Child Care Costs and Limited Leave: Why I Left Teaching to Care for My Own Kids
When people find out I'm a professional blogger, a term I use loosely to mean that my blogging pays for my shoe habit, my gym membership, and all of the romance books I download to my iPad, they always react the same way: disbelief in the form of a "girl-you-so-crazy" smile, followed closely by questions about how one gets into something like that.
My answer is both similar to and quite different from that of so many others who stumble into new careers. It was partly an accident of fate, and partly the best alternative I found to a teaching career in which I faced limited (yet expensive) childcare options, and not enough paid leave to meet my and my family's needs.
When I finished graduate school, with a teaching degree in hand and baby #2 in my belly, my options immediately felt somewhat limited.
I had a job as a classroom teacher, like all of the other recent grads. But, unlike all of them, I also had a child to care for, with another on the way. I knew I'd have the challenge of locating quality, affordable childcare for two small children. After taking a short maternity leave that I probably wouldn't even get paid for (FMLA requires approximately 12 months of time in at work, and I didn't have paid leave built up), I'd have to return to the classroom, leaving my nursing baby with a virtual stranger.
Um, no thank you.
In addition to commuting, childcare, lesson plans, and that annoying team member who made me look bad with her free schedule and propensity to volunteer for EVERYTHING, I also had to consider the limitations of my husbandís job. It didn't allow for him to take many paid sick days, which meant that every time the kids were sick, I had to miss work. My kids were sick a lot, especially one of them. As supportive as my principal was, he was bound by the rules, and could only accommodate me as much as they would allow.
There was also the fiscal element to consider. By the time I quit teaching, I had three children who needed day care. After taxes, retirement, commuting costs, and other work-related expenses, I wouldn't have had any cash left outside of what I owed the day care center. Working to pay for childcare sounded miserable, especially because I believed that the most awesome person to care for my children was ultimately me.
I made the decision to leave my teaching career to stay at home with my children.
This may sound easy, but looking back, choosing between the good of my family and my career --something that so many women have to do -- was an obvious, yet difficult decision. I did not make it lightly, or without a lot of contemplation, planning, rethinking, stress, turmoil, and sadness. I ultimately made the decision in response to limited support from my employer, and the economic stress of paying for three children in day care on a teacher's salary in a metropolitan area. This is tough!
And now? Here I am, pro-blogging like a boss -- mostly my own boss.
It wasn't long after I stopped working before I got crazy bored with the monotony of poopy pants and "Mommy-and me" classes, and stumbled across this crazy thing called the World Wide Web. I had already tried working as a tutor, a tax preparer, and a medical secretary in a hospital in an attempt to make money while caring for my children. Blogging gave me the flexibility, creativity, and social interaction that these other jobs didn't, and as a bonus, I enjoyed it.
Looking back, I can say that staying home turned out to be a win-win situation, although the economic issues and lack of resources for moms in the workplace remain an unfortunate cause. I eventually won (because I found a new joy and income in blogging), and my kids won (because they didn't have to go to that one creepy center where the director had a hacking smoker's cough and a spittoon). I was also very fortunate to have a supportive husband with a stable job, which meant I could take some time to find another option -- plus, of course, the luck of being born with incredible wit and a way with words.
I know that everyone can't be so lucky. I wish that were not the case. But above all, I wish that luck were not only the fallback option for most parents in this country.
This post is part of BlogHer's Women@Work editorial series, made possible by AFL-CIO.