I Took a 40% Pay Cut to Be a Better Mother

homecoming weekend

by Alicia Barnes of liciabobesha.com

I always assumed I’d work and have babies. I mean I went to college after all. Then my life looked like this:

6:45 wake, dress everyone
7:15 leave for childcare/work
8:00 start work day
5:15 pick up baby, eat dinner, play with baby, bathe baby
7:30 put baby to bed

On a good work day, I was getting two and a half hours of time with my child. Just two and a half measly hours, when he was so exhausted that he just wanted to nurse and sleep. I felt like I had this baby to never see him.

After he went to bed, my husband and I prepped to do it all over again the next day, preparing breastmilk bottles, washing and stuffing cloth diapers, doing laundry, and cleaning up after our meals.

At work I wanted to crawl under my desk and cry. At home I felt that every moment I had with my child I had to be at 100% to make up for the time I was away.

As hard as I tried to make up for being gone so much I began to realize it was impossible to make up 45+ hours away. I was tired and worse than tired, I was sad, really sad.

Then I saw a job posting at a local community college for an instructor position. It’d be a big pay cut, but I knew it’d make my schedule more flexible. No more 8 to 5 long days, and much of the work, grading, I could do at home after bedtime. I could be around my child while he was awake and the sun was out!

The more I thought about how awesome going part time would be, the more I realized I needed a back up plan in case this job didn’t work out. I sat down with my boss and told her that I was considering leaving for a teaching position to have more time, but I was more interested in staying in my current position part time.

She told me they didn’t want to lose me and would be glad to work on a part-time schedule. It took months to happen, but we timed it for the new fiscal year in October.

My husband and I had hoped he’d be finished with school in August, allowing a smooth transition of him into fulltime employment and me into part time, but that didn’t happen. August came, he was still in school, but I was committed to going part time.

Luckily for years we have saved and lived pretty simply without cable, smart phones, or other luxuries, so we’ve been able to adjust to living on 40% less income. Even with the stress of my husband finishing school and his searching for a job, I’m so much happier and so much less exhausted.

Despite having less money for my family, I’ve been a more cheerful, caring, patient, and present. I can do things for myself like read on a weekday and not feel guilty that I’m not using my little time focused on the baby. I don’t have to cook all weekend to have meals ready for the week. I finally feel like the mother, wife, and person I’ve wanted to be. It’s working out better for everyone.

I feel like a better mother now. Not because I work less, but because I’m taking better care of me. I’m putting my desires and needs as a priority and showing my child more income isn’t a direct line to more happiness.

For mothers considering leaving the workforce, don’t think you can’t, and for mothers wanting to go back, don’t think you shouldn’t. Mothers matter too. We owe it to ourselves and our families to explore all of our options to be happy.

Alicia has been known to add chia and flax seed meal to brownies, so she can eat them guilt free. Besides teaching her one-year-old son to use gentle hands with their two dogs, two rabbits, flock of chickens, and one foster cat for a friend serving in the Peace Corps, she mostly spends too much time on the internet.