Young moms work for free

Posted By on May 1, 2010

The other day, while I was waiting in line at the doctor’s office, I happened to overhear the conversation of two young moms who were sitting right next to me. It caught my attention, not because of how unusual it was, but because it’s so very typical these days.

“I pay so much for daycare,” one of them said, “that between daycare and gas, my entire paycheck is gone. In addition, I spend the whole day outside the home, come home tired, don’t have time to do anything, and hardly see my children.” The second mom expressed her sympathy, said she’s in the same boat, and added that, “while I’m not actually earning anything now, there’s a pretty good prospect to start earning more in a couple of years – then I’ll see more of that paycheck.”

Note that not a single word was said about joy and/or inspiration the two young women were getting out of their work. None of them said anything along the lines of “it might be not very profitable, but I find my work so interesting – it makes my life meaningful.” Both of them admitted that they are, as a matter of fact, working for free.Now, I can think of many good reasons to work without pay, besides the obvious duties we all have at home. For example, volunteering in a crisis pregnancy center. Or creatively decorating one’s place of worship. Or making and giving out handmade gifts just to make someone else happy. Or walking the dog for an elderly neighbour who broke her leg. But to dedicate the best hours of every single day to work I don’t find particularly meaningful or interesting, without any pay, just for the fickle prospect of earning more in a few years? Doesn’t sound very appealing, in my humble opinion.

I know many of you ladies will say – and I agree – that no matter what, no amount of money can compensate for time–precious time–of children’s lives, which their mother longs to be a part of, and from which she is unjustly separated by irrational social expectations. But as we so often see, it might not even be about the money – not really. Numbers don’t lie; it’s pretty easy to deduct the cost of work-related expenses from one’s paycheck and see what women are really earning. We are just so conditioned to think that we must spend most of our day working outside the home that we rationalize even when it’s obvious we don’t derive any profit from it.

Of course, many young professionals have to settle for low pay for their first couple of years in the field, or else they won’t find a job at all. But to actually work without receiving any pay? There’s no guarantee things will change for those young moms in a couple of years, either. The current economic crisis might make any pay rises look far-fetched. Or they might have another baby, which will increase daycare costs. Note that I’m not talking about women who plan to have one or two children and “be done with it.” I’m talking about religious Jewish mothers, who love their children and in most cases will want to have many of them – which means childcare costs will be there for a substantial stretch of time.

The logical solution, from any angle you look at it, would be to stay home and care for one’s own children, with joy and peace in one’s heart, instead of making someone else rich by handing out our paycheck every single month. But there are, of course, other considerations, such as – what if I want to work later when my children are older and can’t find a job? What will others think of me? Will I be seen as lazy and useless? More than money, this is about social trends and expectations that only we–each one of us–can change by the choices we make.

About The Author

I'm a Jewish woman, a wife, a mother, a homemaker. A thinker, a dreamer, a learner. An avid cook and baker and a yarn addict. I love everything that has to do with home and family, and enjoy the solitude of my quiet corner, which is located in one of the most beautiful areas of Israel.


9 Responses to “Young moms work for free”

  1. Renee Stam says:

    Good post!

    Well I do not make money by staying at home but I just think that what is material and in the worlds is just passing and what us eternal is priceless!

    No money can be put on training our little one in the way of the Lord and knowing that we are part of a greater plan could not be more gratifying than any promotion or paycheck in the world!

  2. ladyscott says:

    While I know many a working mother who dumps her paycheck into daycare, gas, clothes for work, quicky foods, etc who actually want to come home, I also know many a working mother who actually WANTS to work outside the home because, “I couldn’t stand my kids for that long!” “I’d be bored to tears at home!” This I find very sad.

    I’m saddened by the husbands of these mothers who are either riding on the backs of their wives’ paycheck or simply want the whole 50/50 thing and don’t want to work any harder than they have to. After all, they have a wife to earn a second income.

    I think I shared this before here how I’m “justified” in staying at home because I couldn’t find a job that pays high enough to afford daycare. Oh, the sympathetic eyes that look at me and think, “well, I suppose it’s best for her to stay home. After all, she didn’t earn a college degree and can’t get a decent job with decent pay. It’s just too bad her husband has to work so hard.” Of course, if I had the potential of earning more than minimum wage, or happened to live in a more economically booming area, I should be out trying to do so. Ummmm….I’ll stay home, thanks!

  3. pedsrn22 says:

    I actually have a 4yr degree and held a management position in the nursing field. After having twins, my husband and I crunched the numbers and determined that after daycare expenses and the other expenses that go along with working outside the home and taxes etc. I would bring home approx $40 per day. When thinking about making approx $5 per hour for a highly skilled job where other people’s lives are in your hands-NOT worth it. Plus, above all, we couldnt bear to think of some stranger raising our children. I do continue to work 1 day per week doing telephone triage, but it’s a day that my husband is home with our boys so they get some daddy time and I’m able to keep up my licenses and learn even more about how to care for our children when illness or injury strikes-and with two boys, that’s sure to happen!
    I too know women who work for nothing because they state they couldnt stand being home with their children. That just breaks my heart. I think being a stay at home mommy is the best job ever!

  4. NicoleR says:

    But you know,what you dont think of is,single women and what if you just cant afford to have more kids?You may want more,but when you can not afford it you are bringing a child into less then right conditions.What if a woman had no husband or money is tight.It is just fine to want more time at home,but money means food,clothes,a roof over your head.It doesnt mean they cant stand their children,not always,sometimes it just means they would rather them be fed and clothed.

  5. L. Rose says:

    When I first became a single mother I had five young children to care for. Childcare was more than I could earn working a full-time job and I would not even be able to pay the rent, utilities, or buy food. I chose to remain home and start a home based business. It was not easy to work at home and care for children. It is also not easy to work full time outside the home and take care of a family as a single parent. I felt it was vital to be available for my children as much as possible. They deserved to have one parent around.

    We did everything together from homeschooling, running the business, errands, classes, and so many fun activities. It made us so close as a family and gave my children roots to fall back on and wings to soar as adults.

    Money is not the answer to everything. For me it was chosing to follow what God told me to do. I had to trust Him for everything and it made my family thankful. Even now, I will not have a job at the end of the month. I do not know what I am going to do. My youngest graduates from high school in two weeks. I could go out and get a full time job, but I love working from home. It suits my free spirt and creativity. I have been in this situation many times over the years and the Lord always opens up work opportunities.

    My family’s quality of life has not suffered. In fact, I am in a much better financial situation following God’s plan. He gave me a house to own. I own my own car free and clear. The mortgage is going to be paid off early. God rocks!!! I am content, busy, and constantly challenged to strive to better myself and learn new things.

    The Lord gave me the children He did for a reason. He has taken care of them quite well. I chose to stay home with them. I have very dear single mom friends who chose to work full time and keep their kids in public school. We all worked to provide for our families. They did a nice job raising their children and we did not always agree on the best route to get those children raised. What we did do was respect each other, our personal choices, and help each other out.

    For me, the bottom line was, I had to do what the Lord told me to for my family and it worked for us.

  6. NicoleR says:

    Rose,You became a single mother that isnt the same as going out and getting pregnant 5 times in a row,which is stupid to do.You may have been fine but Ive seen kids go hungry before,and I would rather go out and work my butt off for them.If I had no way to pay for anything I would go out and get three jobs if i had to,because I love my family that much,I would sacrifice my time and energy for them.Im guessing youre lying a bit as well,because as “fun” as it might have been you cant act like you didnt break down and cry a few times,because when you have kids and you see they might not get to eat for a week that happens.When you are as much in the hole as you can get it will scare you stiff.When i get to te point where i may not make it to the next week,i get my ass up and do something about it.It doesnt matter what you want or dont want children come first.

  7. Heya Nicole… another single mama chiming in here:-)

    I’ve been reading through the article and the comments here, and I think we are really talking about several different things, actually. In Anna’s article she was basically discussing how little economic sense there is to a young mother working outside of the home. Truthfully this is often the case- when all of the numbers are crunched, when all of the expenses incurred are laid beside the income earned, a family is often in the hole rather than financially ahead. She was just talking about the cold hard financial facts of working outside of the home when one has young children. Those facts are the same no matter what one’s family situation is, or how one feels about having children at home vs in daycare.

    Separate from the things that Anna talked about are the nitty gritty issues of providing for our children- and who is ultimately responsible for doing that providing. Nicole, you sound like you are a caring and committed parent, and I commend you for your willingness to work hard for your children and sacrifice for them. They are fortunate to have such a dedicated mom. Truly. But if I may say so, I think that you and I (and Rose and Anna) are coming at the whole issue of providing for our children.. and for ourselves for that matter.. from completely different foundations. You wrote: “When you are as much in the hole as you can get it will scare you stiff.When i get to te point where i may not make it to the next week,i get my ass up and do something about it.It doesnt matter what you want or dont want children come first.”
    Nicole- I have been there. I have been at that place where there is no food in the cupboard and the gas is all set to be turned off tomorrow. And you’re right it can be a terrifying place to be. But the crucial question is this: Who are you looking at to be your source and sustainer? From the sound of your comment, you (like many other folks) see yourself as your source. You get up and get out and make sure your kids’ needs are met. But when one is a believer in Jesus, when a person lives a life in close relationship with Him, we place ourselves in dependence upon Him. He has promised that all of our needs will be met. He has promised to care for us and He has promised to be as our husband. He is real and He is good and He keeps His promises. He really does. I care just as deeply for my children as you do for yours.. and I know that entrusting them to God is the very best thing I can do for them.

    Remember I said that I had been there with no food, and on the brink of no heat? Well, that really has really happened to us… but before the day was out, we found two large bags of groceries by the back door, and a call to the gas company revealed that the payment needed was hundreds of dollars less than previously stated. Time and time again, our needs have been met, even without me telling a single soul about them… except for Jesus. I always tell Him;-) I actually wrote an article here on LAF called Everyday Miracles, where I talk about just this sort of thing. I’d love to have you read it☺ (Here’s the link: )

    Now, I know the idea of being dependent on Jesus for daily provision seems odd and scary, especially when life has taught you that being dependent on anyone other than yourself is a foolish and insecure thing. But I’d urge you to have an open mind. And if you really want some excitement in your life, pray that God would show you the truth about Himself… He won’t let you down, I promise♥

  8. leree1019 says:

    I am so thankful to have found this web site! I have chosen to stay home and raise my children. And I feel like I am fighting an uphill battle. Both my husband and I were raised in feminist households. I constantly feel like I have to “reason with” people about how I am not lazy, selfish or a free loader. When working on building our family, some one caught wind of it and actually told me “you can’t have anymore kids” ( we had one at the time) “because you can’t afford the daycare” I was devastated but also determined. And you know what they were right. I ended up getting naturally pregnant with twins a short time later. And no we cannot “afford daycare”, but we also cannot afford to rely on others to raise our children. We cannot afford to let others teach OUR children their values. We cannot afford to miss providing a home where they always feel safe and welcome. We cannot afford for our children to feel like they can be passed around to all kinds of people because they are not valuable to us. And while it is true that I probably will never have a job that I will earn a “livable income” by today’s standards. We are blessed with everything in the world that we need and then some. I will raise my daughter to be confident in ANY of her choices. Whether she wants to be a crazy successful and wealthy single lady or “just” a mom and wife, she will make that decision confidently, and with the Full love and support of her own mother. Life is hard enough, there is no need for a mother to even attempt to make it harder.

  9. JordanJ89 says:

    To L. Rose,

    I’m so encouraged by your story. I wish so much that I could do something like that but I guess I feel inadequate. I don’t know what I could do to earn money and stay at home. I’m not single but my husband doesn’t work. I feel so alone because every woman I know who actually wants to be a stay at home mom, gets to be one. And all the women I work with are hardcore feminists who constantly try to force their lifestyle on me. What kind of business did you start?

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