The price of a happy family? by April

April is a working mom to 3 yr old boy named Cameron and wife to husband Chad. She too, is undergoing family reconstruction and always striving to find Momtopia so she submitted this guest post. Her goal is to achieve the perfect family work balance.

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I am a working mom to a handsome little 3 year old boy and a wife to my husband, a stay at home dad. Life isn’t exactly running like we planned it would, but I guess it never really does. When we had Cameron my husband had just finished school and was in the automotive field. The jobs were not plentiful or rewarding financially, and he decided to graduate with the one year diploma instead of pursuing the 2 year diploma and automotive apprenticeship for this reason. We decided I would return to work at 6 months and he would stay home. I had the better job by far and we were both not ready to send our baby boy off with strangers to daycare so this was definitely the best choice for us.

I have found over the last couple of years in my dedication to eliminate our student debt and maybe even a bit of outside influence (family and friends) I have pushed my husband to look for work occasionally (okay every 6 months or so), even though he was happy staying home with our son and wanted to until he started school. I knew it would have to be at least “x” amount per hour to offset the costs of daycare and minimum wage would not be worth it. This most recent occurrence was for something I thought would be a great job, financially rewarding, long term, unionized, etc., Everything seemed set to go, he seemed somewhat excited, even FB posted about it, and his first day was all aligned.

On his first day we arranged an aunt to watch our son. This was just a training day and we weren’t sure of his hours yet or exact start date of shift work, but we knew he’d be doing 2 weeks days and 2 weeks afternoons. He considered going to midnights, as it was devastating to him the thought of not seeing Cameron for 5 days in a row each afternoon shift week. But we thought we’d arrange childcare later, once we see how it goes since we had an aunt and a mom friend to help out in the interim. The thought of sending Cameron to daycare was devastating to me. I have rarely left my son with anyone other than my husband (never a stranger as in a daycare!) and when I have it has been with very close family only. I was so stressed out about this it was literally making me sick (and eat, but that’s a different story!). I know many people have left their children as they have to, the children survive, but I filled with worry for my poor little baby. I don’t think he is ready to go to daycare yet either, whether they ever are I don’t know, but he is very accustomed to life at home.

Well, the drive on day 1 to training added more stress to the situation. Half way there our car broke down. He was stranded in the middle of the road and had some kind stranger help him push the car off to the side. So me, thinking that this great opportunity I had just pushed him into pursuing and he reluctantly agreeing, was now down the drain. Yes, more stress! He called them promptly when he got home to tell them the situation and asked to be rescheduled for the training and that he was still interested. This is out of his character to pursue it on his own, so at this point I figured he was genuinely interested. In hindsight, he did this only for me.

All of this really got me thinking though. Was this job worth it? The added stress on our family life? The way our family situation is now I am able to start work really early and am home by 2:30pm every day and get to spend from then until my little boy’s 9:00pm bed time with him. I absolutely treasure this amount of time with him. I feel I get the perfect mix of being a full time working mom, but really a full time home mom too. We get to be a family from 2:30pm to 9:00pm each day. How many families can say that and how many struggle just to eat dinner together every night? Knowing how much I treasure this time and hubby also does with his whole days with Cameron, how was we going to cope not seeing him for 5 days straight? Was this fair? Also, I wouldn’t be able to work the same hours, I would have to work likely 8am to 4pm, wouldn’t be home until 5pm with traffic, so I too would be seeing much less of our son. Both of us would be much more affected and unhappy. Totally speaking for myself I definitely would be.

On the money side of things, my reason for the “push” in the first place, well I thought about that too. After daycare and gas costs (and I didn’t even factor in my additional gas costs as I would now be driving 2 ways in traffic compared to none now) and assuming no extra spending he’d only bring home ~$10K more per year…and this is at a job that is 1.5 times more than minimum wage. So a definitely more stressed out family but $10K richer. And if I am really concerned about being $10K richer, I could work an extra 10-15 OT shifts a year at my job (of which at times it is amply available) and make the same amount. So for the same dollar value I work 15 more shifts a year to his 365 days. Which makes sense to you? I now know which makes sense to me.

They have not re-called him since the first week for training. Was the car breaking down (now fixed) karma and the sign? I think so. All of this has made me realize that you can’t put a price on the happiness our perfect little family situation currently has. All of our debt (mine and his) will be done in 2 years even in our current situation. By then Cameron will be in school full time days (Sept 2012) and we’ll readjust our schedule then. We’ve survived until now, even with massive student debt, and we’ll still survive. I think if you brought home a million dollars but didn’t spend any time with your children it would be the more poor who spent as much quality time with their family who is really all the more richer. My initial question was the price of a happy family? I don’t think you can put a price on it. It’s priceless and I am rewarded every day with it.

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9 thoughts on “The price of a happy family? by April

  1. i do understand your thought process. i am a sahm but a clear difference is that my DH makes a salary for 2 and i take in 2 kids full time. we do well without me working out of the home. the money i make doing daycare is for extras such as family vacations. your math is a bit confusing. how much is childcare in your area? i charge less than 9500 dollars a year for 1 kid and my rates are standard for a big city. that would leave you with closer to an extra 20 000 dollars, not 10 000. can he take in some kids? a part-time job in the evenings? you are doing what you believe is best for your family but your story does scream disaster. there is a reason so many families make the sacrifice to work. take my comments with a grain of salt.

  2. Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly .. it makes me feel so much better that I decided my family life was more important then money. Everyone said to me that I would never be sorry I did what I had to, to stay at home. It was a long 6 months of no income and then things just started happening and I truly believe because I am exactly where I need to be for my family.

    Your family is “rich” in love and the bond you are maintaining for your child now will see him through his toughest times in life. Good for you!

  3. Thanks for your support to those who think we’re doing the right thing:)

    Daycare is likely the same amount as everywhere else. After taxes he would bring home 23500 (this is based on others take home pay who already work there), say daycare being ~9500 as you quoted, he’d be down to 13900. Then take away extra gas for both of us and car maintenance and insurance on a second car and we’re down to 10000, not to mention once he is earning he’d likely want to enjoy spending some of it and there would be more than that coming off. Right now his spending on hobbies is limited as he is happy staying home and identifies that by not making extra income, he is not spending extra income. Also, we’d likely choose to Montessori if we did go the daycare route so daycare/schooling would likely be more expensive.

    We are not currently missing out on anything, our son is in more activities, play dates and groups and programs, than most children. We still go away every summer up north several times, we are well on our way to our planned savings to cover all of our son’s education costs, and we’ll be student debt free 6 years faster than planned by accelerating our student loans. We have enough funds to do all of this now which we won’t take away from to accelerate our loans further (which was my goal about pushing him off to work in the first place to speed up the last 2 years) as we also feel this is an important part of life. It is not as if I have to work the “extra” shifts to make all this meet, this would only be if I wanted to reach my original intent of accelerating things even faster.

    We’ll approach work once our little one goes to school (and we’re done with babies!) part time, full time, we’ll see what life throws us, but right now if he is happy, I am happy, and our son is happy, we feel this is best. I understand that some people have to go to work to make end meet or even socially/mentally as they aren’t meant to be stay at home parents, but my point of all of this is money doesn’t buy happiness, so no matter how much people earn, happiness should be first and foremost, and this will be different for each person’s family depending on their needs or wants.

    I also thank you for all of your outlooks and opinions, it is always good to see from different perspectives.

  4. Kerrie, it DOESN’T matter how much the childcare costs, everyone has a choice to choose between careers and family time. Childcare is not put at a fixed rate for every place, caregivers and operators choose to name their price, whether parents like it or NOT. Here in my area, caregivers and daycares charge outrageous prices ( whether there be subsidy or not) that parents are willing to sacrifice between income and caring for their kids before school starts. Alot of times, CRA cannot guarantee full childcare reimbursements at all. For me, my husband worked long hours to support me and our three boys, but now I am studying accounting and if I want to go back to work full time before my youngest one starts school full-time, my husband would love to be a stay at home dad for the time being. Once our boys are in school full time, yes we will work full time then.

  5. I really do agree April, and think Family is WAY more important then money.
    Myself as a SAHM of 7, would be so heartbroken if I missed out on all that my children do and have a “stranger” get to be the one to experience it all, and probably not appreciate it the way a parent would.
    My hubby was working LONG hours and LONG drives during 2 years of second youngest life, and those and it was all because we thought we needed Money to survive. But when my youngest was born, he took Parental leave and a cut in pay (I believe he got 55% of his pay) we realized we don’t need the “money” to be happy. We are a much happier family now. While on Parental Leave he took a course to be a personal Trainer, and with a gym we can see from our front door, we didn’t need a second car, which means less gas as well, less insurance, no driving, more sleep, and more time with family! You learn to realize the things you NEED in life. You don’t NEED to buy prepackaged foods, You don’t NEED to have cable (We have a weekly Family Movie night and pop popcorn, and snuggle in the blankets and just enjoy our time together), You dont NEED most things that everyone feels are nesessities, and we are MUCH happier to not have those things! 😀 ❤

  6. This is always such an interesting topic and I love hearing what factors go into each family’s decision.

    For us, we have not found the perfect balance yet and I don’t know if we will. Both my husband and I have good jobs but do not want our children in daycare. We tried to find the balance by me taking a part-time leave of absence (so I work half my job for the time being). I am gone three hours a day which for some seems like the perfect balance but we are not finding that to be the case. I guess because my husband goes to work after dinner, it can be lonely.

    So I don’t know what the perfect balance is yet. It is better than some but not as good as I would like. Who knows, maybe I am just hard to please. lol

  7. I love how this topic has stirred so many comments. It’s very true that we choose what is best for our families. I believe April is telling us a very common side and then if you read our guest blogger Sharon this week, she is telling the extreme other side.

    Watch out for a new post today that I am going to write, discussing my life in the middle. 🙂

  8. I read the initial blog but didn’t get a chance to read all of the comments but I want to add my two cents.
    I gave birth to a child…this makes me a mother. I have fed him, cared for him and helped him learn some simple things. But just because I am a mother doesn’t necessarily make me a good teacher. My husband and I chose to put our son into daycare and I returned to work after one year of mat. leave. Our son absolutely loves daycare, in fact, one day when I went to pick him up he said “no” and went back to his teacher. I have seen many other children grow up in different situations so I have those children to compare our son to. I see that our son has developed his language, motor skills, independence and interactiveness with others a lot better than some of those children we know that have not been in a structured day care system. I don’t think I would ever be able to teach or son and get him to the level he is at today. So I will have to stand firmly behind our decision and feel it is best for our family situation. We live modestly but still put money away for RRSP’s savings bonds, RESP’s and of course the ‘fun-fund’! Everyone will have their own interpretation of happiness and as lond as everyone is being true to them selves then all should be fine. It is amazing how times have changed!!!!
    Thank you for this opportunity to speak.

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