PSA #1- Don’t Stay Home

I’m going to make a pronouncement and it’s not going to be popular. No one will listen because no one ever believes it will happen to them. I’m going to say it anyway: Don’t stay at home! Unless you have a career that allows you to seamlessly step back into the workforce (and honestly nursing is the only thing I’ve ever heard of that even comes close; maybe pharmacy or being a doctor or some other area of the medical field would as well) I implore you to keep your job even after children come along. Other exceptions would be if you have a legally binding agreement where the working partner agrees to put money aside for your personal retirement and pay alimony in the case of divorce, OR you are independently wealthy (or come into a healthy inheritance while married- just keep it separate at all times), OR, you have a secondary income, such as rental units, or a business, or stock dividends, or that handy inheritance.

Many times women (mostly women, anyway) walk away from their outside jobs to concentrate on raising the children. When they choose to, or are forced to, return to work they frequently return at a fraction of what they were making. Many times the skills they had to perform their job are outdated by the time they return. It’s a long tough road to get back on your feet financially. Most states don’t award alimony and even when it is awarded you’re now at the mercy of the ex. If the ex dies on you you’re screwed. It’s far, far better to make a good income and know that you can take care of yourself and your kids with no help from anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved being at home with my kids. I did a lot of things with my them. We went to a lot of places. When we first moved to Utah my daughter was in year round school, which turned out to be amazing. She had six weeks off in the summer and then was on a 9 weeks on/3 weeks off schedule. We went to Universal Studios, SeaWorld and the San Diego zoo at off peak times. It was wonderful! At Christmas time, her 3 weeks started after the winter break so she got 4-5 weeks from late December to late January. I took them back east to visit relatives, which we couldn’t have done if I had been working simply because we couldn’t have afforded four plane tickets at Christmas for what would basically amount to a four day getaway if the holidays fell on Thursday and Friday, or Monday and Tuesday. Assuming, of course, that Christmas Eve was recognized as a holiday. At my current place of employment it is not. Or rather, we get a half day. I’ve worked other places which gave me a half day on Christmas Eve, as well. Instead, my kids got to spend 2-3 weeks with relatives that they didn’t normally get to see.

I spent a lot of time volunteering at my kids’ schools. I was a room parent. I was heavily involved in PTA.

I was fortunate enough to be able to sleep in when my kids had no school. I was able to take them to water parks and amusement parks and museums and zoos. We went to the skating rink and flowers gardens and matinee movies. We got to go during the week and not have to fight the crowds. We could visit family during the summer and holidays, and when family came out to visit us I was able to spend time with them. On our cross country trips we could stop at Presidential museums and road side oddities. There was no hard and fast schedule. When Rock Star began traveling for out of state meets for gymnastics our last three years in Utah I was able to go and not have to worry about taking vacation time from work. We got to spend some pretty incredible weekends together in different cities- Seattle, Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Diego, Nashville. We had a blast and I treasure those memories.

I spent a lot of time with Rock Star and Picasso as they grew up, and I am so grateful I was able to have that time. It came at a horrible price, though.

Getting hired after not working outside of the home since 1998 was not an easy feat. As most of you know my first job post separation was working at Target on the Flow team. I got up at 3:20 in the morning and went to work at 4. I was paid $11/hour. It didn’t even pay my bills. Then I took a second job working at Kohl’s as seasonal help. That one paid $10. I finally made enough money to pay my bills and be able to buy Christmas gifts for my kids but I was also working sixteen hour days many days. I worked 21 days straight. I was in at 2 in the morning 2-3 days a week and 3 am the rest of the time during the month of December, and then usually would go and work another 8 hours at Kohl’s. My body ached. I never saw my kids. I was undoubtedly tired. Finally, I got offered my job at the bank, which I began in January of 2017. Again, I made $11/hour. I kept my job at Target and would work from 4-7 and then head home, take my daughter to school, and then finish getting ready for work before heading off to the bank. There were days that I would be called in the afternoon by my boss who would let me know that a closer had called off at one of our branches that was open until 7 and then I would go over there and close. I had a few days where I worked from 4-7, and then 8:45-7:15. Until April of that year I did it all with no financial help from Cousinfucker.

He had lost his job in June of 2016 and hadn’t sent another penny to help his children.

Even now I am not in great financial shape. Because of alimony I have to claim no deductions on my paychecks. I contribute to a 401k at a whopping 6% of my salary, which is actually very little because 6% of very little is very little. And I pay health insurance on the kids at $188 per paycheck. Plus dental. By the time everything is taken out I am actually taking home less money now, despite making over $2/hour more, than when I first started. The sad part is it’s probably going to take me another 2 or 3 years to even get back to where I started. And remember- I didn’t start at a great place! I just did a quick calculation and basically, I take home 55% of what I make. The other 45% goes to taxes, 401k, and insurance.

I am at the mercy of a man who has lied to me, who betrayed me, and who left me and my kids to the wolves. He had absolutely no regard for what might happen to us when he had his little “breakdown”. He didn’t even find it necessary to let me know anything more than he had lost his job and wouldn’t be sending anymore money.

Every month it’s an adventure, never knowing when I’ll get a notification that I’ve been paid. In the earlier days he would send a check about once a week. Nowadays he likes to save it all for the end of the end of the month! I think he likes to imagine me sweating it out.

So I say again. Don’t quit your job. Don’t rely on your husband to support you and provide you with your lifestyle. Don’t plan on him providing for your retirement. I used to think this woman from another board was crazy. She and her husband kept separate bank accounts. Her money was hers and his was his. They both paid into a joint account for marital household bills. Even once they co-mingled their funds she always made sure she never made a purchase that she couldn’t afford on her own. The house they bought? She could afford the mortgage if he left. Her car? She could afford it if he left. Fast forward to today, after an affair five or six years ago that resulted in a child, and she is finally divorcing him. Ironically, she’s not leaving because of the affair. She’s leaving because she doesn’t feel he is stepping up to be the father he should for that child. Nonetheless, she’s going to be fine because she never depended upon her husband financially.

I know it’s tempting. When work sucks or there’s never enough vacation time or that sweet baby face tempts you to stay and snuggle all day it’s easy to say, “Why not? He’ll never leave, and if he does he’ll have to pay me lots of money.” They don’t always do what they’re supposed to.

I was riding high for a whole five months- able to live in my home, pay the bills, put some money away for taxes and emergencies- and then he “lost” his job and I didn’t see another dime for ten months. In that time I lost my home, uprooted my children once again, sold off most of my furniture in order to have money to live on, and left the vast majority of everything I had ever owned in my lifetime behind. I moved in with my mother and took up residence on her couch.

Yes, perhaps there might have been things that would have made it easier. The ex and I were big spenders. We didn’t save much. Rock Star’s gymnastics were very expensive. I doted on my kids and they lacked for nothing. Perhaps if we had had more money invested or saved up things would have worked out better for me. Then again, we lived in a state that required a one year waiting period so unless I could get to that money to protect my share it wouldn’t have helped.

My biggest regret (aside from staying with him) is not going back to work to put myself in a better financial situation after I found out about Harley the first time. My second biggest regret is quitting my job and following him all around the country from the very beginning. I wanted to be a stay at home mom and he was all for it. Now I wish I had buckled down and done something with my life. Instead I’m almost 50 years old and I’m still trying to decide if I should go back and get my Masters (for what I don’t know), remain at the bank and hope promotions and raises keep coming, or if I move on and hope that my decades old Communications degree plus my 2 years of work experience might translate into a much higher paying job elsewhere.

One more time- DON’T QUIT YOUR JOB TO STAY HOME WITH YOUR KIDS! It can happen to you. Yes, you! It happens all the time. And it’s happening later and later in life, when it’s a lot more difficult to pick up the pieces and rebuild. Protect yourselves.

17 thoughts on “PSA #1- Don’t Stay Home

  1. I think you made great decisions but this is a good warning. I also love that I live in Canada. Parents share up to 18 months off (only 1 year worth of pay, 6 months are unpaid, and the 1 year you get a maximum 576 dollars per two week pay period), you can split it with your husband, and I think it’s important women do. In some ways- to fight the idea that women are the only parent who matters or deserves paid time, with a guaranteed spot back at their workplace. It creates parity and ensures women aren’t seen as more of a ‘risk’ in management positions when they are of child bearing ages – because men are just as able to take leave. It’s new and not entrenched yet but god…. I cannot believe the US has so little protection for women, or men, or children.

    Like

    1. Maternity leave (and paternity leave) sucks here. I have two co-workers that just had babies. One is already back and the other might be back. They get about 6 weeks. Definitely not enough time.

      My decisions were the double-edged sword type of decisions. They were probably pretty great for my kids, and for me when things were working out. But in the end they really came back to bite me in the ass and I’m not sure I’ll ever recover.

      Like

  2. Oh lort, I did this, I quit a good paying job, to take a less demanding, less hours, less stress, less pay to be able to be at home more, and I didn’t think twice about it because I thought that I had my husbands income to fall back on, I never imagined that I would one day want to leave and want a divorce, I thought marriage meant forever, very hard lesson to learn!

    Like

    1. Yep, hindsight is 20/20.

      You’ve mentioned before wanting to leave, and that if money were no object you’d do it. This is a great time for you to look around and get your foot in the door. You’re still married. You still have your husband’s paycheck behind you. In the meantime you could start to set yourself up in your own life if you wanted. I really wish I had done so during those two years we were “reconciling”. If nothing else, consider putting a little bit away for yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I hate that I will tell my daughter exactly what you are saying one day. I hate it because I craved being a stay at home mom because my own mom stayed at home until I was older. She started working again eventually but she was at home when I was little. I feel very fortunate that I did it but starting over from scratch sucks! I’m right there with you!

    Like

    1. That’s really at the heart of it, isn’t it? I loved being a stay at home mom. I liked being able to be home with my kids when they were little, and when they were older but home on breaks. But I also liked it because I had so much freedom when they were older. I could meet with friends and volunteer and I didn’t have to worry about it taking away from my kids or husband because so much of it was done when they were away. It’s just not safe to do it anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was desperate to stay at home with my kids as they were my everything. I love cooking, gardening and all things kiddy too so what could be better. But it wasn’t to be. I made (slightly) more than him although he spent 10 times what we made anyway, but as we were in Switzerland I was the one with the expat benefits. I was soooooo jealous of my neighbours who got to stay home with their kids, although oddly enough most of them were jealous of me! But when the Twat ran off with the Skank I was SOOOOO grateful that I had my job. I was able to buy him out of the house by getting a new mortgage at 53 and am paying it off at the rate of knots. That’s not to brag – it’s to say how much I agree with you even if your heart isn’t in it. It is also VERY stressful working full-time with kids when you don’t have family around and I regret not getting to spend more time with my kids but in the end, it was life saver.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, looking back I really wish I had made some major decisions instead of being content with being a wife and mom. Maybe it never would have got to the point it did, or maybe we would have split up a lot earlier because I wouldn’t have let him get away with half the crap I did. I know it’s not a competition but I am often so jealous of those who had jobs and ended up with big promotions after D-Day.

      Like

  5. Agreed. I’d say to keep up with part-time work – no matter what it is – and stay at home for the majority, if you must. (Because sometimes, it’s not a choice so much as a necessity: When it’s cheaper to stay home than work.) If you don’t work, blog about your thoughts on it, basic elements to be reviewed, new developments, etc.. Submit articles and keep a record of them, even if they aren’t published. The idea is to STAY RELEVANT to your industry. Or grow into something new… learn a language, find another niche… something you can show on a resume. (And no – NO EMPLOYER cares about the PTA. That cannot be it, no matter what TV sitcoms say.)

    It would have helped me immensely, even to have just done something for myself by doing it. Your interests *cannot* just be the kids… it ends up being implosive, at best, to have just one thing to talk about.

    Like

    1. So true, although funny story… One of the ladies I served on Regional PTA with was just elected mayor. It wasn’t a teeny tiny town either. It’s a rapidly growing suburb of Salt Lake City. And I know quite a few that have ended up serving as board members and council members. I guess you really need to love government for that though.

      Like

      1. There’s something else I wish I’d known… it would have helped so much when the kids were little, for myself and our family: a LOT of daycares (the facility kind) let you bring your kids to work. ??!! SAHMs will often take in a teacher’s child, who’s similar in age to their own, for extra income. Great hours. Holidays and breaks off. Well, a few of my neighbors started leaving during the day… with ALL the kids, and I asked where they went off to every day. Daycare. Geez! The parents knew and were excited for the additional structure, at home daycare prices. The daycare knew and just needed responsible mothers who knew tiny-people crowd control. lol

        That level of double-dipping? Genius. They were able to make $400/week, staying with their children. Not HOME, but present and participating.

        Like

  6. This is something I learned by watching my parents’ marriage implode. I was terrified of being reliant on him, especially when we unexpectedly became parents a lot earlier than we planned. I did not have an established career, just a job, that was impractical to return to (rural, 5am starts nearly an hour away from where we lived, in a low paying job. No facilities nor money for daycare.) So I stepped up and worked alongside him. Essentially unpaid. Thankfully although we were always cash poor, we became asset ‘rich.’ So I got my share eventually. Phew. I also have a reasonable paying job, and he now works parttime shiftwork as a docker. Hmmm. Always tell your kids, both boys and girls, that equality is still a long way from sorted, and to ensure both parties in whatever firm of partnership, are given the same opportunities if one steps back from future financial progression.

    Such an important post, Sam. Thank you for writing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! I will probably forever be kicking myself for relying upon him. After twenty years together though you start to think you’re “safe”. Ha!

      In hindsight I really wish we had been cash poor and asset rich. Instead it was the other way around and why I got hosed so heavily. I keep telling myself it wouldn’t have mattered; he would have blown it all on her and her kids anyway.

      Like

  7. I agree. I have always said that being financially independent is important.
    I had worked 10 years and had 3 degrees before having kids. I returned to work at a reduced schedule, but have worked since except one year when my kids were 2 and 4. I tool a leave to try being a stay at home mom. It almost killed me. I was lonely and depressed. So I returned to work and found reliable childcare.

    My marriage of 20 years is suddenly over. Amd I am now forever grateful that I worked all these years. I have my own income, my own pension.

    Money will not be part of my decision making process. I’ll miss our joint income, but not at the expense of my wellbeing.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s