Dollars and Sense of Being a Mom, Inc

Mom juggling baby & work

By Kathy Zucker

I recently had a couple of conversations with a mom on the playground about her career (yes, I mentor on the fly).

Her financial services job is ending in a couple of weeks, and she is interviewing for positions with hours from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. so she can be home by 6 p.m. to pick the kids up from school aftercare. Sounds perfect, right?

Except that financial services positions with reasonable hours are rare. And another twist? She is pregnant.

I sometimes get advance notice about positions available in the Hoboken area, so I asked her to put together an email stating her preferred hours and compensation. I didn’t give her any specific numbers but stressed that the relationship between flexibility and compensation are inversely proportional.

If she can give the hiring company a one-year commitment then that’s fair for all sides. The company would get an insanely qualified person at a really decent rate, and she would get to keep her career alive for a year while adapting to the new addition to her family. Another serious attraction? By working in Hoboken, she would be 10 minutes away from her kids’ schools.

After that year, who knows what would happen? The plan is for this mom to return to traditional full-time work. But she and the company owners might love the arrangement so much that they decide to continue it. Also? Having a third child usually means the kiss of death for a mom’s career.

There is no question about it, I earn a lot less than I did when I was a corporate marketing director. My income fluctuates from year to year but I typically make about one-third of my prior earnings.

However, my expenses are much lower. Child care costs are minimal. Kids in Hoboken typically start full-time preschool at age three, with many attending the free Abbott program. Once both my children were in school, I stopped paying for child care, although that is going to start up again when my third child is born this spring. I typically have child care for ten hours a week; at $13 per hour, that works out to $6,760 each year, which I then deduct from my income taxes on Schedule C.

Over the last ten years I have seen moms checking email on their smartphones in the playground, or working on laptops next to their child’s fencing strip. It turns out that working for yourself means increased opportunity for the rest of the family. Olympic fencer Emily Cross‘s mom used to travel with her to world cups; her part-time consulting work as a computer programmer gave her family the flexibility to explore options that families with full-time working parents just don’t have the time to pursue. You know, like child modeling.

How do you put a dollar amount on increased opportunity for your family? Or for that matter, on their very existence? Arguably, the only reason I am having a third child is because I have a flexible work arrangement.

Sometimes money isn’t everything.

Every week Kathy Zucker, serial entrepreneur and mother of two toddlers, writes about juggling career and family in an urban setting. See what Kathy is up to at her blog and on Twitter.

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