The past few months have been been some of the most eventful of our lives. From welcoming our first child (ok, second if you count Frugal Hound) to buying our homestead property, Mr. Frugalwoods and I feel like we’ve been on a wonderful–yet chaotic–roller coaster of hectic-ness. Amid these changes–and largely because of them–I also made the decision to quit my full-time office job and become a work-at-home Mommywoods.
Although I only recently made the official transition, I hatched this plan quite some time ago and have steadily schemed to bring it to fruition. As with so many things in life, several factors conspired to make this new career choice feasible for me and the opportune financial circumstances are but one element.
Our Desire For Babywoods To Have A Parent At Home
I could pretty much stop writing right here because this is the dominant reason for my decision. Mr. FW and I both had the benefit of being raised primarily at home by our parents and other family members and this is what we wanted for Babywoods as well. As inveterate insourcers of just about everything–from haircuts to plumbing–we had a hard time getting our heads around outsourcing our daughter’s care. That’s not to say there aren’t great options for daycare–indeed there are!–just as there are great options in the marketplace for all of the other things we do ourselves (I should know–I used to get lovely salon haircuts). Rather, it’s a question of wanting to do things ourselves and thus have control over outcomes and of course, costs.
On the Monday I would’ve gone back to my office (had I not handed in my notice) I looked at Babywoods and started crying. Mr. FW–ever on alert for my bizarre hormonal swings–rushed to my side and tried to suss out what was wrong. Lucky for him, I was crying for what wasn’t happening–I couldn’t imagine leaving Babywoods and was so relieved and delighted that she and I would be staying home together that day and every other day. Those emotions were a strong indicator to me that I’d made the right choice.
If the emotional side of things wasn’t compelling enough, the finances absolutely sealed the deal for us. As people who like to do our research extensively (some might say obsessively… ), while I was pregnant I researched every single daycare I could find in our area. I interrogated parents about nanny shares, home daycares, large daycares, small daycares… you name it, I read about it. And what I deduced is that daycare in the Boston area is equal parts expensive and competitive. A number of centers I called (while I was all of 3 months pregnant) were already filled up for the month I’d need Babywoods to start.
And those that weren’t booked? Astronomically expensive. To the tune of circa $2,300 per month (aka $27,600 per year). That’s just about what we pay on our Cambridge mortgage and it’s more than we paid annually in undergrad tuition. While I made a good deal more than that at my day job, the thought of shelling out that much cash every month for something I didn’t even want to do (be away from my daughter) made me nearly physically ill (or it might’ve just been, you know, pregnancy… ).
Thusly armed with these daycare “tuition” costs, Mr. FW and I began scheming alternatives. We considered all of the following: should we move to where our families are to avail ourselves of free daycare? That didn’t make sense to us since we knew we wanted to end up in Vermont and, we didn’t think it’d be fair to suddenly saddle our parents with their granddaughter’s care. Should we just suck it up and pay? You can guess how we felt about that option. Or should one of us stay home and chart a new path? Being people who already intended to do just such a thing, this last option felt the most natural and tenable.
Creating A New Career
Around this same time, I began ramping up my work through Frugalwoods and freelance writing. Motivated by my friends who do similar solo-entrepreneur projects, I formulated a strategy for earning money from home. What was initially a side gig for me–writing articles here on Frugalwoods and on other financial sites–has blossomed into my new career.
I hadn’t fully realized that writing was my dream job until I started doing it. But the first time someone paid me actual money for the actual words I write, I was thrilled. Thrilled, I tell you. And I had the transformative recognition that this, yes THIS, is what I was meant to do. I frequently wax poetic about giving yourself the financial freedom to pursue your passions and through this exploration, I’ve discovered my own passion for writing.
When I began Frugalwoods two years ago, I had no idea of the opportunities, friendships, connections, and jobs it would open up for me. And this experience made me realize: if you want to start something new in your life, just do it. Put yourself out there–whether it be through art, music, writing–the only failure is if you don’t do anything. There’s truly nothing to lose by trying.
Working From Home
Since I’m also caring for my bouncing 5-month-old full-time, I don’t put in anything close to a full 9-5 workday. But since I’m a freelancer, I don’t have to! I write and schedule calls when Babywoods naps, after she goes to bed, and on the weekends when Mr. FW is home and able to watch her. And sometimes I write while she snuggles in my lap or plays at my feet. We have a whole system worked out, me and Babywoods.
And since I don’t work a full day, I obviously don’t make nearly as much money as I did at my full-time job. However, the fact that we’re not paying for child care, combined with our extreme frugality, and our recent financial windfall of renting out our Cambridge home, means that I earn a sufficient amount to make up these differences.
To put a finer point on it, if you combine the revenue from my freelance writing, plus the difference in housing costs between Vermont and Cambridge, plus the net profit made from our Cambridge rental, plus the absence of daycare expenses, it comes out about even.
Another aspect I love about my position as a freelancer is that I can work as much or as little as I want. Earlier this year, for example, I worked a ton–every spare moment was spent writing, which was awesome! This month, however, since I’m also packing up our house and coordinating the logistics for our move to Vermont, I took on far fewer jobs. The ability to control my schedule, and my work flow, is invaluable and its the type of flexibility I’ve always craved. I know I praise the internet a lot on here, but hey, the ability to simultaneously create a career and parent my child is, I think, made uniquely possible by the opportunities afforded through remote work.
I’ve discovered that while I adore being a stay-at-home mom, I also adore my writing career. I’m a better parent because I have this professional outlet enabling me to be intellectually engaged, connected to my colleagues in the field, and enjoy an identity beyond being a mommy. For me, it’s an ideal balance.
Just because I’m happy with my decision doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of misgivings. Trust me, it’s impossible to be a recovering perfectionist and not stress even when you think you’ve made the right choice (every Type A person reading this just nodded their head).
Sometimes I worry that I’m not able to fabricate enough fun/activity/stimulation for Babywoods throughout the course of a day and I wonder if she’d receive more if she was at daycare. And what about socialization with other kids? I engineer scenarios for Babywoods to be with other babies, but most of the time she’s just with me. I hope that I offer enough enrichment and I also look forward to her going to preschool part-time (for free, thank you state of Vermont) when she’s three as that’ll provide her the opportunity to interact and learn with her peers.
I think there are no perfect or right answers in parenting. I think you just have to do what feels best for your family and, hopefully, what makes the most financial sense. It’s tough to resolve to stay home and it’s tough to make the determination to continue employment outside of the home.
Aren’t You A Feminist?
Indeed I am. And it’s part of the rationale behind my new trajectory. It’s my belief that, as a feminist (who is fortunately married to an enlightened feminist), I’m enfranchised to structure my life as I desire. I’m not forced to stay home; nor am I forced to go to a job. This third-wave feminist ideology of defining what feminism means to each individual woman, and how we express that through our life choices, resonates deeply with me.
We discussed which of us should stay home and I nominated myself for several reasons: I wanted to stay home, I wanted to expand my freelance writing career, and, Mr. FW makes quite a bit more money than I did at my full-time job. Were these factors reversed, Mr. FW would’ve been the one to stay home.
Is Working From Home Right For You?
Maybe. And maybe not. Nothing has challenged me in life as much as parenting and nothing has ever solidified more firmly my belief in the notion that there’s no one right way to do, well, anything. While working from home is the solution for our family, it very well might not appeal to you, or be practical for your circumstances. If you are interested in also becoming a freelance writer/blogger and are wondering where to start, I highly recommend my friend Cat Alford’s course on the topic: “Get Paid To Write For Blogs.” Cat is the expert on creating a work-from-home career and she successfully does it with her young twins.
My ability to strike this arrangement is thanks in large part to–of course–our extreme frugality. I really can’t stress enough the incredible options that frugality yields. And I’m by no means the first early retiree/financial independence devotee to take advantage of this parenting option–indeed 1500 Days to Freedom, Mr. Money Mustache, and Root Of Good all utilized their frugality to allow them to stay home with their children.
As I am so fond of doing, I’ll leave you with a thought on how the dominant paradigms of our culture conspire to make us into endless consumers. In many ways, daycare is an example of how much we pay to work in this country. I sincerely wish we had free childcare programs for all families in the US, but, we do not. And so, families are left to grapple with an essentially no-win situation: lose an income by staying home or lose a lot of an income by paying for daycare.
Furthermore, the cost of daycare often sets families up for needing two incomes. Working full-time puts immense pressure on one’s time and makes it tempting to get on the paying-for-services train: take-out, house cleaners, laundry services, dog-walkers, someone to mow your lawn, and every other conceivable time-saving expense. And paying for all of this, plus daycare, makes us ever-more dependent on our paychecks. While it’s worth it if both parents dearly want or need to work full-time, it’s nevertheless a rude awakening of what we pay for the privilege of working.