Childcare: Controversial, Expensive, Complicated, Necessary

The Frugalwoods family

People ask me about childcare all the time. How to pay for it, how to find it, what I do with my kids. Other than what to eat for lunch, which credit cards to use, and how to buy used cars, I think childcare is the most asked question I get from readers. And it’s the one thing on that list I haven’t devoted a lot of time to writing about.

Probably because I’m not a childcare expert. Probably because I’m not a parenting expert. Definitely because childcare prices and arrangements vary wildly by family, age of children, family composition, region, country, and even state.

In short, it’s complicated and I do not have answers for everyone and this post will not provide solutions for all situations. What I can share are the decisions my husband and I have made and how they’ve impacted our family in the four years since becoming parents to four-year-old and two-year-old girls.

The Childcare Imperative

Let’s start from the beginning: if you have little kids, someone will need to take care of them. This is an immutable fact of being human. Our babies are born helpless and remain so for a really long time. Unlike the day-old baby cow I met on Kidwoods’ preschool field trip that could could walk, eat, moo, and put herself to sleep (at one day old!), human babies are worthless on the independence metric.

Historically, mothers were expected to perform all childcare duties with help from extended family members (who were also women). Currently, families are diverse in composition (not everyone has a mother, or just one mother, so that terminology is outdated), society’s view of gender roles has evolved (though it could stand to evolve more… ), and extended families do not necessarily live near one another. Yet, human babies have not taken the hint and wised up. Culturally we’ve evolved; biologically, we remain helpless at birth. Geez, babies, way to screw things up.

The Many Ways We Make Women Feel Bad

Me and my girls

Our culture is SO GOOD at making women feel SO BAD for… well, just about everything. Birthing and raising children is a flashpoint for negativity and there are heated opinions on all sides about how everyone else should/should not birth/raise their children. In the absence of the proverbial supportive village, we seem to have created a village of judgement, shaming, and no one actually helping to change a diaper.

Women–lucky us!–are singled out in this judgement/shaming exercise and there’s still a cultural tendency to assume the burden of care-taking is on women (and especially women who happen to have a male partner). The male partner/father-person is not typically asked about his birth plan or his post-birth childcare plans or chided for returning to work too soon/too late or encouraged to take time off to adjust to parenthood or expected to have “daddy brain.” He’s supposed to blithely continue on with business as usual while the mother of the child grapples with the messiness, the pain, the sleep deprivation, the blood, the loss of self, the self-doubt, the visceral of parenting.

One of my favorite early sister pictures

Thankfully, many families have evolved past this stereotype and enshrined a more equitable division of labor. But as a society and a culture, there’s still an undercurrent of expectation that women should stay home. There aren’t enough protections or support systems in place for new parents: parental leave policies at most companies are either non-existent or outdated, daycare can cost as much as a four-year college education, and the workplace flexibility that would allow parents to maneuver around school/daycare schedules is often a pipe dream. Our country has systemic issues with supporting new parents and, unfortunately, I am not authorized to solve any of these problems.

Adding to this dumpster fire are the hateful screeds hurled at “working mothers” (by the way, what about “working fathers” or “family women”?). There are accolades for stay-at-home mothers who are “putting their children first” and “doing the hardest, most rewarding job on earth” (side note: if it’s the most rewarding job on earth, why is it an unpaid internship with erratic hours, no on-the-job training, and a boss who grabs your boobs all the time?). There’s an insidious belief that women who “choose” to stay home will have happier, better adjusted kids and–by extension–a happier husband/man-person. Because women are–to this day–expected to serve and serve with a smile.

It’s no better for the mothers who DO stay at home with their kids–either by choice, out of financial necessity, or out of social pressure–because they’re the victims of career-shaming. Questions such as, “what do you plan to do when the kids go to school?” and “since you’ve been out of the workforce for so long, how will you ever get another job?” and “what do you do all day?” are commonplace for stay-at-home moms. “It’s too bad you’re wasting your degree/skills/experience by staying home” is another one of my favorites. Gee, THANKS A LOT shaming village, for assuming that taking care of children is a “waste” of time/experience and for negating the fact that many of us are fulfilled by the time we spend with our children.

Summary: Mothers/Women Cannot Win

You can’t win

Here’s what I’ve learned: society will criticize any decision you make regarding your children. If you go back to work, you’re not putting your children first. If you stay home, you’re not tending to your career. You can’t win, so let’s just ignore all of that. Let’s throw these expectations and stereotypes out and start fresh.

Today I’m going to share what I do for childcare and why it works for me and my family at this point in our lives. This is not a condemnation of people who do something different. This is not a judgement of people who do the same thing. Rather, this is an honest rendering of the struggles I’ve had with deciding what to do with my children all day, every day (it’s a lot of hours, people).

What works for your family might not work for the next family. What you believe is best for you and for your children might not be best for your neighbor’s family. There is space for divergent viewpoints here, we respect those differing opinions, and we allow room for everyone to sit at this table. So let’s get to it.

Economic Limitations

There are also economic realities surrounding this discussion and for many families, this is not a choice at all. Some families do not have the luxury or privilege of even entertaining the idea of both parents working, or of one parent staying home. I know that for some families, the choice to have two working parents isn’t a choice at all–it’s a financial necessity. And I know that for other families, the choice to have one parent stay home isn’t a choice either–it’s a financial necessity. This conversation isn’t intended to ignore the financial imperatives that force many families into their childcare arrangements. I’m aware that the ability to choose– the ability to even consider options–is a luxury and a privilege in and of itself.

Your Feelings Might Change (Mine Have)

Us with baby #1. It’s VERY hard to believe this was only four years ago. It feels like it’s been a decade. At least.

How you feel about parenting/working is likely to change over time as your children age, your career evolves, and you do/do not have additional children. And that’s ok! It is ok to be a person who changes and evolves! In fact, I consider it a sign of maturity. I say this because I, myself, have changed my mind quite a few times since having our first daughter four years ago.

Before we had kids, and especially before we had two kids, I knew I’d want to stay home with them full-time. After actually having children, I felt differently. I also know plenty of moms who discovered the inverse: they knew they’d want to go back to work after having kids and then, once they had them, they decided they wanted to stay home.

All that to say, it’s often not a linear, black-and-white decision-making process. Plus, you’re usually making this decision before your first child is even born. So you’re positing what you might or might not want to do with the rest of your life based on a yet-to-be-met small human being who will take one look at you and scream for milk. And if you’re birthing a child, your hormones are in a bizarre place. Sounds like an ideal recipe for making a great life choice.

I Pay For Childcare and I’m Proud Of It

At present, we pay for two days per week of daycare for Littlewoods (age two) and Kidwoods (age four) attends free preschool at our local elementary school. In my book, I talked about how proud I was that we didn’t pay for childcare for our first daughter. Now I’m writing about how proud I am that we DO pay for childcare for our second daughter. This wasn’t an easy transition for me. I equated spending money on something I could do myself (watch my kids) with failure as both a mother and a financial writer. After all, I’m the queen of insourcing and DIY and I’ve written–and still believe to an extent–in stuff like the following:

Paying for services cements your reliance on money and distances you from your most valuable teammate: your partner. Instead of using chores as an opportunity to grow closer, you’re using money to make the daily realities of your life less real (source: Day 24 of my free Uber Frugal Month Challenge).

But there has to be some gray area. There has to be some nuance in how we apply the concept of insourcing. What I’ve realized is that it’s not a frugal failure to pay for something I can do myself. It’s a frugal evolution. Spending money to enable something that matters to me is frugality. Spending money in alignment with my highest and best priorities is frugality. At least, it’s my style of frugality for right now. I love my work and I love my kids. I need time for both.

What We’ve Done Over The Years

One of the (many) ways I made working-from-home work

Since having Kidwoods four years ago, we’ve utilized a variety of childcare options:

I worked from home as a part-time freelance writer until Kidwoods was two years old. This worked OK because she took three (and then two) naps per day, which gave me several solid blocks of time to write.

When she turned two (and I was pregnant with her little sister), Kidwoods started going to a preschool program two mornings a week. She loved it, we loved it, and we expanded that to four mornings a week. I was writing my book at the time and needed more uninterrupted blocks of time to hammer out chapters.

Littlewoods was born and I continued to write part-time while she napped, hung out on my chest in the baby carrier, or nursed (I would wedge the My Brest Friend pillow between my body and the table, baby would nurse while I typed, baby would fall asleep and nap, and I would continue working). This mode worked super well for me while my kids were infants.

In fall 2019, Kidwoods started going to all-day preschool for three days a week at our local public elementary school, which offers a free preschool program. She loved it so much that we’ve since expanded it to five full days (Monday through Friday). I was keeping her home on Fridays so that she had a ‘home day,’ but she kept requesting to go to school on Fridays and started lobbying her teachers to tell her parents that she could come on Fridays, so now she goes every day.

Writing with Littlewoods in the carrier

At that point (fall 2019), we decided to put Littlewoods into daycare two days per week. At age two, Littlewoods has hit the point where it’s almost impossible to work while she’s around. I found that with both of my kids, it wasn’t a problem to work when they were babies (babies sleep a lot, or like to be worn in the baby carrier, or will hang out in their bouncy seat and giggle at toys). Toddlers, on the other hand, do zero of those things.

I’ve started to notice that at age four, Kidwoods is amenable to drawing, painting or reading at the table next to me while I work. She likes to tell me that she has a conference call and that I need to be quiet–this suits both of us quite well. Since she’s in preschool full-time, I don’t usually work when she’s around, but her ability to play in parallel to me working is ideal for our many, many (many) snow and sick days.

In terms of other types of childcare, we’re beyond fortunate to have an adopted grandma neighbor who spends one morning a week with Littlewoods (she did so with Kidwoods before pre-school was full-time). This same fairy godmother of a person comes over one evening a month (after we put the kids to bed) so that Mr. FW and I can go out on a date night!! This once-a-month date night works well for us and, thus far, we haven’t hired a babysitter (not to say that we won’t in the future).

Once or twice a year, my in-laws watch the girls for a few days so that Mr. Frugalwoods and I can go on a kid-free vacation together. These little trips are miraculous and we credit them with helping us retain and strengthen our marriage (we celebrate twelve years in June!). If we didn’t have an adopted local grandma and our parents to offer this luxury childcare to enable time alone together, I think we’d struggle with maintaining our connection to each other.

Hiking with Kidwoods

Rounding out our childcare arrangements is my massage/childcare coop, whereby a massage therapist comes to my friend’s house and we take turns watching one another’s kids while the other mama receives a massage. We do this once a month and the arrangement is genius!

For everything else that we need/prefer to do kid-free (dentist appointments, volunteering, book club, ladies’ night, etc), Mr. FW and I trade off watching the kids. We have a shared online calendar and we plan out our volunteer/social commitments so that one parent is always available to be home with the kids.

Not having family members nearby is tough and I envy friends who can drop their kids off at the grandparent’s house anytime. But, we feel very fortunate for the community we’ve built here and there are at least ten people within a mile that I could call to help out with the kids at a moment’s notice.

Undergirding all of this is the balanced division of labor that my husband and I have. We share household and childcare duties as equally as possible (he does drop-off, I do pick-up; he puts Kidwoods to bed, I put Littlewoods to bed; he cooks, I do laundry; he grocery shops, I clean), which has made all of these configurations and reconfigurations tenable over the years. We approach childcare as something that’s the responsibility of both parents and we’ve made these choices together over the years in accordance with what feels best for our family at each point in time. Before having kids, I (erroneously) assumed we’d be in one static mode until they went to kindergarten. Now, I realize that every year–every season, actually–is different. To that end, I’m still not sure what we’re going to do this summer since we don’t want full-time childcare, but part-time for both girls would be ideal… Like I said, it’s ever fluid.

Lean Into The Phase Of Life You’re In

A terrible selfie we took on a wonderful kid-free date

I’m all about Leaning Into The Phase of Life You’re In (I put it in all caps because I’m trying to make it a Thing). I cannot operate in the same way I did when I was single, when we were pre-children, when I lived in New York City, when we had one child–I have to adapt and change with each new iteration of my life. Sure, I’m the same person, but I am constantly adjusting my routines and decisions. I need to make my life work for me based on the restrictions, parameters, and benefits of whatever phase I’m in.

My kids won’t be little forever, they won’t need expensive childcare forever, so I’m leaning into this phase. This is what I need, what they need right now. More to the point: this is what we’re choosing to do right now. Will we choose something different next year? Maybe so! In my opinion, being flexible, being willing to admit I was wrong, and being willing to try new things is what facilitates a full, enjoyable life.

Less Time With My Kids Makes Me A Better Mom

This is the ‘climb on mama; refuse to look at the camera’ pose

Getting diagnosed and treated for my postpartum depression was the first step in the process of recognizing that I needed (and wanted) to pay for childcare. Prior to taking medication to treat my depression and anxiety, I vacillated between a fierce, over-protective guarding of my kids and an apathetic desire to never spend time with them. I wasn’t rational and everything I did was weighted down by the fog and lies of depression.

After treatment lifted the curtain of self-doubt, remorse, and anger, I was like, “Oh! I think I’d be a better mom, a better human, if I had some time to myself to work every week. Let’s make that happen!” And my sweet, patient, loving husband was like, “Yes! I’ve been saying this for years! Let’s visit daycares tomorrow.”

Mr. FW has long been in favor of paying for part-time care for our kids because he could see that I wanted more time alone to work. But until my depression was treated, I saw paid childcare as a weakness and an indication that I’d failed as a mother. I’m here to say this loud and clear for anyone struggling with this:

Taking your kids to daycare/preschool/nanny/grandma’s house does NOT mean you’ve failed as a parent. It does not mean you’re any less of a parent. It does not mean you don’t love your kids.

The inverse is equally true:

Staying home with your kids–and not working outside the home–does NOT mean you’ve failed as a person. It does not mean you’re any less of a person. It does not mean you don’t have interests/passions/skills/hobbies outside of your role as parent.

Apparently I really want this whole sitting-in-the-grass shot to work…

I need balance and I need time away from my beautiful children. You guys, I need a chance to miss them. When I’m away from them, I’m 100% focused on my work. When I’m with them, I try to be 100% focused on them. Before, I was in constant bifurcation. I was trying to write while they played, trying to reply to emails while they ate lunch, and trying to have conference calls with them on my lap (in case you’re wondering, that does not work).

Constant multi-tasking made me exhausted and angry. It’s impossible to do both things well at the same time. Now that I have dedicated work days, it’s much easier for me to have the time, and more crucially the mental energy, to fully engage with the kids when I’m not working.

Is this THE BEST, the MOST RIGHT thing for my children? I don’t know. But I do know that they’re better off with parents who aren’t exhausted, angry, and stressed all the time. I think “Happiest Parent On The Block” is a book someone should write. There’s such an ultra-focus on making our children happy and on raising them RIGHT and on micromanaging their social, emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual, and mathematical development, but precious little devoted to, you know, keeping their parents alive, fed, and sane.

Personal Fulfillment, Success, and the Making of Money: All OK

My girls

For way too long, our culture has denigrated the success of women. Women aren’t supposed to want to make money, be leaders, or experience success. Women are supposed to tend to the successes of others, to nurture, support, and provide the framework for success to thrive. You can guess what word I’d like to employ to describe my feelings on that… You’ll have to guess because Frugalwoods is a PG sort of place.

There is NOTHING WRONG with wanting to earn money, with wanting to have a career, with wanting to find fulfillment outside of traditional support roles. There’s also NOTHING WRONG with finding deep fulfillment from NOT working outside the home. The key is having the ability to make a conscious choice that aligns with your values, that fosters your priorities, that’s financially tenable, and frankly, that makes you happy.

The only person who’s really and truly going to care how your lived your life is you. So you’d better do what works for you. Also, your kids might care a little bit, but as Kidwoods put it so aptly the other day: “Why do I have to come home with you after school? The after-school program has cookies! I want to stay for the cookies!”

How do you manage childcare? What decisions have your grappled with in this balancing act?

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114 Responses

  1. Kristi says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I also struggled really badly with PPD and trying to work part time from home while taking care of my twins only made it worse. My husband and I both had stay at home moms (who got part time jobs at night and on the weekends to get away from the kids 🤣), so we felt a lot of pressure to not put our kids in childcare. Our twins started a 3-day a week preschool program and we also quickly upped it to 5 days. They’re thriving, so happy, and we are also equally happy and less stressed. I quickly realized that childcare is not evil (except the cost), and that we weren’t bad parents. The opposite happened – I’m such a happier and more patient mom now that the kiddos are with someone else half the day. Bravo for a wonderful post – you hit the nail on the head!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      100% YES to everything you said. Thank you for sharing your experience and I am SO GLAD you’ve found a great system for your family!

      • LongTime Frugal says:

        Kids need to be around other kids. Kids whose stay-at-home parent cater to their every whim and entertain them 100% of the time do the kids no favors. Watch closely the day you kid starts kindergarten (for the record, I am not a fan of homeschooling) – you’ll be able to spot the kid/kids of the above stay-at-home parent.
        And kudos to the Frugalwoods for listening to their daughter re: five days a week. I have a born-on-the-last-cutoff day for starting kindergarten. I got a lot of flak for starting her the year she turned five. “But she’ll be the youngest in her class!!” said the school. But she’ll be the OLDEST in her class if I don’t. She was reading at age 3 1/2 and asking me every day when she could go to school. Suffice it to say she turned out just fine.
        Both of my kids went to daycare but not at six weeks of age. But I always laughed at those who smugly claimed their kids didn’t go to daycare because it was pre-school. Call it what you like but when the kids were in “pre-school” while you were at work, it qualifies as child care.

        • Caroline Bowman says:

          No, pre-school happens irrespective of whether one is working. Generally – at least where I am – kids do a year or even two of mornings at pre-school, sometimes three times a week the first year, rising to five the second. It’s certainly nothing that anyone with anything approaching a normal, remunerated job within general office hours would find even slightly useful as actual childcare. Kids whose parents work often then go to daycare thereafter.

          It’s done for the child’s benefit, not the parent’s. If you happen to be doing something where remuneration was involved during the 3-4 hours pre-school takes place, it’s usually a very happy accident.

          The thing that clinches it is ”if the child is ill or it’s the holidays, is there a parent around who doesn’t need to juggle work commitments to any great extent”. If that test is met, it’s pre-school. If not, it’s daycare.

          Ultimately – and this is the thing – it is overwhelmingly usually the woman who must ask these things and who must do whatever juggling is needed and always gets judged for it, for good or bad. Men never get asked or quizzed about the exact terminology around what precise activity their young kid is doing and whether it’s because they’re working or in fact napping.

        • Allison in Ky. says:

          My son started kindergarten at age 4….he was born Sept. 21, and at that time as long as kids turned 5 before October 1st they could begin kindergarten. He is now a junior in high school and doing just fine!

        • jennifer neeb says:

          Isn’t this comment exactly what she was saying we do to each other as women? You could simply have said “MY child was excited to go to school and it has been great for her!” Rather you threw the home-schoolers under the bus. When my children started school for a time, their teachers said “we could tell they were home schooled” in the most positive of ways. They are polite, confident, bright, and friendly children. These are adjectives I would use to describe the hundreds of children in our home school community as well. No, my children did not go to daycare. They played with their friends, cousins, neighbors, Sunday school class and siblings. Daycare is not synonymous with socialization in the sense that children aren’t equipped with excellent social skills if they don’t go. I am for daycare and at home parents, public, private and home school. We are fortunate that there are so many right ways to parent.

  2. Elaine MacDonald says:

    Bravo! Excellent True Piece of Writing! My youngest is 19 and my eldest is almost 26 (and I have two more that fall in-between) and all of this rings true.

  3. Amanda says:

    “Historically, mothers were expected to perform all childcare duties with help from extended family members (who were also women).”

    This is actually not really true! It’s true that women have often been considered primary caretaker, but not necessarily that mom was the primary caretaker. It has always varied a lot by class and culture, but historically what we see is that children were raised by a community of people (either large families, or paid caretakers if you were wealthy). In WW2, the US even had national free childcare because we needed young women to go work. It was taken away when men returned from eat, and there was a nation-wide (political and economic) effort to rebrand the “stay at home mom” as the default job for women (well, middle class and white women at least). Politicians were afraid that if women kept working outside the home, men would t have jobs and our society would collapse. So they manufactured the idea of the traditional housewife.

    So our concept that mom’s are the ones responsible for taking care of their children (and that others are only “helping”) isn’t really rooted in as much tradition as people assume. Until pretty recently, raising kids was something all the women in a family or community did together.

    I also that child care is often a really healthy choice for kids. Kids need socialization around other kids, and they need interaction and relationships with adults outside the family. They used to get that from family when a family meant lots of siblings, grandparents, even aunt’s/uncle’s/cousins who all lived together. But now that our families are much smaller, kids who are always at home may not get that interaction.

    I love this article and just wanted to jump in here with that little historical tidbit. Obviously how you care for your child is deeply personal, but historically it’s not been a one-woman job to do that, that’s really a modern invention.

    • Was going to say this. You can find out more about how babies have been taken care of across time and space in a book called Our Babies Ourselves. The one woman thing is very modern. It really does take a village.

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Fascinating! Thank you so much for bringing this wisdom to the discussion! I will have to read that book. I recently heard a podcast about the relatively recent casting of women as stay-at-home mothers in the wake of the industrial revolution… now I’m trying to remember which podcast it was… might’ve been Throughline on NPR? At any rate, I so appreciate this broadening of perspectives. Thank you both!

        • Right– you need surplus for women to be able to focus mainly on childcare and not sustenance or profit. And even during the Victorian era, most women still worked– it was a status symbol to be able to have your wife stay at home, so something for the more well-off. Prior to the industrial revolution, most people were in agriculture or home production. So working outside the home is also relatively new.

          But prior to that and outside of England/US/etc., childcare has often been a group effort. A lot of agricultural societies have had something that looks a lot like daycare with some women and older kids looking after smaller children and other moms working in the fields.

        • Amanda says:

          I would love to know, because I always stockpile podcasts for long drives and this one sounds really interesting 🙂

          I just find it helpful to remember that we, as women, can’t do it all alone – and historically we were not expected to! That’s an invention of modern times, so maybe knowing that we can let it go more easily.

          • Caroline Bowman says:

            also, and this is crucial, ”in the past”, even as recently as the 80’s, even though women were expected by default to be doing the childcare, standards of what that meant were much, much lower. Now it means doing all of everything necessary to make the precious angel completely happy and in no way under any form of stress or psychological upset at all, ever, through enrichment activities, extra-murals of all kinds, driving miles and miles and to the exacting requirements of random coaches and tutors ”or… else”. I was born in the late 70’s, I was an only child and we lived quite a distance from most of my activities / school, and yes, my mom did do a lot of driving for that reason, but she was very unusual in that respect. Weekends involved being told ”out you go, go round to so-and-so to play” or having them just show up and then we all just did random boring stuff without seeing another adult for a substantial time. They knew approximately where we were, but that was all.

            Now it’s just not like that. So while the ”village” has got so much smaller, expectations and requirements for being an excellent mother have risen sharply. Now you need a wonderful, fulfilling career of your own OR to be a saintly, self-sacrificial homemaker, 100% focused on nurturing her children and home. Which one is required varies according to who you ask! It’s crazy.

      • Sandra, Italy says:

        I agree as well. Many of the things we think of as a “given” in our society have been so for a really brief period of time, historically speaking. I feel the modern maternity leave may be difficult for many of us JUST BECAUSE you’re suddenly very much on your own and supposed to dedicate 100% of your time to your kid. As you both pointed out, this is a very recent development, child rearing used to be a shared commitment.

    • Sarah says:

      Actually, she does acknowledge that extended family females also helped with child care. Either way, be it family or other child care arrangements, I’m 99% positive it was primarily women and not men, but I’d love to be proven wrong.

      • Amanda says:

        If you read my comment again you’ll see I’m not negating the fact that it was women who have historically been expected to care for kids.

        What I’m saying is that the idea that a single woman (the biological mother) is responsible for child care is a modern one, and the belief that this is historical is largely manufactured to keep women in the home. In the past, children were raised by communities (mostly of women, but still communities).

    • Caroline Bowman says:

      Thing is though, while women have done things other than only look after their own homes and children for millennia, it has literally always fallen to the females. Always. During WW2 in Britain, when my granny was in charge of running the business (coal haulage) while grandpa was in the RAF, childcare was… her problem. Only her problem. The people who helped out, of whom there were many, were almost without exception, women.

      It would be unusual at any time in history for any ordinary person who is male be in the position of having to try and work out childcare. An aunt, a niece, a daughter, someone female, would always be expected to step in.

  4. ShelleyB says:

    I am not much of a commenter but my gosh, I agree with this so much. The pressure society puts on motherhood, the ignoring of the fact that so many families are forced to make a decision based on finances and how hard that is, especially doesn’t match what they might actually prefer to do (speaking as a mom who wanted to stay home longer than 6 weeks after babies were born but was back at work anyway). I love how you said ” In the absence of the proverbial supportive village, we seem to have created a village of judgement, shaming, and no one actually helping change a diaper.”

    • Meg R. says:

      Right there with you! I also had to go back to work when my daughter was only 6 weeks, and it was SO HARD. I hated it. I cried every day at work, but it was the only financial option for us. (Thankfully now my husband is able to stay home with our daughter a couple days a week, easing the financial and emotional burden of daycare.) Some people don’t realize how much the finances dictate the childcare situation. That can be really tough!

  5. Angela says:

    Although I now have 2 grandchildren so in another Phase of Life to yourself ( love that description btw – had a think about all my phases past); what you have said is so good and well thought out. There is no one size fits all scenario for parents – people work different jobs, hours, have different priorities both personally and financially and different backgrounds. When our children were small we decided that I would stay home with them as much as possible. This was a joint decision because I was used to my mum who stayed home – much more common in the 1960s/70s but my husband’s mum had always had to work long hours in low paid shopwork due to circumstances. He had missed his mum very much and hoped to do things differently when we had children. Thankfully his work paid well and we cut our cloth to keep paying the mortgage etc until the children were older and I returned to employment.. This worked for us and we were glad we could choose but things could have been so different. Today our grandchildren attend nursery 2 days per week and then have both sets of grandparents on 2 days of the week. Every family finds its own way. Thank you Liz for writing it all down so well.

  6. Shannon says:

    I’ve always had to figure out full time childcare, and as long as it’s a good place, the kids are much happier. They like daycare and playing with other kids better than being stuck at home all the time. If you want to read an interesting novel about a place where men are the main childcare providers, check out The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. It’s one of her good ones.

    • Shannon says:

      Also a good read: The Midwife’s Tale, An Oral History from Handywoman to Professional Midwife by Nicky Leap and Billie Hunter.

  7. Caroline Bowman says:

    In poorer places, I mean, like, really deprived places, having a job, such as very close to where I live in South Africa, a reasonably-okay-paying job for two parents is The Dream. One parent, the woman usually, will be a domestic worker or cleaner at a commercial place, the other, usually the man, will be a delivery driver or work at a factory. When they have babies, quite often the woman, who is a domestic worker (a cleaner of homes, often on a full-time or nearly-full-time basis at one or two homes), after maternity leave is over, they quite regularly bring their small infants with them and then try and do their jobs with their tiny babies with them, negotiate dangerous, expensive, dirty public transport to and from… on the upside, in this country, all women are entitled to 16 weeks maternity leave (unpaid or very minimally paid in these kinds of jobs), but on the down, they can rarely afford such a long break with no income.

    When the baby gets bigger, what they tend to do is a bit of an extension to the ”village” scenario; there will usually be a trustworthy woman or two very close by, possibly even next door or in the same building even, who is unemployed and needs money. For a small consideration, they will do childcare. They don’t provide food or anything like that, the parents must do that, but they will, more or less reliably look after kids from the age of 3-4 months, till they’re at school.

    It’s a system born from desperation and need. Some people are somewhat forced to leave very young children alone in insecure, dangerous homes for very long periods and hope the neighbour will agree to occasionally check on them.

    My own beloved Ayisha brought her little girl (I made her take 4 months and paid for some of it – no, no tax deduction or anything else) for about two months after her return from maternity leave and she then found a reliable, trustworthy lady to look after her consistently for what sounded like a pathetically small amount of money. And get this, she considers herself ”lucky” because when her baby is sick, or when she herself is sick, she gets a paid day off to attend to it. If the baby is somewhat not quite well but not actually sick, she brings her for odd days when she doesn’t want to leave her with the caregiver. This is apparently massive privilege.

    Two things leap out. The first is that all of this centres around women and the work they do and the sacrifices that they must make if they want to have children. Not the men who really want those kids too. Her husband, a very nice guy, works hard, is good to her and the baby, but really, it’s just not a concern of his what happens after he goes to work. That’s… women stuff. Ever was it thus. The second thing is that in places where deprivation is huge, the notion of having a job you don’t hate, that pays you in a fair way, where you are not treated as disposable and like dirt, is devoutly to be wished. ”Career advancement” or anything like that is just not part of the conversation.

    When I am grumbling about deadlines and the general annoyances many working mothers feel, I remember how lucky I actually am.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much for this perspective!

      • Caroline Bowman says:

        It makes me feel guilty all the time. The thing is, it’s somewhat of a vicious cycle. If I said ”no! I shall NOT have domestic help, it’s tyranny and wrong” then I would not be able to work the way I do and crucially, Aysha would be unemployed. By employing a capable, hard-working person, by meeting and exceeding legal and ethical requirements re fair wage, time off, maternity leave and general case-by-case perks, her life is improved. This makes me feel awful and also good. Why should it be this way? Then I remember that her oldest child, a daughter is being underwritten at a very, very good academic parochial boarding school in Lilongwe and has serious ambitions to become a nurse. The money to pay for this (she did qualify for a scholarship, but there are other expenses) comes from… … her parents earning the money to give her (and her baby sister, hopefully) more and better opportunities to get more choices and options in life.

  8. Carolanne says:

    I have done the child care stage – paid an extra mortgage in costs for childcare for my three grown children. There was no free state provision when they were young – and social pressures were awful here 30+ years ago.
    But we did it and we all thrived.
    Now, the greatest irony is that I care for my grandsons up to 5 days a week, although they are at school now. My daughter could simply not work if she didn’t have that child care. Even before and after school care comes in at £100 per week, for two children.
    Sometimes I feel like a second time around Mum. Mostly, it’s simply my privilege. 😊

  9. Susan says:

    “Women are supposed to tend to the successes of others, to nurture, support, and provide the framework for success to thrive.”
    I was just thinking about this last night — how it can be so easy to become the supporting role, rather than the star of your own life. I’m working on that personally, and also on raising daughters who start out with the empowerment and confidence I did not have growing up.
    Very nice article — there are so many ways to raise a family, and no one size fits all.

  10. Cindy says:

    I feel this! Everyone keeps asking what we’re going to do when the baby comes and my response is, “Well, we are both taking FMLA and we’ll figure out the future once she gets here.” We have some thoughts around childcare beyond just us, but we won’t know our family’s needs until we settle into our family life.

    We’ve also been asked why we aren’t moving out of our “cozy” house. Your 7-year-old stepson and daughter will share a room? Of course they will! And he’s thrilled to do it until we figure out our family needs and can buy a place that works for us. We currently rent so it’s a great situation for us.

    • Caroline Bowman says:

      It’s very good to stay flexible. The only small thing might be availability of quality childcare of whatever sort when the time comes, just because a lot of the good places get booked up. Obviously if you’re not planning on using that anyway, that’s irrelevant.

    • Amanda says:

      My husband and I have actually talked a lot about house size as we bought a house in the last year and are planning to (fingers crossed) have a kid while we live in this house.

      We bought a smaller home by American standards, which we think is plenty of space for us. My husband grew up in massive, suburban homes and I grew up in an < 800 sq ft apartment with one parent, and in comparing our experiences I've realized that there were a lot of benefits to growing up in a smaller home. I was closer to my dad (like, literally – but also emotionally), he always knew what I was up to (which doesn't sound awesome as a teenager but now as an old person I see the benefits), and we didn't have to spend every weekend caring for a massive home, yard, etc. which is what my husband remembers of his home growing up.

      Of course, nobody knows what will really work for their family long-term but I hope that your kids come to appreciate their happy, cozy home as much as I now appreciate my small childhood home.

  11. Every day we share what we are thankful for that day and bar none every day our toddler says his daycare. He says it on days he doesn’t go (lol). He loves it and we love spending time with them when they get home. My wife also has an academic schedule so she gets to be with them for the summer which is like the perfect time since they go all over the place outside and around the city then once exhausted, can go back to work in the fall. We’ve done it one summer so far and it seems to be the perfect balance of staying sane and making awesome memories with them. We visit a lot of friends during the winter since we are inside most of the time.

    When we first discovered FI and your blog and book and others, we had a frank discussion about my wife being home or me being home. She wanted to work and we decided that was okay, we save on costs with the 10 weeks off and in the future I think I can swing some flexible scheduling to maybe shave off a day of daycare a week. I know roughly how much it will cost for the all the kids to go through daycare and it’s a large number but it motivates me to keep doing my side gigs I enjoy doing, which in turns helps me earn more over time in and out of my job. In short, it’s working for this season in our lives and we will evolve as time goes on.

  12. Kate says:

    Cheers to all of this. My daughter is about the same age as Kidwoods. I spent most of maternity leave with postpartum anxiety so bad that it verged on OCD and a lot of time anxious/obsessively putting knives away which made it hard to even prepare lunch. So I think it was really good for everyone that she went to daycare at 12 weeks.
    Now she is about to start kindergarten and I’m changing my work schedule so we’ll really only need 2 days of afterschool care (thanks to Frugalwoods for helping us to make the financial changes to make that possible) but I’m thinking of paying for 3 so that I can have an afternoon to myself. Like you, I’m realizing I’m a better parent and partner and generally happier person when I have time to myself and time away.

    • Caroline Bowman says:

      If you can afford it, definitely do it. It’s not a ”forever” line item in your budget. One day she’ll be older and you will have a bit more naturally-occurring personal time, but during this very full-on stage, a few hours (which is really what we’re talking about) of dedicated time each week will benefit you enormously.

      • Marty says:

        I agree with Caroline, if you can afford it, do it. At least then you will have the choice for your daughter to go to the after program or if you’re feeling like you want more time with her, have her skip a day.

  13. Kelly Marie says:

    You are exactly right! I have learned in 4 years of parenting to not focus on others opinions and instead observe how childcare choices affect our family and go with what works best for us. It is a lot harder than it sounds when you throw in the self-doubt that often accompanies modern parenting! Thank you for sharing!!

  14. Sue E says:

    My girls are now 20 and 23, wish I had your fantastic writing to have alleviated my own guilt and shame when working full time through the phases of their childhood. Bravo, well written, keep on writing!!! (-:

  15. Abby says:

    YAAAAAAS!! *insert Oprah gif here* Thank you for this thoughtful, kind-hearted post. (P.S. HI! Miss you!)

  16. RR says:

    This is 100% what I needed, right now, today. Could not have been better timed, thank you! I still don’t even know where to begin in the search for childcare (from afar, when we don’t need it until 2021 but in a very big crowded city *sigh*), but this post made me feel all that much better in the fact that I am currently choosing to work, and need to work for my family.

  17. Molly says:

    Wow, this is really timely. Last night my husband and I had an in-depth conversation regarding this. Our son is 7 weeks and luckily we both have 12 weeks off together. We are both still tired even taking care of him together! I am personally dreading it, I don’t like my job is the problem but I make really good money. I don’t get much personal satisfaction in my current role, but financially it makes sense to pay for daycare and me to continue working. Life is short though, and I will try to discuss this with my boss when I return to work.

    Right now I am crying at least once a day of thinking about being gone from my baby for close to 50 hours a week. It hurts my heart. Another issue is that a lot of daycares around here don’t have part time availability and I worry about getting in-home daycare because I don’t trust a stranger.

    • Cara says:

      Your comment about part time availability is so important, also what Liz mentioned about flexible working hours. The all-or-nothing “system” of rigid hours (and places) for work and family is still a problem. So frustrating- where are the imaginative disruptors we need?

      • Rodney says:

        Yes!! Would have loved to work part time but would have had to pay for full time daycare anyway as that’s really all that was available. So I ended up working full time.

    • Sarah says:

      Yes! We have this problem too–we could swing just three days of childcare a week because my husband has flexible hours as a PhD student–but we haven’t been able to find a daycare provider that will do just three days, and we’re leery of in-home care.

      I also so relate to your feelings about returning to work. We were so, so incredibly lucky to have my little sister come nanny for us for the first year, but even knowing our son would be with someone I trusted, it tore my heart into tiny little pieces having to leave him at 8 weeks to go back to work. It felt so unnatural to leave him behind–I used to calculate every minute I’d be apart from him, and when I asked my boss if I could work from home a couple of days a week, she was totally inflexible. I ended up changing jobs because I was so miserable, and after a few weeks of dreading talking to my new boss (and being told I couldn’t work from home), I screwed up the courage and asked, and he was super supportive! So now I’m in the office three days a week, and at home two days a week (where I’m still working, but early on I could nurse/snuggle my little guy, while my sister did the brunt of the childcare). Everyone is so much happier. It was like a fog of doom and dread lifted once I had a couple days to be with my kid, and I think it’s made me a much better employee. So anyway–know that you’re not alone, and don’t be afraid to ask/make a change if it feels like it isn’t working for you!

  18. Steveark says:

    The traditional stay at home mom role still works for some couples. My wife was never strongly attached to her career and she chose to stay at home and handle almost all of the home related and child care work. She grew up on a farm so she also took on all the traditional make roles of carpentry, car maintenance, gardening and yard care. I was much better at making money and I was able to focus on that and to fund our family and a luxurious retirement. We’ve always been equal partners in our decisions and I’ve always supported her choices, and she mine. We are both retired now and remain each other’s best friends as we hike, run, tennis and fish together and with our friends. Our kids flourished under her guidance and all received 100% free college educations. It just made sense due each of us to focus on what we did best, at least it made sense to us. But if she had preferred having a career outside the home we would have worked that out. The main thing is keeping it an equal partnership, and ignoring all that societal pressure to conform to somebody else’s standards.

  19. Ilene says:

    I think it was Temple Bailey who wrote about women choosing the fathers of their children. She said that a girl has every right to gamble with her own future but not with her children’s. So many women carry the burden of child care alone when the father should be part of the process. You are indeed blessed, Liz.

  20. EJ says:

    Really, really love this piece. My husband and I are hoping to have kids soon and we’ve thought a lot about what we want to do in terms of childcare and working versus staying at home. This is so helpful.

  21. Daisy says:

    GREAT POST. My doctoral work explored caregiving ethics, though I looked at it more through the lens of mothers and children with disabilities. Until we start to make childcare available, accessible, and affordable for all women, the labour of women and all caregivers including male caregivers, will remain undervalued and invisible. Women’s unpaid labour benefits society in numerous ways. Society’s ability to function hinges (economically, socially, practically) on women providing extraordinary amounts of unpaid labour. The very fact that our society freaks out at even the slightest hint of having to absorb some of the costs of caregiving is telling.

    We also need to lose the judgment and start celebrating and supporting women in all their choices. Mommy-wars are destructive and do little to further the conversation of how to support women, children, and families.

  22. Brittany says:

    THANK YOU so much for writing this. I think this is my favorite thing you have ever written.

  23. Laura says:

    Great post! I love love love the tolerance and non-judgmentalism and understanding that YMMV and it’s about doing what works for you and your family. To answer your question of how readers dealt with childcare, here’s mine.

    When I was pregnant, I worked a job that was 4 days a week. I made an arrangement with my boss (I later discovered it would not have been allowed by the university we worked for) to work 5 days a week but only record 4 on my timesheet as usual, then use comp time after my son was born against those banked days, again recording 4 days a week work time. It may have been illegal but it worked great (I realize if he’d screwed me over that I would have had no recourse). After 6 weeks of official paid leave, I returned to work 2 days a week until the comp time ran out, which was about 4 months. A friend took care of my son for the 2 days a week I worked – she had just sent her daughter to 1st grade and was looking forward to returning to work when she got pregnant again and it was a high risk pregnancy and she was ordered to lie down as much as possible. Since she could spend her days lying down with a very young infant cuddled with her, I paid her cash under the table. Again, illegal and a win-win that helped all parties involved. When I needed to return to the full 4 days a week, I found a woman who ran an excellent day care out of her home but could only take my son for 2 days a week, so his care was split between the 2 caregivers. The day after the day care woman said she could take him 4 days a week, my friend said she had to give up the arrangement (she did say it helped her new husband and daughter grasp what it would be like to have a young infant in the house while still being able to sleep at night) and he went to the official day care 4 days a week while I took care of him the 1 weekday, which gave me a taste of what it would be like to be a stay-at-home-mom – enjoyable part-time but nothing I would have wanted 24/7.

    The day care was hideously expensive, equivalent to our Boston rent. In additional his FT job, Hubby worked a PT job that paid only the amount of the day care, which was still (a lot) less than my annual salary. We also had zero help from any family members or friends at all, so putting our son in daycare so I could work gave me a sanity break to spend with grownups. About once a month or so my husband and I would put our son in daycare as usual and then take a vacation day from work just to be able to hang out together. In retrospect, daycare also helped our son a lot; he has a shy personality and finds new situations to be challenging, and it helped him to get out of his shell and spend the day playing with other children and be comfortable leaving Mommy, something that paid off when it was time for kindergarten.

    When he was 4, we switched him from family daycare to preschool affiliated with the university and near my office (had put him on the waitlist when he was born) ; he had emotionally outgrown the family daycare and by sheer chance the woman abruptly closed her family daycare a month after he left because her husband was unexpectedly offered a dream job in another country. The preschool agreed to give us a 20% discount normally offered only to grad students because I was hourly staff and not salaried. The cost was still awful and Hubby still had to work FT + PT and it was wearing him down. I made another arrangement with my boss, also illegal but which worked, to go to 5 days a week and be paid for them but one of those days was Sunday. Hubby took care of Son on Sunday and I went to work; my salary in that one day was nearly equal to Hubby’s PT job. Hubby got sleep again and we somehow managed. I cut other costs as much as possible, relying heavily on things like public parks, the library, and free admission hour at museums. But it was a huge relief when he was finally eligible for free kindergarten. When that happened, I went back to my old working hours but PT for 5 days/week instead of FT 4 days/week.

    My advice would be (1) plan ahead as much as you can, (2) think outside the box for potential solutions, (3) sometimes what works and is actually the win-win harming no one is technically illegal or forbidden and you just have to do what you have to do, and (4) what you need only comes along when you actually need it (and goes away as soon as you don’t). Be grateful when it works out, brainstorm for solutions when it’s not, and remember to extend a helping hand to those behind you to pay it forward. Namaste!

  24. Charlie says:

    Childcare unfortunately is a way of life when both parents work. The important thing is the time you spend with your children when you are not at work, when they are not in daycare or school. Children grow so fast that before you know it, they are in high school. We had to use childcare for both of our children, but I would pick them up, take them to the grocery store or running errands and they helped prepare meals were involved in chores and projects at home. As they got older, I would get home, they would already be there off the bus and we would go to activities like their soccer, little league, scouts and church activities. So I spent a lot of time with my children and that was what is important. We did have babysitters on occasion, friends from church and while grandparents were not close by, when we visited them, we got a chance for a date night while grandchildren had time with grandparents.

  25. JP says:

    Can we just print this article out, and mail it to every single human in this entire country??!! Please. Find a way. Love this so so much!!!

  26. Melissa says:

    This is a great post. Thank you!
    When I was a single mom (my children are grown now), I was working and going to school to pull us out of poverty, but there is NO WAY I could have accomplished that without state subsidized childcare. I was embarrassed to need this help, but it was absolutely necessary. I grappled with extreme guilt, not only for leaving my kids in childcare, but also for needing help to do so. I am eternally grateful for those systems of support that helped me improve our financial lives and am not shy about sharing my experience any time someone degrades the “welfare” system. Childcare is a necessity to end cycles of poverty for women. Period.

    • Diana says:

      Thanks for sharing this critical perspective!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Melissa, you are spot on and I couldn’t have said it better myself: “Childcare is a necessity to end cycles of poverty for women.” Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing this to the discussion.

  27. RSM says:

    My husband and I did the following things to deal with childcare: (1) started our marriage by living on just his salary for a couple of years before we had kids, so we didn’t lifestyle inflate – kids are expensive, and I knew I wanted to stay at home for an extended period of time — it ended up being 10 years! This is counter to the general philosophy of my demographic – everyone I know is two professional, dual income with full-time nannies but it wasn’t for us (2) had children very far apart in age to lessen the logistical craziness (they are 8 years apart) (3) have only 2 kids (4) live near family (5) have a very flexible, challenging, interesting part-time job but that would be supplemental income – it all goes to retirement and longer-term investments (6) have really good school options – my kids’ schools are 2 minutes and 4 minutes away from house. As I write it, I consider myself very, very fortunate for having scored this set-up, but it wasn’t without a lot of “going against the grain” and judgment about someone with my professional education and background ought to be doing or where we should be living (oh, it’s worth noting we moved from a very high-cost coastal city to a small low-cost midwestern one).

  28. JM says:

    THIS is what I’ve been waiting to read on this site ever since the discussion of how “inexpensive” kids actually are began appearing in posts. Thrifting, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, accepting hand-me-downs, whatever your tactic du jour for saving money on children – NONE of them count for anything compared to the cost of childcare. The notion that a parent can creatively frugalize their way out of children drastically impacting your savings, financial security or career goals is as toxic as an assumption that bearing the brunt of it is a woman’s responsibility. As someone who on multiple occasions did not have the privilege to make a choice in the situation (financially, needing health insurance, etc. despite childcare costing HALF of my salary with a graduate degree), I appreciate the truth revealed in this discussion. So important, thank you!

    Government FI articulated this well in tandem with what you are expressing here.
    https://governmentworkerfi.com/daycare-obstacle-retirement/

    • GovWorker says:

      Hi JM! Thanks so much for sharing my article. As a small blogger you have no idea how much this meant to me to know that some stranger is reading my blog and felt like it was good enough to be compared to someone like the Frugalwoods! You made my day!

      I loved Liz’s perspective on childcare, and glad that she also feels like a better parent when she has time away from her kids. I know I’m a much better dad after I’ve had a chance to be expressive and productive in my own pursuits in my day job.

      Thanks again <3

    • Diana says:

      YES YES YES YES YES. Example: I have an UppaBaby Cruz stroller (bought new) which is considered this lux thing for spoiled parents and kids, but in reality it was the cost of one WEEK of childcare where I live and I plan on using it for about 5 years across 2 kids. So how exactly was thrifting that item supposed to help me in the grand scheme of things when I have thousands and thousands of dollars in childcare costs hanging over my head for many years? If I were to look at my “kids” category in my budget, it’s like 90% care and 10% diapers, food, clothes, etc. Focusing on reducing the 10% isn’t the main issue at all. I still luuuuuuv hand me downs but it’s not what’s making or breaking things here.

    • L says:

      Yes! If I could change one thing about PF blogs, it would be the pervasive notion that children are inexpensive. This is patently false. Childcare in the US is very costly, and depending on where you live, can be very hard to find. Like you, we do second-hand clothing, home-made meals, breastfeeding (which had it’s own expenses since I needed a few LC visits that weren’t covered by insurance) but it is a drop-in-the-bucket. I guess if you want top-of-the-line everything kid related, it’s going to be more pricey just like anything else but covering just the basics is still very expensive. Childcare has been by far the biggest expense in raising my daughter, followed by medical costs (health insurance is another relatively difficult to control expense in the US). I also hate the statement that stay at home parents save on childcare. Yes, they do. But you are also giving up your current (and according to many studies, future) salary. When you have a child you either take a huge income hit or a big expense hit. Kids are NOT cheap.

  29. Marina says:

    Yes, thank you thank you thank you for this excellent post! I think I speak for a lot of us in being very grateful that you have more childcare so that you can write more posts on parenting and other topics!

    Our current childcare is as follows: Two kids (almost 4 and 16 months) in full time daycare while husband and I both work full time. We’ve had more or less the same arrangement since the oldest was 4 months, and we’ve also been fortunate to have my parents nearby, so the youngest was with my dad for two days a week when he was a baby. You’re right, having willing and available family nearby to help with childcare is a gift, and we’re grateful. Both my husband and I find fulfillment in doing well at our jobs, getting recognized and promoted, and yes, getting paid! There’s no shame in this and I personally think it helps both partners to have the other work, as then neither one feels the need to work too much (we’re not FI yet, although that is another way to get there).

    In any case, I truly believe that what’s best for the kids is having two happy, fulfilled parents, regardless of how much they work or what they do for work, although I am deeply aware that childcare decisions are often driven not just by personal choice but by societal pressure, financial constraints and, of course, the patriarchy!! I hope that my generation is breaking this down, even a little bit, every day. I know I try to do my best to show the value of both work and caregiving in my corporate America office, even though change is slow.

    And you’re right that our childcare situation is going to keep evolving. I actually think I’ll want to spend more time with the kids when they’re older (small kids are cute but they are SO.MUCH.WORK and hard to have a conversation with, haha. We may end up working from home more or thinking about part-time, but the awareness that our current set-up doesn’t have to (but can be!) forever is nice.

  30. Kathryn says:

    So much fricken yes!! This article is everything said perfectly!!! I quit my full time job with a commute after I tried it for a few months. I would have loved to stay with the company I had worked my way up from the bottom and felt so connected with and loved my amazing co workers, but they didn’t do part time positions and I couldn’t find part time childcare (you could send your baby part time, but the cost is the same). I’m happy I quit and I’m happy at home with my 16 month old. But I tell people all the time, there should be more flexiable, part time positions. There is a fleet of well educated and/or well trained parents out there who want to contribute but also want to be with there kids a lot. I made a bit more money then my husband and carried all the benifites. So when we decided I would quit, we had to navigate the heathcare market place (which I am happy exists) and had to put our simple life values and talk to the test. We were so glad we only ever lived on one his salery and saved mine, including buying a house we could affort on one salery. I gave our family the flexiablity to find what we needed to do to work. I don’t know how long I will want to stay home and would jump at the right oppertunity, but for now we are happy living our simple life that not spending money gave us.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes! You are so right about part-time, flexible work–I think so many people would jump at it for any number of reasons!

  31. Becca says:

    Anyone have recommendations on free preschool? I work full time with and my husband works a small amount when I am off. We have a 4 month old and 2 year old. Can’t seem to find free preschool for our 2.25 year old:) or even 3…..any suggestions? Sending him to preschool would negate any of my husband’s income. Currently we try to use my fsa for 4 hours of prn baby sitter hours per week to just get things done around the house ie 80/week equals our meals/cleaning/garden. My hubbie has maybe 2 days of 8 hours a week to work.

    • Marcia says:

      This is heavily location dependent. Where I live the free preschools are all public schools (elementary), with a 2 year preschool option, usually in lower income school areas. Other cheaper options for preschools are co-ops (not free, but you have to volunteer a certain # of hours a week at the school and take classes). After that, the next cheapest options are associated with churches.

      • Jenny says:

        Just a note- “free” preschool/daycare centers are paid for by TAXES, right? Whether it’s income tax, property-owners tax, sales tax…someone has to pay those taxes.

  32. Kelly says:

    I love this, and I LOVE the phrase of Leaning Into The Phase of Life You’re In. You write beautifully.

  33. KNinChicago says:

    My baby is now over 10 weeks old (So old! so big! So not a newborn any more! I can’t take it!) and we opted for my husband to be the stay at home parent!

    We have no family in the area, his parent are about an hour away. I don’t want to leave my son with anyone not trained in baby care at this age, even though he seems so grown up compared to when he was first born he’s still not ready for that. I am back to work and I do like that I don’t have to worry about leaving work to get him from daycare, that definetly makes my life easier.

    My husband didn’t earn as much as I did when he was working. It would have been cheaper to send our son to daycare and have my husband keep working. However it wasn’t *that much* cheaper and we are all a lot happier with this solution for now. The extra costs have added a lot for peace of mind and convenience. I really like how your attitude has shifted, Liz. It’s not always about saving the most money. It is absolutely about putting your money where your values are. So much of the financial blogosphere thinks the values are about RE, it’s so hard to find good financial blogs that are for people that aren’t single, childless, and well under 30.

    Like you say it is always a moving target. What worked for our child’s needs one week no longer work the next so frequently already even at this early age–for example, he might need me to wake at 3am to feed him. OK, inconvenient, but I figure out how to configure my needs to fit with his needs. Five days later: Surprise! Baby can now go longer without feeding. Now I need to feed him at 5am. Time to reconfigure my needs again to fit with this new schedule. I do think that maybe around age 2 or so we will also shift to paid child care. This will give him interaction and structure that he wouldn’t get at home.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      10 weeks already! WOW! Congrats on making it this far!!! Sounds like a great system for your husband to stay at home. And you are so right about the moving target: it’s constant.

  34. Emily says:

    I could have written a less eloquent version of this post. Particularly “… I vacillated between a fierce, over-protective guarding of my kids and an apathetic desire to never spend time with them.” Wow. That nails it.

    I left a meaningful career to be a stay at home mom, but found myself needing another outlet. I now work part time from home and after working during naps and in the cracks, we’ve gotten some paid childcare. It is a game-changer.

  35. RG says:

    Great post! And a big yes to letting things change as time goes on.

  36. Mary in Texas says:

    I was the primary child care giver for our daughter for 10 years. However my husband took care of her one evening a week and Saturday afternoons. I also did quite a bit of volunteering that provided me with childcare during that time period. When started pre-kindergarten, I spent some of my volunteer time with that program. That continued into to kindergarten and lower grades. My husband’s salary was not huge, and we both spent money on hobbies (his was an expensive one). I cooked from scratch, gardened, and shopped carefully He came home one day laughing because someone had asked him where he got his extra income—we couldn’t possibly live that well on his salary. I started full time salaried work to save money for college tuition and to finish paying off our mortgage. We thought we had worked out the best way for all of us. Our daughter followed our example except that she began working when her second (and younger) child entered kindergarten—working at their school so that her location and hours coincided,

  37. Margaret says:

    I love this post! I have always been a full time working mother. I have been blessed to have my mom care for my 3 daughters for the past 15 years. There were some times that my mom had some medical issues. Thankfully, I was able to have other extended family care for the. My cousin ran an in home day care. Here in rural NM it is very common for extended family (usually grandmas or aunts) to provide childcare. It is also common for stay at home mothers to run an in home day care. I pay my mom a modest amount because caring for my children prevents her from doing other activities and the kids eat her food! My husband and I have chosen to stay in our rural town for mainly for this family support. I had we moved away from family, one of us would have been a stay at home parent (probably him). I will admit that my desire for family support has prevented me from advancing at work. Mostly because I don’t want to move. But I am completely at peace with that choice. There will be time for career advancement after the kids are grown. I will soon be moving to a new phase of life. My youngest will start kindergarten in August. My other two are teenagers. The child care money will go toward college savings instead!

  38. Marcia says:

    My kids are almost-14 and 7. We both work full time. I’ve had a grand total of 2.5 year where I worked part time (1.5 years when kid 1 was 18 mos to 3, 1 year with kid #2 from birth to age 1). Part time, however, was 30-35 hours a week, so I still needed full time childcare.

    Both my kids were in full time home daycares. Kid #1 until 3.5, then onto public preschool (not free) for 2 years. Kid #2 until age 4, then onto private preschool (definitely not free) for one year. We do not get kid free vacations. We almost never get date nights. We would occasionally get a babysitter (at $15/hour+) for our company holiday parties. Working outside the home doesn’t leave time or energy for much. Our families are far far away (east coast), only 2 grandparents anyway, and they are older.

    So. Once kids are in school, you still need childcare. Sick days, teacher in-service days, random school days off, school canceled due to snow (not here), wildfires (yes, here), mudslides (yep), coronavirus (it’s coming, you know it is). Then there is after school care and summer camps. My kids have both done the at school after school programs. In 6th grade, we let our older kid walk home from school alone once a week. In 7th grade, we had him at the junior high after school program (his is the only one with that). He did some video-making class but otherwise, used it for homework. In 8th grade, he was done with that, so he stays late one night for a science program but comes home at 3:30 otherwise.

    For summer camps, we would generally pick all-day cheap ones (occasionally we’d get lucky with free). Some of the other summer camps are more fun – think cooking, sports, surfing, zoo, etc. But here’s the difference: the expensive camps are $300-450 a WEEK and they go from 9 to 3 for a full day. Don’t know about you, that ain’t a full day. So we would always fill the summer with the $180-220 full day camps at the university or the YMCA (where a full day is actually a full day – 9 to 5 or 8 to 5:30). We’d add in 1-3 “fun” camps, and usually take 1-2 weeks off.

    Once big kid got, well, big (last summer at 13), we switched to half day camps like volleyball. He’s mostly capable of staying out of trouble otherwise. This coming summer, he wants ALL volleyball (he likes the afternoons off), but I told him he has to get himself home (4.5 mile bike ride) because I can’t be dropping off and picking up at 9 and 12 for an entire summer.

    We really should do more dates. No need for a sitter anymore, but I guess we are just really tired!

  39. Barbara says:

    My child is now 11. My goodness how things have evolved depending on my child’s needs and our job situations. I was a stay at home mom for a bit. When I went back to work after my husband was laid off, it was in a childcare center that gave me a 50% off tuition discount. The first time anyone outside the family babysat for him, it was so I could go on a job interview. We’ve each had time being the breadwinner and we’ve each stayed at home. Right now, I’m working 30 hours a week and my husband is full time. My son is heading off to middle school soon and I’m sure things will change again. My husband and I have had to be way more flexible about our roles and had many more changes than I would have thought before having my child.

  40. Melissa says:

    Oh goodness YES. My kids are now 6 and 8. I limped through their baby, toddler, and preschool years with untreated postpartum depression. There are no superlatives strong enough to describe what a better mother I would have been had I just gotten more help and, at the minimum, joined a gym with some childcare. It felt weak and wasteful to do that, but now I look back at those years and think, there were so many lovely memories but so many wasted days of misery because I just wouldn’t get out of my own way. I hope your post spreads far and wide and that somewhere out there a little like me reads it at the right time. : )

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I am so sorry to hear you had untreated PPD. It is the worst and I too really regret all the time I went before diagnosis just thinking “I guess it’s this awful for all parents?”

  41. Mariah says:

    YES! Childcare need to be talked about for the 60%+ of families with two working parents. The one childcare frugal move I want to call out is Co-op schools. Many are 1/2 day, but not all.
    Typically co-op schools involve some parent shift work, BUT the ‘contribution’ doesn’t have to be in class time, it can be some other time/ skills contribution. My daughter goes to a co-op preschool that is open 7 am-6 pm 5 days a week. We (I) work 8 hours a month to offset the cost and also know the other parents. Since I have a job with a fairly regular schedule I work 2 hours every other Friday by moving my hours a bit on my one work from home day. I’m not really into cleaning counters and sorting kid art. I mean it’s okay for 4 hours. What I love is the other 4 hours where I run the website I build for them, create community on social media and blog.
    The cost savings are about $250-300 a month vs traditional care, so the hours actually pencil for me financially. I love the community and using my web skills. My daughter loves having mommy or daddy “do shift” every two weeks.
    Full day Co-op preschools my not be common, but they are out there and are saving us $3000+ off our $20k child care bill every year (this is for two kids, not just my daughter).

  42. Angela says:

    What a great post! Thank you, it bothers me so much that women get judged for whatever childcare arrangements they make, when men seldom are.

    My children are 5.5 and 7 and I’m still a SAHM, and boy, I get asked every week by someone when I am going back to work – usually with the implication that I’m wasting my brain and throwing my career away.

    We are frugal, and I don’t have to work for us to pay the bills. My husband is a pastor, which means he can work some pretty odd hours at times, and Sundays of course, which limits our family time. At the moment I’m enjoying being the master of my own day, and I volunteer in the community. I am able to get most jobs done during the week so that when Saturday rolls around we are able to spend family time together having fun, and for me, that’s priceless. I also appreciate the flexibility to roll with sick days, holidays, after school activities etc. This arrangement works for US right now and that’s all that matters.

  43. Staci R says:

    This is a wonderful post, thank you for being so transparent and honest about your need for occasional alone time (to work or to go on a date or to just be a person without another human hanging off of you!). I need that time too, and I feel like I’m a more attentive, patient, self-confident mother for it.

  44. Laurie says:

    When I grew up in the 80’s, the men (boys) used to sound like this.
    “Oh man, dude, I can’t go out with you tonight. The old lady says I have to babysit the kids. My life sucks.”

    Made me SO angry.

    • JD says:

      Laurie,
      I once snapped at a co-worker who said he had to baby-sit the kids for his wife that night. I asked him, “Aren’t you their biological father?” (knowing he was). He said of course he was, and looked at me like I was crazy. I said, “Does your wife ‘baby-sit’ the kids when you aren’t home? No? And why not? Because she is their parent! And you are their parent! You can’t ‘baby-sit’ your own kids!” He hemmed and hawed around a little and said he guessed I was right, to which I said I never wanted to hear him say he was a baby-sitter to his own kids again. I’m sure I overstepped all kinds of boundaries, but that’s one thing that I can’t stand. No, dads don’t baby-sit their own children, they raise them.

  45. Jane says:

    I have a 2yo and a 5yo, and I feel very lucky in that my husband and I own a restaurant for which I work around 12 hours a week around my toddlers naps and at night when both kids are asleep. I can do all my work from home (marketing/bookkeeping/admin), so we haven’t needed to spend money on childcare. That said, my husband takes our 2yo two mornings a week when the restaurant is closed, and my mother travels here from another city about 3 hours away once every two weeks to babysit, so I get a solid block of time to work then. I don’t love having to work at night after the kids have gone to bed and all I want to do is put my feet up and read, but I only have 2 more years with my toddler at home until she can start preschool, and then I’ll have several days a week to get my work done and increase my involvement in the business and hopefully also its earnings.

  46. Ada says:

    Wonderful post. Thank you.

  47. Amanda says:

    Thank you for posting this. We don’t have kids yet but want to be financially prepared for the expense of daycare or me not working as we don’t live near family. It’s helpful to be reminded that it’s only short-term.

  48. Caryatis says:

    So how do people who don’t have support from relatives find overnight childcare? I’ve heard that it’s hard to find babysitters willing to work overnight, but it seems essential if you ever want a kidfree vacation. Is this one of those cases where you just have to throw enough money at the problem?

    • Jessie says:

      I have 0.0 children currently – but, as someone who has been an overnight babysitter & also been overnight babysat myself, here are some thoughts that come to mind – maybe they’ll spark a scenario that would work for you!

      I think these will be heavily dependent on your kiddos ages…
      1. One summer my parents dropped my brother & I off at an overnight camp & then drove straight to the airport – we were all GIDDY at this arrangement.
      2. We’ve had relatives come in from out of town to stay with us. I assume my parents paid the travel expenses – but discuss that with your relatives if this seems to be a workable arrangement. Depending on ages, etc, you could also potentially drop kids off on the way to a vacation. Maybe drive to a relatives house & then fly out of THEIR airport?
      3. Could you cobble together a sleep-over or two with some different families that your kiddos are friends with? Probably not helpful if you have a one year old as I would guess they don’t have many baby friends, but possible if kiddos are older. You could repay the favor to them down the line! Or pay them either in traditional $ or things like pizza or food gift cards for stressful nights.
      4. If you kiddos go to a day-care or other type of care program would one of the teachers or staff be willing to do overnight babysitting, or be able to recommend someone?

      As a college student I overnight babysat several times for several nights – BUT, it was usually on a break from school which made it convenient that I didn’t need to go to classes during the day. Maybe think about lining up care with a break like that?

  49. Kris says:

    Great post as usual!! At the end of the day, all that matters is what is best for you as parent and your kids!! We have to factor in time, finances and other situations to figure out if childcare is best for everyone. For us, me and my wife work 9-5 jobs and with two boys(3 and 8 months old) we are fortunate to have my in-laws take care of our 8 month old and our 3 year old is getting really comfortable with preschool full time after about 7 months now. If my in-laws we’re to come up to us one day and say they can’t babysit full-time anymore and rather do it part-time or not at all anymore then we would find out if we have take him to daycare or one of us have to quit our jobs. We wouldn’t blame if they did that to us because we’ll already fortunate that they are doing babysitting him. Having family around is really helpful so their is no worries about paying for a babysitter.

  50. Priscilla says:

    Love this post! I’m definitely a better parent for having work outside the home and childcare! It’s expensive, but as you noted, I’m reminding myself it’s just a few years.

  51. Katie Camel says:

    “In my book, I talked about how proud I was that we didn’t pay for childcare for our first daughter. Now I’m writing about how proud I am that we DO pay for childcare for our second daughter. This wasn’t an easy transition for me. I equated spending money on something I could do myself (watch my kids) with failure as both a mother and a financial writer.”

    This part concerned me at first, but you continued with how you reconciled yourself to spending according to your values. I’m glad you’ve found peace with spending money on something that obviously benefits you all. There’s a fine line between being overly frugal to the detriment of your life and spending to improve your life. I think you’ve struck that balance well.

    And I agree with the part about how one’s desires to stay home or work change after the child is born. I don’t have kids, but I’m a nurse (meaning I work with oodles of young women) and have witnessed this change countless times over the years. The only commonality is that everyone is dying to go home at the end of the shift, even more so than pre-baby. All the moms want to work fewer hours and most would love to be part-time to maintain that balance of work/mom life. Many of them want to continue their careers, maintain seniority (this is a big deal in nursing) and earn income. After witnessing this challenge among so many young moms, I encourage the youngest nurses to take this possibility into consideration before getting married and having kids and buying a house. No one else seems to warn them.

  52. Monica Miller says:

    Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you THANK YOU SO SOMUCH!!! For all your posts, for being frank, vulnerable in sharing mistakes, for emphasizing there’s no single right way to go, for reminding us again and again all the ways in which society sets us women up for failure (and then blames us), for sharing the specifics of what’s has/has not worked for you and your family. Thank you!!!!! (Single working mother of two, who left an inequitable & financially fraught marriage of 14 years, for personal healing/growth & financial responsibility & freedom!! I’ve needed your encouragement & inspiration!!)

  53. Beth says:

    I’ve been living a somewhat parallel life to you guys since you lived in Cambridge (and I in Newton) then moved to VT (and I to the woods of MA) and had 2 kids around the same time. I planned on being home full time and expected it to feel like a blessing. I NEEDED this post from you to validate my feelings that sending my kids away part time is better for everyone and it’s absolutely fine and normal to feel that way. I also found the courage to tell to my doctor about anti depressants and it’s been the boost I needed. I am so grateful for your honesty, especially in the face of how mom-martyring the crunchy granola culture can be. You have single handedly improved my outlook on myself as a mom who is thriving and not failing due to the need for time away from my kids. Thank you!

    • Marty says:

      Also living a parallel life, moving from the city to rural New England with kids the same age as yours. I also dreamed I would be a SAHM just like my mom. This post was very validating. Since having kids I’ve always need stories of parents that are SAH but also send their kids to preschool/daycare to make me feel like I’m not a failure. I’m working on this and trying to focus on what works for our family. We desperately need more childcare, because I’m drowning over here.

      I realized sending your child to preschool three days a week really averages out to two days a week when you factor in snow days, school vacations, sickness. I have always underestimated how much childcare we needed because of my need to be a martyr. This fall I’m spending all the money on preschool and doing my best not to feel guilty about it.

  54. M.Mckenzie says:

    Bravo, what a tremendous piece of writing. The parent guilt of childcare has been a constant in my life for eight years. My own mother stayed home and the judgement I (not my husband!) gets for sending our children to daycare has done so much damage to my psyche and relationship with my mother. Thank you for such a balanced and thoughtful post.

  55. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for this great post. I feel like all I ever blog and tweet about these days is being a working mom and paying so much for childcare! I think the more people talk about this, the more we all can normalize all the different ways families handle childcare, and get rid of all the judging and shaming. And maybe an improved/less expensive way to manage everything!

  56. Ann Moody says:

    Yet another problem with child care is deciding when your kid doesn’t need it anymore. We moved from a smaller home to a larger one just a couple of miles down the road when my daughter was ten years old. She’d never been left alone until that point, but during the move we left her for 30-60 minutes at a time at one house or the other as we hauled loads back and forth. She was fed and watered prior to each departure, and could easily entertain herself for long periods with her electronic toys / electronic communication with her virtual friends. Regardless, I was nervous, guilty, nearly paranoid about leaving her alone for the short periods, certain something terrible would happen in our absence, though she was locked into the building, with all blinds closed, with instructions to ignore any knocks on the doors and rings from the phone, to avoid stoves and matches and sharp objects (as always).

    She did fine, and this was the beginning of the end of child care for us. Now at age 14, of course, she can take care of herself. But it’s a tough question. State laws are not typically clear on what age children can legally be left alone but rather use language based on the child’s ability to keep themselves safe and meet their own needs. In addition to financial considerations, there is the helicopter parent aspect. When are they ready to grow up a little? When should we loosen the reigns? What are the risks? It’s enough to make a mom go nutty.

  57. Jess says:

    I paid a very large lump of money to my daughter’s preschool every month with a song in my heart because she goes to a really great school with amazing.

    I get to be a SAHM for most of the summer since I work at an elementary school and it’s great to have that opportunity to enjoy our time together. I’ve also noticed that by 4 my kid can do more independent play and doesn’t need constant interaction

  58. RR says:

    Here in Minnesota (Minneapolis suburb) several nearby churches offer Parents Day Out Programs. They run during the school year, typically 930a-230p. You pick only ONE day per week (while they run 4 days a week), which helps the churches avoid costly licensing and insurance issues. But the cost is extremely affordable ($60/month). I’ve utilized several of these myself for a couple days a week to run errands and have some me-time and I know some people with flexible work hours cobble a couple of these programs together for less expensive child care. The people that work there have been absolutely amazing to my daughter, she LOVES going and seeing her friends too. They aren’t super well advertised so maybe something to look into in your local communities.

  59. Jen says:

    I was a young and VERY poor divorced Mom of one daughter in the 1970s and 80s. I had to do all sorts of things to get by, and it worked out pretty well, although now I can’t imagine how I managed with all the stress. I was extremely lucky to have a flexible, social, resilient girl and a good “village” of family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and a wonderful local “nursery school” that gave me a discount, etc. And there was no decision to agonize over, then- it was work or don’t eat and live on the street or something! I was able to go on to school and get out of the cycle of poverty, and didn’t have more children even after I married again. Several long stories here…
    Being very far out from the kids in day care stage of life now, I’m curious- how much do people who work in pre-schools/child-care facilities make? The ones I am aware of seem to make just above minimum wage. How about home day care providers? Healthy food, supplies, and insurance are costly, but where do all of those hundreds of dollars go? I hope the workers are well-paid and happy in their work, because it must be exhausting, and we sure don’t want miserable people being with our kids all day…

  60. Suzan says:

    How I love your words. Honesty amongst women about their children tends to be stretched. I suffered post partum depression but my partner honestly didn’t care. I chose to be at home to the detriment of my career. My caring was extended because my father developed early Alzheimer’s disease.

    Roll on to now. I look after my mother full time and my granddaughter who is almost two and a half two or three days each week. Mia’s mother is a mum who benefits from working. She loves her girl dearly but the physical cost was great. Pip was sick throughout her pregnancy with hyperemesis and then preeclampsia. She needed her time and space and loves her job. Some days I wish I wasn’t so busy with caring. For example this week I will be taking mum to her skin specialist and we will have Miss Mia with us. Wednesday will be a similar story.

    Every parent needs validation and non judgement. Most parents do without and put their children’s needs first.

  61. Lisa says:

    Don’t have kids but as a woman I can’t tell you how much I love this article. Its so needed! Thank you for being vulnerable enough to share your side of things. Glad you are in a better place and love the blog!

  62. Lisa O says:

    This is just so great for all women! You show that change is always acceptable. What is right this year may not be right next year and that is 100% the truth. I keep telling my daughter “This too Shall Pass”. It doesn’t matter if it is good or bad, it is raising a child in this ever changing world. I worked full time raising my 2 children because I had the stable paycheck and the health insurance. I am thankful that I did because after the divorce, I needed to take care of me and my children. I believe the most important thing is the health of the Mom because she is the glue! Dads are important and if you ware blessed with a caring husband and father you are lucky. Not every women has that story.

  63. Sarah says:

    Lovely, balanced viewpoint as usual. And how right you are about women (especially mothers) being scrutinized for every single choice. I work full time outside the home and while I wish I had the opportunity to spend more time with my son I also know that staying home to care for my son full time isn’t for me. I’m working hard on achieving financial independence so that by the time he is in elementary school I can work part-time during the school day and get to hang out with him in the afternoons!

    I really feel that we need to reject the working mom vs stay at home mom dichotomy. All moms work and work very hard at that. Whether that work happens in your own home or out of the home comes down to what works best for you and your family.

  64. JD says:

    Great post, great viewpoints from comments, too. I stayed at home until my first child was three years old and the second one was seven months old, until finances forced me to go back to work. I got criticized, first, for staying at home, then later for putting the kids in daycare. My husband was never criticized nor questioned about where our kids were staying. I agree, there was no winning for me on that one.

    Fast forward, my first grandchild was due. How many people asked me (and the other grandmother-to-be) if I was going to quit my job and baby-sit my grandchild? Plenty. The other grandmother told me her answer was, “That grandchild didn’t make my bills suddenly disappear,” which I thought was a good response. How many people asked my husband or the other grandfather-to-be if they were going to quit their jobs and stay home with the baby? Zero.

    We definitely need more flexible work times, more shared responsibilities, more child care opportunities and financial assistance. I know a young couple who pay four-fifths of the wife’s state employee income to pay for daycare, but the wife has great insurance through her state job, and the husband makes a much better salary but has much worse insurance, so they both continue to work and wait for that day when all the kids are in school.

    One last thing, about the June Cleaver image of a stay at home mom in the boomer days — the kids back in the day were sent out to play after breakfast and again after lunch, so mom got a couple of good sized breaks every day. When the kids were trapped indoors by bad weather, mothers talked about the kids driving them crazy. Kids are wonderful, amazing creatures, but everyone needs a break now and then, and those stay at home moms back then took breaks. The mothers of toddlers and infants who still needed lots of supervision often took coffee breaks together so it was not all on any one mom to watch the little ones. And there was a playpen or Baby Tenda in many a home that kept little ones corralled.

    I would love to see longer maternity AND paternity leaves, more assistance with day care, and more assistance for those who stay at home, such as the Parents’ Day Out that RR spoke of. Raising kids isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea and not everyone wants or can have kids, but we do need *someone* to bring forth and raise up our future inventors, writers, plumbers, professionals, artists, consumers, employers, employees, and friends. Let’s make it easier for them to do that, how about?

  65. Jill Laidlaw says:

    I stayed at home with my 3 kids for 10 years and went through everything you mentioned. In returning to work, I think the most important thing for me (other than money and autonomy) was the message to my kids that it is good to work and work is important and that they will (one day) also work. I am in my 60’s and when my kids were little, it was probably more common to be a stay-at-home mom. While we had the luxury of living on one pay cheque for that period of time, I like to think that, by returning to work, I opened up “what was possible” for my girls.

  66. Audra VG says:

    I love this post so much. My children have always been in daycare, but I constantly struggle with this. I struggle with hating that they go, and also loving that they go. My oldest went to a center starting at 5 months and continued until he started kindergarten. My toddler started at the same center, but then we changed to an in home. That was life changing right there! The center was 20 minutes away and when my oldest started kindergarten I was doing drop off and pick up. Plus there was tons of construction and so it was actually taking me 30-45 minutes to get there – with a screaming baby. Now my toddler goes to an in home that is a one minute drive from my house. he LOVES it and bonus, he is learning Spanish. It also saves us $500/month. However, no regrets about the center for my oldest. He really thrived there. I’ve often questioned though whether I’m making the right decision putting them in daycare. They grow up SO fast!!! but my career (professor at research intensive university) would mean that I’d leave my career pretty much for good if I took time off. My oldest had tons of health problems and so juggling that and work was really really hard. Honestly some days it was great to just have a work from home day where I was the only one there. Also I like my job! well most of the time. 🙂 I like what I do, and I believe in what I do, and I think that is a great skill to teach my sons. However, I celebrate the women who either by choice or necessity stay at home with their children. They get to experience things I missed out on, and that time is something I can never get back. I love how you put all this out in such an honest, fresh perspective. Thank you for your blog and all that you do!!

  67. Dawn says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I’ve experienced so much back and forth with trying to find a balance in being home or going back to work. And the world is extremely opiniated. I did go back to work, but the corporate hours are not flexible with school hours and sick days. And now I’m enjoying being a stay at home mom/wife. I find it extremely fulfilling now. But just like you said, things will always keep changing. Thank you for being so open and honest and sharing how hard it is for women.

  68. C says:

    I’ve now ready every comment here, & am overall pleased that there is kindness & compassion for the many varied opinions and situations in which each family must make decisions regarding their careers/work/family and childcare decisions. That being said, I take issue with the following judgment of commenter LongTimeFrugal, who said “watch closely the day your kid starts kindergarten (for the record,I am not a fan of homeschooling) you’ll be able to spot the kid/kids of the above stay at home parent”
    We did homeschool 3 children, one from 6th grade on & 2 homeschooled exclusively. This, as every other commenter has said of their choices, was our choice. We made this decision deliberately and, sacrificialy, as we forfeited one career/income to do so. One of us came from a moderately comfortable, 2 parent home, in which the stay at home parent, also worked at home. The other parent came from a single parent, near poverty level home, in which a grandmother cared for the children while the mother worked. Both of us are college educated; one with a Masters Degree, & both attended public schools all the way through university. Our decision to have a stay at home parent/homeschooling family didn’t, in our view, deprive our children. They were socialized from an early age, received a balanced education, and taught respectful and compassionate ideals. Today, they are all adults, 2 of whom work FT for nonprofits, the 3rd is a small business owner, who volunteers with many non profit and civic causes. Homeschooling allowed all three to pursue the arts, sports, and philanthropy, while simultaneously learning a plethora of ways to live their lives frugally; many of which are highlighted on this blog. As of Ms. Frugalwoods blog post on 3/18/20, or thereabouts, most any family with a child aged preschool through high school, for certain and some early dismissed college students, are suddenly homeschooling families as well.
    It seems to me that many quoted here,
    (as well as the shift over time of Mr. & Mrs. Frugalwoods’ thinking about their own childcare choices ), have, at different seasons seen the need to adjust their family’s priorities and needs for their children as they’ve seen fit.
    I will add that Jen, (who posted on 3/2) makes a very valid and sobering point. The very people who are attending to children in daycares/day schools, etc are not making very high wages. This seems especially sad, because they are adjunct to the childrearing and early education of our children. While daycare costs seem high in many regions, the wages of these essential personnel are not commensurate with their commitments.
    I would caution against judgements when we do not have all the facts of a particular family’s circumstances.
    We are not remorseful of our decision to homeschool our children; nor of the financial sacrifices our decisions required. We, like the rest of you, made the best decisions for our family with the knowledge and resources available to us at the time.
    In the current COVID situation, many, including our family, are needing to make new decisions and adjustments, and will do so with the same frugality and wisdom with which we have exercised this far.

  69. Ashley says:

    This is an amazing article! I got tears in my eyes just reading this. Both of our moms stayed home in the 70’s when it was a huge privilege and drilled into our childhood what a huge importance it was to be a stay at home mom. After my kids were born, I felt so guilty for wanting to work. I have one daughter and I am telling her she can work if she wants and doesn’t even have to be a mom if she doesn’t want to. She is thinking about having several animals instead 😃 But that is her choice. You will be happy to know that my kids are teenagers now and quarantine has been a cinch since I can work in the mornings and not drag them out of bed. 😉 I love reading your articles, Elizabeth, and you have inspired me in so many ways. If this all clears, my son and I are visiting Vermont in the fall. Can’t wait!

  70. Dianne says:

    “The only person who’s really and truly going to care how your lived your life is you”. Wow- this line is so empowering. This was a great article. It blew me away. Most women are so busy trying to please everyone and get it right, that they often put themselves at the end of the line. You can only be as good to others, as you have been to yourself. I always love that you understand how IMPORTANT it is for you and your husband to have time together, alone, to reconnect. I think your in-laws know it as well. Again, great article!

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