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Monday, February 16, 2009

Sometimes Giving Up a Career to be a Stay-at-Home Mom is the Right Choice

giving up a career to be a stay-at-home momWe all know (or we should, anyway) that mothers work harder than almost anyone. Whether they stay at home, or they hold down a job outside the home, women often shoulder much of the responsibility for caring for children. Most mothers work for pay, and they spend a lot of time juggling their careers, and the needs of their families. That's why a lot of women are "opting out" of trying to have a family and a full-time job, and choosing to stay home with their children full time. Let me tell you about a friend of mine, who gave up running a successful business to be an at-home parent. Did she know what she was giving up? That's hard to say.

Her name is April, and I've known her since the ninth grade. Even back then, she had an entrepreneurial spirit. She was always the one raking lawns or walking the neighbor's dog to pick up a little spending money. She always told me that her ambition was to run her own dog-grooming business, because she loved dogs. After we graduated, we lost touch for a few years. I recently got into contact with her again, and what she had to say surprised me.

She told me that she'd gone to Florida Atlantic University and gotten a two-year degree in business management. All in all, she spent about $12,000 to get that degree, broken down like this:

  • $7,000 on tuition

  • $1,000 on books and study materials

  • $2,000 on child care so that she could attend evening classes

  • $2,000 on other miscellaneous expenses (gas, school supplies, etc.)

It was tough for her and her family during that time. Her husband couldn't help with the children in the evenings, because his job required him to work 14-hour shifts. So, she did the job of both parents, all while working a full-time job and going to school. She worked really hard though, and ended up getting an associate's degree.

She started her business, grooming and boarding dogs and cats. She was quite successful at it, building a loyal customer base who wouldn't take their pets to anyone but her. But, the 12-hour days took their toll. She told me that she just got tired of working her fingers to the bone every day, with rarely a day off, and then having to go home and work a full day there, too. She discussed it with her husband, and they decided together that the constant worry and stress weren't worth it, and that she'd sell the business and become a stay-at-home mom.

April, and women like her, give up a lot when they decide to stay home and take care of their families full-time. In her book The Feminine Mistake, author Leslie Bennetts states that:

  • A woman who stays out of the paid work force for three years will lose at least 37% of her earning power.

  • This book also tells us that elderly women are more than twice as likely as elderly men to live in poverty.
Contrary to what people may think, marriage isn't a lifelong paycheck for the stay-at-home wife. With more than half of marriages ending in divorce, women give up their permanent financial security when they decide to leave the working world.

According to the book Leaving Women Behind: Modern Families, Outdated Laws by Kimberly Strassel, tax laws, labor laws, and employee benefit laws work against women who are trying to balance a career with raising a family. She says the laws are designed for couples where one is a primary wage-earner and one is a stay-at-home spouse, and that these laws punish any other kind of arrangement. Some would like to work a 25 or 30-hour week, allowing them to spend more time with their families, and these rigid laws make that tough for those who depend on their employer's health insurance coverage, pension plan, and other benefits.With all the things working against them, it's no wonder that many overwhelmed, overworked, and underpaid women decide to remove themselves from the rat race completely.

April has been a stay-at-home mom for three years now, and she couldn't be happier. She tells me that when her children are both in school, she'll look into getting a part time job, or finding work that she can do from home. As she and I are in the same situation, I'm curious to see how well she fares, and I wish her all the best.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stay-at-Home Moms: Returning to Work for Financial Security Reasons

Stay-at-home Mom Returns to Corporate AmericaI have been a stay-at-home mom to two little girls, for the last eight years. I was privileged to be able to be there for all their "firsts"- first steps, first words, first day of kindergarten. Now that they are both in school, it's time for me to re-enter the work force. Why am I going back to work? Well, there are a few reasons. I want to feel as if I am contributing to the household financially. I sell a little bit here and there on eBay, but that's barely enough to pay the monthly premium on our family health insurance. Money is really tight right now in our house, and it's getting harder and harder to get by on one income. My husband is self-employed, delivering steak and seafood to restaurants, and business has suffered because of the recession. I guess fewer people are eating out these days, so orders haven't been as fast coming in. We have about $15,000 in credit card debt. All three of our cards are at about 28% interest, and we can barely afford to pay the minimum, which averages out to about $250 a month. Sometimes we try to pay a little more, but most months we pay just enough to get by- and the bills just keep coming.

Since I have actively been seeking a job, I have had four interviews, each with the typical questions about skills, experiences, and qualities that I could bring to the job. None of them had the result I was hoping for. Every employer wants someone with more experience, and I don't have a lot because I have been at home with my children since I was 21. I have a lot of skills, such as multitasking, and working under stress, but my time as an at-home parent doesn't count toward my resume. It's a catch-22. I can't get a job due to lack of a work history, but I can't get any experience until someone hires me.

In order to return to the working world, I have taken classes online, and researched extensively on corporate America and what employers are looking for. I know there are a lot of people out of work these days, and most of those people definitely have more skills than I do. It's hard to get back into the game, after being at home for so long. When I finally do land a job, hopefully it will be during the hours my children are in school. That will save me a lot on daycare expenses. Child-care centers in my area charge about $120 a week, per child. If I cannot find a job with the hours I am hoping for, I will probably ask my family for help with caring for my children. It's important for a parent to have a support system in place when they decide to return to work, and I'm really fortunate to have a loving and helpful family.

As far as salary goes, that's negotiable. I'd like to make at least ten dollars an hour, but right now I'd take anything above minimum wage. High-paying jobs are scarce these days, I know. I'd take a job with no medical benefits, because my husband, children and I already have insurance, which I finance through my eBay selling.

I'd really like to find a job that allows me to set up an IRA or a 401k, because I have not begun to save for retirement. I have no delusions that Social Security will be enough to keep me afloat when I get older, so I'd like to be able to start putting some money away.

Returning to the corporate world is tough (it has been so far, anyway.) I'll keep you posted on my progress, and provide other useful tips in my next post.

And, of course, if you have any advice for me, please post your thoughts in the comments section of this entry. Thanks!

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