Staying Home ≠ Giving Up My Career
There was a time when women did not have a choice so would dutifully run the household and look after her husband and her handful of children. Post-secondary education was out of question for all but a few and the work force was reserved for men, young pretty unmarried women or spinsters with no marriage hope in sight. This was also a time when most families could live comfortably on a single income. Even forty or as recent as thirty years ago, it was a common sight to see a mom stay at home with the their child even though this was the time of moms venturing into the workplace. Now, women have equal access to education and the workforce. Unfortunately, wages haven’t kept up to inflation and two incomes are needed to live comfortably. Fast forward to 2019 and a parent staying home has become a luxury.
I had my first three babies young. I was in my second year of university when #1 came along. Two years later, I was married and had transitioned into a military wife stay at home mom. Then #2 came along. Two years later, out popped #3. With three young ones at home, it was a no-brainer to continue staying at home. I did the usual stay at home mom income supplementation — home daycare. I didn’t feel that I had given anything up since I had barely started post-secondary education and was still very young. Jump ahead two years later. My marriage was over. I was back in school and focused on getting my degree so that I could support my children.
Anyone who has gone to school with kids or been a single mom knows that it certainly isn’t an easy road when you’re in school full time and a single mom. Not only are you trying to fly solo keeping track of your kids’ homework and sports schedules but you’re also trying to keep track of your own homework and class schedules. I’m not going to sugar coat this. It was difficult. While I did take a slightly reduced course load for my own sanity’s sake, many of my homework nights started after 9pm. I sat sideline at sport events trying to juggle reading a text book and keeping track of where my son was on court. Beyonce’s personal assistant would be enviable of my calendar scheduling techniques as I had to ensure I was on time for meetings with my son’s resource teachers or my own tutorial groups.
Then… I finally had made it. It had taken me five years but, not only had I been able to complete my degree that I had started back when I was 18, I also had completed a second degree so I could venture into the workforce. As a single mom, I had completed two degrees and was now a teacher. I worked steadily as a supply teacher, padding my portfolio along the way with carefully designed learning activities and thank you notes from parents. I was proud of how far I had come and all of my accomplishments.
As life tends to be full of surprises, I met a very wonderful man who became my partner and along came a little baby girl. I had every intention of returning to work after my maternity leave so we did the usual parent tours of daycare centres to get our names on the waitlists. However, along the way we were led on a bumpy ride of multiple food allergies, health problems, and selective eating which led us to deciding whether or not me returning to work was a good decision. There were big questions. Would our daughter benefit from me staying home? Could we afford it? And, how did I feel about “giving up” my career?
It’s unfortunate that society views the stay at home parent in such a simplistic way. It’s a choice that is undervalued and often met with an “…oh” when other parents ask what you do for a career. Ironically, greater value is placed on the caregiving of another child. You get plastered with questions if your answer is that you are a nanny, early childhood educator, or a teacher, but to say that you’re a stay at home parent then you’re met with “oh you must be busy” or a quiet awkward conversation change. The conversation doesn’t get any easier once they discover that you previously held a career outside the home.
How do you feel about giving up your career?
This is a problem of society’s overly simplistic view of stay at home parenting. I didn’t “give up” my career. I’m not putting it on hold or temporarily stepping out of the workforce. I’m merely changing careers while my child is home. Will I got back to teaching? Who knows. That’s not the point. The point is that the average person goes through twelve career changes in their lifetime. This is one of mine.
We need to stop saying that a parent is quitting their job to stay home with the children. Parenting is a job. Just as in any career change, your daily routine and tasks are different. You’re now the director, personal organizer, chauffeur, repair person, chef, teacher, and motivator, all while attending to the day to day tasks of child rearing. Once you stand on your soap box and, for some reason, feel you have to justify your career change, comes the second question.
How do you feel about not contributing financially?
A study from early 2019 indicated that, if factoring all the daily tasks and hours worked, a stay at home parent would earn over $160 000USD. Contributing to a household is not restricted to dollars earned as shown by the many hats the stay at home parent must wear. Add in the cost of daycare and it’s an no-brainer why one parent may choose to stay home. With daycare costs sometimes exceeding $1000 for one child, monthly care costs can quickly mount up.
So why did I do it?
For us, it was the best family choice that I stay home with our daughter. She has multiple food allergies that require many food restrictions and quick intervention. Daycare costs alone would take a third of my income. Then factoring the need of a second car, extra gas, and extra driving, the monthly costs were increasing. Add to this, neither of us had a career where we’d be easily accessible in an emergency and few family members to help. And, to be honest, I forgot what it was like to have a toddler at home and couldn’t imagine not staying home.
A career change to being a stay at home parent has been simple. It’s taken frugal financial planning, especially with a son still at home who is in the middle of a very expensive grade 12 year. I’ve learned how to find a few moments peace in a day with a no-nap toddler. Being an introvert, I’ve had to put myself out there to ensure that my daughter has enough socalization and so that I don’t inadvertently become isolated from other adults and much needed adult conversation. I’ve also seen these changes as occasions to grow.
So the next time someone asks you what you do for a career, don’t be timid to say that you’ve changed careers and are now a stay at home parent. Don’t devalue yourself as merely a babysitter or let people think that you’ve given up a career and education. You’ve just taken a slightly unconventional but very fulfilling life path.