This past mother’s day, I reflected on the struggles of a working mom. We live in a country where mothers have to decide between bringing home the money or staying home with our kids. I never thought I would consider being a stay at home mom, but if I were to have another child (totally not happening by the way) I feel like I’d have no choice but to stay home with them.
Not only is childcare expensive, childcare in the New York State costs more than college tuition, especially if your child is going to a SUNY school which is free or practically free. My kids are not babies anymore, they are 10 and 4 and I still pay more for childcare than I do for mortgage! Unbelievable! Since my hubby and I sold our home last summer, we doubled our mortgage and we still are paying more for childcare! My youngest starts full day kindergarten in September and I have mixed emotions. On one hand we’d be saving about $700 a month in childcare because the kids will only need after school care. But on the other hand it freaks me out a bit to see him off on a school bus by himself at 4.
Mothering now is the hardest. Body shaming is real, cyber bullying is real. And hey so is 4th grade homework. Whoever said that being a parent is hard in the beginning, but then gets better as they get older… lied. Give me a newborn all day, yes I’d be losing sleep but really I haven’t slept since I became a mother so it’s no big deal. Newborns are simple; they want to be fed, dry and played with when not sleeping.
Then they get older and start school and the real joys of parenting begin. You struggle with finding a balance between fighting to make them a good member of society while trying to keep all the bad of the world away from them as much as you can for as long as you can. But then you don’t want them to be naïve either, because sometimes that’s more dangerous than anything else. Then you have the kids at school whose parents leave them to fend for themselves and they share what they’ve learned on the internet with your kids. Also, why is it that when a friend tells my kid something they read on the internet it’s gospel, but when I try to tell him something he doesn’t believe a word of it. Words cannot explain how frustrating that is!
Let’s go back to childcare. I struggle as a working mom because my day never seems to end. Here’s a regular day in my life:
- 6:30 AM Alarm goes off
- 6:45 AM I wake up ( I like to have an extra 15 minutes of quiet and cuddles before getting the kids up and starting my day. Once they are up it’s nonstop until they are back in bed.)
- 6:45-7:15 AM Wake up, wake the kids up, get dressed. I brush my teeth while they finish getting dressed, then the kids brush their teeth while I try to get my makeup on (You know I’m a fan of the 5 minute makeup routine for every day) then we’re off to daycare.
- 7:15-7:30 AM drop them off at daycare, say my goodbyes and head off to work.
- 7:30-8:00 AM commute to work. I can get to work anytime between 7:45 and 8:10 depending on traffic.
- 8:00-12:00PM work
- noon-1PM run errands/make phone calls/eat lunch (see how I left eat lunch for last? Because some days I don’t have time to eat lunch!)
- 1-5PM work
- 5:00-5:30PM commute home
- 5:30-6:30PM make dinner and help with homework.
- 6:30-6:45PM eat dinner
- 6:45-7:45PM clean kitchen, remind kids to do chores, get book bag ready for next day.
- 7:45-9:30PM get kids ready for bed..bath, story etc.
- 9:30PM shower and get ready for bed. Maybe fit in a glass of wine depending on the day I’ve had, but sometimes I drink my wine while I cook dinner.
- 10PM fall into bed exhausted and thinking about the next day what needs to be done.
That mess is no joke. We moms have this superwoman mentality; you want to do your best at work so you can get a good raise and bring more money home. Because student loan payments don’t wait. And then you struggle to keep up once you get home because there’s still cleaning and homework and chores to be done and the list seems never ending. Just to go to bed and do it all over again.
Can you imagine having to make the decision to find childcare for your new baby so you can go back to work to then find out that something happened to your baby? That’s happened way too much lately. Those sad stories keep making the news of 3 month olds or 4 month olds that die at the hands of a sitter. And you know that at the end of the day no one takes better care of our kids than we do. But the bills don’t stop and some families can’t afford to have a one income household.
We are one of the only countries that don’t have paid leave for our moms in the work force. Sure, there’s FMLA, but that’s unpaid leave. We have disability in NYS, but that only covers the 6-8 weeks after giving birth and it caps at $175 a week unless you receive supplemental disability from your employer. Even then, it caps at 66% of your paycheck.
I didn’t have FMLA when I gave birth to both my children. Both times I was with new employers. I had to go back to work after my oldest son was 8 weeks old. NYS denied me the extra 2 weeks of disability even after appeals. The second time I was lucky enough to work for a SUNY school, who had child care leave that could be approved by your supervisor for up to 3 months. It worked similar to FMLA, as it was unpaid. Only 8 weeks of those were paid by NYS disability. Let me tell you how a family of four can live on $175 a week….they can’t. But I still wanted to take the three months to be with my preemie son and my husband and I planned that out with lots of OT beforehand so that we can get by during my time away from the office. It didn’t make it easier when I had to get back to work. Let’s be real, knowing that he would be my last baby and he was only 4 pounds 12 ounces when he was born, I would have loved to stay home with him during his first year. But that was impossible.
When my daycare closed abruptly last summer, leaving us without childcare and scrambling to find one, I again considered staying home with my babies because I didn’t want to leave them just anywhere. But we’d be losing income by me staying home even with the savings from not putting our kids in daycare. The beauty of not being at poverty level.
I could have been a statistic, have a child at 17, get free childcare and barely any student loans because that would have been mostly paid for. By now, I would have probably paid off any student loan balances I would have carried and wouldn’t need to pay for childcare because my oldest would have been 17 and ready for college. But here we are in this position because we did things the way society expects us to. Apparently being in debt and working to pay bills is the American way. I’m getting absolutely tired of this rat race.