At my job, I recently had the responsibility to fill an open position on the team. One of the things that struck me during the candidate search was the number of applicants (females for the most part) who felt compelled to explain gaps in their employment years before I even met them. One applicant went in to excessive detail in her cover letter to explain her decision to be a stay at home parent for a while. I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic to her fear that it would keep her from landing an interview.
Obviously, none of them knew who would be reviewing their resumes. There was no need to explain this to me. Mr. Need2Save and I made the same strategic and emotional decision back in 1998 when our first son was born. At the time I wasn’t sure how long of a commitment I was making, but when son #2 was born the following year, we realized that financially we would lose money if I had returned to work given the high cost of day care alone for two young babies. I was able to work on a part-time basis from home for those first two years, and only during their busiest season. It helped them out because they retained access to me for questions about my projects and they didn’t have to hire a full-time person to replace me. A win-win situation for the Need2Save family and my then employer! This was a time when remote working was a fairly new concept. These days there are a lot more options.
So then what happened?
This period was followed by 4 years when I was pretty much a stay at home mom full time. I did take a part-time job one year during the Christmas season at a local toy store. It didn’t pay much, but it was fun and we earned a little extra money. During the other years, I was laser focused on the job of raising our two boys. I did miss the work-life some. In hindsight now that I’m eager to leave to the corporate world, I realize at the time I had only really worked post college for about three full years before we had son #1. So I felt there was a lot more for me to accomplish with all the experience I gained from going to college.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to hire a part-time team member as well. Since I also worked as a part-timer for about 5 years before returning to full-time, I can sympathize with her over the struggle of working almost 30 hours a week and all the joys of having two young kids with busy schedules and tight day care and school pick up time limitations. Oh the joys of trying to get to the Elementary School by 3:15 to pick up your kid when there is a major traffic jam between you and your little angel!
All this to say, that as a real-life example our choice to have one of us stay-at-home full-time for a several years when our kids were young has been one of the best decisions we’ve made as parents. Sure there were days when I was exhausted and suffered extreme deprivation of adult conversation which was not focused on what brand of diapers I preferred or how and when was the right time to potty train (for us at exactly age 3.1, BTW).
I was somewhat worried if I could find a flexible job when I was ready and whether I could work my way back to the same earning potential I had when I left. So let’s look at the real-life example of the post-college earnings of Mr. and Mrs.Need2Save. You can see from the chart, that immediately following college, we made roughly the same amount in wages. (I actually even made a little more than Mr. Need2Save when the Stork dropped off our first bundle). A drop off occurs for me in 1998, when our first son was born. But look at what happens when I returned part-time in 2005, then convert to full-time around 2010? Through hard work and taking bold chances, I’ve worked quickly to recover all the lost ground and now I actually bring home even more than Mr. Need2Save.
Things to consider
If this is a decision you are struggling with, your ultimate experience will depend on a lot of factors of course. Some will include:
- The jobs of each parent and the short-term earning potential of each
- How many kids do you have?
- What is the cost day care in your area?
- Do you have family close by that can help out some-times?
- Is staying home something you want to do?
- How much will you save in commuting costs, work-clothes, and related expenses you’ll be able to put on hold for a while?
- How much in taxes will you save by reducing to one income (don’t forget to factor in the added exemptions you will have and the child-tax credit)?
- Do you have ways to supplement the other parent’s income if need be? For example, work part-time on weekends, sell and resell items on eBay, start a home based-business*, freelance, sell goods on Etsy, maybe?
*In our real life we know friends and family who have bought rental homes for side-income, developed successful photography businesses, sold nutritional supplements from home and provided in-home child care for other working families. All so one parent can be home substantially most of the time with one or more of their sons or daughters.
Listen to your heart. If you’re motivated, you’ll find a way to make the finances work out. It’s possible to recover what you perceive as lost ground and then some!