Women Working, but does it pay?

Here’s a story from CNN.com:

What are you hearing about this? Any stories to tell?

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — After factoring in the rising cost of child care, the daily commute and other work-related expenses, a growing number of mothers are figuring out that having a job just doesn’t pay.

“It comes down to a cost analysis and I have several clients that have taken the route of quitting,” said Anna Behnam, a financial advisor at Ameriprise Financial in Rockville, Md. “Factor in taxes, transportation costs, clothing and lunch — what is the true net that you bring home after salary?”…

For most working parents, child care is by far the greatest expense. In 2010, the cost of putting two children in child care exceeded median annual rent payments in every state, according to a report by Child Care Aware of America.

The recent run up in gas prices has only drained paychecks further, shaving 8.7% off of the average worker’s annual income, according to the Oil Price Information Service. And then there are the rest of the expensesthat add up for workers, including clothing and dining out during the day, which are also on the rise.

Andrea Hayken, 34, made about $45,000 a year as a third grade teacher in the Fairfax, Va. county public school system. But licensed daycare for her now four-year-old son would have cost $2,000 a month, eating up nearly half of her before-tax income.



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  • Prodigal Daughter

    I think it’s funny that this was newsworthy for CNN. Women have been counting the cost of working after having kids since women started working outside the home. Perhaps now more are quitting bc the economy is worse than in years past, but for sure, it wasn’t worth it to me to pay so much in childcare and have it cut in on our income 7 years ago when I quit.

  • James

    I hear this all the time from friends in NY and on the West Coast (though I don’t see how one affords a home on the West Coast with just one typical salary). A friend recently mentioned that where they are, daycare for two children is a minimum $1200-1400/month. Add a commuter car, professional wardrobe & cleaning, etc. and they quickly found their salary a net loss.

    We chose to be a single income family with my wife working at home while our children are young (stay-at-home-mom is surely an unfortunate title, seeing as how she works harder than when she worked outside the home). As my wife says, you can always work a job, but you’ll never get your children’s childhoods back.

  • Norman

    I’m not sure how you factor in the benefits of having two working as an insurance policy against the primary worker being laid off for an extended period of time. When you have only one worker and that person may have to go 6 months or a year seeking new employment which may not pay as much things may look differently. It may keep one from having their homes foreclosed and having to move back in with parents. Next we have the difficulty of when College age arrives and your idea of sending them to College without putting them in debt for $50,000-70,000 comes into play. A woman who has been out of work for 10 to 15 years may find it harder to get back into the workforce with a meaningful job when the need arises. I would think that during this prolonged severe recession has illustrated the benefit of having two working incomes. How much more misery would have been incurred with only one working for a lot of families if not for the change in this dynamic from historical recessions before.

    There is much more to this issue than the premise presents and is not as simple as it may appear.

  • Norman wrote, “There is much more to this issue than the premise presents and is not as simple as it may appear.”

    Indeed. We must also consider the psychological impact of having both parents out of the home and allowing someone else to raise the children, en loco parentis. The effects of parental absence are very real and I am grateful that my wife stays home with our children.

    Can you cite any studies demonstrating the benefit of two incomes during times of recession? I am curious if they exist. I do know there are studies demonstrating the negative effect of parental absence during formative years.

  • The incomes also make a difference and this, at least the quoted part is clearly assuming it is the woman staying at home. My wife has always made more than I do.

    I worked out of our home as a consultant. 4.5 years ago, I agreed to watch my newborn niece because the cost of child care for newborn was so high. Nearly 5 years later I am still the nanny of my niece and her now 3 year old sister.

    My sister in law and her husband love their children, but both agree they are temperamentally ill suited to be stay at home parents. They both have very good jobs and would make plenty of money for day care.

    My wife and I decided long ago that we did not want our own children. But if we had them I would be staying at home because we can’t afford to be without her insurance. Even though I could make as much as her, my line of work is without insurance.

    I agree, there are all kinds of extenuating circumstances.

  • We figured up a long time ago that it wouldn’t be worth it for both my husband and I to work after we had kids. We are a single-income, single-vehicle family, and though we don’t make much, we’re probably better off financially than if we had two incomes but had to pay an extra car payment, gas and maintenance, daycare for two kids. Not to mention all the things I do to save us money during the day that I wouldn’t have time for if I were working full-time: cooking from scratch, clipping coupons, making homemade cleaners, cloth diapers. We’d spend much more in convenience foods and products if I were working. Unless both parents have really great-paying jobs, I’d wager that it isn’t worth it financially for both to be working.

  • I wonder how this question differs from those doing Equally Shared Parenting? Why is this only a mother’s plight? Why is this not also a father’s?

    It’s the industrial system in place that is hard on families. Why is it economics alone that causes the largest stir?

    Childcare can be ridiculously expensive. It’s a hot industry.

  • Steve

    My wife has always been primary earner. We had kids while I was in grad school, so I had the flexibility to stay home. I’m still the primary caregiver but I work 20 hours outside the home in a ministry position. The boys are in preschool 15 hours a week and I’m with them the rest of the time. We gain very little financially by me working, as most of my income pays for preschool. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love my ministry work. The emotional and perhaps spiritual benefit of me working part-time outside the home make it worthwhile, even though my work doesn’t make much financial sense.

  • Guiltless

    Some women work because they enjoy it.

  • Vicki

    @ Dale Fincher ~ thanks for adding another dimension to the conversation. I was saying the same thing. Why is this not a parenting dilemma for both men and women? What is it about our current culture and system that does not allow for both women and men to work and to share parenting?

    @ Guiltless and @ Steve – thanks for your comments also.

    It saddens me that after all these years, we still are one dimensional in our alternatives ~ most often the choice that the woman stays home.

  • Michelle

    Thanks to Dale Fincher for bringing up equally shared parenting! Many homes opt to leave mom at home for fiscal reasons, but how many homes share bread winning as well as parenting. The statistics on this would be interesting and are important.

  • James

    @Dale, true. A very good friend of mine was for quite a while work-at-home dad. In his case, his wife’s earnings are higher, and he has enjoyed volunteering in ministry that doesn’t pay a salary. I’ve known others as well. I think the reason it was framed as a convo about women is because that’s how the source article was written, not because it necessarily reflects the views of the commenters.

    @Guiltless Yep, and vice-versa. I’ve yet to figure out why either side is judged for the choice, as long as it’s a healthy choice for one’s given family.

  • JohnM

    Dale & Vicki – Why read into this that it is only a mother’s “plight” or a women’s “dilemma” as if fathers aren’t affected by the choice that is made, regardless of what that choice is?

  • Michelle

    John M – men have never really had the short end of the stick in this patriarchal world.

    Being able to work outside the home is physiologically healthy for both men and women. It is also beneficial for women to build skills that will be useful in the market place so that after their children are grown, or if her marriage ends, she is able to take care of herself. Domestic skills are not considered I be useful for resume or career building.

  • The equation is “is how much left after expenses worth the damage done to my children by not growing-up at home.” why do people have kids they aren’t willing to care for? Get a dog.

  • @guiltless by all means, encourage people to put themselves first…

  • No matter how much or how little you make (assuming you have no physical or mental disabilities) its not worth both parents working outside the home. Kids with loving parents they see in a 1 bedroom apartment are better off than kids who live in a nice house but only see mom and dad after work.

  • Vicki

    @JohnM – Good point. It begs to ask the question about whether or not the author chose to solely focus on women or the different choices that men and women make. By focusing on women, it appears that the weight of the choice to stay home or work outside the home still predominantly falls to the wife.

    It would be interesting to see something written that highlights the choices of both men and women on this issue.

  • Deb

    No right or wrong. We lived in small two bedroom apartment so that one of us could stay home with children. Friends around us had free standing homes and two working parents. We were the only people in our “circle” living in a flat with only one car, which my husband needed so I had to get the bus everywhere. Sometimes I was envious of the others. Sometimes they were envious of me. 20 years on and no regrets, and neither have my friends. Horses for courses. Being true to yourself and your own convictions is important in these grey areas.

  • Tami M

    This is one of those topics that no matter how much you want it to, it won’t stay civil for long. John Mark Harris, you’re making some pretty heavy assumptions.

    I applaud those folks who COULD choose to be one income families. It’s nice when at least one person in the family makes enough to support the family, even modestly. But what about single parents? What about families where both mom and dad are working and neither one makes enough to support the family, even modestly?

  • JohnM

    Michelle – It is a patriarchal world, in a way. However, while that can be a problem for women it isn’t necessarily so, and it doesn’t mean men never get the short end of the stick.

    In any case, as as Vicki points out the choice to stay home or work outside the home still predominantly falls to the wife. Why is that a problem for the mother? It just means the wife usually gets to do the choosing and the husband doesn’t choose for her, or usually have the option of a similar choice for himself. When you really have a choice, do you really have a problem?

    Vicki – Regarding the choices of both men and women on this issue (which may mean preferences vice actual decisions) yes, that would be interesting. I suspect in reality many a women breathes a sigh of relief at “having” to make the choice to stay home. I don’t expect valentines for saying that, but pay attention to the real world around you. I expect some, but comparatively few, men would prefer to be primary caregivers over doing something else. I don’t expect that will substantially change.

  • Anna

    This is also why statistically elderly women who are mothers are most likely to be poor in old age. I stayed home with my children and then had part-time jobs. Great for the growing family; my retirement situation however looks fairly dismal.

  • Jennifer

    Comments like these make the assumptions that the only reason a woman would work is to earn money. Not because she is gifed in a certain calling or her job allows her to use her creative skills and she finds it fulfilling and engaging. I for one went to College to become educated in my chosen field and I ENJOY my work. It’s not something I do just for money nor would I give it up, I do it because I love it. there are a multitude of other benefits to working outside the home other than financial.