I got a little surprise at tax time this year, and no, it wasn't a giant refund. It was the realization that 100 percent of my income, plus a little extra, goes into paying our babysitter. And why do we have a sitter? Mostly so that I can work part-time. Face palm!
Before Baby No. 2, I was living the dream as a stay-at-home mom who still kept one foot in the working world. While my first kid was busy at preschool in the mornings, I'd do my freelance writing from home. That left me available in the afternoons to build Magnatile castles and bake muffins—two of our essential mother/daughter activities. Once the new baby arrived, that whole plan was shot to hell.
I had two choices: put work on hold, or get a little help.
I did some soul-searching and realized that as much as I love the SAHMing, I need a little WAHMing to feel balanced and sane. So we found a wonderful sitter to watch the kids two afternoons a week. Between sitter hours and baby naps, I could get my work done and even schedule some one-on-one time with my older daughter. Of course, I never did the financial math. Maybe I need to learn to write faster, because it seems my hourly rate is somewhat south of my babysitter's.
I mean, if my salary can't even pay for the little extras, like a family vacation or swim classes, then is it worth it to spend that time away from my kids?
As we filed our joint tax return, my husband said he was proud of me for making any money at all, what with all the round-the-clock breastfeeding and kid-juggling. But I felt kind of like an idiot. I mean, if my salary can't even pay for the little extras, like a family vacation or swim classes, then is it worth it to spend that time away from my kids?
More soul-searching led to the honest answer, which is yes. It's worth it. This screwy arrangement actually works for me and our family—at least right now. Because to be a happy mommy, I need a little me-time. By using my income to pay for a sitter, I am essentially subsidizing my own freedom, even if most of my "free" time is spent in front of a computer.
I'm also making an investment in the future. Though this season of my life is not about being a big earner, I'm keeping my career alive just enough to stay relevant and avoid a huge hole in my résumé. And I hope that the slow progress I'm making will give me more options down the road.
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More truth: I enjoy having another adult in the house two afternoons a week. I'm a social person, and being home with kids all the time can be isolating. I like the sitter's company, and sometimes I'll cook us all a family-style dinner, since my husband works late. I think it's good for my kids too, because they don't have to struggle for my attention as much—I can take time out to nurse the baby in peace or go have ice cream with just my big girl.
Soon enough, both kids will be in school and I can reevaluate. For now, call me crazy, but I'm going to keep on hustling to pay the sitter.