Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Can You Afford to Stay Home?

This is the title of an article I came across few days back, something which I have personally gone through... sort of like a been-there, done-that kinda thing... I'll copy out the main points from the article and add in my comments in purple:

It's a question every parent has struggled with: Can you afford to stay at home when you have children? The answer has always been complex, often involving a lot of number crunching and a plain, old-fashioned trial run. But in this economy, things are even more complicated. So not only do you need to consider the change in income and expenses, but you also have to put precautions in place so you're protected in case things don't turn out as planned. Here's how to do both.

Evaluate Your Financial Situation
...have at least six to nine months' worth of expenses stashed in a liquid savings account before you even consider giving up your full-time job. Twelve months' worth is even better, particularly because you're dropping down to one income. (One way to easily beef up your emergency fund is to practice living on one income while you're pregnant. Bank the other, and you'll have quite the cash cushion at the end of nine months.)
(My feedback: Yup... this is what we went thru'. I don't have the luxury of doing what was recommended here which is to practice living on 1 income while pregnant but I do save my salary ever since I started working at 20 years old)

... Finally, try to be as realistic as you can about the job security of the partner who is going to continue to work outside the home.
(My feedback: Hubby's biz is slowly picking up so we both think we can get by on his income if we work together and don't simply spend our $, cut down on shopping and unnecessary spending or travels, etc)

Do the Math
It starts as a fairly simple calculation: You need to figure out what will be going out each month and what needs to come in. So start with your fixed monthly expenses, including the mortgage or rent, your car payments and insurance, your utilities, other insurance payments (life—which you need when you have children—homeowners, disability), savings and any debt repayment, like student loans. Then add in your flexible expenses: things like groceries, entertainment, new baby expenses, including daily childcare.
(My feedback: We're not from rich family but we're lucky cos the house we stays in belongs to MIL, fully paid already and we're practically the last of her 5 children who is going to stay with her. The rest of her children has their own family and house already. Hubby's faithful 16 year old Iswara is still in very good condition and already paid for in cash from hubby's own savings so nothing outstanding on our end.

So practically our $ will go to insurance, utilities and groceries. As for childcare, by being a SAHM we saved RM750/mth of nanny expenses of which, if I am still working is just a small amount of $ only but after comparing child under own care and under stranger's care... priceless... cannot compare in monetary values lah...

Then by being a SAHM, hubby no need to fetch me to and from office which can take up a lot petrol cos my previous working area are quite a high traffic area, also no need to fetch Ben to and fro had we gone for a nanny, then by being a SAHM, I don't spend so much $ on food at work, we save $ no need to buy formula milk to feed Ben as I can breastfeed him at home anytime - I can guarantee you I will have no more milk supply had I continue on working as my last week at work I can only express up to 2oz a day... which is bad because of the work stress.

Look at Your Benefits
The finances are not the only piece of this puzzle. If you're leaving your job, and it provided health insurance for the family, you need to make sure that your spouse's job can provide comparable benefits. Likewise if you had a flexible spending account at work that saved your family a bundle by allowing you to pay for medical expenses and contact lenses with pretax dollars. And finally, don't forget to save for retirement
(My feedback: Ok, luckily the insurance benefits provided by my prev company is crappier than my own insurance benefits. During the month before I was due, the company has already started cutting cost measure to save $, so quite a number of those benefits are no longer given and those that are still given like bonus are reduced and clinical claims are also more stringent.)

Think Ahead
You are very likely going to want to go back to work one day, so keep your skills sharp by taking classes when you can, doing volunteer work in your field or staying on top of any changes to the industry. And don't forget to network. Just grabbing a coffee with a former colleague once a month or so will give you an in to reach out when you're ready to go back to work.
(My feedback: Maybe... maybe not... at the moment I just want to focus on raising Ben. I don't want to think so far ahead. In my previous line of work, the demand is still high as there are not many ppl who are skillful and has the expertise like mine.

Qualifications does not matter in my line, its the years of experience and skills possess that matters. I earned more than my friends and relatives who went university and overseas etc. I only had a diploma in NCC Computer Studies but I had 9 years of working experience. Most of the banks and financial institutions in Malaysia are running on iSeries (formerly known as AS/400), so I don't worry much about my type of job dying out or become extinct should I decide to return back to work one day...

For my case, apart from the above mentioned points in the article, hubby and I also weighed the pros and cons on having our child placed under nanny care, our work schedule against our family time (meaning will we still have quality time to spend with our child?), is all those worth it? The following were the other things that went through my mind as well when deciding to be a SAHM:

* Time goes by and does not rewind or cannot be return to you. Is it worth it to go on working while your child grows up everyday while you are at work 9am-6pm?

* Your child grows up and you missed the highlights and milestones on their life, is it worth it? No amount of money can be spend on being the 1st to see with your own eyes, the 1st time your child smile at you, coo at you, laught at you, laugh WITH you, roll sideways, crawl, sit up, say their first meaningful word, stand and so on...

* You go on working and bring back money to the family but there's just something lacking and missing between the bond you have with your child. And in the case of a nanny, this person has also become a person your child is close to. Is it worth it?

* I have a friend who used to get his maid to take care of her daughter. When the child was about 4-5 years old, my friend said everytime they go out shopping, his daughter will surely want to include the 'kakak' as well, as if she is part of the family. Of course, I'm not saying we should treat maid as slave or outcast them or anything, but if your own child is to call anyone family, it should be you and your partner. Not some other stranger. But how would your child know better if she has been cared for by ppl other than you or your partner for so long? Is it worth it?

* Compare the actual time your child spends with your nanny/maid and with you. I will just take the example of week days to compare.
Time spent at nanny's place : 9am-6pm a day = 9 hours a day, 45 hours from Mon-Fri
Time spent with you at home : 6pm - 9am = 15 hours a day, 75 hours from Mon-Fri

But then think... 75 hours minus 45 hours, it's still more time your child had with you right? Wrong... you have to take into account of travelling, sleeping, eating, relaxing... after working for whole day, getting stuck in jams to and fro work and dropping and picking up child from nanny's place, how much actual hours you clocked in with your child? Is it worth it?

* I also thought of what would the nanny, no wait.. let me rephrase myself... I also thought of whether the nanny would teach my child anything? I mean, unless I'm so lucky can get a nanny who just solely babysits my child and is dedicated enough to teach my child things... sadly, this is not the case... the few nannies we interviewed (we went to their house during day time while they are on the job) had at least 3 kids under their care. Now think... will they have time and patience and strength and the dedication to teach my child anything? Does my RM750/mth babysitter fees covers that?

* I also thought of this: It is me and my hubby who brought Ben into this world. It's our responsibilities to provide and care and nurture him. Now, why am I here having sleepless nights and worries of what is going to happen if we do this or that and why am I even thinking of getting other ppl to care for my son?

Other parents who happened to read my blog and whose children are under the care of other ppl (not you or your partner), please forgive me if you feel insulted or angered at what I said. I am not in any way trying to justify and put you down and critisized your actions or pointing that what you are doing is wrong.

Of course, I know, deep down all mothers would love to stay home to care for their children. So I am in no way trying to be judgemental or saying that my way is the right way. I too have given the thought of getting a babysitter or even considered getting a maid but just that it doesn't work out due to the above reasons and my high expectations of ppl other than my ownself taking care of my own flesh and blood.

I have spent time weighing the pros and cons, the yes and no and the what ifs... but who are we to worry so much into future when we don't even know whether we'll still be alive tomorrow? Do what you think is right for you, your family and your child. Pray to God for His will and cast your worries to Him. And do remember to love and cherish your child dearly, after all, we only have this 1 lifetime together with them...

Psalm 4:5 (NIV): "Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD."

Romans 15:13 (NIV): "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."


Mumzzy said...

my answer for me is no, not easy to live on hubby's salary alone leh. but it's compensated by taking care of bb every day after work and during weekends, that's the best i can give for Eve :)

I'm a full-time mummy... said...

Yalor, mumzzy, depends on each parents conditions la.

Like my friend, they have a lot of commitment on hands (house, cars, etc) so cannot just quit like that lor... but lucky my friend's parents take care of her 2 kids lah...

fabulous said...

good post!

yeah some people are lucky to have grandparents or relatives take care of their cjildren while they are at work. but some are not. i juts cannot leave my son with my indon maid alone at home...thats why i called for career break.

I'm a full-time mummy... said...

Hi fabulous!

Wah you so lucky can take a break from your career!

I too wanted to continue working if possible (part because of the high pay, part because its my passion to still be in that line of work) but since I can't work out a win-win situation with my previous company, so forget it lah.

Now just concentrate to be kuli for my new boss aka my baby boy... :P

Anonymous said...

I'm still considering whether to continue working or not once our baby comes along. We have house and cars to pay for, so it would be a little tough to live on a single income. Like what 'fabulous' said, I also didn't have the privilege of having relatives to care for my baby too. Now banking on the hope hat my company will allow me to work part-time so I can spend more time with baby.

I'm a full-time mummy... said...

Hi itaintthathard,

Last time I proposed these few options to my company:
1. Allow me to work part-time, meaning either 2-3 days a week work
2. Allow me to take unpaid leave, meaning I will take about 4-6 mths off work (so that I can at least breastfeed my baby till he's 6 mths and hopefully within that time can find a nanny)
3. Work from home - this is out cos my job requires me to liaise with users and vendors (maybe you can try this)

Wish you all the best. Start saving now in every possible way you can think of. God bless you yeah!

Mark said...

Nowadays everything is so expensive, and there's so many thousands of bills to pay!

I can't believe I even get charged for water going into the sewer in front of my house!!!

Do have a heart on the guy's side when making the decision. >.<

Like you, I started saving same time I started working. (Actually I just don't usually have many things to buy.) But just stay at home everyday also the savings dwindling away.


I'm a full-time mummy... said...

Hi mark!

When you're in a marriage, every decision is from both parties mah.. of course will take into account the guy's side!

Maybe you going to UK for childcare study costs your savings leh...

Sharmini said...

A very good article on this issue that i can really relate to. I too, have had that moment when I decided to work on my own and take care of my own kids. Life can be tough at times. But like what u mentioned here, think about the time you get to spend with your child, its priceless. I, having studied child psychology and even completed a master's degree in this field, worked for a very short time because i too cant bear leaving my son in the care of a maid or at a childcare centre. Because i know the conditions in the childcare centres, i bet my son is going to be bored to death and will not be developing like how i wish he would. Imagine the guilt i would have to go through when i have the knowledge to nurture my son to the best and let him bloom and achieve his potentials but i am leaving it to others to do it, and it gets worse because i know they don't do much stuff in the centres. My son is now in kindergarten and my second baby if 6 months.I thank god for having a supportive husband. I now work from home writing reports,blogging about children and development, editing thesis and teaching english. I work when my baby is sleeping and my son is in school and at night, sometimes i sleep late to meet datelines. I am still able to earn, see my kids grow and serve home cooked lunch and dinner.It's tiring but fulfilling.I am so blessed to have this opportunity.

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Hi Sharmini!

I'm so sorry, I totally missed replying your comments in this post! :(

It's so good that you can work from home and yet able to care for your children & family! :)


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