Back to Work Mom: Returning to Work After Kids & $ Tips for Familes
In the past few months I’ve watched many of my friends return to work after the end of their mat leave. With a variety of mixed emotions, it’s been an interesting transition for all of us. Some have extended family looking after their child, some have an au pair (if you want to look into or become an au pair, check out Cultural Care Au Pair) and some have enrolled their child in a nursery. One of the things I have reflected on a lot since having Ari is the choice and/ or ability to stay home and be a full time Mom. I know this isn’t for everyone- whether by choice or necessity- but I was curious what life looks like for those ladies (and yes, men too) who dedicate several years of their life to raising their families before re- entering the workforce. I was also curious about how liveable a single income really is.
One Mom I spoke to admitted she wished she had pursued training when her kids were in high school so she could have had a job to return to when her kids had grown. Another had a similar experience, with her previous job no longer in existence since the evolution of the Internet, causing her to re- evaluate her job options. Both really caused me to take a minute and think about what my life might look like in 15+ years. This inspired me to interview a Mom who is now returning to the workforce full time for the first time since her kids were born. I found her story interesting, comforting, and informative (see her 5 tips to help stretch the family budget). I hope you will too. See my interview with Laura Olson below.
TPB: What helped you as a stay- at- home Mom?
Laura: I had my husband’s support and respect. He recognized that everything I did was a job in itself and he treated what I did as a full time job. He would come home from work and help in whatever way he could to give me a break.
TPB: What are some tricks you learned to stretch the family budget?
Laura: For our family, travel with kids wasn’t a priority. We didn’t take our kids on a vacation until our youngest was 6, we would just visit local places like Osoyoos. We didn’t look at travel as the best way to spend money, especially since our kids would be too young to remember the trips. We felt we had better ways to use that money.
We didn’t buy new cars; the vehicles we dove were reliable but used. We knew that not spending that money as a young family would mean that we would be able to use it for other things when our kids were older- such as college. We started saving in RESPs when our kids were young.
TPB: What were some good tips/ rules that helped your family?
Laura: We had a few…
1. Think needs vs. wants
We would take a look at our income and make choices and decisions based on what we had to work with. We would think in term of ‘needs vs wants’; was it something that we really needed, or just wanted? It can start to feel like ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’; we would ask ourselves, do we really need this stuff to be happy?
2: Have a weekly allowance
We would give ourselves a weekly allowance of $60/ week to spend however we chose. This would cover things like coffee and eating out; things like that.
3. Treat credit like cash
We never spent money we didn’t have. If we needed to purchase something on credit, we made sure to have the money in the bank to pay it off in full. If we didn’t have the money, we didn’t buy it. If you’re bad with credit cards, don’t use them at all. Teach yourself to work with what you’ve got.
4. Put money aside throughout the year for big bills
We would put money aside for big bills such as property taxes, etc. Each month we wold put x amount aside towards those bills and would not spend it. We would allocate a certain amount for monthly bills such as groceries and utilities, and used only that amount. We didn’t dip into money that was being saved for other expenses. Furthermore, if your utility bills seem to be spiralling out of control, do not be afraid to consider switching energy provider. For example, some friends of mine recently saved some money by comparing Amigo Energy rates to some other electricity providers and managed to find a fantastic deal.
5. Think about what your ‘bonuses’ are
If we were able to put money aside for a trip, we would do local trips until the kids were older. New clothes for the kids were a bonus; they got hand- me- downs most of the time and didn’t miss out on anything because of it.
TPB: What are some challenges you think families face today?
Laura: Like I mentioned, people get too caught up with stuff. It can be stressful to try and afford things that you really don’t need – however, when it comes to buying absolute necessities, it may be that something like St. Louis hard money loans can get you out of financial difficulty. Kids also seem to be overscheduled; I read an article recently about young teens and anxiety. These kids are suffering because they want instant gratification and don’t know how to deal with things, with life. Too much screen time also seems to be a big issue for causing anxiety in kids. It’s important for kids to learn to entertain themselves. Some of our best family memories are of having all the kids home and they were just playing together.
TPB: How has the transition back to work been for you?
Laura: It’s been good and interesting. Good in the sense that I have worked part time since 2006 and have just moved in to a full time position. The company I work for as also family- oriented, which helps. Interesting in the sense that I need to make sure things are still getting done at home. I’m writing chore lists, which helps. Working part time helped with the transition, but my maternal instinct still kicks in. It would definitely be harder to return to work full time with a younger family. It’s sad to think that families can’t afford to have 1 parent stay home.
TPB: Any final advice?
Laura: Raising 3 kids taught me to let go. You have to. I learned to let go and not stress out over things I couldn’t control. Just do the best you can and go with the flow.
A big thank you to Laura for taking the time to speak with TPB and her honest & heartfelt answers.
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