Here’s the short answer to what it costs for me to stay home with 16-month-old Mary: my entire salary of $47,000 per year (from which I took home, after taxes and deductions, about $34,000). But is my worth measured only in dollars and cents? Is success? I sure hope not.
We do save money because I stay home. I drive five times less than when I commuted 60 km each day for work. Thats a mighty drop in gas costs. And I spend thousands less on lunches and dinners out, entertainment and clothing. (Although we spend one-third more on groceries.)
That said, it costs our family more than $30,000 per year for me to stay at home with our daughter. We are fortunate Tom has a secure job and makes a good wage, but of course we miss my income. I shop more carefully and were staying in our modest-size home indefinitely. There are no vacations planned for now and our cars are cheap and cheerful.
This is obviously a lousy career move. After nine years with the same company, I gave up my job just as my employer was embarking on an exciting project I would have relished being part of. After an expensive university degree and pursuing the profession I wanted, I wonder how easy it will be to find a fulfilling job when it’s time to go back to paid work. I don’t know how much ground I will have lost in my career and income potential.
IT’S A PERSONAL RISK I’VE CHOSEN TO TAKE
One of the things that informed my decision is the Superwoman syndrome. I have neither cape nor special powers. The feminist movement tells women they can have it all, and I know many women who do. Some of those women juggle all the balls in the air and thrive. But I believe some suffer from an unrelenting stress that hums beneath the surface. Yes, I can have it all, I thought. But do I have to have it all at the same time?
I concur with Jacqueline Kennedy (and I’m paraphrasing), that if you screw up raising your children, whatever else you do well doesn’t matter much. I think I will be a better mother if I raise my child full-time while she is very young. I don’t think thats true for everyone; many women do as good a job or better at mothering while working full-time.
WHATS MY PAYOFF?
I don’t have to miss Mary. I feel for friends who describe dropping their babies off with another caregiver on the first day back at work. Separation will come eventually, but I’ve staved it off for now.
I get a great sense of satisfaction from being the primary caregiver all the time. My mother was a single, working parent and I had a happy childhood. But there’s something about this uncomplicated, traditional family life that gives me the warm and fuzzies.
There was no pressure to stop breastfeeding before Mary and I felt comfortable (shes only recently weaned), and I had the time and energy to make her baby food from scratch. We can keep a consistent sleep and mealtime schedule all week.
There’s no engagement that cant be cancelled if the weather is treacherous or if either of us is sick. I can pull Mary into bed with me in the morning for long snuggles with impunity.
Child development is intellectually interesting to me. I can witness it constantly and pour much of my energy into parenting. I know what’s going on with Mary all the time. I’m a severe worrywart, and worrywarts worry, more than anything, about their children. It doesn’t matter how good the daycare situation; at Mary’s tender age I would fret about how shes doing and how much attention shes getting. I’d probably develop an ulcer. (Can you tell I’m not great at delegating and tend to micromanage? I must get over that before Mary hits the teen years.)
Best of all, I’m not missing anything. Not one step, facial expression, giggle, sniffle or cry. I doubt I’ll look back and regret that.
|INCOME||$47,000 per year gross; (about $34,000 net)||One year of maternity leave: $20,650 ($18,000 after taxes)
|FOOD||$4,800 per year ($100 per week)||$7,200 per year ($150 per week)
*an increase of $2,400 per year, or one-third
|LUNCHES/DINNERS OUT||$2,400 per year ($200 per month)||$480 per year ($40 per month)
*savings of $1,920 per year
|ENTERTAINMENT||$2,400 per year ($200 per month)||$1,000 per year ($83 per month)
*savings of $1,400 per year
|TRANSPORTATION (cost of gas, assuming $1.00 per litre)||$1,872 per year ($144 per month)||$372 per year ($31 per month)
driving five times less; *savings of $1,500
|CLOTHES||$1,500 per year ($125 per month)||$600 per year ($50 per month)
*savings of $900
|ACTIVITY CLASSES FOR MARY||$470 per year ($40 per month)|
|OVERALL SAVINGS OF $3,340 (not including activity classes)||***offset against net income of $34,000, we can say it costs $30,680 for me to stay home less the savings on daycare, which would be about $9000, so the net cost of staying home is about $21,680|
Published in Summer 2007