"I have to go back to work" is the number one reason why you shouldn't go back to work after having kids. If you want to be a stay at home mom (or dad), then you should be.
Wow. Thanks, Butterfly Bi-otch. If only it were that simple.
For some, it's not. Those people are: single parents, divorced parents, and widowed parents. They have no choice.
Ah, enter keyword of this entire post: CHOICE. Deciding to stay home vs. go back to work is a CHOICE.
Back in February, I was visiting my cousin. We were chatting, and I said how fortunate I felt that I could stay home with my son.
She shrugged and said, "We can all stay home. We just make different choices."
I opened my mouth to argue, but then remembered how she and her husband had lived with her parents for three years to save money; how she worked for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to provide her family organic food that was otherwise too expensive; how they rarely went out to eat, or on expensive dates, or on exotic vacations. These two had made their choice: having her stay home was their first priority.
The thing is, it's all relative. No matter your income, there is someone who is poorer that stays at home, and someone who is richer that thinks she can't. When parents say to me, "You're so lucky that you get to stay home," I just want to shout, "You have a CHOICE!"
What is your first priority? College savings? Retirement? Travel? House? Club sports for all 10 kids? (Our next door neighbors have 10 that they send to Catholic School. It's a priority for them and a choice they made.)
My background is in education. I have always worked with children, and have a Masters in Bilingual/Bicultural Education. After much "discussion," my husband and I decided that our first priority was for me to be a stay at home mom. (Parent or not, you know that "discussion" between two significant others implies so much more than talking: raised voices, tears, hugs, concessions made.)
Having me stay home is the number one priority and alone in its own tier. Saving for college and retirement are in the next tier and are equal in importance.
Does this mean that every vacation for the next 20 years might be a week long trip in which we share a Michigan lake house with 14 friends? Maybe.
Does this mean that our fixer upper house might have parts remain fixer upper until we move out in two decades? It's likely.
Does this mean that our kids will play park district sports leagues and we'll work with them on our own time so they have a shot at the high school team? Probably, yes.
We all make choices and have different priorities. If having a financial safety net is of the utmost importance, then choose working. If you don't feel balanced or fulfilled by staying home with your children, then choose working. But don't choose work because you feel as if you're letting down the feminists by staying home with your children.
Most of all, don't be the Martyr Mom (or Dad). Create a list of your top priorities. Know the cost difference between working vs. staying at home; set up a budget. Be honest with what you want and what you need. Make a decision for your family in which you will be confident. You'll know it's right when you don't feel the need to rationalize it to others.
"Excellence is... the wise choice of many alternatives - choice, not chance, determines your destiny." - Aristotle
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