So we had a baby back in 2012 (Oscar, he’s 17 months and awesome!). We’d be married nearly 4 years and together for nearly 14 and he was totally planned. But what I didn’t plan for, rather naively, was the financial impact this baby would have on our lives. I’m not talking about the cost of nappies or putting him through University (although holy crap how do we do that!??!). I’m talking about something much more fundamental and that was my capacity to earn.
I absolutely expected to go back to work. I didn’t loooooove my job, but I liked it enough, it was in a sector I wanted to be in and I was doing OK (having been promoted twice in a year). I fully expected to go back once my year of maternity leave was finished. The organisation had a generous maternity package and I saved enough to cover me through the three months at the end of my leave which would be unpaid. I was OK.
However when we started to look into childcare in the local area I was horrified to find out just how expensive it was. I wasn’t on great money (slightly under the national average), but it wasn’t bad. However all of this would be swallowed by childcare fees. When I added to that travelling costs and taxes I found that, even if I went back full-time, I would be paying out more than I earnt per month, without even contributing to the household costs in any way. I was horrified.
We looked at the numbers and realised we could afford for me not to work, but we couldn’t afford for me to continue working in my current role. I knew I should feel grateful. So many people said they wished they were in my position (at least to my face). But for me the thought of giving up any form of financial independence left me feeling slightly nauseous! I just didn’t see it coming and with all the fuss this government makes about “getting people back into work”, how could this even be the case? I was and still am baffled!
So these were the circumstances I found myself in and the circumstances that I have now had to accept. Don’t get me wrong I have days when I absolutely love not having to leave Oscar and days where I feel I’m doing a real bang up job. But there are also days I feel completely isolated and guilty and lacking in any kind of control. I have had my own source of income, one way or another since I was 13 years old. Moving away from that and living a very different life has been harder than I ever anticipated.
But people to do it all the time, some for many years. They seem happy enough. Are they? Maybe I should ask them how they do it and whether they ever felt the same kind of shame I do not contributing and if not how come? Seriously. I’d love to know how to live this life, without feeling guilty all the time.
Or as I said in another post, maybe I just need to look harder for another job. One that pays enough to make it worthwhile, even if it’s only just worthwhile.
I’m not running down what I’m doing. I’m proud of the care I’m able to give my son. A friend said to me the other day “you’re very brave to do this, I don’t think I could do it!”. I don’t feel particularly brave, but it was nice of her to say. I just have to figure out how to move forward in a way that’s best for all of us. And I guess that’s really the biggest change I’ve had to make.
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