To Work or to Stay at Home? The Freedom of Choice

Back when I was on maternity leave and we were looking at our options when I returned to work, there didn’t really seem to be much choice at all. I could go back to work – or I could stay at home. Staying at home would massively reduce our income but going back to work would have the added issue of childcare and trying to juggle that childcare around Hubby’s shifts so that we weren’t paying for childcare when we didn’t really need it.

Anyone that has tried to organise childcare around shiftwork will tell you that flexible childcare options are few and far between. Usually nurseries and even childminders need set days, a set pattern so they can have other children the rest of the time which isn’t great when you work different shifts every week.

In the end I managed to go back to work three days a week. Two days when we have family childcare and a third day a week where I work my husband’s day off, a day that changes each week depending on his shifts.

I won’t lie – juggling the children and our jobs is never easy. Trying to orchestrate time off together is a nightmare and keeping all the plates spinning is a constant task. But I have kept an income, we don’t have any formal childcare costs and the children get time with not just me but their Dad and their grandparents too.

I keep getting asked, though, whether I wouldn’t love to be at home. Whether I wouldn’t just like to give up the day job and stay at home, as, after all, children are only young once. Stay at home, spend that time with them and work later.

And would I? Well, yes. I would love to stay at home. I would love to take LP to school every day and have more time to have fun with the children, bake and go to soft play. But then I’d lose an income, and my place in a company that I have worked hard to maintain. I also feel so fortunate to be able to work around the children and my husband’s shifts. Many people in our situation are forced to stay at home as they just can’t find a work and childcare balance that works for their family.

Also, many people have to stay at home because they can’t afford to work. The childcare costs would be too much and there doesn’t seem much point to going to work just to spend your pay packet on nursery fees each month. Along with the travel costs of getting to work many people end up out of pocket each month – and don’t get to see their children either and so they are pushed into staying at home, not really having a choice at all.

People see parents that can stay at home after having a baby as being so lucky but in most cases it’s through necessity, not choice at all. On the other hand many working sets of parents are at work to pay the bills, not being able to make a sole income stretch quite far enough to cover all their outgoings.

And then there are people that have the choice to stay at home or go to work. People that could manage on one income but choose not to – wanting to carry on their career, have adult conversation or just have extra money for treats and holidays. People that can manage on one income and so choose to do just that, taking the kids to school each day, collecting them in the afternoon and doing their homework with them whilst getting dinner ready.

Whatever your situation I am sure you’ll agree that it’s such a privilege to have the freedom to choose. I feel fortunate that I have managed to continue to work around childcare and shift work, fortunate that I can still bring in an income and still have a good balance of time with the kids and my share of school runs. But I also have the freedom of being able to choose. I could stay at home if I wanted to and having that option puts me in such a fortunate position – one I won’t take for granted.

So don’t think people are lucky for being able to stay at home and don’t think bad of parents who work. It’s a privilege having the freedom to choose but many parents just don’t have that choice and just do whatever they have to do to get through.

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8 Comments

  1. April 2, 2016 / 7:41 am

    You are totally right, we all just do our best in our individual circumstances don’t we? I’m so lucky I’ve got the best of both worlds working from home. I’m finally doing exactly what I want to do and I wouldn’t change a thing.
    Nat.x

  2. April 2, 2016 / 7:45 am

    This is so well written and great to see the freedom of choice being made. I’ve just been able to choose stay at home. We didn’t want to pay for or organise childcare, it seemed a shame for me to go to work and pay someone to look after our child. We don’t have family that can help out. I feel nervous about the years ahead! It’s the first time in my life when I’ve not had an income, it’s scary, but I hope the rewards will outweigh this!

    • April 2, 2016 / 8:52 am

      I’m sure the rewards will be huge and that both you and your child will appreciate it for years to come. It’s good that you have the option and it works for you x

  3. April 2, 2016 / 9:11 am

    You are so right, I was a full time single working mum when I had my eldest as I had no option but to work full time. Yes I missed taking her to school everyday and spent a small fortune on child minder fees , but I also was able to provide for her and treat her. After having number 3 going back to work was not an option as childcare costs for three children , two of whom were under two would have cost more than I earned. I know I am lucky to be able to stay at home and survive on one income comfortably, I do miss work though. Being a parent is such a juggling act xx

  4. April 2, 2016 / 5:41 pm

    I feel really lucky that we have the privilege of choice. After my 2nd I decided to stay at home, which I did for 7 years. I went back into the work place 4 years ago, doing admin and finance for a nursery so I know how expensive childcare is and how many parents struggle with the fees. We could survive on 1 income but I enjoy my job. Its not the best paid job in the world by any means, but its 10 hours a week which gives me plenty of time to fit in blogging and maybe some occasional housework x

  5. April 2, 2016 / 6:40 pm

    You are so right, it isn’t always a choice. I had planned, and looked forward to going back to work, once my maternity leave ended. But we realised that it wasn’t going to be as easy once we discovered we were having twins, the costs were crazy and then the whole hassle of child care close to home or work, which was 60 miles away from home!
    In the end I didn’t get a choice, my PND and PTSD led to me being fired, which sucked. We’ve almost got used to being a one income family, every once in a while I long for the days where I was working outside the home, but even now they’re at school, finding work hours to suit school days and holidays isn’t as easy as folk like to make out.
    However it works out, it’s never as simply as people on the outside think, so much guilt surrounds this issue, which is just so unnecessary.
    Fab post Donna x

  6. April 3, 2016 / 10:01 pm

    I agree. I’m all about the choice.

    I’m in the same situation as you although my salary is the stable one compared with the OH who’s is up and down being self employed. I’d love to be able to do school runs and be there after school for homework etc, but I’d go spare doing that all the time and I wouldn’t want to give up my freedom and the money which enables us to do what we want to do or go wherever, and scrabble around for money.

    As you say, there’s no point judging people, because for most people they’ve made the choice that’s best for them

  7. April 4, 2016 / 2:34 am

    I absolutely love this post it’s so refreshing to see someone consider all perspectives about such an emotive issue. For me personally I feel like I do technically have a choice whether or not to return to work as I could find L some childcare but the sheer cost of it would mean my entire wage would pay the fees and I’d be left with an utter pittance. So I don’t think that’s a viable option at all even though not having a job means I am missing out on having my own independence.

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