Becoming a Stay at Home Mom: I Can’t Afford to go Back to Work

by Colleen Durno, as told to Elizabeth Jenkins

Becoming a Stay at Home Mom: I Can’t Afford to go Back to Work

Childcare costs meant that I would actually lose money by working.

Before I had kids, my days looked like this: up at 6:30 and out the door for a 30-minute run, followed by sit-ups, an energizing shower, and catching up on the Today show while getting dressed. I made sure I had on makeup and heels, all before heading off to work at a job I loved with an investment firm. Now? I’m up at 5:00 with our 2-year-old twins and 6-month-old baby, changing diapers, offering bottles, playthings, and breakfast. No more morning runs, no more morning showers, and forget heels: These days I throw on sweatpants and make myself a cup of instant coffee to wake up!

My profession required me to solve analytical problems. I always tried to go above and beyond, and yet I was never this tired. Motherhood is a different type of job. And the craziest part is, I can’t even afford to go back to work.

I quit when the twins were born, and I remember thinking I would be a stay-at-home mom for a couple of years and then resume my career. I was nervous about it, but working just didn’t make financial sense. More than 80 percent of what I was making would have gone toward our childcare costs. What happened next? A big surprise: Despite being told by my ob-gyn that I could not get pregnant again without fertility treatment due to my diminished ovarian reserves, I did.

Before I found out I was expecting, I had spoken to my boss about coming back to work in a new, higher-paying position. Had I taken it, working would have made more sense financially. But I took myself out of the running when I realized that having three children in daycare or with a nanny meant I’d actually lose money by working. The fact that we live in Boston, one of the nation’s most expensive cities for childcare, doesn’t help matters, but we love the culture and the people here too much to leave.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I miss having my own money. Giving up that autonomy was hard! I have returned to the status of “dependent” on someone else’s tax return. Before I quit my job, I hadn’t been on a budget in many years. If I wanted to get my hair done or go on a shopping spree at Target, I could do just that. Now, my husband, Matt, and I decide on a certain amount of money I can spend on essentials each month, and if I need to go beyond that amount, we have a discussion about it. I feel like a teenager again when I have to ask to buy certain items like a new shirt or item for the house. Matt and I also talk about money a lot now, which we never did before. I’m lucky and it hasn’t caused any major disagreements, but it does add a level of stress to our lives that is new to our relationship.

While some days still feel chaotic, I’m able to use the skills I learned at work—organization, planning, and time management—every day (somebody has to prep bottles and snacks in advance, as well as be quick on her feet). I now think of myself as the CEO of our house, which is my best work title yet.