality was my old salary only covered the mortgage OR the cost of utilities, household expenses, and my half of the childcare costs. I felt like I was damned if I worked and damned if I didn’t work.

Looking back I am not sure being unemployed during most of my separation was a blessing or not. On one hand I got to bond with my son and spend more time with my daughter, but on the other hand I struggled so hard to pay all my bills. Slowly my hard earned savings, that I accumulated before my daughter was born, was burned through. What took me about 5-6 years to save, was gone in little over a year. Loss of savings drove up my stress and anxiety. I had nothing to fall back on.

With my current position I don’t get a steady income, on average its about what I was getting while on unemployment. I get to work from home most of the time, and I sometimes even work from home with the kids running about (which is not an easy task sometimes). What is helping me out is that my living expenses here in the City are halved compared to what they were when I lived in my suburban home. Keeping the kids home part time while I work has saved me some money too. Some months I have a little bit of savings left over, some months I live paycheck to paycheck. My situation is slightly better.

What sits in the back of my mind is will a steadier income and position help me or hurt me. Not all employers allow you to work from home. Some positions don’t have flexible hours. If the kids go into full-time childcare, will I be able to get by?

As it stands now, I need health insurance for myself (my ex-husband covers the kids), and to get that I need a full-time position, which means I have to take on whatever added expense childcare may be.  I have no other choice, I have to make it work.


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