June 5, 2013

Life as a Working Mom & The True Cost of Working

Evan usually wakes up to eat around 3:00 am. At 5:30 it's time to feed him again and get ready before feeding him again at 7:15 to ensure he's as full as possible when I drop him off at daycare. I haul my bags and my baby out to the car, drop Evan off at daycare, and then try to be productive at work for a couple hours. By the time I get into the groove, it's already time to go upstairs to a dirty, dusty, cold room to hook myself up to a machine to make my son's first bottle for the next day. A couple more hours of work, then I go feed Evan at daycare, grabbing some sort of fast food on my way back to work. I try to eat while working, and after a couple more hours of work it's time for another pumping break. I work a few more hours, then it's time to go pick up my son.

At home I barely have time to feed my dogs before I have to feed my baby again. By this point Nathan's usually home, and we try to see what we can scrounge up for dinner. I'm usually too worn out to cook anything. One of us usually ends up holding Evan most of the evening. My once easy-going, fairly independent baby is now clingy in the evenings. After spending most of his day lying on his back in a crib or on a play mat, competing with seven other babies for attention, who can blame him? I try to spend some time with my husband in between nursing sessions, but it's hardly quality time. I sterilize all my pump parts and bottles and get everything else ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

On Evan's second day of daycare, I got a call from one of the directors because he'd had all three of his bottles by noon. Not sure if he was going through a growth spurt or just being over fed, I stayed home with him on Wednesday. It was definitely a growth spurt, but hoping it would level off, I went back to work Thursday. I left him with 3 bottles and told them I would be back at noon to nurse him. By the time I arrived at noon, he had already taken all three bottles and was hungry for more. Unable to feed him, the daycare workers had left him crying on the floor. It was undeniable at this point that the best place for a baby, especially one fed exclusively breast milk, is with his mother.

I tried to keep working. If I could just make it eight more months, we would be 100% debt free and have an emergency fund of at least 5 months' expenses. Evan would never remember being in daycare. I thought there had to be a way to make it work. Maybe I could do freezer cooking on the weekends and clean after Evan's gone to bed. Maybe if I gave up breastfeeding and gave him formula

After four weeks back at work, I gave my two weeks' notice. It was by no means easy to do. I'm not a quitter. I'd been working there almost four years. I got comments on Facebook telling me it would get easier, to just hang in there. I just couldn't. I admire women who can make it work, but it wasn't for me.  I wasn't giving my best to anyone: not my job, not my son, not my husband, not myself.

I had to stop crunching the numbers and look at the big picture. Quitting my job was not a good move from a purely financial standpoint. Even after daycare and increased costs related to me working, I was still bringing home a decent amount of money. The thing is, there's quite a bit more to life than money. I could relate to a lot of what Amy from The Finer Things in Life wrote in a blog post about what working outside the home was costing in terms of her time, her marriage, and her health. It just wasn't worth it to me.

A lot of it came down to this: At the end of my life, what will I regret? Will I be more likely to regret having less money during this time in our lives and being in debt a little longer, or missing out on the first year of my son's life?

I don't think I'll regret this decision.