Browse any viral article that discusses the lifestyle of stay-at-home or working moms, and you’re likely to encounter comments such as, “I sure wish that I could stay home, but I don’t have that privilege.” There’s no doubt that everyone has different circumstances and factors that might impact whether or not they work outside the home. You also can’t fault such comments because society often depicts a very different picture of staying home in comparison to the actual reality faced by many Americans.
When we think of stay-at-home moms, some of us picture the multi-millionaire wives of Wall Street moguls, with chauffeurs, nannies, and piano lessons. The less extreme and more realistically portrayed version is the happy suburban mom with her McMansion and three row SUV, sipping Starbucks after Barre while the kids are in preschool. Both of those are accurate pictures that depict the lives of many American mothers, but there are huge demographics being omitted in between, and some that are losing their voices entirely.
Many moms are home with their kids because they are unable to afford quality childcare — the cost of care would literally exceed the income they’d take home. According to Time Magazine, the majority of Americans spend more than 10% of their household income on childcare. The national average cost for a week at a child care center for one child totaled $196/week, while a private nanny totaled $556/week. In many major cities in the United States, it’s not surprising for these numbers to be double or triple the average, depending on location and cost of living.
With childcare costs soaring, it’s no wonder that many parents are priced out of the dual working family lifestyle — especially if they have more than one child to pay for. When you factor in the cost of commuting, childcare, after school care, and other work related expenses, it makes sense that many families are unable to swing it. In fact, many moms report that working outside of the home can sometimes result in simply breaking even financially, and others report that they actually lose money.
According to a 2012 study, an analysis of more than 60,000 US women shows that non-employed women with young children are more likely than working women to experience sadness and anger. Low income stay-at-home moms, which are defined in the study as moms with annual households of less than $36,000, suffer the worst. These moms report the lowest levels of well-being and seem to be struggling more than their higher income counterparts.
It all makes sense, of course. As women and human beings, it feels empowering to have a choice in your life path. Though being a mother is fulfilling in the best possible ways, we would be fooling ourselves if we also didn’t admit that it can be unbelievably isolating and lonely. Some moms are better parents and spouses when they are doing something for themselves in addition to being a mom, while others truly thrive in immersing themselves in motherhood. The difference, you ask? A simple choice. Take away our freedom of choice, thereby “trapping” us into a particular situation, and you create the perfect storm for a mental health or identity crisis.
The rise of side hustles, part-time jobs, and work-from-home jobs are creative ways for moms and moms-to-be who are home — whether by choice, circumstance, or a little of both — to be able to feel fulfilled and have something for themselves. Whether it’s blogging, graphic design, direct sales, or another business venture, a side gig can actually be good for your soul.
As employees and parents, we are constantly on the quest for balance and will not settle for anything less. We want to be home by dinner so we can enjoy a family meal with our spouse and kids. We want to take vacations and stop scrambling for childcare during summer breaks and school vacations. We want to make a killer income and feel happy and fulfilled in the process. We want to find joy and pride in our life paths, and not feel as though we’re trapped by circumstances we can’t control. We want it all, damnit, and you know what? We just might get it.
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