Friday Free-for-All: Your Worst Childcare vs. Job Dilemma

No matter how we try to avoid direct conflicts between our jobs and caring for our kids, we've all had them. You know what I'm talking about:

The phone call from the school nurse 10 minutes before your big presentation.

A babysitter who calls in sick -- on your first day at a new job.

A critical deadline and a school play on the same day, at the same hour.

I'll start: I've always vowed that my kids' birthdays were off limits from work, but just last month, the "Mommy Wars" book launch party was scheduled for the same day as my son's ninth birthday, and there was nothing I could do to change it. My solution was to plan a three-day birthday extravaganza: a celebration at the ESPN Sports Zone the night before, a sleepover with his best friend the night of the party and a flag-football party the morning after. My son initially proved merciless. "So, you are going to another party the night of my birthday?" Not just any party, I explained. He seemed to understand. And I felt guilty that I didn't feel guilty about putting myself first.

Now tell us about your worst face-off between keeping your job and caring for your children and how you resolved it. We are all sure to learn from each others' survival stories.


By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  April 14, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
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My ex-husband was required to live in Germany for a year when my daughter was 10. I talked to my employers about it, I was expected to put in 40 hours billable a week. I was able to wrangle about 38. I offered to make up work at home, but to no avail. I ended up taking a pay-cut of 12.5% to work a 35 hour work-week. The good side is that I had a year alone with my daughter, and now that she's a teenager, I feel it gave us a closer basis to work from.

Posted by: Single working mom | April 14, 2006 9:03 AM

Another thing to consider is childcare cost especially when your career isn't highprofile and higincome. It is sometimes hard to justify to continue to work when more than 50% of your income is going to the nanny...for your partner continuing to work just looks like an expensive hobby...

Posted by: Celine | April 14, 2006 9:32 AM

I have not had any worst job -vs- child care dilemmas. I quit my job before I had children. I found that career and marriage is just as conflicting as career and childcare. Despite loving my work, I loved my husband more. I found that I could not be a good wife and good at my job. One would eventually end up with mediocrity. My pride wouldn't let it be my job. But my heart wanted an awesome marriage. Twenty years, and six children later I have not regretted that decision once.

I have never met an elderly person who said I wish I had spent more time working. But I have met many who have said I wish I had spent more time with my family. I may have some regrets in my life but that isn't one of them.

I hope and pray that when you are old, that your son won't send you a card on Mother's Day. That the habit of ignoring family obligations for career won't be so ingrained by that time that he doesn't see a problem with taking a client to a "big game" instead of sitting awhile longer with his mom. Sure life has trade offs. But we can't dellude ourselves into thinking that our chilren don't know what's going on. Extravagant parties the night before don't make of for the lonliness the next day. He may not express it but trust me its there.

Posted by: Spunky | April 14, 2006 9:34 AM

I think your comment is rather harsh. You decided not to work and instead focus on your husband? That's a bit odd, but luckily you were financially able to make that choice.

My experience is that happy people are too busy being happy to bring misery into other people's lives. Unhappy people are the critical and mean ones in the world.

Posted by: Rebecca | April 14, 2006 9:41 AM

Jeez, I hope Spunky isn't filled with this kind of cruelty toward all people who work: "I hope and pray that when you are old, that your son won't send you a card on Mother's Day."

I work outside the home, and I haven't yet had a childcare vs. job dilemma. But I'm young, and my kids are young, so I know it's only a matter of time. I hope that when the time comes, my job will be flexible enough that I can choose childcare.

Posted by: Mom of 2 | April 14, 2006 9:50 AM

"I felt guilty that I didn't feel guilty for putting myself first"

If you really didn't feel guilty, why the over the top birthday celebration?

My family generally doesn't put a lot of emphasis on celebrating things (birthdays, holidays) on THE DAY, but on just making sure we celebrate together. It adds up to so much less stress, plus adult birthday parties are generally more fun when they're held on the weekend.

Posted by: Kid Free in Alexandria | April 14, 2006 9:50 AM

That was not a criticism. You only read harshness into my tone where there isn't any. Leslie asked how I solved this dilemma. I answered her. Any harshness of tone was read into the answer. It was the truth and I shared it. Any tone you read is on your end and not in my post or in my heart.

As for being financially able. That would be laughable if you could look behind the monitor into our lives. We have only one car (and have had only one for most of our married life), a small three bedroom house with six rowdy children, and a very happy marriage.

I have no criticism of those who live a different lifestyle or make choices different than mine. I make no judgement on others. You are free to make any choices you want. But knowing the consequences is something we should all be aware of. And being aware of them while there is still time to alter behavior and actions is the best time to become aware of them.

Posted by: Spunky | April 14, 2006 9:51 AM

Spunky: "Any harshness of tone was read into the answer."

Um, is there a non-harsh way to say, "I hope and pray that when you are old, that your son won't send you a card on Mother's Day" ?!?!?

Posted by: What?! | April 14, 2006 9:59 AM

Why not raise a child who is proud of your accompishements and unserstands that this is a HUGE deal. You are FAMOUS.
Instead you bought his love. I so don't get that.
what happens when he is 16 and you need to be somewhere, maybe taking care of a sick parent, are you going tbuy him the new Mustang to gloss over your guilt.
And that is what you did.. you say you weren't guilty but you sure acted like it.
But in DC money and material things are more important that pride in a successful parent, loving the time you have with your family, and strong values.

Posted by: Momma Daria | April 14, 2006 10:03 AM

So far, I have not had a childcare-vs-work dilemma. Either my husband or I can always take time off when needed, even at a very short notice. I guess we are lucky that we both have understanding employers.

I would like to make a couple of points that are related to today's topic.
1) It seems to me that some people forget about the mother and her happiness and state of mind. Granted, having a happy and healthy child is paramount to me, but feeling fulfilled in other ways is also important. Being able to work helps me to stay sane and have an excellent relationship with my husband. Why are there so few people who are willing to consider this and accept that it's not only the child's happiness, but the parents' happiness, too that keeps the whole family in balance?

2) A broader issue I see in American society is the fact that women are viewed one dimensionally - they either work and don't have childern or they have children and stay at home. I do hope this changes. A woman has a right to shape her own life however she chooses and take full responsibility for the choices she makes.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 10:05 AM

I would worry about the message sent to the child getting a 3-day bash celebrating the day he was born. These over the top birthday parties are damaging to a child's sense of selfworth. Note I said the "over the top" ones are. It is wonderful to honor the child's birth anniversary, but to organize this huge event sends the message that he gets praise, presents, attention for reaching a calandar milestone.

As for work vs family issues, as a young widow, I had no choice. But my girls KNEW that. They understood that to live in this society that does not honor families, I had to be in the work-a-day world and the several-nights-a-week second job work world.

My girls are now young adults and we treasure the times we spend together as we arrange our schedules to be with each other on a regular basis.

Spunky, I can guarantee you my girls STILL give me Mother's Day cards and not only the second Sunday in May.

Posted by: Maria O in Columbia MO | April 14, 2006 10:06 AM

So Spunky,

I take it when you wrote about the Mother's Day card, that was just a typo? That's what I assumed when I read that. I mean, how can one Mom "pray" that another mom doesn't get a Mother's Day card. Such an idea cheapens us all. And especially God!

May His will be done . . .and without typos, too!

Posted by: L.Smith | April 14, 2006 10:08 AM

Last month, I had to leave town on my son's birthday for a business trip. As soon as I knew, I explained the situation to him (he turned 7), let him have his birthday gift a week early, and he got to pick out where he wanted to go for dinner the night before I left. While I was gone, my husband took him and his older brother to the movies and they had a small birthday cake that night. It was fine.

A bigger conflict came when my younger son was an infant and came down with what eventually was diagnosed as RSV. Daycare kept calling me to pick him up because they couldn't reach my husband but I was expected to lead a kick off meeting for a new division initiative so I couldn't go. Luckily, I was able to reach my husband and he was able to pick the baby up and take him to the doctor's.

Posted by: Corinne | April 14, 2006 10:10 AM

I think it's important to nurture our children, but just as important to teach them that sometimes, they cannot tbe the center of the universe. Celebrating a birthday on an alternate day is not and should not be such a big deal. It is not a tragedy. As long as it's celebrated, who cares whether it was on Monday or Wednesday. So I think Leslie did right. She had a very important engagement, and she met her obligation to the book people. She also met her obligation to her son and threw him a very nice shin dig. And almost inadvertantly, she taught him a lesson we must all learn, better sooner than later. Sometimes we have to move over and give someone else the spotlight. We have to learn to be flexible. We must learn to be as generous with others as we expect others to be with us. If we don't teach our children to handle small disappointments graciously, then we are not meeting our obligations to them.

Posted by: MomInMD | April 14, 2006 10:11 AM

During a law school course on religion and law, a professor asked how we, then students, would handle the conflict that would arise if, when working at a law firm, a partner asked us to perform certain work (be at a meeting, show up for a court hearing, etc.) at a time that it would conflict with our religious practices. Most students said that religious practice would win out and the partner and client would have to respect that. The professor then asked me, what if the same meeting or court hearing or whatever it was did not conflict with your religious practices, but was on a day that you had promised your son you would be at his soccer game? Under the scenario, the client had specifically requested that I be at the meeting/hearing, the partner expected it, and there was no way to perform the work obligation and go to the soccer game. I said, quite honestly, that I expected I would go to the meeting/hearing, apologize to my son, and hope that he would understand. My classmates, with and without children and all planning to begin demanding careers in the law, were, for the most part, shocked and dismayed at my response. I was fairly surprised by this, as I assumed that most people (especially young associates in large law firms) would do the same. I grew up with two working parents and had come to understand that having a fulfilling career sometimes means sacrificing time one would rather spend at home or on the soccer field in order to do the job right. I continue to be surprised by how many people find this to be an unacceptable viewpoint.

Posted by: DC Lawyer | April 14, 2006 10:12 AM

I think Spunky meant that she prayed that the mother would not get a card versus a visit on Mother's day. In other words, the card is seen as an insult.
FWIW, I am a mother, and think that Mother's Day is a ridiculous fabricated holiday that pretty much is meant to enrich florists and card manufacturers. As long as my kids love me and treat me with love and respect, I don't care a fig what they send me on Mother's day.

Posted by: MomInMD | April 14, 2006 10:16 AM

I for one applaud Spunky for leaving her job and adding 6, count em, 6 children to an already overpopulated world - do you and your husband not believe in birth control?

Posted by: DevilDog | April 14, 2006 10:20 AM

Read DC lawyers comment and had to respond. When you make a committment to your child you need to keep it. Don't make it if you can't. I grew up in household where promises were meant to be broken and I can guarantee that it effects the way you look at the parent in your adulthood.

I had an instance last fall where I had committed to leading a book discussion group at my son's school when a sudden trip requirement to the west coast came up. In order to meet the committment I forced the rescheduling by a day, and got home at 3:00AM in order to be at his school that morning at 9:00. He was pleased and excited that I had made it which made the effort worthwhile.

If you don't make the effort to reshedule you are teaching your kids that promises and committments aren't worth the air to push them out. Sometimes you can't do it, but they had better be rare or you will wish you had done something different

Posted by: Chet | April 14, 2006 10:26 AM

"I have no criticism of those who live a different lifestyle or make choices different than mine. I make no judgement on others."

1) "I hope and pray that when you are old, that your son won't send you a card on Mother's Day."

Maybe that's just a LITTLE judgmental. If you don't think so, consider that you are essentially praying that Leslie is "punished" by her son in the future for her "sin" or prioritizing her work obligation. Where I come from, that's judgmental.

2) "That the habit of ignoring family obligations for career won't be so ingrained by that time that he doesn't see a problem with taking a client to a "big game" instead of sitting awhile longer with his mom."

Might that possibly be just a smidge of criticism of mothers who choose to work? Leslie did not describe a "habit" of "ignoring" obligations; in fact, this was a first-time conflict.

3) "Extravagant parties the night before don't make of for the lonliness the next day. He may not express it but trust me its there."

I guess trying to read the mind of Leslie's son and then skewering her with his "loneliness" isn't technically critical or judgmental. But it sure is mean.

Posted by: The Observer | April 14, 2006 10:32 AM

How many of you had a birthday party or other event that your dad had to miss because he was out of town/at work/had a deadline? I mean, it happens. Leslie, if this had been your husband's event, instead of yours, would there have been any question in your mind about what came first? No, work should not always (or even mostly) come first. My dad was at many a soccer game, school play, birthday, etc. (Mom did not work outside the house, so this was not as big a deal, except that she hated those school plays.) Heck, he even baked a cake or two back in the day. Yes, I was disappointed at the time, but its not something I have needed years of therapy to get over.

One thing that I caution is about the three days of celebration to make up for it. It sounds like Leslie's plan is pretty reasonable, but there is a fine line between "making it up to the kid" and spoiling. Has anyone seen "My Super Sweet Sixteen" on MTV? Just don't go out and get the kid a Mercedes to make him feel better about you as a parent.

Posted by: What about Dad? | April 14, 2006 10:34 AM

To clarify - I was not disappointed about the cake, I was disappointed if my dad had to miss something.

Posted by: What about dad? | April 14, 2006 10:36 AM

I also agree that keeping commitments is an important thing, but sometimes people are disappointed, promises are broken, and circumstances make it impossible to meet commitments. If you go to the majority of the soccer games, or whatever, missing a few will not traumatize your kids over the long term. But doing wild contortions with your and everyone else's schedules to make your child feel loved will only foster an unhealthy sense of importance and inflexibility, and deprive your kids from learning how to deal gracefully with life's many disappointments.

Posted by: re commitments | April 14, 2006 10:36 AM

The only thing this world is overpopulated with is elephant loving liberals. If we only could have more elephants, this world would be such a better place!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 10:37 AM

“I hope and pray that when you are old, that your son won't send you a card on Mother's Day… we can't delude ourselves into thinking that our children don't know what's going on…He may not express it but trust me its there. “
Note to Spunky…for someone not making judgments, you seem to know an awful lot about people you’ve never met. Suggest liberal use of “For me…” or “In my case…” to avoid any misconception that you are extrapolating your experiences into other’s lives…
I’m a male in my mid-40’s, have been married for over 10 years and have two lovely children (my judgment). Personally the thought of my wife subordinating her career to become a housewife is distasteful. It’s hard to argue that staying home with six kids is not a valid choice on a lot of levels, but shelving a career to be a good wife seems a bit of a throwback (FYI: Having six kids might be borderline valid but that’s another story :-) ). I’m not sure what it was in your marriage where you felt constrained by marital responsibilities such that you couldn’t work…maybe hubby is a throwback too…but as a man I would be extremely disappointed in my own spouse if she had made such a decision on our behalf. I find it stimulating for both partners to be able to pursue career and family and am happy that my spouse can enjoy both. In my opinion, a woman who leaves behind a career that fulfills her as a human being ultimately debases herself, her marriage and her family. I believe children can suffer just as much from unhappy dispirited parents as they can from not having Mom and Dad at home as much as they like…but that’s just my opinion.

Posted by: Dad in VA | April 14, 2006 10:42 AM

I think a distinction needs to be made between a critical situation, such as health emergency and a birthday or a soccer practice. I am sure that before my kids grow up there will be times when I can't make it to their plays/games/etc when promised because of work/real life emergency/some other unforseen event. And there might be a business trip on their birthday. Yes, they will be upset and I feel feel guilty, but that's life. What if you had to choose between caring for an elderly parent and your child. We are the "sandwich" generation with aging parents and young kids and these are some real choices we will face.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 10:46 AM

We all need to stop demanding too much of ourselves and try to stop feeling so guilty in being responsible adults. We can't always be everywhere and be everything to everyone that needs us. The three day birthday bash as compensation for missing the one night celebration sounds like a major guilt trip. I am guilty myself of overcompensating with material things when I fall short on the personal angle. I don't think this helps in the long run and plants the wrong ideas in our children's heads (like valuing money over time). I have to contstantly remind myself to stop doing this. While putting a child first in everything seems a laudable goal, it may create a self-absorbed adult who thinks the universe revolves around him or her. That's just not reality, is it?

On the other hand, if a child does not appreciate the lengths you go through to compensate for not being there on one particular night (albeit his birthday night) that may be a signal that something is wrong. As adults, major events conflict with holidays and our birthdays. Do we really want to teach our children that our birthdays are more important than anything else? (I just had to take the bar exam with one of the three days of the exam falling on my birthday. I was able to get over the disappointment and celebrate afterward.)

Posted by: Isabelle | April 14, 2006 10:49 AM

As many other posters have pointed out, it is all about balance. If a parent is constantly missing family obligations and functions and always making promises and then not keeping them, then sure a child is going to feel pushed aside, who wouldn't? But missing some events because of other obligations is part of life and a child should grow up realizing that.

While Spunky's posts were certainly unduly harsh and judgmental, making comments about how many children someone has is also uncalled for. Unless you feed and care for them, it is no one's business how many children someone chooses to have.

Posted by: bloggerbabe | April 14, 2006 10:51 AM

Balance is the key, of course, we are all doing things, whether it is working or staying at home. How the child is treated during this time is the key to a balanced healthy marriage, as well as the husband and wife relationship.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 10:53 AM

Balance is the key, of course, we are all doing things, whether it is working or staying at home. How the child is treated during this time is the key to a balanced healthy marriage, as well as the husband and wife relationship.

Posted by: cd | April 14, 2006 10:54 AM

I think the premise of the question is flawed, in assuming that the only conflicts that occur (or that are worth worrying about) are between children and work. If you have more than one child, you will also have conflicts between their important activities, whether you work in or out of the home. Example: Our son's 18th birthday came on the day of a high school "away" soccer game for our 15-year old. We took him out to dinner and skipped her game. And heard from her on the phone on the bus ride home that she had not only been a starting player, but had scored a goal. You know what? Those things will occur again; he only turned 18 once. I'm pretty sure we skimped on an earlier less-significant birthday event because we all went to (guess what?) some other soccer game .

But for a work conflict - That 18-year old had a period in infancy where round-the-clock care was required. On our incomes we could have hired in a nurse. Instead, my husband went to work at 3AM so that I could go in at noon. Both of our supervisors were supportive of the setup, and the fact that anyone who wanted to consult with him had to catch him before lunch, and anyone who needed me had to wait until after lunch.
Neither of our office jobs could be worked from home. Not every workplace is so inflexible yet flexible. But you can believe that with that kind of arrangement over several months, the workplace (and our options) have been equally accommodating of the last minute crises.

Posted by: Our kids are well rounded | April 14, 2006 10:54 AM

"While Spunky's posts were certainly unduly harsh and judgmental, making comments about how many children someone has is also uncalled for. Unless you feed and care for them, it is no one's business how many children someone chooses to have."

In principle, I think you are right, but it is an overcrowded world, and Americans are major resource consumers, even if we live modestly.

It certainly is Spunky's choice to make, but, as with other personal decisions, the consequences can extend beyond the personal realm, even if they are not easily observable or measurable.

Posted by: THS | April 14, 2006 10:55 AM

Now tell us about your worst face-off between keeping your job and caring for your children and how you resolved it.

When my wife and I moved, she, who had worked full-time for over 20 years, chose to stay-at-home for our boys, then 1 and 2. Now they're 5 and 6 and she's considering going back to work. So we'd done day-care, and she did full-time mom, and now we're talking and thinking about returning to at least part-time care with school.

I agree with the alternative b-day calendar plan suggested, and also the "keep a lid" on going overboard cautions floated for the in leau of. Especially where parents have made the choice to work outside the home for greater financial security/opportunities and self-fulfillment. My parents both worked full-time as a cop and nurse and there's never been any doubt in my mind they both adored us.

Posted by: been there, still there | April 14, 2006 10:57 AM

On first reading, I thought Leslie's three-day extravaganza seemed like overcompensating too, but when I reread it, I felt I'd misjudged.

Of course, I don't know the details, but it seemed like she'd put together three things that, if the schedule had been different, might all have occurred on the official: some outdoor play (flag football), food and indoor fun w/ friends (ESPN Sports Zone), and the sleepover. Doesn't seem so outrageous . . . not that it's up to me to decide.

Posted by: THS | April 14, 2006 10:58 AM

Shortly after returning to work from maternity leave, I was confronted with having two oral arguments scheduled in two different federal circuit courts of appeals in one week (these don't get rescheduled for anything short of a death in the family). The Sunday before I was scheduled to leave for the first of my two arguments, my husband's back went out and he couldn't move. Thankfully, my mother was able to take time off from her job to take care of both my son and husband until I returned from my trips. If she had not been able to do so, I would have called in some favors and gotten help from co-workers and hired help. There was no question in my mind (or my husband's--also an attorney) that I had to appear for both arguments on my cases at this short of notice. If you work outside the home, you have to set up back up sources for childcare and other help. If you don't have family close by, you have to have other people who can fill in and be willing, yourself, to do so for others. That's the only way to make it work.

Posted by: Isabelle | April 14, 2006 11:03 AM

Here's our dilemma. We have been married almost two years now, and have just bought a house. To make the mortgage payments and to pay our other bills, we need both our incomes. Childcare would require my husband getting a 2nd job which is out of the question in my view.

That means no baby for the forseeable future and since I'm 35 now, it's not looking too likely at all... (I will not do fertility treatments)

It's very sad sometimes....

Posted by: amw | April 14, 2006 11:05 AM

The only real work/child conflict I can conjure up was the need to take a business trip on my daughter's 2nd birthday. She was turning 2. She wouldn't have remembered if I was there on the actual birthday or not (the party was scheduled for the day before her birthday anyway). A lot of things played into it (I was pregnant and really emotional at the time), but I eventually talked to my boss about my possibly not going on the trip. She was very understanding, athough she did ask me to seriously consider my traveling after the birth of the second baby. At the time, I thought that wouldn't be an issue, but after kid #2 came along, I decided I didn't want to travel. Luckily, it all worked out and I was able to (lateral) move to a different team who didn't travel. ---Of course AFTER I talked to my boss about not "wanting" to be away on my daughter's 2nd birthday, my doctor told me I couldn't fly anyway due to pregnancy complications!

My kids are still little, though, so I'm sure my days of work/child conflict are coming. Luckily, I work in a pretty flexible workplace.

I agree with MominMD, too. Kids need to learn that they aren't the center of the world.

Posted by: KS | April 14, 2006 11:06 AM

My father was in the Navy until I was 14. During my childhood, he often missed birthdays, holidays and soccer games however he and my mother always managed to make sure I knew my father was there in spirit if not in person. While there were times I missed my father, I always respected and loved him and never once felt neglected or that I had somehow missed out. When he was home, my father did everything with me: soccer games, birthday bashes and even played Santa/Easter Bunny for the kids whose fathers were deployed (as had been done for me by others if he was gone). When I was older and my father retired, he confessed how guilty he felt for not being there for me as a child, however due to my parent's wonderful upbringing, I was always secure that he somehow was there and knew if it had been humanly possible, he would have physically been there. I love my parents and have a wonderful and close relationship with them now as a young adult. I only hope that when I have children, I can do half as good of a job as they did.

Posted by: Spob | April 14, 2006 11:10 AM

The way things have always worked in my family is the Federal govt-esque "Birthday Observed". If a birthday falls on a day that's inconvenient, we celebrate on the nearest satisfactory date- usually the following weekend. Even my parents used this when I was growing up and it seemed completely reasonable. The birthday honoree might still get a small special treat on the actual day, like choosing pizza or McDonalds for dinner, but cake and presents will happen on "Birthday Observed." Works for us. Leslie's plan seemed eminently fair to me. Conflicts can so easily arise -even from reasons other than job obligations (soccer games, grandma's dr. appt., etc)- that they shouldn't be made into too big of a deal. Flexibility is a wonderful trait to develop and encourage.

Posted by: busygal | April 14, 2006 11:15 AM

To AMW - I don't know your situation, so obviously I may be wrong here, but I just want to say that when my parents were newlyweds, they didn't have much money at all - there was a lot that we did without. But they were able to have a family and we did ok.

I'm not suggesting that you subject yourself to poverty, but I think if you really want children, there are ways to do it.

Posted by: DLM | April 14, 2006 11:16 AM

To AMW: You may be thinking about this too much. There would be a lot less babies born in the world if everyone calculated a spreadsheet and asked, "Can we afford a child?" No matter your income, the answer is invariably "No." Although it is so expensive today to have even one child, when you have a child, responsible people (you sound like one of them) figure out a way to make it work. It's amazing what you can do when you have to.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 11:21 AM

My apologies. It should say "I hope your son won't JUST send you a card on Mother's Day" There is no edit feature. Or I would change it myself. It did sound harsh as written.

Sorry for any confusion.

Leslie if you could edit the comment that would be appreciated.

Posted by: Spunky | April 14, 2006 11:22 AM

Even if we didn't need money (we do), I would have gone crazy staying home. The few times I had to stay home briefly, such as for recovering from a medical procedure, I was bored out of my gourd. We have two wonderful and high-maintenance children, including one with special medical needs. They both know that their parents love and value the working part of their adult lives and would be miserable without it. They understand that mom and dad don't want to stay home, and that if we did, the summer camps, trips, and other niceties we have provided for them would disappear. They know we have a busy and hectic schedule, mostly due to THEIR activities such as sports, and have learned to deal with changes in schedule. I want them to grow up seeing that women can and do work and can have great careers in a field of choice. It is a source of satisfaction for the mother in their life. My husband and I have both always worked and we've had occasional difficulties with scheduling. We have had more or less flexibility with different jobs in different years, and I would say overall we've dealt with what's come up. And by the way the "Actual" birthday has almost never been the same day as a party. As a working parent, I look for the weekend nearest the birthdate and plan parties or events around that. Summer birthdays often compete with camp, vacations, etc. We just don't sweat it, my kids don't sweat it, most of my kids' friends' families don't sweat it, and I suggest parents who do should let themselves off the hook!!! The point is the celebration, not whether it was on the ACTUAL date or a day or two before or after.

Posted by: Montgomery County, MD | April 14, 2006 11:27 AM

I'm surpised hardly anyone's mentioned the lack of affordable day-care options. Babysitter and daycare costs have to be paid with income from a job, but have to be found before one can find a good job, say, if someone took time off from work when their kids were born but needs to return to work later. Not all jobs have guaranteed maternity leave with your job back later.

This issue is more than just personal, it's something we need to address at the societal level, requiring workplaces to be more flexible in accomadating fathers and mothers, and providing affordable or free quality daycare to all.

Did anyone else read the article on Finland in the Post a while back? Why can't the United States offer quaility choices in daycare (home or nursery-school), paid for by the government and our tax dollars, to better support working families and help ease the work-and-daycare or stay-at-home dillema?

Posted by: gvc | April 14, 2006 11:30 AM

amw: You wrote "To make the mortgage payments and to pay our other bills, we need both our incomes."

I actually just had this conversation recently with another couple, and they were surprised when I actually had them work out the math. They both made equal salaries, and were amazed that having one of them quit still worked out to keeping 80% of their total income. They forgot that the 2nd person is paying additional social security and medicare, the tax rate for the 2nd person is higher given the graduated income tax rates, and the child tax credit and dependent credit are significant.

There is still a reduction, but it's probably not nearly as extreme as you think -- I would recommend chatting with a financial advisor just so that you know.

Good luck.

Posted by: A Dad | April 14, 2006 11:30 AM

On the first day of my new job -- after relocating to a new state -- my three children all had raging fevers and the smallest seemed to be swollen. Anyway, my husband was managing the 10 contractors tearing our "new" house apart and couldn't take time out to carry the children to the doctor so I called my job and requested to start a week later and they "fired" me! Since I hadn't really started, its technically not a firing but the result was the same. BUT, instead of grieving over the loss of a job I REALLY needed, I decided that if they couldn't understand my situation, then I didn't want to work for them anyway. Less than an hour later, I was offered a BETTER job at a more family-friendly company and I haven't looked back. Sure, its tough working with three children under the age of three years old - we all don't have a choice so we do what we've got to do and work to be the best parents we can with the cards we've been dealt.

Posted by: AngNel | April 14, 2006 11:33 AM

I work in public relations for a non-profit which was heavily involved in rescuing animals after Hurricane Katrina. Last September, I felt like I missed my baby son's whole 5th month of life. I saw very little of him, my 4-yr-old daughter and husband. I am lucky to have an understanding husband. It was a huge strain on the family for 6-8 weeks. We survive by seeing challenges like that as "long-term temporary" or "short-term" temporary. Either way, it will pass. Someday when my kids are older, I think they will be very proud of their Mom--that I did everything I could to help get the word out about the plight of animals who were also victims of the hurricane.

Posted by: 21704mom | April 14, 2006 11:33 AM

Lastyear, my six month old son was diagnosed with Severe Hemophilia A, a blood dsiorder that causes a person to bleed internally from minor and/or major injury or even sometimes spontaneous bleeding. The most extreme bleeds are the bleeds in the head(because of the brain), the neck (because of the airway or the stomach( because it can hold so much blood. I began a new job as a Receptionist on his 1st birthday things were going pretty well, no accidents or injury, that is until he learned how to walk, and walking became running, running became jumping and falling and tripping and so forth. I was at that job for alittle less than six months before I was fired for "Performance Issues" which really meant that I take too much time off with my son who has to go to the emergency room and receive his medicine intraveneously for his blood disorder EVERY time that he has a bleed, which now is about once sometimes twice a week. I desperately want to work because I enjoy working but it seems impossible to be able to hold a job and care for a child with a disability. I feel hopeless sometimes. It would be amazing if I could find a job that allows me to work at home but I can't think of anything.

Posted by: A.F. | April 14, 2006 11:35 AM

People say mean things about other's situations in order to validate their own. That is why I would not criticize someone like "spunky" because she may be regreting her lack of a career and feel the need to attack others who have family and career. T

he neatest thing to happen to me was when my son wrote a paper about me when he was young. He wrote about how proud he was of his mother, what important work that I did and even better, no other child wrote about their mother for this project. I don't think my children would want a mother who was not working, ambitious and smart. Parents can choose how to live their lives. When someone criticizes working mothers, I typically feel sorry for these people and wonder if they do not regret their own life decisions and perhaps they harbour a little jealousy that people like me are perceived to "have it all".

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 11:36 AM

[paid for by the government ]
Having a child and sticking the taxpayer with the bill? Can you say "Welfare Mommy"?

Posted by: Taxpayer | April 14, 2006 11:43 AM

You just reminded me of that mother I saw on Nanny 911 that would rather take care of her pet pig than her own children.

Posted by: Oink | April 14, 2006 11:56 AM

There has been a lot of references to missing soccer games. I played soft-ball when I was a kid. I grew up in a small town and generally only one or two parents attended. It never even occurred to me that my Mom or Dad was supposed to be at every game. When I got home I'd tell them about the good things I did (or didn't do) at a game and they'd listen and give me a high five. Sure, they went to a game a couple times a season. That was nice, but I didn't miss them at all the other games.

When I moved here I lived across the street from a ball-park. I thought it was the strangest thing to see all these mini-vans pull up every time there was a game and the parents screaming and yelling at all these little 6 year olds just trying to have a little friendly competition. I felt sorry for all the pressure on the kids. So, here is my question. Do the kids actually want or need a parent to be there cheering them on at every game?

Posted by: Young&Single | April 14, 2006 11:59 AM

The best part of the game for 6 year olds is the orange slices at half and the going away snack.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 14, 2006 12:06 PM

To Oink:

Excuse me? I am very lucky to have a loving and supportive husband who was with the children when I couldn't be. I am very happy that I can make a difference for the world outside my home and set a good example for my children to follow. It is tough being away from them--at the same time--I am happy I didn't chuck my years of work and Master's degree when I had children. I'm a full-time working professional, my kids are well-balanced and I have a great marriage. There are sacrifices along the way, but I truly feel like I have it all.
I can multi-task--love and care for my children AND help the animals of this world. Maybe you feel like you can't walk and chew gum at the same time?

Posted by: 21704mom | April 14, 2006 12:06 PM

I am disgusted by the amount of disdain and snarkiness I see coming from certain posters on this blog.
My mom worked because she had to, and she missed out on a lot of great things. She and my siblings all appreciated the stay-at-home moms who supervised us when we played with their kids, brought refreshments to sporting events, and gave us rides when Mom couldn't. Our neighbor was even our emergency contact, and was willing to help out if we were ill at school and needed to be picked up. I am sure many of these women would have liked to have said no sometimes, but they were an integral part of our community and did more than their share of providing a stable atmosphere -not just for their kids, but for others as well.
I am not sure what my plans are for my kids, but I do know that no matter what I choose, I will not denigrate other people who are doing different things.
I am with the posters who say the nastiness must be from those who are insecure with their own choices.

Posted by: NK | April 14, 2006 12:10 PM

The hardest was when my daughter was an infant. Before she was born I went over and over the childcare options and decided on family care, a person doing daycare of a few children in her own home; I interviewed many and decided on one, and she was a good caregiver. But THEN she started calling in sick - time after time, and first thing in the morning on a work day! I had to scramble, I called some of the others I had interviewed and got some to serve as backups. But that was really difficult and I hated having my daughter going back and forth to different homes. Eventually I changed and found someone more reliable, and also found a daycare center that would do "drop in" care when you needed it in an emergency. But it was a real trial to deal with. I had no nearby family to fall back on and my commute was pretty stiff so it was hard. And I was always anxious, I worked at a highly competitive place that always had the threat of layoffs, and I was one of the first women of my level who had a baby (was a mostly male profession). So I didn't have any one crisis but a number of little crises to deal with.

Posted by: Catherine | April 14, 2006 12:11 PM

Taxpayer...I think you're off base..the majority of mothers on welfare WANT to work and become self-sufficent. Thanks to the welfare reform act, it is almost impossible to leave a minimum wage job AND pay for childcare. It's a no-win/no-win situation. There are always a few bad apples in every bunch. As for me, I'd rather have my tax money go to someone who needs assistance rather than a war we should no longer be fighting.

Posted by: Stand Up for All Moms | April 14, 2006 12:11 PM

Three things:

1) A.F., I'm so sorry things seem hopeless right now. Have you asked your pediatrician for a referral to a support group for children with hemophilia? A good friend of mine had four hemophiliac sons, and I know he and his wife drew a lot of strength from talking to other parents on a regular basis. You are in my prayers.

2) I had several birthdays growing up where one parent had to be out of town. It wasn't a big deal. Seriously--I wasn't lonely, I didn't/don't hold it against them, and I never felt they betrayed me for their jobs. Someone mentioned earlier that teaching children the world doesn't revolve around them is a valuable lesson, and I completely agree. I think learning this early on makes for more contented adulthood--if you are raised to expect the world to fall to its feet at your every whim, you set yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment (and, as it would seem, a torrent of hissyfits for everyone else around you).

3) I feel like comments in this space swing rather quickly towards dissecting Leslie's every move and holding her to a ridiculous standard. I've been reading since the beginning, and I don't remember ever seeing Leslie claim that she was the perfect parent. Really, would every parenting/marriage/life anecdote from any of us withstand such scrutiny? I wish that those who seem so hellbent on nitpicking Leslie to death would, the next time a real zinger pops in their head, stop and imagine how readers would evaluate something in their own life.

In other words, consider how daunting it is to hold your life up for inspection, knowing people (cloaked under a convenient veil of anonymity) will take the cheapest and meanest shots. Leslie keeps it up, despite the flogging she gets here every day, and I think she should be commended for that. Her posts are honest attempts to start discussions, and it seems like they could turn into productive ones if people would keep their eye on the damned ball.

Posted by: Casual Reader | April 14, 2006 12:19 PM

I must be the worst mother because I don't understand being there for EVERY Game either. If you have two kids involved in sports, you will have a conflict. Even if I were not at work- I have things to do sometimes. As for the orginal birthday dilemma- wasn't dad there? On actual birthdays we don't make a huge fuss. Usually there is a card at breakfast and a cakes (store bought!)at dinner. I don't see why Dad can't do that and have a with a phone call from Mom. A common mistake couples make it look at the woman's salary and see if it is "worth it" for day care costs. We've always looked at daycate costs againts our combined salaries- the children do not just belong to me.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 12:20 PM

My greatest dream is to end up as a slice of bacon on the plate of a hungry child's plate.

Posted by: Oink | April 14, 2006 12:22 PM

My wife and I discuss this issue all the time concerning careers and child care. To me there is no right or wrong way to do it. There pluses and minuses to both just as there is with EVERYTHING in life (married/single, kids/no kids, city life/country life, high paying job/low paying job). To me, life is a journey in which you're driving on a multi-lane highway. You just drive in the lane that you feel comfortable in. Sometimes you stay in the same lane, sometimes you switch, sometimes you switch back. But we're all going to the same destination. Regarding today's topic, you can choose to have one parent stay at home and live in a smaller house with a smaller income and live on a tighter budget in exchange for more time and flexibility dealing with the kids. Or, both parents can work and maybe have a smaller quantity of time, but can make up for up with the quality of time as well as opportunities they can provide for their kids (vacations that can expose them to more varied locations, more activities (skating, golf, basketball, karate, piano, etc.), and more choices when it comes time to go to college. Let's face it - you need money in life for certain things but there is a sacrifice to get that money. Again, it's always six of one, half a dozen of the other. As long as children feel loved and appreciated (and are reminded every so often of what we as parents DO provide for them instead of what we don't) then the kids will grow up fine and the parents can be happy and fulfilled as well. Just pick the path you want in life and respect the paths of others.

Posted by: papasmurf83 | April 14, 2006 12:26 PM

My husband and I have had plenty of work/day care dilemma. The way we have generally handled them was to look at our calendars for that day and figure out who could take time off. Sometimes, we split the day in half, sometimes we begged grandma to take a day off or split a day with one of us. Having a sick child on a day where you both have many important meetings/tasks on your calendar is one of the most stressfull situations I can think of. I have turned down higher positions with higher pay so that I would not be totally indispensable while our children are young. And, when interviewing for jobs, I have been upfront about needing some flexibility with my schedule because I have young children. In general, my bosses and co-workers have been very supportive and understanding. However, my husband had an older female boss that would give him a lot of grief when he missed work to take care of a sick child. "Why can't your wife do it" she would ask, knowing full well that I worked too. Interestingly enough, she had worked full time when her kids were young but her mom was living with her and was raising the kids.

Posted by: Working mother of 2 | April 14, 2006 12:28 PM

What I find interesting about Spunky's comment is that she couldn't juggle her husband and a job, but, she can juggle her husband and SIX kids? I don't know, but, something's gotta give. I'm sure the husband isn't getting as much attention as he used to before the kids came. And another point, I'd argue that a working mom with two kids can shower as much attention on them individually, if not more, than a mom who has six kids.

Posted by: working mom | April 14, 2006 12:43 PM

All welfare Mommies have a very very, important job. It's called being a childcare provider. When their child gets old enough to be placed in public school, then they will get a perfect opportunity to advance their career. Let's put the Mother and Child first before the job.

Posted by: Taxpayer | April 14, 2006 12:43 PM

Taxpayer is way off base for so many reasons. The investments we make in the welfare of our children are repaid over and over in so many ways---and I'm saying this as a person w/ no kids.

California spends 10K per year to educate a kid. It spends 34K per year to house a prisoner. We'd be a lot better off investing in the kids whose parents aren't able to give them everything they need than we are carrying forward our highly individualistic model of social life. We're not on the frontier anymore. We need each other, and we need to grow people who know how to live and be productive in our complex society.

Posted by: THS | April 14, 2006 12:44 PM

"Did anyone else read the article on Finland in the Post a while back? Why can't the United States offer quaility choices in daycare (home or nursery-school), paid for by the government and our tax dollars, to better support working families and help ease the work-and-daycare or stay-at-home dillema?"

Yes, these were great articles. I mentioned them before on this blog. I think it would be really informative if we could draw in some people who have expertise in family policy issues in other countries. Perhaps a chat like you did w/ the dad last week, Leslie?

Posted by: THS | April 14, 2006 12:46 PM

My mom was a SAHM and my dad worked a 9-5 job. They came to exactly 1 sporting event a year for both me and my brother and instead used the time to join study circles, hobby groups, etc. Never occured to me they were bad parents for pursuing their own interests or just relaxing so they could deal with a never-ending stream of BS from two high-energy boys.

Too bad they've passed on. They would have been interested to know they were bad parents for not spending every second of their lives with us at the neglect of their own identity and interests.

Posted by: Jacknut | April 14, 2006 12:47 PM

I have a wonderful, satisfying career that is flexible enough for me to attend many of my daughter's events. I realize that I am luckier than most.

We have a family friend who has a daughter the same age as my own. She is a stay-at-home mom. Over the years, I have asked her if she could occasionally help out when we had a work/kid conflict (and I'm talking VERY occasionally!) -- and to be honest -- she rarely can. On the other hand -- we OFTEN help her out! WE have the girls over for a sleepover so she can travel with her husband or go to a late night party. WE pick the girls up from school because she is scrapbooking or has a conflict. I don't mind at all -- but I do chuckle sometimes -- who would have thought that WE would be HER backup? And no, I'm not keeping score. And the kids would rather be at our house anyway -- I actually give them more attention and plan more fun activities!

Posted by: Nancy | April 14, 2006 12:47 PM


You say that you recently bought the house. Didn't you think this whole baby thing through? Why not buy a less expensive house? Or, if you're that upset about not being able to afford kids, hold off on the house for awhile?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 12:56 PM

Does anyone agree that posters should have to identify themselves as non-DC area folks before they suggest that another poster should have just bought a less expensive house? Criminy.

Posted by: Sheesh | April 14, 2006 12:59 PM

THS wrote: " I think it would be really informative if we could draw in some people who have expertise in family policy issues in other countries. Perhaps a chat like you did w/ the dad last week, Leslie?"

Yes! I second that!

Posted by: friend | April 14, 2006 1:05 PM

I will say that I've been lucky enough to have had supervisors with kids of their own who know that sometimes bad things happen and you have to be out for a while. Last year as I had just started at a new job, my son got strep throat which doubled up with a case of gastritis; this meant lots of time in the doctor's office with him strapped to an IV machine. Since I had just started, I had no vacation or sick time to fall back on and wound up being out of the office for 10 days. My boss and I worked together to find ways for me to make up the time at home so I could care for my son during the day and still be a responsible employee while he was sleeping. (Granted, I was really tired when all was said and done, but my son needed me and he had to come first.)

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | April 14, 2006 1:11 PM

Just some responses to those who responded to me...

Both of us are Fairfax County employees (I'm a teacher, he works for the county government), so we don't make a lot together (barely 6 figs). We bought a townhouse that we could afford in PW county somewhat far from where he works, but not too far from my school so that we wouldn't be wasting $1500 a month on rent and rather put $ towards a mortgage.

We worked out the #s already. My salary primarily goes to the mortgage, his would go to child care if we had a child which wouldn't leave us with much for food, etc. I am the primary breadwinner. As a teacher I do have some flexibility, but not enough to work around child care which is just too high a price. And with his salary alone, we couldn't pay the mortgage.

And yes we did consider all of this before we got married and before we bought the house.... It's just a tough trade-off sometimes...

Posted by: amw | April 14, 2006 1:34 PM

AMW, Give me a break...You considered all of this, in your own words, so obviously having a child wasn't as important as homeownership.

You made your bed -quit whining. Plenty of people in this area make due on tight budgets. We can't always have what we want. But stop coming to this forum expecting some sympathy. You make in the low six's not like you are both trying to raise a child on $40-50K a year -which some folks in this area do.

P.S. On an interest only mortgage, the benefits of owning v. renting are greatly diminished.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 1:41 PM


If your husband's salary just barely covers childcare, then, maybe he should stay at home and take in a child or two. Having a child who's slightly older than yours would help with the two of them playing together and it would bring in extra $$.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 1:45 PM

*\APPLAUSE/* Jacknut. Similar situation for me. My mom was a SAHM and never went to a "weekday" performance, game, show, etc. The only ones she went to weer on the weekends. And no, she was no tending another child -- my only sibling is 14 years older than me and started a Navy tour of duty my first day of Kindergarten.

Posted by: NoVAMom | April 14, 2006 1:46 PM


My brother and his wife have two children, she stays at home, he makes less than six figures a year, AND they own their own home in Centreville. I'm not following your math.

Also, because you are a teacher, you can maybe take on a higher paying job during the summers and tutor during the winter. That probably means that your husband should be the one who stays home with the kids. And, anyway, the situation only lasts for a few years, until the children are ready to go to school.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 1:50 PM

I was never asking for sympathy, I'm sorry if it came across that way. I was just stating that it can be a tough monetary decision to have a child sometimes that's all.

Unfortunately we didn't buy in to the market at the right time, but it's still better than renting come tax time.

As for summer jobs, I already work two and that provides our savings for the year so that we don't have to scrape to get by. And it's difficult to tutor when you already teach 170 students this year (6 classes of high school chemistry). Again not asking for sympathy, it's the profession I was called to, but just not trying to be ripped to shreds as some of you are doing...

Constructive criticism is always better than destructive...

Thanks for reading, and have a blessed day.

Posted by: amw | April 14, 2006 1:58 PM


You should chat with your colleagues and see how they are doing it.

Reading what you write, it appears that you are simply putting up roadblocks.

It's tough out here, but, lots of folks are making it happen.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 2:01 PM

Reading these comments I think what gets lost in all this sniping is that not being a "perfect" parents by some people's standards is not tantamount to child abuse. I was raised in an abusive home - and I can tell you this crap you all are arguing over doesn't mean anything. You at least care about your kids. Stop fetishizing your kids and realize you are all probably good parents doing your best. Go follow around a social worker for a day to find out what a bad parent really is.

Posted by: not a mom | April 14, 2006 2:08 PM


If after dealing with teens all day, you still want to deal with a little one at night -bless your soul. You must have infinite patience.

I agree with poster who said to talk to colleagues. Also, someone else suggested a financial planner -that can be invaluable! Once someone sits down and works through your expenses, you may be surprised that your situation can go in several directions. Even if you guys believe you have worked everything out on paper, there might be something you are missing. Another poster mentioned rent v. ownership - a good financial planner can give you an accurate picture on that, too.

We are blessed to live in a society where we have some choices. Open your mind to some you might not have imagined yourself making, and you might find that some dreams can be a reality.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 2:09 PM

I truly think that a happy mom is the best mom, so if working makes a person happy then they should continue to do it. I think the trick is find a great job where they appreciate your professional contributions enough to let you run home when the school nurse is calling. Those jobs do exist -- I have one of them.

Posted by: expecting | April 14, 2006 2:12 PM

What about the men?

I think I only saw one post from a male. Why should women be the ones to have to adjust their schedule and give up their career? How can we encourage our kids, in particular daughters, to go become doctors, lawyers, chefs, business owners, etc...and then also say, "But if you don't spend enough time with your kids/family/spouse, you are not doing the right thing."? We should recognize that part of this problem is how we actively raise our children. In PARENTING both parties, not just the mom, should equally make sacrifices. We should teach our children that both sexes need to compromise. A happy marriage/family means that both parties make it happen. If sons and daughters see equality, they will learn to expect equality in their future relationships and families. Not just learning that the male is the "breadwinner" and the female is "imbalanced" for working versus raising the kids and keeping the family emotionally healthy.

Deciding to have children is most often a two-sided decision, so parenting should also be a two-sided conquest.

This blog wasn't started about "mothering," it was started about PARENTING. You are NOT less of a women, mother, or person if you want to take that education you worked for and use it in a career. You are not less of a parent if you do not give your child a birthday party on the day.

Parenting means BOTH parents striving to show their child a healthy love and nuturing them in a healthy environment with support and guidance through the good and the bad.

A closing thought on the idea of being successful, whether as a parent or in life.
From Ralph Waldo Emerson: "To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded."

Posted by: wrong focus? | April 14, 2006 2:20 PM

I have a lot of sympathy for you, AMW, because, in this area, it IS hard to have what seems like a reasonable lifestyle for a person who graduated from college and is working full-time, but not making, by herself, a six-figure salary.

But, as others have said, others make things work under more difficult circumstances. First, think about whether you really want to have a kid. If you do, start thinking about what needs to change to make that happen.

The idea of a financial planner is invaluable. I don't know you, of course, but most people don't have a clear idea of how much money falls out of their pockets while they're walking around every day, i.e., the money they spend on lunch, parking, magazines, coffee at Starbuck's, popcorn at movies, haircuts, and a ton of other things of this type. Obviously, you're not going to pay your mortgage by giving up coffee at Starbuck's, but if you save $3.00/day, that's $1000/year, and you can probably save lots more than $3.00/day.

Is there room in your new house to take in a tenant until you have your baby? This is an area where people are coming and going all the time. Try Very likely, you could find someone who will sleep in your second bedroom and who you will will rarely see.

Or, perhaps your husband can walk dogs for pay on Saturdays. There are lots of businesses that provide that service. That'd be a few hundred bucks a month.

Pick up books by Michelle Singletary, the Post's personal finance columnist. Read her columns and her web chats. She is great at helping people set goals and figure out how to achieve them.

I'm being pretty directive and specific here, especially as I don't know you at all. But I wouldn't feel so free about giving out advice if I hadn't been down this path myself. To get my life back on track after a long illness that cost me my job and put me in the poorhouse, I took the kinds of steps I'm talking about here. Taking the steps was not as hard as making myself believe it could be done and making myself start.

My best wishes to you.

Posted by: THS | April 14, 2006 2:37 PM

Spunky, I am curious -- why couldn't you handle working and being a wife? That's seems pretty standard these days. Have to admit, I don't get it.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 2:38 PM

Something missing here about choosing to stay at home with children. Maybe the career ISN'T what a woman finds fulfilling. Maybe staying home and taking care of the family is more fulfilling.

My worst dilemma - My then 3 year-old screaming with an earache in the background when the day care called to come pick him up and my boss telling me if I chose to leave to pick him up I would be fired. I had no one else at the time and so I lost my job. There have been countless other dilemmas - my children are now teenagers and I raised them by myself - working wasn't a choice. But we balanced as best we could and went without ALOT. BTW, I moved to this area 4 years ago to attend graduate school and was raising my two children on less than $25k a year and NO public assistance - tough but it can be done. I am now pregnant again and plan on staying home full-time while my husband works - we have agreed it would be best for everyone. I will stay home and enjoy my child, keep an eye on the teens and be able to take care of all the things that become huge problems now because neither of us have jobs we can take much time off from - DMV visits, etc. I do not find working full-time fulfilling no matter what I do so it is the best choice for me. Other mothers feel completely opposite. I also get alot of grief at work when kid-related things come up because I work for two women who have never married or had kids and are solely career minded. Fine for them but not for me.

The nice thing is having the choice to do either one - no one here can say only one way is the correct way.

Posted by: cerridwen | April 14, 2006 2:47 PM

Actually, you'd be amazed by how many people on here can say that only one way is the correct way. ;-)

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 2:55 PM

When our daughter was born last fall, my wife had already pretty much stopped working. This was a choice we both made, and were thankful to be able to make because my job pays well and is somewhat flexible. I also was able to work for 2 months after she was born with only 2 days a week in the office and the rest working from home. Now, after 6 months we're realizing that the work situation needs to change up a little.

My wife has been working a day or two here and there (she works on a per diem basis), and Bella has been going into daycare no more than 2 days a week. Now my wife is probably going to be taking a part time position, working 2 days a week. On those 2 days, Bella will go into day care. And on those days, she's my responsibility. If she needs to be picked up, I leave work. Period. I'm lucky to have a boss that understands, and work such that I can do some of it from home when needed. But if it ever came down to going to get my daughter on those days and being fired, I can always find a new job. I only have one Bella.

Later on? When she's got sports and music recitals and whatever else? I'll arrange my work as much as possible to be with her as much as possible. I've made it very clear to my work that my family comes first, and my boss wouldn't have it any other way.

Posted by: Todd | April 14, 2006 3:31 PM

It doesn't matter what the financial situation entails, a woman will be ready to have a baby when she is 10 centimeters dialated, and not until.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 14, 2006 3:33 PM

I think one of the reasons a country like Finland can provide lengthy maternity leaves and government sponsored daycare is because their government spends a much smaller percentage of its tax revenue on its military than the U.S. does. Same goes for Canada, residents there pay about the same percentage in income taxes as we do, but they get government health care, low cost college education, six months or more maternity leave, etc. They don't need to spend much on their national defense because the U.S. has them pretty well covered.

I am not advocating a particular political position here, look at the facts.

Posted by: not from DC area | April 14, 2006 3:36 PM

This entire comment string is what is wrong with women and why we continue to be kept down (and yes, I am a woman) Why do we have to beat each other down for our choices????? Why are we so judgemental? Until we stop abusing EACH OTHER like this, there will never be a right answer. How sad.

Posted by: Mom-to-be | April 14, 2006 3:40 PM

About 13 years ago, I remember pulling into the parking lot of my company's on-site childcare (Montessori, at that).

As I bent over to unbuckle my son's car seat, he threw up all over me.

Now there's an example of having the best of all worlds, but I still had to turn around and take my little guy home. Fortunately, he had a short-lived virus, nothing serious.

Posted by: Joyce | April 14, 2006 3:57 PM

I think there is something to teaching a child they are not the center of the universe. Grade-school birthdays can get out of hand.

My son had a birthday on September 4. It was always too early to know who would be in his class, so having a party was difficult. Sometimes I'd move it to before school started and have summer friends only, other years we had it later when we could get an list of classmates.

I encounter too many employees for whom going to work is not their top priority. Yes family is important, but keeping your job is essential to a stable family.

For birthdays I don't think rearranging the dates is unreasonable. Sometimes we need to model the behavior we want our children to emulate.

Posted by: Roseg | April 14, 2006 4:05 PM

Good for Spunky that she's made the choices in life that suit her. But as I look at the question asked of today's readers, it really isn't asking SAHMs to explain why they chose to stay home. (I'm a SAHM myself and a former WOHM).

When I worked, the most stressful situation for me was having to drag myself to work when I felt under the weather. I had to save my sick days for when my child was sick. Although I had plenty of sick days on the books, my company took a very dim view of people using them all, or even half of them each year (and there weren't that many).

Even the one time I paid a lot of money to have my mother-in-law fly in to help out when my son had the chicken pox, I remember my boss giving me a hard time when I wanted to leave the office at 6p.m. to see my son.

That's why I left that company very soon after that.

Posted by: Kate | April 14, 2006 4:09 PM


I chatted with a couple in Columbia, MD [similar cost of living] -- both making right around $50k/year. As I indicated, rather than losing 50% of their take-home pay, they only lost 20% when one quit. It doesn't mean it's right for you [I have a lot of teachers in my family and understand the difficulties] -- just trying to indicate that there may be options.

Whatever you decide, best of luck. Sorry so many of the posts haven't been constructive.

Posted by: A Dad | April 14, 2006 4:36 PM

I'm with Mom-to-be; it is amazing and sad how we beat ourselves and each other up over this. I work in higher ed, and at a recent women's symposium held on our campus, a fellow faculty member observed, "There is no right answer when you are asked if you work or if you stay at home; either way, you're judged negatively by the choice you've made."

Posted by: Wants a third | April 14, 2006 5:00 PM

This did not happen to me, but it is a good illustration of these work or stay at home with sick kids conundrums. I have a friend who had two little ones and was pregnant with a third. She ended up using all her sick leave when her third child was born and took 3 months off, some without pay, under FMLA. When she came back, she had no accrued vacation or sick leave. Her father in law had a heart attack shortly thereafter, and her husband who was a SAH Dad, had to fly out of town to attend to that. She could not drum up childcare on such short notice and stayed home with the brood. Boss threatened to fire her if it ever happened again. About 3 months later, she had to have emergency surgery, and the leave she had accrued in the past three months was not enough to cover her leave. She came into work 4 days after surgery with drainage tubes attached. Made the boss look really bad since she was a really good worker. She later found a more family friendly job, and so did I. So did a bunch of other moms.

Posted by: MomInMD | April 14, 2006 6:01 PM

I too have been surprised at how many people in this discussion have decided to beat up on the SAHM's. Wasn't the women's movement of the 1970s all about giving women the right to choose whether or not to work, to choose whether or not to have a family, and even to give men some of those rights too? Now it seems that every woman who makes the "traditional" choice of staying home to raise the kids is either a traitor to the cause, or is the object of jealous envy by mothers who work, by choice or of necessity.

Sure, we have a high cost of living here, but a lot--not all--local jobs pay good salaries too, and I'll bet that many families could afford for Dad or Mom to work part-time or to stay at home, at least during the early childhood years. This might require adjusting our material expectations downward, however, and God forbid that Little Johnny should go to first grade not wearing the same $150 pair of Air-Somebody sneakers that Little Billy down the block is wearing. That would make you a bad parent.

Posted by: Scott | April 14, 2006 7:58 PM

I'd like to tell you about my worst kid/work conflict. It's when parents have to bring their sick kids to work with them instead of being able to stay at home with them. Result? The little darlings spread their germs around the workspace in an even layer, we all get sick, and we all either take sick days or just drag tail around the office for weeks, and either way, productivity suffers. I don't mean to attack the individual parents, because I don't think that they relish trying to do their jobs while trying to amuse a sick whiny kid in a boring office. I think they are just trying to do what they have to do to get by, and aren't we all? I just think that we all (all of us, even us single people, and, yes, even 60-year-old men who were coddled by wives who took care of all the child-rearing duties) need to realize that children (even the grimy, messy, snotty germ factories) are necessary and a permanent part of society, and we can't all keep pretending as though one day they will all go away and we'll no longer need day care, health care, education, flexible jobs.

And by the way, Spunky, that WAS mean. My ambition in life is to someday be a SAHM. But I hope to pick someone to have a kaffeeklatsch with who's a dern sight more charitable than you were in your post.

Posted by: Single, no kids | April 14, 2006 10:28 PM

Remember when Isabel hit? We had three downed trees in our back yard and LIVE ELECTRICAL WIRES in our front yard. And my kids were 5, 4 and 2 and my boss called me up and yelled at me FOR NOT BEING AT WORK! The day after a hurricane! With live electrical wires in my front yard and three small children! Would you have gone? (By the way, we had no electricity, light or phone at work anyway, so it's not like anything would have been accomplished.)

Sadly, I confess, I went to work. And quit shortly thereafter when my boss couldn't understand why the one-month trip to India wasn't such a great 'perk' for a woman with three young children.

Posted by: 1MomsView | April 15, 2006 11:19 PM

My son's 7 months old so not too many tales yet. But one day he was teething and I had a deadline (I work from home) and I spent about an hour holding a teether in his mouth with him on my lap - typing at the same time. I felt like neither role was getting the best of me. I suspect that's often how it will be - some half-assed compromise.

I do however really really hope that if it is something like a birthday event or whatever, that even if in the future I can't go, my husband can. And that for my son, either parent's presence will be good enough.

Posted by: Shandra | April 16, 2006 9:04 AM

Posting way late to say that I admire AMW for taking a realistic look at her finances before she decides to have kids. I confess that I have a hard time understanding the idea that people should just have kids, then worry about how to pay for it at some unspecified later date.

It must be tough when your biological clock may be running out, but I think you're being responsible and wise to think about the financial consequences of kids before, not after, you have a child. If you decide that having a baby is something you want more than some other things in your life, you can see how to change your life to make it all fit.

And since no post would be complete without personal anecdotes, I should say that my husband and I got married pretty young, and planned for years before we decided to have a kid this past year. We spent those years working incredibly hard and saving as much money as possible. We knew we wanted kids someday and that one of us might stay home, so we bought a less expensive house than we could have afforded. And when we finally decided to have a kid (three years after I started wanting one really, really badly), we moved away from DC to an area where the cost of living is much lower. I stay home, and my husband makes far less than six figures, but we're able to make it work (which is not to say I'm not looking forward to working again someday and having money for nice things).

Anyway, I just wanted to say "good for you" for thinking before you procreate, and to wish you luck in whatever you decide to do.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 16, 2006 9:12 PM

Reading the comments on re-scheduled observations of holidays, birthdays, etc, I can't help but smile. My father was a firefighter for 24 years. During that time, MANY hollidays had to be re-scheduled, observed at the firehouse, etc, but it never really mattered to me; what mattered was that my parents took the holiday seriously, no matter when we actually observed it, and did up all of the traditions and trimmings that mean so much to children, things like special meals, decorations, etc.

In fact, it even had a funny side effect. I believed in Santa Claus for two or three years longer than most children, because my Mom had an entirely logical explanation for how Santa was able to visit all of the houses in the world on one night: he didn't. True, he visited MOST children on the 24th, but he visited the children whose dads and moms were firefighters, police officers or nurses at the hospital on the 23rd or 25th -- whenver their parents were home and not on duty. This made it possible to deliver all the toys! That answer made so much intuitive sense to me as a 5-year-old that it took me a few years to overcome it. So, you never know what benefits will accrue from non-traditional observance of holidays...

Posted by: Doonesburied | April 17, 2006 1:55 PM

Let me join some of the other posters in lamenting the really harsh tone of some of these posts. People write in in good faith to describe real issues they face, and they get told that they're whining because the cost of living here is ridiculous? Or told they're bad parents because they responded to hurricane Katrina? It just makes me sad -- like the talking heads on TV who would rather namecall than deal with the real issues.

This could be a really useful topic, because the fact is, we all have conflicts like that, between work and kids, work and hubby, kids and hubby -- you name it. I was 45 minutes late for my anniversary dinner because I was on the phone getting reamed out by a client for something that wasn't my fault (luckily, loving hubby was waiting in the bar with a nice, relaxing alcoholic beverage when I did finally get there). It happens. We all just need to do the best we can, and be thankful when the conflict isn't that serious -- i.e., a soccer game or anniversary dinner vs. a kid's life-threatening illness, or being late on a minor deadline vs. getting fired.

And Scott: I join with you in your concern that SAHMs sometimes get slighted, both in this blog and in society. I have friends who clearly were called to stay at home with their kids, and they are terrific mothers, with infinite patience and dedication, who contribute a lot to their families and communities. To my mind, the very purpose of the women's movement was to give us a choice, and to recognize the value in all of those choices. But you really don't help your argument when you imply that WOHMs work just because "God forbid that Little Johnny should go to first grade not wearing the same $150 pair of Air-Somebody sneakers that Little Billy down the block is wearing." That's extremely belittling -- I don't know any moms who decided to get a paying job because of something as frivolous as designer goods. If you want to advocate for fair treatment and respect for the choices that you and your family have made (which I firmly support), then you also need to offer it to those who have made different choices.

Posted by: Laura | April 17, 2006 5:44 PM

AMW: If you're still reading, please read this article from NY Times. If you think it's tough in the DC area, NYC is worse, and this couple is making it work. Where there's a will, there's a way.

Posted by: BEN | April 19, 2006 2:28 PM

We've been lucky that any childcare emergency was met with an understanding boss. I think that's been a great success for us to find bosses that leaned toward family-friendly. We need my income and if I had to, I'd suck it up and take a less family-friendly job, but finding a place that understands work-life balance (not just kid/daycare stuff, but personal life in general) is KEY - doesn't always work out that way but I say try to get to that "golden" job.

Also important is that our kids understand that we make no promises to meet all of their functions. What we DO promise is to try our best each and every time - and many times we've been able to chaperone trips, cheer sport games, be at the party, etc. But when we're not, it's with the understanding that we did try. It's taught them the realistic side of life - you don't get everything you want whenever you want it. Plus, personally for us, we don't want them to think that our lives revolve 100% around them. Yes, we love them, but we also have other things going on in life. However, we've never had to bring a sick kid to the office or send a sick kid to school/daycare. When they're sick, hurt or in trouble in some way, we're there with them.

Posted by: alexandria | April 19, 2006 5:26 PM

To those who commented that Spunky is overpopulating the world with her 6 children:
First, do your research. The THEORY that the world is overpopulated is far from proven. Certain areas are certainly overpopulated, such as urban China, but the U.S. is not one of those areas and the world as a whole has PLENTY of room.
Second, most of the developed nations (ours included) have birthrates lower than what is necessary to sustain current population- i.e. <2 children per woman. Our national birthrate is only sustaining the population if you take into account illegal immigrants and the children they have.
How many children one should have is a personal decision, and you should not be criticizing Spunky's decision to have 6.

Posted by: SingleButFromBigFamily | April 19, 2006 6:11 PM

Go Spunky! You know, I'm rather dismayed to read what I've read here. I'm not a mom, not even a girl - just a college-age guy who has learned that his life seemed a lot better than many of his friends' lives, because he had a mom who was available and not working. It's interesting... Most of the girls I have come into contact with here at college don't really want to work, but they feel they have to, like our society forces you to. I noticed one comment on being financially able to not work. My dad isn't paid amazingly well, but we have a great life, a nice house, and absolutely no need for a second income. I look at lots of people with two workers, and I have yet to see any benefit from it. Given, I'm just a college guy who hasn't lived very long compared to some people here, I'm sure, but I don't think a second income is necessary at all.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 21, 2006 8:43 AM

I have had a recent childcare vs. job dilemma, however I didn't survive it, I was fired. I have a 11 month old child and a husband who is a fireman in another state and works a 72 hour shift and most of the time more, (it is way to expensive to move where he works or even close) I will give you a little history to circumstances and maybe there are others who have been through the same?! I took my 12 wks FMLA but had commplications after the birth of my child that left me off of work for approximately 9 months. Prior to my return I contacted my supervisor to find out what shift he was going to put me on, I was told days and to go set up day care, as many of you may know day care is hard to find and the hours are usually set for non shift work working parents. (I work for a correctional facility as an officer) I found the best daycare I possibly could with a real nice tuition fee per week (expensive), I spent approximately 2 wks visiting all the daycares in my area and the majority of them were not so hot and for the ones that were ok but not great, well they had 3 to 4 month waiting list not to mention none were open on weekends. With shift work and being at the bottom of the list weekends are usually the days you are working, So I talked to my supervisor about my situation whom told me to go ahead and set up my daycare and they would bring me to day shift 8am to 4pm with weekends off which was perfect! Well after I had paid for the daycare I got a phone call several weeks later from my supervisor telling me he could no longer work with my shift, I was devistated espeacially after I had just paid them. I told him that I would have to resign on the basis that I had searched for childcare and nothing was available on the weekends and that I have no family or friends to help with me. He then told me he did not want to loose me so to go ahead and report to work and they would work something out, well not the case. I went to work for two weeks with 8am to 4pm and weekends off and then told I would have to work the weekends and 7am to 3pm, I was told to submit a hardship and exemption to the shift bid by my supervisor and then I was denied the hardship on the basis of being married, to make a long story short I received write up after write up harrassing phone calls, you name it. I have to work so I kept going and kept smiling and then I was handed termination papers. So how can a person support their child without a job? Society now days is geared for both parents to work. It is amazing how much a person does not know until they have a child of their own and see how much work and how discouraging places of employment can make it. So lets not be so harsh on each other, yes we all have our opinions but lets get back to the stuff that really matters and show some support even if we would never do what others have done.

Posted by: Angie | April 24, 2006 2:08 AM

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