Here’s a fun thing. I sat down and calculated how much money I made from my job after paying for taxes and childcare. It was…enlightening.
Some background. I went back to work when our twin boys turned six months old. It was a new job, as opposed to returning to a current job after maternity leave. It was a new industry for me, with a decent, professional salary. It was an opportunity for me to switch careers and gain experience in marketing, as opposed to working in accounting and collections, which is what I have done for much of my professional life. It was an out-of-the-blue opportunity, and I jumped at the chance to take it.
I got some wrinkled noses when I decided to take the job. It was clear some thought it was more important for me to stay home with the babies. But I also got many congratulations. A good number of people, including mothers I know, understood why I wanted to work outside the house. It was for the extra income, yes, but it was also just to use my brain.
Since the babies arrived, I felt like I lost a bit of my intelligence. That is a completely honest statement. I didn’t feel as smart as I used to. Much of my mental energy went to shallow, repetitive tasks. It felt like the deeper machinery was rusting and freezing solid from lack of use.
But that wasn’t the part that scared me. What terrified me was that I wasn’t even as interested as I used to be. I wasn’t engaged or curious about things. If I read something, or if I thought about something that took too much effort, I’d stop and think, fuck it, I have babies.
This scared the shit out of me. The mental fatigue. The lack of interest in the world. How long would it be before I wore sweatpants in public, with some come hither phrase across my ample butt (“Juicy!”), as I carted my shrieking loin spawns to the grocery store? Would I actually start reading the magazines in the checkout aisle? Would I be fascinated at whether Jennifer Aniston is getting married, or divorced or pregnant? Would I have the mental energy to occasionally bark at my kids to shut up while they pulled hair and bit each other?
I wanted to use my brain. I wanted to feel smart again. I wanted to concentrate. I wanted to learn new things.
We had about three weeks to hustle for childcare. Daycare centers have waiting lists that are months or years long for one child, nevermind two. So we used a nanny agency to find and hire our nanny. It cost a lot of money. But we figured the agency was worth the expense, since it saved us from crossing our fingers and hiring a creepy person off craigslist. We found a wonderful nanny, and we figured the longer she was with us, the more the agency expense would make up for itself.
We were probably on the low-end demographic for families hiring an in-house nanny. We aren’t rich, even with our new double income. Childcare for twins is as nutty expensive as you think it might be. There are no goddamned two-for-one specials when you have twins.
But even then, we did some calculations, and figured that after taxes and childcare, it still made economic sense for me to take the job. Again, my salary was decent, and it would almost double our household income. We paid our nanny about $13 less than I was going to make an hour.
So. I had the usual deductions from my pay; health insurance, 401k, taxes. Our childcare expenses included the agency fee, our nanny’s salary, employer payroll taxes, and accountant fees.
I worked for about four months. I commuted on the bus. My job was downtown. It felt good to be out in the world. And I loved coming home to my little boys’ faces.
For various reasons, I decided to leave. It was a great experience, and it was an amicable split. I worked a total of 80 days. That’s 640 hours. The difference between what I was bringing home and what we paid for childcare was $1986.23. My hourly wage after all our expenses was $3.10.
Now. We are lucky that we are in a position to live on one salary. Not because that one salary is huge, but because we don’t have a car payment, or a giant mortgage, or student loans, or cable TV, or credit card debt, or huge cell phone plans. We have been systematic about cutting these expenses and living debt free, just so we could live on one salary if we choose to. We are lucky because we aren’t relying on any income I bring in. Because I can’t imagine someone getting by on $3.10. That’s an hour to buy a tube of toothpaste, or a carton of eggs.
I thought about the people with the wrinkled noses, the ones who thought it was more important for me to be home with the babies, than working out of the home, trying to make money and further my career. Isn’t my time at home worth more than $3.10? Especially now, when the boys are so young?
It grates on me, but I almost agree. Almost. I am pissed, more than pissed…I am frothy-mouthed outraged, at the sentiment that since I am the mother, I should stay home and take care of my babies. I wanted to get a job just to say fuck you! to everyone who has ever said that.
But then. $3.10. Whew. Worth it? I don’t know. I don’t know.
It’s about the amount I will spend to get the latest People magazine so I can read about Jennifer Aniston.