Mar
19

Three moms who found work-life balance

Posted in working moms
by Lorain County Moms

By Emma Johnson, www.RetailMeNot.com

We’ve all been there — overworked, underpaid, underslept and overdosing on children. In fact, 67 percent of the 905 working mothers surveyed by the authors of “Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood” (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/good-enough-is-the-new-perfect-becky-beaupre-gillespie/1100167475) by Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple, say they feel stymied by the “constant need to be the best at everything.” And yet, we feel something is missing. A recent survey (http://www.workingmother.com/research-institute/what-moms-choose-working-mother-report) of 3,781 women by the Working Mother Research Institute found that 51 percent of working moms feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children.

In short, we feel torn between our work and our kids. Here are three women who abandoned the need to be perfect, cut back financially and found ways to live lives in line with what is most important to them.

Name: Jennifer Nutter

  • Age: 40
  • Family: Married, son, age 2½
  • Hometown: Chesterfield, Va.
  • Previous life: Worked 50-plus hours per week as a media designer for a law firm
  • Today: Stays at home full-time while launching a children’s book business on the side

Five years ago, I had stillborn twins, so the pain of that loss started the ball rolling for me to change my life. Then a year later, my son was born. At the time, I was also caring for my father who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, and even though I worked 30 of the 50 hours from home, it was too much. It was the classic case of putting everyone before myself: first my son, then my boss, then my husband, then myself. My marriage was at risk; I will not lie. And I was also the casualty in that. I didn’t take care of my health and walked around in ragtag clothes I didn’t iron.

When I quit my job in 2008, we lost $62,000 of annual income. We tried to sell our house in an effort to cut back, but the real estate market bottomed out, and we decided to spend less and live on a budget. I did cash out a retirement fund to invest in my new business, but that is gone.

Before, a typical week would have involved browsing at Target and spending $100 for things we don’t need, but I wouldn’t worry about it. Then we’d swing by Starbucks to get a coffee and a treat for my son and then go to another store. Today, we live with no cable TV, a slower-speed Internet service and we watch movies at home instead of going out. Any purchase — whether it’s groceries or holiday gifts — is planned out.

But the upside of our lives is that I am so much less stressed out. I have time to exercise five times a week, and I eat better. We’re free to enjoy simpler, more meaningful things like going to the park with our dog. My marriage is better, and as a byproduct of living in a calmer household, I can see positive changes in my son.

The other advantage is that I don’t have that monkey on my back about where my money is going. Plus, I don’t have all that extra stuff to manage. I realized that acquiring stuff equals stress for me. One of my favorite weekly activities is to go through the Goodwill drive-through and get rid of old toys and clothes. I’d been looking to find more balance, but I didn’t expect to find this deep, meaningful peace.

Name: Jamie Christ

  • Age: 34
  • Family: Married, daughter, 3, son, 1½
  • Hometown: Buffalo, N.Y.
  • Previous life: Full-time social worker earning $30,000 a year
  • Today: Stay-at-home mom

I was working as a service coordinator for people with disabilities. I always enjoyed my career, and it was meaningful work. I liked having an impact on people in my community, and it was important for me to have colleagues. But I also always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. But because my husband makes just $40,000 as a communications director for a church, we weren’t sure if we could afford for me to do that.

When I got pregnant with our daughter, we tried to live on my husband’s income while using my income to build up some short-term savings and pay off student and car loans. We practiced what we called “Spartan living,” in which every penny was accounted for. We never ate out and made very inexpensive meals at home. It was tough, but we had this goal in mind, and we found we could do it.

Then I quit my job, occasionally taking on part-time work from home for about eight hours per week at $20 per hour _ though I quit that after about a year because it was too hard to balance that with taking care of my daughter. But over the past three years, we went down to one income, had two kids and still paid off $30,000 in debt.

Now we have a little more wiggle room, but I still do a lot of couponing, garage saleing and bargain hunting. Before we went out to eat often and would make a lot of unplanned purchases. It was not uncommon for a random bill to come in, and we’d think, “Oh, how are we going to pay that?”

Today we live within our means, and yet don’t feel deprived because we save up for and appreciate it when we do make special purchases. For example, when we got out of debt, we saved up $800, researched the best TV and the best price and paid for it outright. Before, we would have paid with a credit card and been stressed out about it. I don’t even care about televisions, but that big TV in our living room feels like a trophy for what we’ve been able to accomplish.

Obviously, the biggest benefit is that I can stay home with my two favorite people in the world: my kids. But we also have deeper roots in our neighborhood because we are home all the time. And my personal relationships have expanded because I connect with other moms in the community through my kids’ activities. And when we do go on dates, I appreciate it so much to have someone else cook my meals.

Name: Nadia Hefni Foster

  • Age: 41
  • Family: Married, daughters ages 2{ and 2 months
  • Hometown: Los Angeles
  • Previous life: Director of client services for Fox Interactive Media, earning $100,000-plus a year, working 40-plus hours per week and commuting up to three hours per day
  • Today: Works part-time from home as a partnership director for FlexJobs, earning $30,000 per year

“I really enjoyed my job, and I had a great position. I’d been very career-oriented since I was 16 years old _ always concerned with my position and title. When I was pregnant, I told my boss, “I’ll take a few weeks off then I’ll be back.” I was so blind to how I would truly feel.

When I had my daughter in 2009, I took five months of maternity leave, but when I went back to work, the anxiety kicked in. Even though I’d pump breast milk and talk to her on the phone every day while she was being watched by the rotation of my husband and her two grandmas, I was really stressed out. I would see her in the morning, and then I’d push through work to rush home to catch her before bedtime _ pushing against traffic the whole time.

Then after four months of that, my unit was acquired, and I accepted the severance package. It was the best decision I ever made.

Financially, it was tough to go from six figures to zero. My husband works in sales, so his income is up and down, and all our benefits were through my job. Our health insurance is now through COBRA, which is expensive, and I no longer take for granted the many luxuries I enjoyed. I don’t get facials or manicures and pedicures like I used to when I thought nothing of spending $30. We used to jump in the car and drive up to the wineries in Santa Barbara or to Arizona where we have family. Today, we think about such trips and realize that it will cost us $100 each way just in gas. Now we calculate things in terms of money, not just time.

I still am mainly with my kids, though I work part-time from home, which allows me to still wake up to two smiling faces and spend the day playing with my kids. But the extra income really helps, and using my professional skills is really important to me and helps me feel like I truly have the work-life balance that I’ve always wanted.

I have taken a career break, but I feel confident that when the time is right for me and my family, the right position will open up.

Emma Johnson lives in New York City, where she writes about the intersect of money and life for http://www.RetailMeNot.com — the No. 1 online coupon site in the world.

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