Random Blog A Musing Farf

Monday, February 25, 2008

INVESTING IN MY FUTURE

Just this week, the accountant at my office asked me if I was pregnant. Apparently she was out of the office when I made the big announcement in December and had just figured I had been gaining weight over the last few months.

"Congratulations!" She gushed when she saw me. We talked about when I am due (June 27th) and how much she loved it when her kids were born. And then this:

"I suppose when the baby comes, you'll want to be a stay at home Mommy, right?"

I have spent many a sleepless night lying awake feeling my unborn child kick me non-stop and wondering about how the impending birth is going to change my life. First and foremost on my mind is childcare.

I live in Manhattan and work helping low income people fight for livable wages. The problem is that while I feel really good about my career choice, I barely make a livable wage myself. I never really cared about this since Husband, Sister and the rest of my family are generous enough to pay for vacations and the occasional meal, and while I do appreciate having nice things, I can also live without.

And, while there are certain aspects of my current job that I really don't like, I do like working overall. In fact, I love being busy with my work and my volunteer activities and can not imagine giving them up. Do I want to be an attorney forever? Likely not. Are there other career opportunities that I am eager to explore? Most definitely!

So then, Husband and I wrestle with the different ways to handle child care. Mother generously offered to help out a few times a week, but I feel bad having her watch my child just when all of her children are grown. Mother has fabulous vacations planned and keeps a relatively full schedule. She does not need a nanny job.

And what about a professional nanny? Well, the starting salary is somewhere around $600 per week, not including healthcare and overtime. I make just barely more than that and I have wondered about the trade off of working just to pay the nanny.

And then there is day care. At $2000+ a month on average, it is slightly out of our price range and the places we have explored do not allow child to enroll before 8 months of age. So that would be 8 months where I would be out of work and the idea of trying to catch back up and re-hone my skills terrifies me.

Part of me thinks of the cost of child care as an investment in my career. Money I am putting in now to ensure a higher return in the future. And part of me wonders why I am so eager to leave my child and go back to work even before it is born.

But the other day, I met a group Linkof women who really helped to clarify my thinking on the subject. We had gathered for a roundtable discussion about how the Clinton campaign resonates with working women and, due to my obvious pregnancy, the topic of working motherhood came up. One of the woman who was part of the discussion runs Working Mother Magazine, so clearly she had some insight into the matter.

I was open and honest regarding my fears for the future: our lack of affordable childcare options, society’s expectation that I stay home, the fact that Husband’s salary is so much more than mine and thus the one we rely on more. And also I spoke about how I am happiest when I am busy and thrive on participating in things like NYC Shiba Rescue, Haven Coalition and even my job (especially when Evil Partner is on vacation). I don’t know if I would be satisfied with full time motherhood and think I may even begin to feel isolated from my friends.

The women of the group nodded in sympathy. They had all been in my position and all felt like they were fighting an uphill battle against the same forces I felt.

One woman nodded in sympathy when I explained how the nanny would make more than I do (or close to it) and told me, “Going into debt for childcare is an investment in your future. It’s like going into debt for law school. You are paying out money now and expecting a huge return on your future.”

That was a moment of clarity for me. It’s okay to work just to pay the nanny (if that is what I choose) since the personal and career rewards I would reap from that investment would more than pay me back. And, while that may not ultimately be the decision I make, and I certainly would never fault those who made a different decision, it is nice to know that when the time comes, I am not alone.

And really, whether I go back to work right away, take some time off or never go back to the workforce, I am investing in my future. I am doing something that may not be cost effective now because I know the benefits I will have in the future. And I am lucky to have so many options.

So, the next time someone like my office accountant makes the assumption that I want to stay at home, maybe I will just tell them that I will be investing in my future leave it at that.

7 comments:

Suzanne said...

Yes, these things are so complicated. If you want help finding child care, I'm glad to be of assistance. It's one of the few things I am useful at.

jg said...

You'll be investing in your future AND your child's future also! As long as you are true to yourself and your child, then you are setting a good example for your child. It doesn't matter if you do that from home or from an office, as long as your needs and your child's needs are met.

Ask me sometime how long I stayed home after The Divine Miss ~T~ was born. :)

Mara Clarke said...

It will be interesting to see what decision you make down the line. A few months ago I was dying to find work, but then, faced with a possible job offer, realised if I had to make a choice between leaving Baby A in childcare 10-11 hours a day, 5 days a week or not working, I'd choose not working. I never thought I'd be of that mind, but I am. May your decision making process be less fraught than mine has been! Really like the investing in the future take on things . . .

Anonymous said...

This might to simple of an answer, why not find a higher paying job ?

Sara said...

Well, actually, a higher paying job is too simple an answer in this case. First of all, I love what I do. I spend my day helping people and the good feelings I get from that are priceless. I tried going the more "corporate" route and was miserable. That's not good for anyone. But the larger issue is, even if I could afford full time child care, would I want it? I don't want to spend so much time in the office that I miss out on important milestones, but neither do I want to sacrifice everything I have worked for this far. Sigh. If only the answer were as simple as a higher paying job...

Mara Clarke said...

At least we're not alone in our difficulty -

Study finds a third of mothers slip down career ladder:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/27/worklifebalance

Motherhood brings mixed feelings:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/feb/25/health.children

englishgenie said...

I had so many ideas about how I wanted things to go before my baby was born...and after he showed up, absolutely everything I thought I wanted, definitely everything I planned for, and every possible way I thought I'd feel were no longer even on my radar.

Good luck and congratulations! Believe it or not, everything will work out.