The Cost of NOT Staying At Home

We all know the costs of moms not staying at home with their kids.  But did you know it literally costs more for moms to work?

After factoring in the rising costs of child care, gas, wear and tear on the car, parking, and other work-related expenses (clothes, food, etc.), a growing number of mothers are figuring out it doesn’t pay to have a job. 

In a CNN article, a third-grade teacher making about $48,000 a year in the Fairfax, Virginia  public school system was shadowed.  Out of the $48,000 she earned, she brought home about $30,000 after taxes, health insurance, and retirement contributions.  Even though she lives in Virginia, where child care costs are among the lowest in the country, care for the child would have cost $12,000 a year – nearly half of her before-tax income.

She says, “It wasn’t worth $18,000 for us to let somebody else raise our son.”  So I thought, “Well what amount of money would make it worth it to have somebody else raise your kid?” 

The Pew Research Center also conducted a study on the public attitude about stay-at-home moms.  According to it, when motherhood and children are brought into the debate, there is an ongoing ambivalence about what is best for society. Oh my gosh!  Imagine thinking of the greater good.  Only 21 percent of adults think the trend toward mothers of young children working outside the home has been a good thing for society.  Personally, I’m sad that the response was as large as 21 percent, but it’s still small.  On the other hand, 37 percent of the people surveyed said being a working mom is a bad thing, and 38 percent were not sure it makes a difference. 

The study goes on to say, most working mothers (62%) prefer to only work part time, and only 37% say they prefer full-time work. That’s scary…a third of those children have mothers who would rather be away from them all day. And finally, only one-in-ten moms say having a mother who works full time is the ideal situation for a child.  Do you realize they took ten mothers and asked each of them, “If you work full time, is that ideal for your kid?”  And one of them actually said, “Yeah.”  I wonder what motivated that, because I’ve always said not everybody’s a great mom.  If you’re not a good mom the kid might be better off with somebody else.  It is possible. 

But then I asked my listeners to describe “Aha!” moments they had about being stay-at-home moms.  Here are just three of the responses… 

Heidi wrote:
“My ‘Aha!’ moment happened rather quickly when I became a mom for the first time.  I was open to returning to work and didn’t know how I was going to feel after giving birth.  But when they put my daughter in my arms for the very first time, I looked at her, felt her tiny little body against mine, and said to my husband, ‘I’m never going back to work!’  Within those first few seconds of holding my daughter, a rush of future moments overwhelmed all my senses.  I didn’t want anyone besides this beautiful baby’s mommy and daddy to care for her.  I didn’t want a nanny to call me when she took her first steps.  I didn’t want a text from someone other than her daddy telling me she ate carrots for the first time.  I didn’t want to learn via email my child could swing all by herself at the park.  I didn’t want a video sent to my cell phone watching her speak her first words or hear her first real giggles.  I didn’t want a Picture Mail of my child’s first smile after losing her first tooth.  No, I wanted to be there for every possible moment in her life.  What job or amount of money would be worth missing all of that?  I’m happy to say after 6 years with two children and a grateful husband who not only loves my choice but also respects my choice (as so few do) of staying at home to raise our children, I still stay at home!  Thank God I had my ‘Aha!’ moment so quickly.  Otherwise I would have missed out on the one thing that matters most in life: being a real and present mother who has enough videos and pictures to fill a thousand albums that were all taken by me!  We all have regrets in our lives on what we should have or wished we would have done.  I thank God that not being there for my children each and every day is not one of them.”

Mayi wrote:
“When I started staying home with my children, I was surprised to find out how much I didn’t value my position as a mother.  I found out I only get to be mommy once and time was valuable. I learned I could live on a lot less than I originally believed.  I learned I like teaching (as they were my first students).  I learned I only get one shot at being an awesome mom.  I learned how to love and appreciate myself as a woman with an important job.  I learned how to budget and sacrifice, and I began to connect with and honor other mothers.  I have learned how to be creative, work, and study from home, and I have learned how to organize and plan.  I know the bond we have created will never be broken.  And I learned as long as I put God first, He will lead and direct me down the correct path and continue to make me an awesome mom and wife.”

And Jane:
“I have my stay-at-home parent ‘Aha!’ moment almost daily when I pick my daughters up from school.  I see the other kids who come out from their classes to emerge into the quad or parking lot area only to look for their ‘after school program’ bus/van, and they have this look of sadness when they see children like mine, who have their mom there to greet them with a hug, kiss, and a smile once they come running out of their classroom.  It would break my heart if I was not able to be there like I am for my girls.  Yes, we don’t have the luxuries like the other kids do of going to Disneyland once a year, video game systems, or designer clothes/shoes, but we are happy with what we have and what we can do. I love my two girls, and I wouldn’t change being a stay-at-home mom for anything!”