Setting aside the whole stay at home vs. work outside the home mommy wars that I refuse to indulge in – I did an analysis of what it cost me (a white collar professional) to lean out of the work force for 3 1/2 years with Miss Moe. In 2010, I was discouraged about my relationship with my daughter (who was five at the time) and current childcare choices (we had a poor experience with an au pair). So, the Moes started to look at our options. I was making a six figure salary, and had a boss I loved (she later became, and still is, one of my best friends). However, I felt something was missing, was constantly stressed about Miss Moe, and needed to take some time to nurture our relationship. I was met with so much love and support from Mr. Moe and lots of judgement everywhere else. That’s why this is such a personal decision for a family – I didn’t pay much mind to those judgy folks that hadn’t walked a mile in my shoes… I know I was fortunate to have a great job, and have the support and ability to let it go for a while to focus on what meant the most to my family.
Now, over four years later, I’m finally getting down the actual costs of this decision. What was the gross cost of this decision? Some would say over $400,000! Well, that is the gross figure, but not the right one. Below are the gross salaries I missed out on during my lean-out period. I was able to find exact gross salaries as I work in the public sector where they are made widely available across the internet. What is done is done, so this will be an interesting exercise of how we actually did during those years.
|2009||$54,350 – leaned out approximately halfway through the year|
|2013||$38,191 (I returned 1/3 of the way through the year)|
Wow that is a crazy amount of money. However, did it REALLY cost me that much? Well, no. But, how much did it cost? Reductions:
Taxes – our joint salaries put us in a very high tax bracket the 25% bracket with Mr. Moe and I combined. So, we didn’t pay $107,305 in taxes that we would have. Additionally, we saved about $40,000 in taxes from Mr. Moe’s salary over 3.5 years as our overall tax bracket for the family was lowered.
Taxes impact: $147,305
Childcare – Au Pairs are expensive (the right one is amazing, and the wrong one, is devastating). Over the course of an Au Pair’s stay it is approximately $20,000 per year and you have to sign up yearly. This covers the stipend, placement, education, and adding the food and travel over the course of the year for our family.
Childcare impact: $80,000
Lunches/Coffees/Networking – most cannot work in a white collar professional position without the “mandatory” networking, working lunches, and coffee sessions. Even on a stricter budget these probably ran $100 a month per person, I was able to avoid these for 3.5 years.
Lunches/Coffees/Networking impact: $4,200
Work clothes – dressing business casual and always looking smart and ready for an important meeting was required. Even with shopping at the discount stores (no time to rummage through thrift shops) this set me back (to include dry cleaning) approximately $1,500 a year. I’m not a clothes horse… This could be a much more expensive line item for someone who is.
Work clothes impact: $5,250
Entertainment expenses – After a long week of trudging in and out of D.C. we used our vacation time and weekend time for fun, fun, fun. Expensive fun! Our travel and entertainment budget was a whopping $20,000 a year over what it was during my stay at home years.
Entertainment impact: $70,000
House cleaning – With two full time workers, a school aged child, and each of us with over hour commutes one way…. no one was looking to cook/clean/garden or do any chores that weren’t absolutely necessary. Our house cleaning service was approximately $3,000 a year.
House cleaning impact: $10,500
Landscaping – see above on house cleaning – and the costs were approximately the same, except for half of the year. When the grass didn’t grow we didn’t have the service come out.
Landscaping impact: $5,250
Groceries – I was able to keep mainly to the outer aisles (where all the healthy food that requires food preparation is). This saved a lot of money – to the tune of $500 a month, when we included the garden I was able to tend and teach Miss Moe about gardening and eating healthy food! Something we have maintained since returning to work.
Groceries impact: $21,000
Writing – During this time, I did not sit idly while my daughter was in school. I like to create, and I worked on writing in my spare time. It was good for my mind, and I saw a bit of a profit and was able to use my work space as a home office (which included additional tax benefits making the earning tax free since the deductions of the home space did not offset the home office expense). It was definitely more a labor of love, but a lot of labor. My profits are posted below:
2009 – $2,708 (half a year)
2010 – $11,854
2011 – $11,875
2012 – $12,077
2013 – $2,820 (until April)
Writing earnings impact: $41,334
Commuting – here’s where I was very lucky and unlucky. My job paid for my commute on the train. However, this train ride was approximately an hour which added to the stress of being away from Miss Moe. I didn’t like not being able to get to her if she needed me.
Commuting impact: Time…. lots and lots of time
So, where does that leave me in the actual cost to my family?
Total net cost of staying home for 3.5 years:
$44,382 for 3.5 years
$12,680 per year
$6.09 per hour (work time)
Did it set me behind in my career? Yes, yes it did for a minute. I was hired back at close to my 2010 rate, and earned a promotion a few months later that put me at a little over what I would have been making on the normal track in 2013. So, I was a few months behind, but with a lot of renewed focus, knowing my family situation was in a great place. I caught up pretty quickly. Additionally, we didn’t put anything in my retirement for this period of time, though we didn’t liquidate my initial investments either.
Is there anything I missed? Let me know. The time I had with her was priceless, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. This is of course a personal decision, but when making it, look beyond the gross salary.