Yesterday I read an article about who was happier; those with children or those without. While this is a very complicated topic, the article it got me thinking about how the choices we make as parents can affect our happiness. One of these big decisions would be whether we work or stay at home with our kids.
I remember when I was in highschool my best friend told me about how she loved being at school, seeing friends, going to club meetings, but she hated actually going to class. Recently, I have found myself in a similar situation, I like being a working mom, and going to work, but I don’t actually like working!
Okay, I admit, that isn’t all true. I do enjoy my job. I work in the non-profit sector and it is so rewarding to know that I am creating happiness in the world. While the pay isn’t great, you can’t put a price on that kind of satisfaction. But, a lot of hard work goes into making those happy endings and its so easy to feel stressed and exhausted.
The thing is that lately I noticed that half of the reason I enjoy going to work these days is because it’s just a break from the house. I get to get dressed up in nice clothes, put on makeup, interact with adults, and even if I eat at my desk it’s still better than on the floor with three kids and two dogs hovering over you. My “me time” actually brings in a lot of money for our family and that is a great thing right? Plus, life is all about balance and leading a dual life gives me the best of both worlds, although being spread thinner means I am not outstanding at either of them. But does working actually make me happy? Would being at home with the kids make me happier?
There are times when I dream about being a SAHM. I really enjoy being home with the family on my days off. I find myself being a better parent when I am home all day instead coming home after work hungry and exhausted. After all, parenting is work in its own right, especially if you are doing it well. The problem is that in my dreams I get to be SAHM but with the same income we make now, and I know it doesn’t work that way! Then I worry that I would go crazy, living the same routine day in and day out. I know you find ways to adjust as I did on my maternity leave with blogging and little outings, but there is something to be said about “me time” and the comfort a double income lifestyle provides.
As I have said before, kids are only as expensive as you make them, and I am a very frugal person at heart. But sometimes I like making them expensive. It’s nice to be able to buy them toys and clothes without worrying about having money for groceries. It’s nice to be able to spend $14 a week at Tim Hortons and enjoy my coffee time guilt free. It’s nice to be able to afford having a car and being able to drive places rather than being trapped in the house all day. Let’s face it, I would die without my smart phone.
I have spoken to people from single income families and I know it is hard. Many of them live in smaller communities where housing is a lot cheaper. Living in big bad Toronto costs a freaking fortune, but this is where my family is, our jobs are, it’s my hometown. But you do get to have a larger role in your children’s lives. Mind you, because we work opposite shifts and don’t rely on daycare, between the two of us we are full-time parents, and I do everything I did when I was at home (walking dogs, laundry, chores, groceries, etc.) and working full-time so I am not sure what that “larger” role would look like (I guess I would be able to cook more)?
I suppose a great compromise would be to work part-time. That way we could have more money but I could still be at home. But well-paying part-time jobs just don’t exist, and I would lose money if I had to pay for childcare so I could earn minimum wage. And after reading my posts on what a bad mother I am I doubt I would be a very successful babysitter either since no one would trust me with their kids! (Seriously, I have thought about it, but I couldn’t handle being responsible for other people’s children).
So, back to my initial question. Am I happy? Yes. Would I be happier as a stay at home mom? I don’t think so. I have a great job that is fairly flexible and we have the support to be able to afford to have us both work (we could not afford $4500 a month for daycare for three kids. Yup! That’s what it costs in my city). Plus, I find it easier to appreciate things more when I have the chance to step away from it as I do. And, gulp, in three more years all of the kids will be in school anyways.
So I am curious to hear what you think. Are you a working mom or a SAHM and why? Do you every wonder if the grass is greener on the other side? Looking forward to hearing different perspectives.