How do you do it?

*** The photos are from a recent trip to a pumpkin patch with a our local multiples club.  As you can see, my kids aren’t at all worried about the questions that are occupying my thoughts. ***


Later this week, I’ll be finishing up my long career as a student. That means starting to look to the future and deciding what’s next. At this point, I have more questions than answers….

There are questions about staying home: Can our family manage on one income? Will I be bored if I’m just at home with the kids? Will we ever get ahead financially if I don’t work? How will we fill our days?

Enjoying the pumpkin patch

Enjoying the pumpkin patch

And questions about working: Is it worth the cost and hassle of childcare for three (22 month twins and 4 year old)? How would our children’s existing behaviour and speech problems respond to full-time childcare? How would I arrange all of our appointments (I took the children to 13 medical appointments last month!) and other commitments, and work full-time?

More fun at the pumpkin patch

More fun at the pumpkin patch

The logical solution seems to be to look for part-time work, contract work or something flexible that will accommodate my other responsibilities, namely my children. But with this option, there’s the risk that I’ll start my workday when my husband gets home. So that raises more questions: When will there be time for me? How will our relationship manage? Will I have energy left at the end of the day?

Everyone loves the pumpkin patch

Everyone loves the pumpkin patch

Another idea I’ve had is self-employment. I’ve designed some workshops for new moms, including one that deals with career options, and I’ve thought about offering them online. But, working for myself would also add stress since there would be no guarantee of income or financial security.

So, my question to you, is how do you do it? Did you/are you working? How are you balancing family and work? What suggestions do you have?

19 thoughts on “How do you do it?

  1. That’s a tough one. I did the stay-at-home gig and was very glad that I did it but I craved adult interaction. Since most women work now, I found myself feeling isolated. Working part-time is the best solution for our family–a little bit of money coming in, a little bit of social interaction, and the ability to be there for my kids. It’s good you’re considering all your options. Good luck.

  2. I work FT from home. I did this when I was pregnant (bedrest) and when the girls were little. I had a nanny while I worked until they were 22 months, then they started going to daycare 3 days/week and a PT nanny 2 days a week. I was in software sales and I did a lot of phone work so I could not possibly work without childcare.

    Early in 2009 I took a new job in an office, with the promise I could work part of the week from home. That did not really pan out and it was awful!! I hated being in the office all day/every day. My former boss contacted me about something she had opened this past summer and I am back to working FT from home.

    I do a lot of marketing type writing now for my job, and I could technically do with much less childcare. I did cut down on it a bit, but I still like some me time so they still have childcare of some type each day. And next fall they will be off to kindergarten.

    I do think, if you have to work outside the home or work with the kids at home and no childcare, PT work is best. Especially with the crazy school schedules. I don’t know how mom’s work it with an 9:00am start time, bus back home at 4:10, and oodles of late starts and days off!

  3. I’m working almost FT (90% schedule) outside the home and my husband works FT. We have 3 boys (ages 3, 3, and 8). The ONLY reason I can manage is because my husband works in a technical center with an unsual schedule – he works 12 hour days but has more days off, and he works every other weekend. So we only pay for 2 days of child care per week. 5 days per week, the boys are with a parent (either him or me). I could not afford, nor would I ever want to pay for, full time child care for twins. If not for my husband’s schedule, I would make drastic life alterations to allow one of us to be at home at least part time, its just too much to handle when they are little to pay all that money for child care (for twins). And the school years are no picnic either! We pay $$ each month for my son to attend the after school program which has been a lifesaver, but required enrolling 1 year ahead. My advice is to carefully consider what you can handle. If your kids have special medical needs and appointments, I would put off working for at least a year and see how it goes – IF you can possibly swing it financially. Paying for child care adds up fast!

  4. I have 2 year old twin boys – actually they will be 3 in January. I work full time and the boys are in daycare full time. To the tune of $2000 a month. Unfortunately I have to work so this is the only situation that works for us. And by works I mean we are all doing ok. But I find it very stressful. It’s just very busy all the time and I am tired all the time. And my house is upside down 90% of the time.

    I feel like I don’t see the boys enough through the week so when weekends come I want to devote all of my time to them and housework gets neglected.

    Now that it’s cold and flu season the boys are catching a lot of what is going around and that means me or hubby must stay home with them. I used all of my 3 weeks vacation this year on sick days with the boys.

    If I could afford it I would work part time. I have a friend with twin girls 6 months younger than our boys. She works MWF and is home with the girls Tues & Thurs. This sounds like a perfect arrangement to me.

    Having said that, the boys LOVE their daycare and it has been very good for them. They were late walkers and late talkers. In fact I had signed them up for speech therapy (9 month waiting list!) because I was so worried about their talking, or lack there of. They started daycare in Feb of this year and about 1 month in to I cancelled the speech therapy. Their speech picked up 10 fold in daycare. They are now speaking very well and I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the environment at daycare.

    So there are pros and cons for sure for every situation.

    2 more years until the boys start school! And we have money again!

    Carrie

  5. How do I do it? My hubby and I both work full time and we can stagger our schedules so that the kids don’t have to spend 10 hours at daycare/preschool.

    Like Carrie, I feel stressed/worried/guilty/tired all the time. Hubby and I try to fit in a date night at least every other week to stay connected. I’m always planning to stay ahead so I don’t get swamped.

  6. Here is the deal -your decision needs to be mostly on what you want. Kids do fine in daycare. If you are already on one salary then you working will take care of daycare. I am mom of B/G twins turned 2 Oct 6th. They went to daycare full time at 4 months old, 8:30-4:30. ($1800 a month) but it is what we needed to do (I carry the insurance) and what I needed to do(for sanity). Kids adjust. That is their nature, they will fight for what they want but that is not always the best thing for your family.
    The house will be a mess but that’s ok.

  7. Oh, yes, the cost of daycare. I’m also paying about $1800/month. In 9 more months my “second mortgage payment” of the month will go away. :)

  8. I started freelancing about 3 years before my g/g twins were born in fall 2008. Having freelanced basically full time for very low pay, I quickly realized that my old vision of being a freelancer mom was not realistic with two young children in the house and without some type of solid childcare arrangement that is as inexpensive as possible. My ILs watch my daughters one day each week (sometimes two days if needed), and we have a babysitter one afternoon each week. Any other work has to be squeezed in during naptime or after bedtime. It’s worth keeping up my contacts and skills — as the book “The Feminine Mistake” mentions, there are other forms of capital — and I like the work, but when I account for taxes, babysitting, and small purchases to keep the baristas from glaring at me, I hardly make any money. (In my field, rates are determined by the client’s firm and there is very little difference among clients’ pay rates. It’s a race to the bottom.) And I haven’t exercised in a month because of a big deadline.

    I don’t believe that freelancing or running a start-up business from home is a realistic option without most of the following: 1) reliable, dependable workflow; 2) reliable, dependable, but low-cost childcare; 3) reliable, dependable workhours for partner/spouse; and 4) children who have a somewhat reliable, somewhat dependable sleep pattern. I have to turn down about 75% of projects because I only have 10 hours/week of babysitting time (only 3 of which are paid). Most of my former co-workers who wanted to freelance after maternity leave are either using nearly full-time childcare (usually free, from the grandparents), are working well past midnight, or have put off freelancing until the children are in preschool.

    I’m very blunt about this because I’ve read so many profiles of WAHMs who claim to have started small businesses with under-preschool-age kids at home and “do most work when the baby is sleeping.” They do not mention childcare arrangements, working into the wee hours, what they do if a client’s needs interfere with a child’s needs or if childcare falls through, or having very little time for self-care and time alone with partner/spouse.

  9. My husband and I both work full time. Our twins will be 3 next month. When they were born, I took several months off, then we had a nanny 2 days/week until they were 9 months old, then a nanny 3 days/week until they were 2.5, and then we shifted to 4 days/week. My husband and I moved our schedules around to make that work, which was really nice. I’m a professor with a flexible schedule, and I work every Sunday so that I can stay home with them every Wednesday.

    For 4 days/week preschool, we’re paying $2300/month. Ouch. We are going to feel so rich when they go to kindergarten!

    It is insanely hard. My son just came down with pink eye today and we have to figure out how to stay home with him the rest of the week. I think the ideal would be to work part time, if it’s possible at all. In my case, it wasn’t an option. Having a very flexible job means I can work during naps and at night, on top of more traditional times, so that does help. But it is still so hard. We need more supports to help out working parents of all types.

  10. What a pertinent question! My family just finished agonizing over it and I resigned from my part-time job just two weeks ago so that I could stay home. I have a 2 year-old and 6-m0nth twins. My part-time salary was completely eaten up by medical premiums and childcare. When I went back to work after the boys were born it was with the idea that it was my “me-time/out-of-the-house-time” However, it just got so stressful and I always felt like I was in a race, rushing to and from work. . .Plus, I didn’t like seeing that my kids were learning and developing with someone else, not me. I’m a teacher, and one day I realized that I was being a better teacher in the classroom than to my own children at home.

    Now we’re still left trying to figure out how to manage medical insurance as our income is now much lower. (We’re hoping CHIP will come through for us!) But otherwise, whew! I am so glad to have a much calmer life. I’m still constantly busy, but it’s not so stressful. I make sure that we have a little bit of “play school” time each day. I make a point of getting out of the house everyday. I do miss the social interaction of work and so I’ve signed up to sub at the school I worked out, so I can still get out into the professional world that I love occasionally, when it works with my schedule. I figure life is full of “times and seasons” and that right now is the time to be home with these kiddos. Before I know it they will be in school and then I’ll probably return to working. I don’t regret my decision one bit, even if we do have to stretch our dollars and I get a little hungry for adult interaction. The trade off is completely worth it!

  11. My husband and I made the decision for me to stay home full time when my oldest was born five years ago. Financially speaking we have made many adjustments like buying a smaller first home than we otherwise would have and driving one older vehicle so as to knock it down to one car payment. We also made it a regular habit to limit the amount of times we eat out or shop consignment kids clothing stores about 50% of the time. We save all year for our annual family vacation and try and economize by using hotel points that DH accumulates through business travel or going through cities where we have close friends.

    Small adjustments like that have gone a long way and although there are times that we’ve been stretched when emergencies like car repair have come up we’ve managed to live comfortably (and happily!) with what will soon be four kids over the last five years.

    As for adult interaction, it was definitely an adjustment at the start going from college into a full time job and then being at home full time with no discernible goals or projects but I quickly discovered a number of Mom’s groups, book clubs, volunteer organizations and church groups that have kept me busy and in constant interaction and involvement with other adults and pursuits outside of being “Mommy”. I’ve also enrolled my kids in many of the low cost programs that are offered through my city like music, art, dance, gymnastics, swim as a way to keep us all from going stir crazy at home.

    Granted there are days when a second income and more time away from home sound extremely tempting but like Kristen said now is just the right time to be home with my kids.

  12. Wow! Daycare costs are amazing. We were paying daycare plus preschool $1518 and now wer’re paying $1190, but I have to make their breakfast and lunch. Not sure the girls are liking their new school too much since it is much more formal than their old daycare situation. No going to school in pajamas! I would like to take them to a really nice place, but its $1190 and out of the way. If the girls don’t start liking their new school, I might have to find another daycare/preschool situation.

  13. I stay home with my triplets. I just had a “job” before, not a “career” with chances for advancement, so I don’t miss it at all. But, finances are tight and that stresses me out. My three are only 15 months old, so I won’t be going back to any kind of job any time soon. But I will one day, for financial reasons.

  14. We have 11 mo old twins, and I went back to work 4 days a week when they were 4 months old. We went with a nanny. For us it was the same cost as day care and we didn’t have to worry about what to do when the girls got (inevitably) sick. Additionally, we don’t have to pack them and their stuff everyday. It does eat a huge chunk out of my paycheck, but we have been really happy with the set up. I agree that 3 days a week would be ideal, but can’t quite get my job to go for that. Another thought is an Au pair. We strongly considered one because you pay per family, not per kid and they are quite affordable . Additionally, you can get “special” ones that have a certain level of qualifications (for intances they have teaching degrees or pediatric nursing degrees). The only problem is if you have space in your house for them to stay.

  15. I am a nurse and after my twins were born, I worked PRN (as needed) with a contractural obligation to only pick up 2 shifts in a 6 week schedule. I work 12 hr shifts, which makes regular daycare almost impossible. My husband has been away @ a military school since August, but I was able to find a friend to watch the boys for the tune of $100 a shift, since she would be watching them from 5am-7pm.
    But, like so many others, I had to increase my hours (which increased my pay) due to finances. I’m lucky that I only work 2-3 days a week, so I still spend a majority of my time with them…but when I have to work two days in a row, it breaks my heart to wake them up to drop them off, then pick them up and put them right back to sleep.
    I say that if you find something that works with your schedule, and the pay (after daycare) is worth it, then go for it. I am able to recognize my needs, and for my own sanity’s sake, I work.

  16. We managed by hiring a nanny. She spent six hours/day at our place mon-fri, and for about three hours the twins were in daycare. We then moved down to four hours/day nanny when they started fullday school subsidized daycare at age 3 (Europe folks! daycare in my country is free starting age 3, you only pay meals). Now they’re in school 8hrs/day and we have only occasional sitters for sickness.
    Two personal opinions:
    I think I would have gone insane at home.
    I think this is one issue where it pays to collect many opinions, and then decide what is best for YOU and YOUR family. There is no uniform perfect solution.

  17. I work FT and so does my hubby. My B/G twins are in a daycare center FT (7am-5pm) because both of us commute at least 45 minutes each way. Cons: we pay out the nose ($2200 a month). They are there for at least 10 hours a day, depending on traffic. I have to get up at 5am to get to work & be able to leave in order to get them before 6pm when the center closes. All my waking hours are spent on prepping for the next day (getting their clothes laid out, prepping bottles, pumping breast milk, getting my clothes laid out, prepping my meals for the next day). My hub does drop offs & I pick up and he gets to the gym only 2 weekdays a week (kind of a big change for him). Time for myself is non-existent, though I do telecommute 2 days/week so I’m hoping once we’re in a routine, I’ll be able to squeeze an hour for myself each of those 2 days.
    Pros: I’m so glad to be back at work. I missed adult interaction and living on the 3rd floor condo made it difficult for me to get out with the babies when on leave. We need to move (hello 3rd floor condo) but can’t sell our place so we need my income to qualify for another mortgage. The twins seem to love daycare & are getting more socialization and structured work on their development than I’m able to provide (I was so bad about working in tummy time).
    No it’s not perfect, but it works for us. I think my best advice and something I tell myself daily is when/if something stops working for us, we can always change our arrangement. There are options – more telecommuting, working PT, trying a nanny, asking the grandparents to provide care. Just think through all your options, do what feels best at the time, and go from there!

  18. Hi, this is such a great conundrum. I took 7 months out of work, the first I spent in the hospital in observation before delivery, then 6 at home with the babies (now 11 months). I got the childcare and help arrangements wrong to start with and never had time to put it right. I realized I could not make that mistake again and really considered what would work for us.

    In the end, we decided to get a full time nanny. It is outrageously expensive and eats up most of my salary which begs the question whether coming back to work is worth it. But I needed to come back to work for my own sanity. Staying home with the children was not something I could do.

    The nanny comes over at 8:30 am and stays with the babies until 18:30. I hang around the house until 9 am and get back around 7 pm while my partner leaves earlier and gets back earlier. Daycare worked out just as expensive but I could not face the getting up at the wee ours to pack the girls first thing and rush back every afternoon with the added stress that I may get caught up in traffic. On top of that, the girls are looked after even when they are ill, and if I work from home (which I do at least one day a week), I get to spend my commute time as well as lunch time with them. And finally, our wonderful nanny finds time to tidy up, do the odd load of laundry or run the odd errand. I never take it for granted, every little bit she does is time I get back in the evenings.

    Having a live in aupair would have worked out more economical, but you do need the extra space in your house, plus the awareness that you have a ‘room mate’ who in some instances may be quite young and with very different priorities. All in all, we wanted someone mature and experienced, I think an au pair is something I will consider once they get older.

    As many others have said, think about your priorities, your options, do your sums and make a decision. No option will be perfect, so it’s very much about knowing what you can tolerate. It’s also about knowing that you may not get it right first time around, so always have a plan B and be ready to move on if necessary.

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