Friday, April 13, 2012

Stay-at-Home-Mom: Luxury or Sacrifice?

You've probably all heard it by now - the statement that made all moms cringe. The statement that simultaneously offended moms who stay at home with the kids as well as those mom who work outside the home. But just in case you missed this gem, here is a quick summary of recent events (Source:

CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen : “What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues. And when I listen to my wife, that’s what I’m hearing. Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and how do we – why we worry about their future,” said CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen Wednesday night.

Ann Romney quickly fired back on Twitter :“I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work,” Ann tweeted.

But Rosen, herself a working mother, did not back down. “I am raising children too. But most young American women HAVE to BOTH earn a living AND raise children. You know that don’t u?” she tweeted at Ann Romney.

Michelle Obama, who had a career as a lawyer before her husband became president, tweeted support for Ann Romney on Thursday. “Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected. -mo,” tweeted @MichelleObama

I’m a stay-at-home mom. And I work my butt off every single day. Despite what Ms. Rosen believes, I’m keenly aware of the current economic issues effecting families – how to feed the children, send them to school – and I regularly worry about their futures. I find Ms. Rosen’s statement highly offensive because she implies that because I stay at home with the kids, I must be living a life of luxury. Of privilege. Let’s be honest – that couldn’t be further from the truth. Let me break it down for you:

My choice to leave my job and stay home with my babies was not an easy one to make. My husband and I are not wealthy. We don’t live a privileged existence. We’ve always worked extremely hard. I began working at the age of 14. Throughout high school and college I worked 2 – sometimes 3 – jobs to earn money. I graduated from college in 3 years (vs. the typical 4) so that I could enter the workforce and begin earning a salary and secure benefits. I’ve always taken pride in working hard.

So when I found out I was pregnant in April 2009, my husband and I took a hard look at our budget to see what we needed to do. Would I be able to stay home? Would I need to keep working? Both options were on the table. We figured out that if we saved every extra penny we had, cut out splurges and excessive/unnecessary spending, we could save enough for me to stay at home for one year.

And then Miss Paige came and a funny thing happened – once we got used to saving vs. spending, we found out it wasn’t so bad living off of a single income. Wal-Mart was a great place to buy groceries. Our clothes could last a few seasons. Cooking at home could actually be more fun than going out to eat every week. So we decided I would stay at home indefinitely. I would try to bring in extra money any way I could – selling advertising on my blog, selling artwork and crafts on my Etsy store. Maybe even a part-time job if necessary. In addition to raising the babies, my job became managing our household finances – creating and adhering to a strict budget.

Fast forward one year - when the unexpected occurred and there was an avalanche of medical bills from Deacon’s surgery. Even with great health insurance, there was still thousands of dollars of bills to pay – all due at the same time. And it seemed as if no level of financial sacrifice could get us out of this mess. So the discussion came up – should I go back to work full-time? Here’s the math we did…

When I left the workforce back in early 2010, I was making an annual salary of $72,000. Each paycheck (after taxes, deductions and a 401K contribution) was approximately $1,800 – twice a month. If I went back to work full time, I probably wouldn’t make MORE than I was making previously. I might even take a pay cut since I’ve been out of the workforce for two + years and the economy has gone from bad to worse. If I was lucky, I could make about $1,700 per paycheck - $3,400 per month. Not too shabby! An extra $3,400 each month would be AMAZING after living on a single income for the past few years. However - then you factor in child care costs and things start to get pretty ugly…

I looked at a few local child care centers and got pricing on enrolling both Miss Paige and the Big D in a full-time, 5 day per week program. The cost? $2,000 per month. And that wasn’t even at the most expensive child care centers!.$2,000 would be the cost of a middle-of-the-road, not fancy schmancy, child care center. $2,000 would be MORE than a single paycheck. My monthly take-home pay would plummet from a nice $3,400 to $1,400 after paying for childcare. Subtract all the other expenses involved in working outside the home - gas, clothes, lunches, etc. – and we’re probably talking about $1,200 max per month take home pay. For full-time work. 50-60 hours per week of work. $300 per week. Equals about $5.00 per hour. Below minimum wage?! Oh my.

Obviously it didn’t make sense for me to go back to work full-time. Luckily we had my husband’s paycheck and benefits (i.e. healthcare insurance) that comes along with his full-time job, so we were able to consider other options. If I was only going to bring home $1,200 a month working FULL TIME, was there a way I could swing that working part-time? Maybe a freelance gig or a waitressing job? That way I could stay home with the kids (no crazy child care costs!!) and still bring home extra income. After some networking with former colleagues and juggling my schedule, I found a great freelance gig at my old PR agency. Hooray!

So what’s the point of sharing all this info? To prove that not all moms who stay home do so as a luxury. Sometimes it is a financial necessity. With child care costs sky high, sometimes it makes more financial sense to stay home and find other ways to supplement income if the need arises. It takes hard work, sacrifice, and often times a change in mindset to be a stay-at-home mom. I work each and every day to make sure the paycheck my husband works so hard to bring home is put to good use – to provide for and feed our family of four, save for future education costs, and help secure our family’s future well-being. It's not that I don't have (or didn't have) dreams of continuing to climb the corporate ladder. Of making more money. Of getting the rush a full-time job can provide. I made a conscious decision to put those professional goals on hold as I pursued my personal goals.

Politics aside (I am a registered Independent for the record!) I feel as if Ms. Rosen’s comments regarding stay-at-home moms if WAY out of touch with reality. Yes – some women are able to stay home because they are just rolling in dough. But I don’t know any of those people. All the stay at home moms I know sacrifice every single day to do what they do. And that’s not to say working moms don’t sacrifice. They also sacrifice a lot and make hard choices for the well-bring of their families. Just because I stay home doesn’t mean I don’t understand economics. Or the struggles of the every-day American family. WE ARE THE TYPICAL AMERICAN FAMILY!

As women we need to support each other’s choices and decisions, and not jump to conclusions about the HOWS and WHYS a woman makes the decision that she does. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt, assume our fellow mama is making decisions based on the love and well-being of her family, and support each other 100%.