Why I Work (When I Don’t Have To)

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It happened again. Someone was shocked to find out that our family was not on the brink of financial disaster. Why did she think that? Because I have a job.

Yes, it’s true. I work, even though my husband earns enough to support our family alone. (Strangely, no one seems to question why he works, since his wife makes enough to support the family, but I digress.) Women, it seems can’t ever do anything right. I shouldn’t be working if my husband earns a good salary, yet if I don’t work, I’m lazy because, after all, my kids are in school.

I respect the Stay at Home Mom or Stay at Home Dad. I also respect working parents. My husband and I decided early on in our marriage that work was important for both of us, and here’s why we both work, even though one of us could stay at home full time.

The Future is Unknown.

When we were first married, we moved to a very nice suburb of Philadelphia. In our first few years, we noticed there were several middle aged couples where the wife had to return to work in her mid-40s, after not working for 20 or more years. Why? In some cases, the husband had lost his job. In others, it turns out teens and college students are a heck of a lot more expensive that toddlers. And of course, divorce and death happened too.

What we saw were these bright and capable women taking minimum wage jobs–because with 20 years of motherhood on their resumes, that is what they were qualified for. We decided that would not be for us. While I think restaurant work is valuable and everyone should do it at some point in their lives, I’d already done that. I wanted to work a job that put my specialized knowledge, skills, and abilities to good use.

Tomorrow Depends on Today.

Child care is expensive, but so is being out of the workforce. Your salary next year often depends on your salary today. Most companies give raises and promotions based on a percentage of your current salary. Often, even when you change companies, the new company uses your old salary to determine your worth. This is a terrible way to do compensation, but it’s the reality we live in.

I Enjoy Working

It’s undoubtedly true that if I had worked on a garbage truck prior to having children, I probably wouldn’t have been so keen to continue, but I love HR. I love writing. I love helping people have better careers. I love helping managers understand employment law. It’s a great job.

It’s also a highly specialized field, and getting out of it would make it more difficult to go back to later. By working as a solopreneur, I also have the flexibility most employees don’t have. That’s also a bonus and a reason I chose this path.

Big Expenses are Coming

So far, the dentist is “pretty sure” that neither child will need braces. That’s a load off the mind and the bank account. But college is coming. And then our retirement. While I love my job, the idea of working until 85 is rather unappealing. I’m young enough that I can’t expect social security to actually pay anything back to me. All this means, I need to plan for my financial future. My husband and I are frugal on everything but travel and make a point to save money for our future. Two incomes help with saving.

Should You Work if You Don’t Have To?

I’d never tell a stay at home parent that they need to get themselves back into paid work. That’s far too personal of a decision. But, I do advise people to think through all the consequences of their choices. What you decide to do today can have a far-reaching impact on yourself tomorrow.

If you’re making this decision based on what others think, I guarantee you there is no way to win that battle.

  • If you work when your spouse could support the family, then you are a bad mom. (This never goes the other way. I’ve never heard a dad being accused of being a bad dad because he works.)
  • If you work because otherwise, your family wouldn’t have sufficient income to survive, you should have planned ahead or not had so many kids.
  • If you stay at home and have a college degree, you wasted that expensive education.
  • If you stay at home and don’t have a college degree, don’t you think you should go back to school so you can set a good example for your children?
  • If you stay at home when your kids are school, you’re lazy.
  • If you go to work when your kids are in school, surely you know that older kids need a stay at home parent more than younger ones do.

There are many more ridiculous arguments that people will throw at you. I’ll say this–make the right decision for you, your family, and your future and ignore everyone else.