In our Moms Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money and parenthood. These views are theirs, not ours, but we look forward to opening up the floor for discussion.
Last time, we introduced you to the diaper-free movement that's sweeping the nation. This time, two writers share their differing views on whether it makes sense—emotionally and financially—to go back to work after having kids.
In this post, Toni Larina tells us why she decided to go back to work after having her baby. For the opposing view, read this essay on why one woman made the choice to be a stay-at-home. Let us know what you think in the comments, below.
To work or not to work—a tough choice for mothers.
Nearly three years ago, when I found out I had a little person inside me, I had the usual 10,000 questions: How am I going to do this? How will I make time? How much weight I am going to gain?
But then: What about work? Is this it?
At This Time, My Career Was on an Upward Swing
I loved what I was doing. As a software developer, I was working at a consulting firm on a very interesting project for Walt Disney. This gave me a great sense of accomplishment to be working on a challenging task—and doing it well. I didn't want to give it up. And, looking at a coworker who balanced life with a six-month-old, combining work and motherhood didn’t seem so impossible.
I talked to my coworkers who were young parents, did research … The results made me feel like I could have it all. I found a good pediatrician, and, best of all, a daycare within minutes from work. I was feeling good, which helped me take care of my own life, and the little life growing inside me.
I also found an online forum where expectant moms hung out. The women were supportive and fun, but, as more of them started moving from “expectant mom” to “mom,” I became wary. They grew judgmental.
When I announced my decision to stay in the workforce, nearly no one on the forum supported me. I caught a lot of flak. I heard it all: “Baby needs her Mommy;" “No one can replace Mommy;" “Work will be there when you’re done being a mom;" “Can’t your husband support the family on his own?”
My husband and a handful of friends were supportive, but my own mother and most other friends weren’t. At all. My best friend, who stayed home with her son for nearly three full years, predicted I’d crack just weeks in. “You’ll see,” she said.
I Felt Like Giving Up My Job Would Mean Losing My Identity
I wanted to be an example for my daughter, and for her to see a strong and independent person when she looked at me. I didn’t want to be selfish, but I was determined to strike the fine balance of caring for my child (even if it meant delegating to another person at times), and also remaining myself so she could learn life skills from me.
In the end, I was on maternity leave for six weeks, and then returned to work.
I made that decision because, for one thing, it would be much harder to break out of the diaper and goo-goo cycle to interview for a new job if I stayed home for a few years. I work in technology, and it's already challenging enough to stay on top of new technological developments without taking a prolonged break. Plus, it's harder for the baby to start daycare after being used to no one but Mommy every day.
I Want My Daughter to Have the Things I Couldn't Dream About
Financially speaking, it’ll help my daughter in the long haul for me to steadily grow my retirement fund—she won’t have to support me when I get old. Similarly, saving for a down payment on a home means not having to rent later on when I retire. In the shorter term, one of my big goals is to afford my daughter's childhood. I grew up in far harsher conditions, and I'd like her to have the things I couldn't even dream about as a kid ... like nice living arrangements (or even her own room), a good neighborhood and well-respected schools. A dual income helps us get there.
She Should Always See Someone She Admires in Me
In addition to these purely practical concerns, when you have to go to work, it’s harder to let yourself go: There’s no choice but to do your hair, put on nice clothes, etc. No matter what, I want to be someone my daughter can look up to.
As it turned out, a lot of my stay-at-home-mom friends ended up having marital problems. Of course, this is my unscientific personal observation, but three of eight stay-at-home moms I knew well are already divorced and must relearn how to live on their own. My husband and I haven’t avoided every bump in the road altogether, but knowing that I bring home my share of the bacon gives me the self-confidence I would be lacking if I made another choice.
I’m not saying everyone should do as I did. It’s a personal choice, as is everything else. But I’m hoping this story encourages women facing a similar decision. For me, there was no question.
Staying at Home Would've Ruined Me
I know some stay-at-home-moms who are happy … but it would have ruined me because I would feel like I was being separated from my passions, and I was sliding into postpartum depression. I feel confident that I made the right choice. I've succeeded in keeping my career going, and I've also made sure my daughter is surrounded with people who love her a ton—between me, my husband and our extended family, she always has someone who adores her, 24/7.
She went through a short phase in which she'd act out whenever my husband and I dropped her off at daycare, but now she understands that I'm always there, and I'll always come back to her (plus she's now more interested in hanging out with the other kids!). My closeness with her hasn't suffered at all from my decision to work, because it means that the time I do spend with her is total quality time. What's more, her social skills are better than they would be otherwise, because she's used to being around lots of different people.
Two years is hardly enough to tell, but I’m well on my way to my goal of providing nice living arrangements for my daughter, in a good neighborhood with great schools. We're actually able to go on family vacations, and I feel good about providing her with the financial security I didn't have growing up. I wouldn't have been able to do that if I stayed home.
To share your thoughts on this controversial topic, leave a comment below. For the opposing view to this article, read this essay on why one woman made the choice to be a stay-at-home mom.
Toni Larina is a software developer at LearnVest. When she isn't busy working, she spends her free time with her husband and adorable daughter.