The last four years have really flown. From nursing a 3-month-old while putting out a publication to working full-time remotely to finding something much more flexible, it’s been quite a ride.
The financial aspects of parenthood can be some of the very most challenging, and how each family chooses to figure it all out is something that can be quite personal, tremendously tricky, and even unpredictable.
The decisions involved might not be easy ones, to say the least. Should a mom stay at home once a baby comes along, or is it important for financial or personal reasons that she returns right back to that office once parental leave is used up?
Should she enjoy the early years by spending them primarily with her children, or is that not even something that she would really enjoy?
Sitting down ahead of when a baby comes along and coming up with the most desirable plan possible may help parents to sort out their various wants and needs when it comes to a mom’s work.
And that sit-down might need to happen again and again as the months and years pass, depending on how things end up going and what they feel they and their children need.
It might not be easy, but how about having an open mind? Looking at working moms vs. work-at-home moms, here are 20 things they might want to change.
Let's start with the 10 things Working Moms might want to change...
20 Choose A Childcare Center Close To Your Workplace
Not everyone will have a nanny, grandparent, or other one-on-one caregivers for their baby or young child. But maybe there is still a way to see your little one during the work day, even without someone who can bring them to you to nurse or snuggle for a bit.
When exploring childcare options, you might keep in mind that if a center or school is close to your place of work, you can likely even come by whenever you are able, whether that’s for daily breastfeeding sessions, shared lunches, or just to say hello.
This might be a good topic to bring up with directors and teachers while touring daycares, as well. Are they open to and welcoming of such visits?
19 Look For A Company That Offers Parent-Friendly Perks
I’ve worked for companies that were not at all parent-friendly. I’ve worked for companies that claimed to be and then were NOT, meaning a mad (and incredibly stressful) scramble to figure out life as a mom with a newborn.
But more and more often these days, they are out there: companies that not only claim to value family and support parents, but that REALLY DO.
Whether it’s allowing extra time off or childcare expenses, or having a childcare center nearby or onsite, it truly does exist, and for today’s parents, it might just be the right option.
The early years are precious and fleeting, and a professional change might be well worth it.
18 Stretch Out Leave Time
Navigating how leave worked was not easy. And I started my research early, and talked to many people, including the HR staff at my current company, and it still all seemed messy and uncertain.
But there are certainly ways to take advantage of making your leave work for you.
Parental leave doesn’t always need to be taken all at once, for example. Parents may sometimes choose to take some of the time up front after the birth and then use the rest to work a somewhat reduced schedule for a while.
Spending the newborn times at home can be lovely and crucial, to be sure, but having time with your baby as they (quickly!) grow can be so valuable, too.
17 Find Time To Socialize With Other Parents
When I was working full-time, I had a real sadness about all the things I was missing. I watched as buddies from our mommy group got together for picnics and outings, and, honestly, it was a bummer.
If you don’t get to do the whole “mom” thing really during the week, maybe there’s a way you can seek out socializing with other parents on the weekends. (I’m not saying “evenings” here because I know that’s often not realistic, especially when kids are still very young and go to bed early.)
Is there an online or other type of group that gets together so you can join? There may be classes or other structured activities in the community, or you can take charge and schedule a regular playdate.
16 Why Not Just Quit Working For A While
It might sound unsetlling— and uncertain. It may make you shudder to think of diving down at all into the savings that you’ve worked so, so hard for.
Whatever life changes end up being required might be uncomfortable or daunting, but might it be worth it?
What if you just stopped working for a while? Becoming a parent means beginning a whole new life, in so many ways. Babies and young kids need so much attention and care at this age, and paying someone else to give it to them is so expensive that it may take up most of a mom’s wages, anyway!
15 Consider Having The Baby Come Visit You At Work
If you do return to an office while your little one is still a baby, it doesn’t necessarily need to mean being away from them for eight hours at a time, five days a week (or whatever your work schedule is).
Can you have a grandparent or caregiver bring the baby to you to snuggle or nurse for a break or lunch period?
Maybe you can meet up at a nearby park for some fun in the sun, just to see that sweet little face.
To ease the transition of being with them all the time to being back at the daily grind, regular visits during the day might be just the thing.
14 Go Part-Time
Maybe it’s negotiating some way to work part-time instead of full-time at your current gig. Perhaps it’s switching to a job with fewer hours than the one you used to have.
It might not be easy, but is it perhaps worth a try?
I know from experience that it can feel strange to even consider giving up the salary and security that came with a previous job — but I also know that I couldn’t have faced spending 40 hours a week away from my babies. No way.
Be hopeful. Be bold! Maybe there is even something out there that would allow you to work less but make a similar amount…
13 Get Up Earlier For That Extra Family Time
The parent in our household working elsewhere is Daddy, and during that first year, he would often get only an hour or two with our little sweetie five days a week, after he got home and before she had to go to bed.
Fitting in time with your precious little love can be a huge challenge as a working parent, but maybe you can get creative.
Every hour counts — can you wake up an hour earlier (or even negotiate going in later?) in order to be the one to do breakfast? That extra time just being with your child might make it easier to go off to that daily grind for the rest of the day.
12 Save Sick Your Days For Your Sick Kids
When we were touring the preschool my older tot would soon start to attend, the longtime director and owner there included in her expert spiel that once your little ones are in daycare/school, you should save your sick days from work for when THEY are sick.
True, it’s not always fun to have the sniffles while working at your desk, or sitting through another meeting — but kids are often disallowed from school when they’ve come down with something, meaning parents HAVE to be able to stay home with them.
Take special note if you (like me) do not have any family in town to come to provide last-minute babysitting.
11 Push Bedtime Later
If a baby goes to bed at, say, 7-something or 8 o’clock, and a parent gets home at, say, 5-something or 6-something… well, you do the math.
I can’t imagine only having an hour or two to spend with my babies, and I know it wasn’t easy for my husband to only spend that hectic dinner/bath hour or two with them five days a week when they were very young.
Then, it happened: We realized that all it took was a day or two to reset our schedule, pushing that bedtime a couple hours later. We got more time as a family in the evening — and they woke up later in the morning.
And here are the 10 things WAH Moms Might Want To Change...
10 Have A Flexible Schedule So You Can Enjoy Your Time At Home
Working from home full-time with my first baby was something that I did because I needed to. Where there’s a will, there’s a way… but it wasn’t fun.
I felt like I was missing out on getting to socialize, big-time. I definitely wasn’t really getting to enjoy her as much as I could have.
So before anyone else simply endures through a similar situation, I thought I’d just mention that although I know it can be very tempting to cling to the security of a full-time job that lets you work from home, it might REALLY be worth it to find some way to adapt your schedule so that you can actually ENJOY the time at home, perhaps by finding something with more flexible hours.
9 Seek Out Things To Do Outside The House With Baby
Working from home, it can be easy to be at home a LOT, and that’s why I’ve found it helpful to make habit of getting out to activities for moms and babies / little kids in the community every week.
I wouldn’t be surprised if other moms working from home to make everything, well, work financially can’t exactly shell out for expensive music classes and other activities, and that’s why I’m a huge fan of my local library story times, for example. They offer free sessions and classes for babies on through older kids every week, and it gives us a sense of community, the chance to practice group learning, and straight-up fun.
8 Make Weekend Escapes
It took me about four years to realize that I needed to be getting out for some ALONE time, at least on the weekends. I spend the weeks fitting in work while watching after two toddlers, and it is intense. And I’m never alone, and I never get out, Monday through Friday, to just hang out or talk with other adults, without playing parent at the same time.
My solution? Once I could fit it in (because my second baby wasn’t nursing so frequently anymore), I started making at least one weekend escape, while Daddy’s got things covered at home.
When it’s naptime for the little ones, it’s my chance to just go sit somewhere, do something I’m interested in, or socialize.
7 Maybe It's Possible To Just Not Work For A Little While
Working from home while playing “parent” is not easy. I’ve done it for four years.
Although my busy brain is glad to have something it needs to do each day, it is, quite simply, a LOT.
Would it be possible/worth it to adjust your lifestyle or living situation in some way so that you don’t have to work from home, at least for the first year or two?
It’s super hard, and are you even really enjoying the early years?
Couples sometimes get creative, from moving to a smaller abode to renting out a room, or even delving into the savings a bit, because it’s worth it to them that Mom (or Dad) is able to focus completely on that parental role.
6 Have A Separate Space For Work
The thing about working from home is, well, you work in your home. Rooms you might prefer to associate with, say, sleep or eating dinner can become sites of stress and deadlines.
When you need quiet time to focus, you can find yourself surrounded by little ones.
If at all possible, it can be really helpful, I’ve found, to have one or more areas that can act as your workspace.
We do NOT have a room that can be used as an office. A seat on the couch during naptime and the rocking chair in the nursery when everyone else is downstairs are actually where I write — but never in my own bedroom, which I’d like to associate with sleep, thank you very much.
5 Provide Some Preschool
When you’re a parent working from home, quite possibly just to make ends meet, it can be tempting or even financially necessary to just have your little ones there at home with you, where you are all time. Daycare and preschool is expensive! (Understatement of the century…)
We decided it was important, though, to find some way, somehow for our first to go to some preschool for at least the last year before kindergarten. Author Suzanne Bouffard, as covered at NPR.org, named it “the most important year.”
Plus, having at least a half-day or two each week to get work done might be crucial for some. For me, it’s my only time to be with just the younger baby.
4 Maintain Some Professional Connections
Once that daily grind of office life has been left behind, it might really be tempting to leave the past in the past.
The way I see it, though, it’s smarter to do your best to maintain a variety of professional connections, and make new ones, even if you’re working from home alone each day or have taken your career in a new direction.
Although I don’t always enjoy it, honestly, isn’t it good to think about what you might need or want to do once the kids are older, for example?
Maybe it’s going to some of those silly mixers, or taking on occasional projects in your profession that keep your foot in the door.
It’s all about opportunities.
3 Get To The Great Outdoors
I shudder to think of how little time we got to spend outside during the week during the first few years. I was working from home full-time, and getting out for fresh air every day just wasn’t happening.
It’s still not always easy, now that I’m working less, but it is soooo necessary.
It allows me (and my littles!) to live a happy life, getting out to jog with the stroller and play at the park, at least, most days. We cram in quick visits to the zoo or jaunts to the museum.
It is vital for my spirits and health, and so it is now really my main goal: When it’s not work/nap time, we need to be out and about.
2 Cut Back On Your Hours
I am so not a fan of how easy it is for life to start to feel like just surviving once you become a parent. There is so much to do, so much to worry about… As I’ve already mentioned, when I was working full-time from home, I did it, week after week, somehow, but looking back, I was NOT enjoying it.
Once I was working less, things got better. It’s still not a breeze, of course, and takes GREAT determination and strength, each and every day, but it is an improvement.
Can you work less, if working from home? Can you somehow be more realistic about what is actually practical or achievable, considering your own contentedness along with that bottom line?
1 Avoid Updating Hubby As Soon As He Walks Through The Door
A unique but distinct problem developed with me working from home while caring for two littles. Night after night: Hubs gets home, I start spilling out all the things I want to tell someone about, eager to talk to another adult, toddlers get louder and more and more excited as they celebrate his homecoming, and try to get his attention…
It left me feeling like, after long days of not being listened to as much as I would like, I was STILL not being listened to.
Finally, I caught on, and now often hold my tongue and instead do the “check-in”/adult convo thing once things have quieted down, or even after bedtime.