Money, money, money . . .

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You may have noticed one of my New Year's Resolutions from the last post is to do with professional development. ("Get self back behind a library desk. Because this whole civilian library user thing is crap.")

It's been 6 months since I've been employed and I am kind of dying inside a little bit. It's just not good. I've taken my updated resume to my local library and am trying to keep in touch about what's needed and what I might be able to do. (Note: Learn from me and do not go four years and two jobs without updating your resume & then try to do it all from memory when you are no longer in said jobs and are now stupider from whatever hormones happen during childbirth that drain all of your powers from that one place in your head with the thing that you think with.)


I recently listened to a really interesting podcast on "Stay-at-home-Moms and Money." Yes, it was over at the Feminist Mormon Housewives podcast page, but don't let that scare you. There's no bra-burning in this one. They chat with a financial planner about the nitty gritty financial realities regarding women and especially SAHMs. A lot of the statistics terrify me (example: women who leave the work force to raise children can lose up to $1 million in lost income), but there was some good information in there. Examples:

Have a budget. Seriously.

Be informed and educated regarding your own financial situation and on finances in general.

A husband is not a financial plan.

If you leave the work force, do not burn any bridges. Keep in touch with your previous employers and coworkers. Go out to lunch with them once a year. They will be your references down the road and can let you know about opportunities if you need/want to go back to work.

Even if you aren't earning a salary, you can still add to your resume. Find ways to volunteer in the community to keep your skills up and add to your experience and contacts. Update your resume once a year.

I will probably go listen to the thing again, because it really was helpful. It looks like at some point they plan to have other episodes along the same lines, dealing with going back to work, etc.

I'd like to hear from you, though. Does anything about this touch a nerve? If you aren't working right now, does that kind of freak you out like it does me? ("Wow, I am now completely financially dependent upon another person while my own skills get rusty and how can I even do this for X more years gaaaah") Does anyone wish they could quit their job but that's just not possible? Anyone have more good advice to add to what's above?


Jessica said... [reply]

Not a SAHM, but I found it absolutely impossible to find a job while I was in library school, so i volunteered all that I could. I sought out opportunities and built relationships with several libraries/archives/museums that were local to me and dedicated what time I had available to them. Those opportunities helped me to make sure that all that time spent unemployed was in no way time wasted. I try and talk everyone I can into seeking out opportunities like this where they can. So I guess I'm not adding anything new, just adding my support for one of the points you already mentioned.

And I should also add that the end result is that I'm now (finally) in a job that I love, that I'm excited about, and that I can grow into over the next many many years. Yay!

Loni & John said... [reply]

Ha, it's kind of crazy how perfect the timing of this post was! I have been "unemployed" for a month now (you know, once I officially quit my job when my maternity leave was over) and had such bittersweet feelings about leaving.I love being home with Max but had been a full-time working girl for 7 1/2 years, so this stay-at-home-mom thing has been a big adjustment for me.

The things that freak me out the most are having my skills get all gross and rusty and putting all of the stress of providing for our family squarely on John's shoulders. He is a talented man but it would be nice to contribute a little bit to our finances if I can. I actually applied for a part-time job yesterday and am going in for an interview tomorrow (yay!). I'm hoping that if by some miracle they offer me the job, they'll be willing to work with me and maybe hopefully let me work from home. That would be my perfect scenario, so we'll see what happens. Hope something comes up for you soon, too! :)

abby said... [reply]

I'm no where near being a SAHM (you need a husband for that...figures), but I did go to an RS Meeting about jobs. The ladies mentioned if you have any certifications (ie: nursing, teaching) that you should keep them up. Good advice! I'm starting to think of my next steps of my career and I need to update that Linked In/resume. A lot has changed since 2007 when I obtained my current job.

Sarah said... [reply]

Oh, I'm so glad you posted about this. I need to listen to that podcast. After working part time with my first kid, I'm now a true full time SAHM with my second baby and it terrifies me a little.

Brittney said... [reply]

I have found being a SAHM has given me the freedom to explore other areas that I wouldn't have had time to if I was still working a full time job. I was a pastry chef before I had my little one, so I still do cakes and such for neighbors and ward members frequently. But I also buy thrift store furniture and paint it and have taught myself to reupholster and sell it on Craigslist, and now I have a couple clients for that as well. I never would have had time to do the furniture with my job. So although I am a lot slower with my cakes these days, I feel great about my new skills. And it feels soooo good to have absolutely guilt free spending money when I go out to shop or see a movie with the girls. Why is it so stressful to be 100% financially dependent on someone I am married to? It just feels good to bring home some of my own bacon.

Rachel said... [reply]

Very interesting thoughts. I'm kind of in the same place as Brittney who commented above me . . . I never really planned to work after having children (until having one and realizing, hmmm, maybe it would have been nice to have more of a career planned out that I could return to if I wanted/needed to), but being a stay-at-home mom has let me pursue some interests I never otherwise would have spent much time/energy on. For instance, I worked in the BYU library while getting my English degree, then worked as a massage therapist while my husband went to school, and enjoyed crafts as a hobby whenever I had the time (which was rarely to never), but since being a mom at home, I've had the time to devote to crochet--I now make a nice little at-home income from crocheting and selling in my etsy shop, and blogging about crochet and homey DIY stuff. So it's been great to be able to explore some interests that I barely had any time for before I became a mother (which makes it sound like I have buckets of free time, and as we both know as the mothers of young boys, HA, not so much). So I love the creativity and sense of fulfillment and, of course, income I get that way. But I also feel very nervous about being without a 'real' job for so long. I applied for a few part-time positions recently because I felt like I was losing my mind being home with a toddler all the time, and felt totally lost trying to rewrite a resume that I hadn't looked at in years, and figuring out where my nearly unused English degree could take me, what price I was 'worth,' how to negotiate a work schedule and a child, etc. I ended up deciding against working outside the home right now, but I do feel weird being unemployed and feeling almost completely unemployable, too. Not to mention thoughts of, so what'll I do when my kids are in school for most of the day? Or, geez, in college? What does a stay at home mom do when there aren't little kids to be a stay at home mom for anymore? What the heck is my plan for if something were to happen to my husband? And now I'm getting stressed again.

Sherry said... [reply]

I work in an office two days per week and work at home the other days. It's a good balance. Plus I take my baby to the office with me. (The toddler goes to a sitter and has been since he was about 7 months old. Before that, he came to work with me.)

I'm a genealogist, so when/if I ever quit my job, I can still do contract work and make money that way.

I always figured I'd quit work and be a SAHM as soon as I got the chance, but I found out that I was pretty bored on maternity leave - both times. Plus, I love the financial freedom it gives both of us for me to keep working. We could make it on just my husband's income, but it would be tight, and we'd have to be a lot more careful with the budget.

Jenny said... [reply]

I basically want to go throw myself onto the heather and lie there and die of starvation. This is the area of my life where I have completely failed and will have a major crisis on my hands if I were responsible to contribute financially to my life.

But at least I'm aware of it?

AmyJane said... [reply]

You know what I find funny? I've been at home now for almost 7 years. I'm starting to miss work like crazy. However, I know I would be a total lunatic if I were trying to manage a job and three kids right now. So, I wait. A little longer. Once the youngest is in kinder, I'm going back with them. But back to what I find funny. When I talk to people in my current ward about this plan (lots and lots of young families just like mine) they look at my like I'm a martian or something. "Why? Why would you want to go back to work?" Um, to make money? Personal fulfillment? To teach all of your children? Pick a reason! It's truly odd to me. They all pretty much plan on being gym rats and going to lunch a lot once their kids are in school. And, I don't know, doing laundry, I guess.

Missy W. said... [reply]

The bullet point about how a husband is not a financial plan hits very close to home for me. As a child of divorce I saw my SAHM mom re-enter the workforce and things were very hard for her and our family. I am determined to make sure that this never happens to me. Just this week a kid I graduated with died suddenly and unexpectedly leaving behind his wife who is pregnant with twins. You never know what is down the road....

Kayla @ Freckles in April said... [reply]

I work right now (verrrry part time. From home) because I was losing my ever-loving mind being just a stay-at-home mom. I need more of an intellectual challenge than talking to children under the age of 5 all day was giving me.

That being said, I'm screwed if I ever have to provide for my family. I mean, I'm sure I'd figure SOMETHING out but our quality of life would be significantly downgraded. I think when all my kids are in school I'll go back and finish my degree and work on figuring out SOME kind of fall-back career.

FoxyJ said... [reply]

I've sort of had the opposite problem. I got married before I even finished my bachelor's degree, had a baby right when I graduated, didn't really have big career plans, only ever worked part time occasionally for ten years, and then ended up divorced and needing a full-time job. It's hard because I spent 10 years trying to figure out the best answer to these kinds of questions. I wanted to have some work and other experience just in case something bad happened in the future, but sometimes it felt like going back to work would be more damaging to my family than not. Plus, once you have more than one kid, paying for daycare totally negates any extra income from working.

This is hard because so much of it so personal for each individual. But, based on the experience I've had and what I've seen from others, I think there are a few guidelines I'd keep in mind. First of all, if you are worried about your family's financial security there are plenty of things you can do besides work. Take care of stuff around the house, cook from scratch, etc. Also, get out of debt and stay out of debt. That's a biggie. When I got divorced I didn't have any student loans and my car was paid off. So, I was able to keep my house and am still doing OK financially. If your husband has good benefits at work, take advantage of them. Make sure you have good life insurance coverage and are saving for retirement. My sister-in-law had her husband die when they'd only been married 4 years and had a toddler. Again, they were out of debt except for the house and he had good life insurance. That helped a lot. Like someone else mentioned, keep up your professional certifications if you need to. Or you can volunteer--sometimes being a volunteer is better than working because you have more flexibility and you'll still be maintaining skills and keeping up professional contacts.

Anyways, I guess I could go on about this, but while part of me regrets not getting a more useful degree, most of me doesn't regret at all the fact that I got to spend a lot of time with my kids when they were littler. (And yes, if you read my blog you're probably laughing at me now, but it's true.)

Bridget said... [reply]

Really thought-provoking post (and comments). I don't have a lot to add except to commiserate with everyone that this is such a hard balance to strike, especially (in my opinion) as a woman. Sometimes I get frustrated that I will always be choosing between career and family, even if I work outside the home OR stay at home full-time. I'm either sacrificing my resume or something related to family life. That's been my experience, anyway.

Also, in my experience, even when your kids are in school all day they still take up plenty of your time, just in different ways. I thought when my oldest started school things would get "easier" on the mom-front but that hasn't been the case.

Bridget said... [reply]

One more thing re: women who don't work outside the home "even" after their kids go to school. These women do not deserve our negative judgment. We don't know their lives. Aside from which, I honestly feel that any woman who has birthed/adopted and then raised a child (or two or three or four...) to the age of five, at which time they go to school, well, you guys, that is pretty much a lifetime of work crammed into five years. I don't know about you, but I gave the best years of my youth to birthing/raising my kids. They took a huge toll on my health and my body and my skin and my sanity and no matter how long they are at school each day, I will never, ever recoup those lost hours of sleep. HEAVEN FORBID a woman decide she wants to go to the gym every morning after the kids go to school.

Besides, we all know how much work it takes to run a household so I don't see the need to judge women who don't run into the workforce once baby starts kindergarten. Some of the busiest moms I know have all their kids in school.

ANYWAY. Just sayin'.

Desmama said... [reply]

I don't know who Missy is, but I think she and I know the same kid who passed away suddenly this week--leaving a wife pregnant with their first babies, twins. So very sad. But yes, it does illustrate an important point--you never know when things could change for your situation. Everyone has to deal with that possibility in their own way.

FoxyJ said... [reply]

My oldest two are in school full-time now and my workload as a parent hasn't really diminshed as much as I thought it would. Plus they don't go to bed as early as they did when they were babies and toddlers so I don't get as much 'me' time anymore. My mom went back to school and then to work when my youngest brother went to kindergarten and it was hard for all of us. I think part of it was the way my family handled things, but it was hard not to have my mom as available as she had been before. Even though I live close to where I work and even though my kids have a dad that is pretty involved, juggling a full-time job and kids is hard.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Ok THANK YOU all for confirming that this is a real thing and also a really difficult thing to figure out. There were times when I felt so discouraged listening to the podcast because one of the messages seemed to be 1) child care is expensive, so it will make more financial sense to have a parent staying home if possible, but 2) the SAH parent needs to keep their professional skills up somehow, and 3) the kind of work that SAHMs spend most of their day actually doing (child care, laundry, cooking, house-keeping) does not count bc it's not respected in the professional world--just look at how much people who do these things professionally get paid.

There was also some chat about how now there are more couples who approach the whole career/parenthood thing more as a team, where each kind of takes turns being the one who stays home with kids while the other works or goes to school, etc. But you would both have to find careers that worked with that, and it seems like it would produce its own challenges. Plus, in this economy, most of us don't have the luxury of being that choosy, I think.

AmyJane said... [reply]

Bridget, reading back over my comment I can see that I came off snark ier than intended. And yes, perhaps a little judgy. I don't actually see anything wrong with the gym, or continuing to stay at home once your kids are in school. However, most of these acquaintances are women who didn't do the whole job thing before having children and almost all of their husbands work at a similar government based location that is generally considered secure employment and makes a decent wage. I guess what bothers me is that they are all definitely counting on a husband as a financial plan and that most of them seem to be shying away from employment because it would mean going back to school and that feels intimidating now. And my biggest issue is that they definitely act judgy about the fact that I actually WANT to rejoin the workforce at some point. Sorry if I was being a brat. It was not intended to be divisive.

Melanie said... [reply]

If you haven't already, you should read The Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden. It doesn't really offer solutions, but it opened my eyes to some of the financial implications of being a mother, especially a SAHM.

FoxyJ said... [reply]

The thing is, all that 'not respected' and 'not paid' work like cleaning your house, cooking your food, and doing your laundry has to get done no matter whether you work or not. I get annoyed when people equate being a SAHM with simply doing housework, or somehow seem to imply that if you weren't a SAHM you wouldn't have to do that. As I remind my kids all the time, being a living human being means you have to cook food, wear clothes, and clean up your messes. In my mind, the housework question is a red herring when we're talking about SAHM vs. working mom. Even if you go back to work, you still have to clean your house and do your laundry.

Nemesis said... [reply]

I hear you, FoxyJ. And this is yet another way in which women get the shaft. By doing all that unpaid work at home, SAHMS are freeing up their spouses to some extent to attend to their career/education without the extra responsibilities of doing the laundry, cooking the meals, running the errands, etc. that they would have to either do themselves or pay someone else to do otherwise. Because like you say, SOMEONE has to take care of that stuff. But if you are a single parent you have to do it all, and if you are a working mom with a working spouse, stats are you're doing more of the cooking, cleaning, etc. than he is.

liesel said... [reply]

hoooo! Little bit of a can of worms.. maybe? :) But I think it is a topic that is important even if it is a wee bit of a touchy subject. Being a SAHM and moving to a new state immediately after graduating college didn't give me the best backup plan career wise. But at least I figured I had a degree at all, even if it was in Visual Art. Not a hugely practical degree (or as intellectual as I might sometimes wish) but nonetheless what I love. But it turns out is perfect for my current plan. I came to realize (after reading endless stacks of mediocre and a treasured handful of great books to my kids) that I not only was capable, but that I should write and illustrate my own children's books. It is still in the process of being realized, but I can go as slow as I need (until a I get a publisher that is) and feel like I am accomplishing something, not only for personal fulfillment, but also (again cross your fingers) for financial gain. I do feel somewhat, not guilty per se, but empathetic I guess, that my husband exclusively provides for us (right now, I've had little side jobs, but not real ones). It is a crazy hard field (children's books) to break into though.. so I do feel pretty lucky that I don't HAVE to have a "day job" in the mean time. (Though that does make it pretty financially tight, and that is a hard decision to make.) I hope my writing/illustrating will go faster when my four kids are all in school, but I know if I put it off completely until then, not only will I go crazy, but doubt I'll have THAT much more time and/or motivation anyway.

It is a HARD balance though (for women/mother everywhere) filled with mine fields of mommy guilt and judgment. Good luck working through it, and thanks for your perspective (everyone). It helps to hear other women's stories.

Nemesis said... [reply]

I am loving all these comments so much. I love that we can talk about stuff like this and be honest about what happens to be hard for us without starting The Mommy Warzz. Rachel, Brittney, and Leisel are giving me some things to ponder about using our time at home to explore and develop new skills that could at some point become marketable. Which . . . I guess means that I could possibly maybe be using some of my time in a more proactive way. Maybe. Perhaps.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Also, I feel a tiny bit like Mrs Bennett right now. "It IS hard!"

liesel said... [reply]

ooh... YOU should write a book! (I'd be first in line to buy it, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who would feel that way.) ...just saying.... :) You have the skills!

Bridget said... [reply]

AmyJane, no worries. :)

mj said... [reply]


I just wrote a ridiculous lot of words and then they disappeared into a Blogger black hole.

So whatever. But, yeah I feel you.

Monica said... [reply]

I am fortunate in that I don't really need to work for pay, but I like to do it anyway. While I enjoy being home with my boys and I like volunteering at the school, etc, I'm not super interested in becoming a mega-homemaker (not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not my thing), so I figure I might as well do a little part-time work now that they're both in school. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was laying a good foundation for myself by working as an editor for several years so I would have contacts for a freelance career down the road. It has worked out pretty well, I've been able to work from home as much or as little as I've wanted. Of course, if I had to support the family on just my income, that might be another story! But for my present needs, it's working out just fine. I should note that I did very little outside work before my kids started preschool--my sanity doesn't stretch that far. :)

Mrs. Clark said... [reply]

Working from home is difficult, as is arranging child care. It takes a lot of faith to stay at home and relinquish your earning power to someone else, but you are giving your children a tremendous gift by staying at home with them and making them your first priority. At least, this is how I feel and have felt for many years.

I am older and am now facing retirement with nothing of my own to contribute--I have been a freelance writer for many years, but have never made a lot of money. It is scary. But I have faith that I chose the good part, and have served my family. I could not have worked and balanced it all.

goddessdivine said... [reply]

I like Mrs Clark's comments, and couldn't help but think of that oh so famous quote from David O. McKay: "No other success can compensate for failure in the home." Every situation is different, and sometimes life hands you a set of circumstances that you didn't ask for. But I think moms who raise their kids full time are truly magnanimous. And unfortunately, the world mocks this important role and women who choose it. I am also reminded of an article several years ago in the BYU alumni magazine about a prestigious news anchor who turned in her journalist shoes to be a full-time mom. People questioned her judgment and even scoffed at her decision, but she knew it was the right one.

As a single woman with a career I am sometimes envious of you stay-at-home moms who get to teach and train the next generation. Some days I would totally switch places.

The Atomic Mom said... [reply]

I was a single gal for a long time, and like Goddess (don't we all love her? I do) I had to take care of myself. I did work for a while after I got married, but felt very prompted to quit the job for very personal reasons. I didn't "burn" bridges at my last jobs, but that job left such a bad taste in my mouth, that I will not return to that line of work if I ever need to work again. I'm not really worried about lost income or skills...at this point I am worried about making it out of potty training alive.

Jenny said... [reply]

I have spend the better part of the last decade making huge sacrifices for my spouse's career and I have stayed awake many nights freaking myself out that I have no back up plan and if he dies on a business trip I'll be packing our family up and we'll be moving into a women's shelter.

I have always been a full time SAHM once I graduated from college. I look at my ability to get a job and my current resume like how I look at emergency peparedness. It's something that I shouldn't ignore and just hope that nothing happens so I will never have to update my resume and find a job.

I think the tips in the podcast help me to fee like there is something I can actively do to make steps into becoming more employable and feel less stress about not having a back up plan or any starting point on how or where to get a job, since I can't go back to school full time or begin an internship or get hired on part time right now somewhere. So thanks for sharing the link. I look forward to less career related freak outs in the future.

CAW said... [reply]

Ok, I realize no one is probably reading the comments anymore, but I still feed the need to add my two cents. I am an attorney/former attorney who practiced corporate law at a large firm in a big city for several years, made the decision to stay at home with my daughter, and now, after four years of being a SAHM, can't find a job. I thought I was making the "right" decision, but have ultimately just put myself in a situation where I'm unhappy and know that I wouldn't be able to support my family should the need arise. In order to recreate a professional life for myself I will need to go back to school and essentially start over. It sucks.

I believe we as women often think about having to support our families only in the situation where our husbands/partners die. Unfortunately, it can also happen after divorce, unemployment, underemployment, disability, illness, or even a spouse changing his mind about wanting to work. Avoiding all these situations in life is a bet I don't want to be on the losing end of.

For me personally, the satisfaction of doing the "right" thing by staying home with my children doesn't outweigh the importance of being able to provide for me family should the need arise. I also feel like it's my responsibility to be able to do so. I think there's a huge burden placed on men to feel like they have to be the sole financial provider no matter the situation.

I think it's great to spend your time acquiring new skills and hobbies and it's doubly great if they can be turned into a way to bring in money. However, I'd be shocked if many people could find something like this that would allow them to fully support their families.

I'm sick and tired of traditional gender roles creating situations in which women are financially vulnerable and totally dependent on a man. It's sad.

My advice: maintain or create professional skills that will give you the ability to fully support your family should the need arise.

Sorry for the long comment. I've had years to think about this.

Bebe McGooch said... [reply]

Sadly, I was quite unemployable to begin with. Sigh.

Bebe McGooch said... [reply]

Also, I have mixed feelings that I now have that Abba song stuck in my head. Thanks a lot, Nem. ;)

Nemesis said... [reply]

CAW, I'm reading the comments! I'm reading the comments! Over and over, in fact.

This has been really helpful to me personally, and I hope to some of you as well. I don't think I'll be able to listen to another "Provident Living" lesson in Relief Society without bringing up some of these things--the idea that women are more financially vulnerable because of age, motherhood, lack of retirement, possible gaps in education/training/work experiences, etc. and that we simply HAVE to be thinking about these things when we think about how to prepare for the future and how to be self-reliant.

Nemesis said... [reply]

When I say "age" I mean the part where women statistically live longer than men.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Also, life insurance. Everybody needs to get them some life insurance. GH is insured but I'm not, so I need to fix that. If something happens to me, he won't miss my income, but he will have to start paying for childcare and things, which would be a huge dent.

Lindsey said... [reply]

Here's my two cents. I haven't worked outside of the home in 8 years. In the interest of full disclosure, let me just say that I'm not the person who loved working and misses it so much. Nope. Just not me. I have, however, found a lot of personal fulfillment and being self employed in work that I can do from home when my kids are not in desperate need of me (after bedtime, hubby's home with them, etc). Just because you're home, does not mean you have to let yourself rust. Have something you love, a hobby that you're really good at, and make it work for you. Even if it's not something that you have worked in before. It gives you the chance to be responsible for your own financial choices, develop your skills- be they new or old, and have some adult brain time. Over the last few years, I have worked in advertising, music, digital graphics, and as a tutor- all with my English degree as my educational background. The only one that even slightly relates to that is tutoring. The others sprang from things I love doing or discovered I have a skill at. Who knew you could tutor from home, at your computer, in your pajamas? Yep, you can. Who knew you could turn a love of digital scrapbooking into a digital graphics and advertising business. Yep, I do that too. I have had to teach myself how to do a lot of it, from complicated programs like Photoshop to being responsible enough with myself to lay out my own work hours (and then actually do them). It has been so good for me. I know myself much better now than I did at 23, and so much of that has come from pushing myself to grow. Plus, I am able to contribute financially to our family, which is always nice, and the icing on the cake? As far as the business world is concerned, I've been working consistently and successfully, with good references in a few different industries, for my entire adult life.

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