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Monday, March 03, 2008

It isn't laziness

It seems that whenever you get a bunch of talented mothers together, inevitably the talk eventually turns to work and the frustrations of trying to get some without abandoning the idea of raising the kids.

I had an opportunity to talk with Floral Designer Friend over the weekend. We were at a delightful birthday party for Aspiring Writer Friend. The party was delightful for so many reasons... good food, good friends, no kids. And then we started talking about work.

FDF has been an at-home mom for the past year and a half, and she has been thinking about going back to work part time. "I'd really like to figure it out," she said. "But I'm just too lazy." Floral design seems like the perfect job to do part time. But sadly in order to make it work, she would actually be spending money to go back to work because it would cost her more to pay for childcare than she would earn at her job. There has to be some equation where it would make sense financially.

Lazy is the wrong word. It just should not be this difficult to figure out.

If FDF decided to go back to work and pay for the privilege, she wouldn't be the first woman I know to go that route. Early Childhood Education Friend has been volunteering at a farm doing animal therapy with disabled kids and disabled veterans. She says it's rewarding work, but ECEF shouldn't have to work for free. She's hoping it will eventually lead to a paying job.

This is not laziness people. The system does not seem to value the brainpower of mothers. Where are the childcare credits for working moms? Where are the tax incentives for employers that make it more attractive to hire part-time professionals? I know that some employers go the extra mile to retain women and get them back to work in flexible jobs after they have a baby, but they seem to be the exceptions.


  1. I agree that the skills and talents of people who would like to work less than full time are vastly underused. And the economics of part-time child care are brutal, unless you have someone you can swap care with, or are lucky enough to have family who can help out. So I'm with you.

    But it's inflammatory and unnecessary to suggest that parents who work full time have given up on "raising" their children.

  2. Elizabeth -- You're right. What I meant was raising the kids without a full-time job snatching a enormous chunk of their time and energy. I realize that a LOT of parents don't have the luxury to decide which choice to make. For many, it simply comes down to economics.

  3. But then you have to address the entire field of childcare as well, since people will not take tax credits on illegal nannies, etc. Whoever can solve this one deserves a Nobel prize.

    I went back to teaching part time once #1 was in school and #2 was with the nanny. I don't think I paid for the privilege, but it was pretty close. I think those early years (until they are in school) are about keeping your brain in the game, rather than making any $$ at it. Once kiddos are old enough to be in school, it's a whole different ball game. It's just hard to realize that when you are in the throes of diapers, tantrums, naps, and more diapers.

  4. I stumbled upon your blog through links from other blogs I read, and I hope it's not too strange that I'm leaving a comment.
    I, too, am facing the challenge of paying for childcare while finding a way to return to work. In my situation, I took a year off to be with my son. I'm a teacher, and he was born in August, so it made sense to wait until the next school year to return to work. Recently, however, I started to feel that I should do at least a little part-time work to 1)get out of the house and 2) get my son used to the idea that when Mommy leaves him at the daycare center, she will still come back, before I start leaving him for full days. So I took on job teaching a class to preschoolers at the YMCA. To do this I have to pay more than double what I make to the daycare! My compensation is a free membership (so if I want to go work out, I only need to pay the Y babysitting fee or find the rare hour when my husband is still hitting the snooze button and dart out of the the house to exercise with the vampires).
    Sadly the reason I do have to return to work is BECAUSE of my skills and talents... the ones that led me to pursue a Masters degree and all the student loans that go with it. My only solution to the problem is to seek out childcare in the home of a fellow teacher who would also like to stay home with her child. I could attempt to do this myself so I could have more time at home with my son, but while I find my baby darling, I'm really better with older children.
    My own mother was able to leave me with my grandmother when she was forced to return to work for economic reasons. But even if my mother wasn't two states away, she's not ready for retirement.
    The whole situation makes me feel "lazy" too... I'll admit, I've been procrastinating sending out resumes for next year as if that will magically make it not come.

  5. I've been a mom for 8 years! I had a HIGHLY lucrative business that I sold, without regret, to be home with my twins.
    Now the clock is chiming to say 'time to get back to work!'. REAL work that is. AS IF the last 8 years and the next 10 WONT be real!
    I'm having a difficult time deciding on a part-time-not-worth-the-payback (and not seriously respected by the family OR more importantly myself) job that's only during the school hours 'just to keep mom busy'.
    Or, do I ditch everyone and dive in to a full throttle high paying business that's an actual contribution to the household. And is is still really worth my absence in everyone's lives and needs?
    It's not about what's best for me.

    If it was about me... I'd be working day and night with a nanny and maid and cook and buying everything and anything I wanted. This was an option... that I turned down.
    Now what? Do I sell my time with my children, husband & home for a title, money and muscle in my own self-worth? OR do I just laugh about how many bon-bons I eat (what IS a bon-bon anyway?) and continue being in the 'honorable yet somewhat under-compensated' position as a servant for my family?
    I can assure everyone that this is an INTERNAL struggle. No one has complained. Just my id and ego! Am I a mom? OR am I a businesswoman? I know. Many women have been both quite successfully. Unfortunately, I'm not a good cook, crafter, or writer. So that's that! I'm EITHER a HARD-CORE selling machine or a LOVING mom & wife. BLACK or WHITE. NO grey area. I really wish there was!
    I KNOW there are jillions of women out there with the same impasse! They're just not around me!


  6. Hey Suzanne
    I can't seem to get Riley's site up. Is there something wrong on my end?

    It says:
    Domain Cloaking Error
    We're sorry, we had a problem with our web panel when you set up cloaking for your domain!
    Please go to the DreamHost Web Panel's Domain > Web area and click the [Edit] link next to to re-configure cloaking.

    Error: no domain


    Hope you are well. Its been a while since I caught up on your blog.


  7. I wanted to agree, passionately. I am a writer who in some sense pays to work--although I have to imagine it is vastly cheaper than therapy. I love what I do and wouldn't actually change it, although I would do MORE of it and hopefully this make more money if there were some easier way to cover the kids, and feel good about it, than juggling babysitters. And at least I can afford the babysitters.

    We're in the wacky position of having important people--nurses, teachers, social workers, all "pink collar" low paying professions--who can't afford to go back to work.

    I want to vote for someone who will fix THAT.