In August I celebrated my one-year anniversary of being a work-at-home mother. I was a career businesswoman before I graduated college. And I’ve spent the last 10 years working in the financial field, with all of its rigors and stresses. By the time I became pregnant with our third child, the bough was breaking. I realized there was no way I could manage two school-aged kids and a newborn, and work full-time in a crazy stressful financial career.
When I was five months pregnant, I left the corporate circus and focused on home. And frankly, I never looked back! Such a radical move promotes cries of “you’re crazy” or “she’s trying to be one of those New Age, stay-at-home, home-schooling mamas!”
Well, yes and no. Leaving the full-time workforce was certainly an ambitious endeavor, but I chose to prioritize how I spent my time devoting it to what best served my legacy. I placed myself and my family in the top position on my list of priorities. And in doing so, I transformed the trajectory of our lives from the mundane to something more special. Of course, a lot went into making that decision. Here’s what I considered before, during and after the switch.
The Costs of Working From Home
First, it all came down to finances. How does a five-person family go from living on two full-time incomes to surviving on one? We made frugal changes, and found ways to supplement our income with me working from home. If you can comfortably afford to be a stay-at-home mom, then, by all means, that is the choice I would highly recommend.
Just keep in mind that the role of a stay-at-home means being at work 24/7. There is no off time, no shift end, no vacation and no sick time. When you are that present and available to the needs of your household, the role of mothering (or fathering) takes on a level of high demand like never before. And what really goes without saying is … it is hard! It’s so hard that I would ward any parent away from adding the work-from-home facet to their life unless they feel they can make it work.
Another Major Decision
While working from home was the right decision, when it came to homeschooling my children, I had to give an emphatic “no.” Don’t get me wrong, this is a noble endeavor. But like becoming a teacher, it is a role one should never enter into lightly. Even though for many children their earliest lessons are learned from their parents, being a good caretaker does not equate to being a good teacher. A good teacher is marked by long-suffering patience, the likes of which I am lacking.
The Hidden Costs of Free Public School
Still, if you’re wrestling with the decision, there are some pros to homeschooling that you may want to consider. Deciding to keep your kids in public school also comes with its own set of costs, and not all of them are physical out-of-pocket ones. Here’s a list of some loosely estimated public school costs, garnered from my personal experience.
- In New York state, 62% of your property taxes goes toward school purposes. New York property taxes range by location from an estimated $3,000 to $20,000 and up. (In other words, you’re paying for local public schools whether you send your child there or not.)
- Daily school meal programs:
- Lunch – $2.50+ per day = $450 in a 180-day school year
- Breakfast — $2.00+ per day = $360 in a 180-day school year
- School supplies (an estimated $100)
- Parent Teacher Association Membership and class party funds (an estimated $35)
- Back-to-school clothes (an estimated $200)
- Clubs and after-school programs (an estimated $175 and up)
- Various extras throughout the year (an estimated $200)
- Time lost with your children. The time spent at school is almost as long as the time spent each day at a full-time job, which is the majority of our days (priceless)
Homeschooling can eliminate or significantly decrease many of those listed expenses (aside from the property taxes, of course). You’ll also get to structure your lesson plans. If your student (i.e., child) is slow at any subject, you can go at their pace to make sure they understand the lesson.
All of these points sell me on homeschooling, and I have considered it in the past and even as recently as last month. But again, I arrived at the conclusion that it’s not the best course for our family at this time (maybe I’ll do it in the future). I love being at home and available to help supplement (or even correct) the lessons my children are learning at school. This work-from-home schedule allows me to do that, along with forego childcare costs and not miss important milestones.
The point is, at the end of the day, it is up to you. There are plenty of options for your child’s education. Do your due diligence when researching and choose the option that works best for your family.
(Editor’s Note: Staying on top of your credit can help you work toward your financial goals and stay out of debt. You can view two of your credit scores, updated every two weeks, for free on Credit.com.)
This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.
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