How Do You Balance Family and Work? What Works for You? How Did You Decide?

Updated on October 22, 2013
L.S. asks from Fort Collins, CO
15 answers

Hi Moms! I am currently a licensed in-home child care provider. I have been doing it for over 5 years now. My main motivation was staying home with my own kids when they were little. Now that they are getting a bit older (7.5 and 3.5), I am starting to think about other options.

Previously I was an elementary teacher and also have experience in the nonprofit field. In addition to doing daycare, I've also started teaching Childbirth Ed classes at night and occasionally serving as a doula. I know that I don't want to do child care much longer. I am good at it - I have happy, long-term families and a decent-sized waiting list. - but my heart is really not in it any more. I am getting burnt out. I LOVE the childbirth ed stuff I am doing, although I don't know that doing that alone will be sufficient income.

My husband is a teacher and, unfortunately, in Colorado, a family of four on one teacher's salary qualifies for nearly every government program you can think of. Not saying there is anything wrong with getting help when needed, just saying that a person is not going to "get rich" teaching here. We love our town and state and my husband is a passionate teacher. Those things are not going to change. I do need to earn SOMETHING to contribute, however.

I NEED a change and need to make a change that works for ME, as well as OUR FAMILY! I have considered subbing, piecing together odd jobs here and there, continuing to watch only 1-2 kids, and returning to teaching full-time. I am not sure what to do. I KNOW I want to be here for my family, my kids as much as I can. That is WAY more important to me than having TONS of stuff, nice cars, bigger house, more after school activities, etc.

I have looked at the last 5 years as sacrificing some financially so that I am able to be with my children. I don't see any harm in that - in fact, I see only good! As I look at the next 5 years, 10 years, and beyond, however, I wonder about savings and retirement and college, etc. I don't worry about "stuff" but I don't want to be destitute in middle age and/or retirement because of my choices now either. Unfortunately, my husband and I don't have a lot of older family members' experience to draw from in this department.

So, I guess my question is, HOW did YOU decide how to balance family and work life? Do you stay at home or work from home or work outside the home? Is it the right choice for you? For now? For long-term? How do you know?

Thanks for your thoughts! This has all been swimming around my brain for several months now...

ETA: I really did LOVE teaching elementary school. I was very passionate about it. Having my own child changed priorities, however, and it became hard to put my all into teaching when I also wanted to put my all into my son. Now that my boys are older, however, I may be able to dedicate the time and energy I need to BOTH my family AND teaching. There are times when I miss it considerably.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

Not working full time was never an option for me. I was a single parent and child support was sporadic at best.
And quite frankly, even if my working hadn't been a financial necessity, I would have done it anyway. I would have gone nuts as a SAHM. And I think my daughter benefitted from having more than just me taking care of her.

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answers from Billings on

I was thinking I posted this question and forgot I posted it! You are describing me 2 years ago. I did the in home daycare, my boys got older so I am trying to get a teaching job at their school. This is the first year I am working full time and it is crazy trying to balance everything, I am going to try it this year and decide in the spring if I want to keep applying for full time teaching jobs. One day at a time...the best part about life now, is that I am making money and I am at my kids school during the day. I can eat lunch with them and not having separate drop off places is great.
I wish I could help more..

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answers from Dallas on

If you aren't passionate about teaching, don't teach. That being said, if you do think that going back into teaching could be for you, then give it a shot. I've been teaching for 18 years, and absolutely love it! It has worked well for our family because I'm happy at work, and I'm able to spend quality time with my children (and husband, but he works long hours).

I teach AP English, so I do bring home a ton of grading, but I have learned how to manage that through the years. It has been wonderful being home with my boys during the summers and during holidays. They are 9 and 15 now, and we have such great memories - and are still creating more. You will be able to do that with whatever choice you make, but teaching allows you so much more time at home.

Good luck with your decision. Remember that you can always change your mind, too. If you try teaching, or something else, and then decide to try something else, you can. :)

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answers from Boston on

I would think that something in the field of education would be the best fit for you skills, experience, and schedule. Unfortunately most childbirth classes are given on evenings and weekends so trying to do that to make a living would mean a lot of time away from your kids when they're home. If you were a doula - or perhaps a midwife? - you would still have a crazy schedule attending deliveries but for routine appointments, those would be during the day.

When I think about choosing in relation career and family, my first reaction is that there is no choice for me. I am the breadwinner, I always have been and always will be. My job carries the higher salary and all of our benefits so it's not optional.

Thinking back though, of course there have been choices along the way. When I found myself pregnant right out of college, I put my plans of working in the media and going to grad school aside and took a management job with my university's dining services contractor because it paid OK, had health insurance, and I had a good employee track record there already from having been a student employee so I knew that my colleagues and managers would be supportive during my pregnancy. I worked crazy hours, though, so when my son was born, they found me an office position and worked 4, 10-hour days so that I could be home with my son more and avoid daycare (my mom watched him while I worked).

When my baby was older, I was ready to work 5 days a week and closer to home, so I took a corporate job in a new field that had good pay, benefits, and a short commute. I almost didn't care what the job was. Well 14 years and several promotions later, I'm still there in a fairly senior role doing really interesting work with smart people.

After my youngest son was born 7+ years ago, another manager wanted me to join her team so she offered me FT work from home. I didn't want the job but used the offer to negotiate 3 days at home (and a raise LOL) with my own boss. I still have that schedule, which allows me to be here when they come home from school, take care of errands during the day if needed, etc.

Six years ago we needed more income so I joined a test prep company as a classroom instructor and private tutor. It does take me out of the house several evenings a week and weekends, but the time out is worth it for now because it allows us to pay for expensive sports like hockey and martial arts and to save up for vacations, holiday gifts, etc. I was promoted with that company this year to expand my job to giving special presentations and running all-day courses. The work is a grind but the pay is great, so we make it work.

I guess my (long-winded) point is that you can't really map out everything, but you make a decision based on the info and opportunities before you and stick with it until it doesn't work any more, then evaluate more info and the next opportunity. Hope that helps somewhat!

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answers from Raleigh on

I say start slow and move your way back in as a substitute teacher for now. This way, you can have flexibility over your hours. Keep on your childbirth ed classes, also. That is something set that you can rely on.
If you find you really miss having your own class or an opportunity for full time teaching presents itself, then you'll hopefully be ready to make that decision. By that time, you'll have settled into a routine and the adjustment may not be as shocking.
To answer your questions- I am the breadwinner in my home, so not working isn't an option for me. My mother and MIL kept my kids for the first two years of their lives. While it could be frustrating at times not being there, it really fostered such an awesome bond with my kids and their grandmothers. I would say their support was crucial in our overall family balance.
My 3 yo is now in preschool and is thriving, and my son is doing great in second grade. I love to see them growing as independent little people each day, but I still get plenty of cuddle time and all of the special little moments. I couldn't be prouder of my family. :)

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answers from Los Angeles on

Salary is one thing, benefits another. From what I understand, teachers get pretty good retirement even if they aren't swimming in dough while they work. Seems your best bet is to stick with what you were trained to do, plus you get summers and holidays with your kids. I don't know about subbing, but I do know that there is great part time teacher work our there with the popularity of hybrid home schools. Those are usually Christian schools and you may rather prefer part time work until your youngest is in school.

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answers from Grand Rapids on

The first thing I thought of: what about job share as a teacher. I know some districts agree to it. Then, you could start building your retirement, maybe it could work with your youngest one, as you working and he could be in preschool. I would think you would get half sick/personal days. It is just a thought. Good luck. I know it's hard decisions.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I think that you might go ahead and get some resume's going and get on some schools radar. They don't hire people they don't know. If you do stop caring for kids at home you need to get on the substitute teacher list so they'll call you in to teach.

One of my friends is THE BEST teacher! She teaches at church and I learn so much, other teachers put me to sleep.

She started out subbing then got hired to be a permanent substitute/full time substitute. If everyone was at work she still had work for the day. She would go to the main office and work on tasks or to another school doing paperwork or what ever someone needed.

She now works in the classroom full time and is one of their best teachers. Some school districts just don't have teacher turn over so start now, get applications turned in. There's always something needed that takes time.

If you want to continue doing the childbirth classes then you can do that too. There isn't anything to say you can't do both and have fun with them.

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answers from Grand Forks on

I've been a SAHM for 11 years, working part time jobs (child care at the gym, before and after school care from home, lunch supervisor at school) to supplement my husbands income. It has worked for us so far. I went back to school to get my educational assistant certificate and eventually plan to work in the school half time or full time. Originally I had planned to go to work full time when my youngest was in school full days, but it just never seems to be the right time. My days are full without a full time job!

You only have two years before your youngest is in school full time. Can you hang on to the home day care that much longer? Could you go back to teaching at that point? Would you be able to teach at the school your kids go to? Our school division offers lots of half time teaching positions. Our kindergartens are half days, and lots of other classrooms have one teacher teach the morning and another teach the afternoon. Most of the teachers with young kids at home opt to teach half days.

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answers from San Francisco on

Can you job share with another teacher? Our elementary school has two teachers who split a second grade classroom. They started doing it around the same time they started having babies, for all the reasons you mention. Of course it would have to be someone you could REALLY work well with (and half time is half salary of course) but it might be worth considering.

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answers from Washington DC on

My kids are 10, 8, and 6...I started working 7 years ago.

I LOVE my job, which makes it easy. I also have a lot of flexibility, which makes being a mom that much easier as well.

After I got my first job, I was able to let my future jobs (current included) know that I am a mom first. My job is NOT my life. I know my program will continue if I am here or not. I come in at 630, I leave at 330, and I don't think about work outside of those hours.

I can attend all of my kids school events, what field trips I want to, and get every other Friday off - which is awesome in the summer time. I also work from home sometimes, so I can stay with them during spring or Christmas break if we can't get our usual sitter (who is the next best thing to me being there).

I did have a 9 month gig where I worked from home. It was not as sweet of a deal as one would think. Work was ALWAYS there. I had 5pm conferences daily (which meant I was standing outside at Tae Kwon Do classes to be on that call). I would check emails regularly, work was my life then. There were benefits, but I prefer having an office to go to and separate myself from my work.

You just have to find what works for you - because everyone is different. I would just make sure that whatever job you get, you can have flexibility. Kids don't get sick when it's convenient and school programs are not always at lunch time.



answers from Dallas on

I think I would keep doing the child care until the 3.5 year old child is in full day school. Then I think I would go back to teaching full time for a few years, hopefully getting a schedule that was similar to my kids. You might do some childbirth classes on the weekends. During that time, i would try to live off of one salary and be banking as much money as possible to build a nest egg for retirement and college funds. After a few years, if your funds are building up, then I would look to do other things that are of interest - work part time, etc.
Good luck!



answers from New York on

My suggestion. whatever you decide to do as your next step, sit down and crunch the numbers.

We have friends who both work outside of the home, at a loss. Meaning, it would be cheaper for them, when you factor in day care, before care, after care, bussing, etc. for one or the other to be a SAH parent. They work nonetheless because they find it gratifying, because they are invested in their education/ career, because they want to have something to do when their kids are back to school, because they think it sets a good example for their own kids etc.

Two incomes (on a teachers salary) might not bring about a net gain for you, esp if it will leave you ineligible for benefits, but having to pay for child care.

F. B.



answers from Detroit on

I am a full time teacher. And, as you know, it is exhausting. I feel like I neglect my kids way too much. Today my students left at 3 and I left at 6:30. Basically it was dinner, bath, read books, goodnight.

In my perfect world, I would be a teacher's assistant. You still get the school hours and holidays so childcare issues are not there. You still get to work with kids all day, which I really do enjoy. However, you don't have to worry about lesson planning, grades, IEP meeting, conferences, portfolios, Intervention plans, data collection..... you know. All THAT fun stuff!!! It would maybe be less stressful than subbing where you have to be "on call" every morning.

Ok - if I were to be completely honest in my perfect world I would have 2 more kids, be a SAHM and volunteer at my children's school, but that is not going to happen, so a T.A. or para would be my second best world. LOL



answers from Amarillo on

You are one of many who have these thoughts in the country.

Get several sheets of paper and write on each sheet each job you list in your post. Write your pro/con list. Where do you see yourself in 10 to 16 years? Do you want to be in an office setting or in your own business? Will this income provide for retirement, college (you or kids) or a trip? Compile all similarities into one main list. Then sit on the list for about two weeks. Review that list. Somewhere in the middle should be an answer or a direction for you to go.

You love children, you want to do something different with them. Subbing might be the way to go. You can chose when to go and when to stay home. The doula is good but that may require more education/training and then you are on call 24/7 to help a momma bring forth life.

The balance for you would have to be flexible to be with your own children yet provide the self satisfaction you get out of helping others. The money would come after as your reputation grows.

Good luck with your search. Something good will come out about possibly when you least expect it.

the other S.

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