Money may not buy happiness, but it sure can cause a lot of strife. In fact, financial woes, whether they be centered around disagreements on how to spend income or the stress of living paycheck to paycheck, are considered a major cause of family stress.
For most ScholarMoms, our time spent as students probably represents reduced income potential, at least in the short-term. All those hours spent attending class, studying, finishing assignments, or completing unpaid internships is time when you can’t focus on making money. Of course, the hope is that, by earning your degree, you’ll be better positioned to earn higher wages in the future. Patience is key! The impact of this period of delayed gratification may vary depending upon how mom life looks for you.
Stay at Home Moms
SAHMs reap the benefit of getting to spend loads of time with their LOs! This is counterbalanced by the fact that they spend a lot of time doing the housework that most of us would rather avoid. There’s laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning the various surfaces and floors; the list goes on and on. I was blessed to be able to stay at home for the majority of my pregnancy and then for a few months after my son’s birth. The thing about being a SAHM is that no one really understands what it entails unless they’ve been in your position. It’s a hard job! In fact it’s probably just as hard as, if not harder than, your partner’s job outside the home. The difference is that one person is being paid and the other isn’t. This can bring up all kinds of feelings on either side such as guilt, resentment, and jealousy.
But here’s the bottom line: You are providing a priceless service to your family. While your partner carries the financial burden, your willingness to dedicate yourself to the full-time care of your children makes it possible for your partner to work without worry. Your partner knows where the kids are, who is taking care of them, and that they are loved and safe. This. is. priceless. Of course there is also the financial savings of avoiding paid childcare. In some parts of the country it can get quite pricey, especially if you have more than one child. Oftentimes it just doesn’t make sense for both parents to work if one check will go straight to daycare. So again I remind you, you’re quite possibly making a really smart decision that can affect the finances in a positive way.
The experience of employed moms varies a lot based on the specifics such as:
- Relationship status
- whether you work outside the home or have a home-based business, and
- what kind of support you may have from others in your village (i.e. family, friends, and other potential caregivers who help make your life easier).
While employment may bring more financial stability, it certainly does not make life any less complicated. Even when working outside of the home, most mothers still end up performing a large percentage of the household and childcare tasks as well. For many of us, mommy guilt also becomes a major stressor. Although we need (and sometimes even want!) to pursue our careers, there is often that nagging feeling of potentially missing out on the big and small moments of our growing children’s lives. Regardless of if this feeling is self-inflicted or imposed on us by others, the effect is the same: it sucks.
Ultimately, a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do. If your family needs the money that your employment provides, then there’s no point in beating yourself up about it. Being a good mom is not just about the quantity of time spent with our LOs. The QUALITY is what really matters. If you only see your LO for a couple hours before and after work, create some traditions to make that time special. Turn off your phone and really immerse yourself in who these little people are becoming. Let your kids feel seen and heard by you. That’s where the true value is.
In my case, I wear a few different hats: mom, wife, human, student, employee, and a new professional beginning to make my own way. Am I glad that I have good childcare that I can rely upon to educate, socialize, and comfort my son when I can’t? Yes. Does my mind still wander to him during the day, wondering what he’s doing and if he’s happy? Yes. Do I feel bad when I find out that he had a rough day and I wasn’t there for him? Definitely, but then I remind myself of the reasons why my husband and I made the child care choices that we have. Our son is so happy at his little school. He has friends and adults that care about him. His little mind has grown bylaws and bounds. He’s coming out of his shell more and more all of the time. He’s doing well. My decision to work makes it possible for him to have these people and experiences in his life. Then, when we are all together that time is even more valuable to us.
I hope that this post helped you reflect on the value that moms bring to their families, regardless of their monetary contribution. Whether you are employed or not, I bet there are tons of ways in which you shape your family and help each of it’s members be great. Give yourself credit where credit is due. And remember: this ScholarMom journey is just one chapter of your life. One day you’ll be done with school and your salary will reflect that. Until then, look for the value in where you are today.
P.S. One aspect that I sort of glossed over was how financial issues can impact your relationship with your significant other. Let me know in the comments if you would like to see a post focused on that in the future.