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Do the Math

When you are a mom you should avoid math, especially budgets. If you are a mom you should not sit down with a pen, paper and calculator and should avoid Microsoft Excel entirely. Because if you do, you'll start realizing that being a mom doesn't equate to making a lot of money. It equals spending a lot of money and this may be depressing.

When we started paying daycare bills for Caroline we quietly wrote the checks and accepted the fact that the price for someone else caring for our little bundle of joy would be the same as our mortgage. We added it to the list of new expenses that come with having a child, from diapers and formula, fancy car seats and strollers. We traded in ebay purchases and Pottery Barn splurges for Robeez and Hannah Anderson outfits that would last 2-3 months. And although my paycheck had diminished, there was still enough in the bank account each week to help contribute to the bottom line.

Now that our second bundle of joy is on the way, we've long switched to generic diapers even though the tabs always rip off and probably too eagerly say, "Oh yes, please!" when someone mentions the words bag and hand-me-downs in the same sentence. We also asked the new daycare for information about infant care pricing. Against my will we added it all up and of course, it didn't take a ma thematic genius to realize that the price for someone else caring for my joyful bundles would be about two mortgage payments, aka, more than my take home pay.

This brings me to the damned it you do, damned if you don't dilemma that all moms, and maybe some dads, face. Should we stay home or should we work? What's best for the family budget? What's best for the child? What's best for the parents health and mental sanity not to mention career development? There is no right decision. There is no choice that makes everyone happy. Yet no matter what, it means less money in the pockets.

I spent most of the last ten years thinking about my career and what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was going to be the director of a museum or at least a high profile curator or historian. I'd make enough money to buy an old house and fill it with antiques. After a reality check I was happy to work in the field, pay back my loans (that was my first bundle of joy to funnel money from my bank account) and have retirement and health insurance benefits. But I was still looking up at the ladder and seeing potential in my future.

Then I became a parent and all of my goals changed. That ladder looked too high and I was at the bottom, locked in my office pumping milk while the guys had power meetings. I got out the calculator and got angry when I found out that in the last ten years Andy's salary had doubled and mine was almost the same.

I think a lot about return on investment. What do I get for the energy I give? Caroline takes a lot from me including all of my patience and most of my money but what she gives back is worth more than any bullet point I can add to my resume. If she would promise to grow up to be a doctor and take care of me when I'm old I'd put in my resignation today! I'd no longer need health care and retirement, my two biggest benefits for working.

There are two sides to every story and some of you reading this are thinking I should never have gone back to work after the first child. You want to tell me to sell one of our cars, cancel our cable and can my own food. You're living on one paycheck now or you lived on one paycheck before and if there is a will there is a way. You're going to start sending me coupons and suggest I start my own business from home.

Some of you are reading this and telling me that you never stopped working and in today's economy I don't have a choice if I want to be smart. You'll remind me that I spent a great deal of time and money to get a degree and I'd better use it. You'll send me articles about the woes of getting back into the work force after staying home. You'll remind me how many times I visited the doctor last year because I thought I had cancer or a heart attack and that it only cost me a small co-payment each time.

And you'll all tell me that my kids will love me no matter what. I'm a good role model as long as I love them and show them I love myself by doing what is best for me as much as for them. And they'll still love me even if I refuse to do math.

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