Monday, January 31, 2011
That is why even now in these modern times, having a baby qualifies as a disability. Let me know spell that out again in case anyone hasn’t grasped the absurdity. A woman doing something so natural as carrying a child and giving birth to that child, qualifies for leave time only because it is considered a “disability”. Then, only if you’re luck and have an employer who provides paid leave or live in one of the few states the provide paid family leave, are you at all compensated during your “disability”. Then, once you’ve had the child and exhausted your twelve weeks of partial paid or unpaid leave, you must return to workforce. Once you’ve returned, you are on your own to try and negotiate with your employer for accommodations as a new working mother, whether that be a room with a door to allow for pumping, an alternative or reduced schedule or even just additional breaks to allow you to continue breastfeeding. All the while, you must keep up the appearance that you are putting in as much time and effort as your work colleagues.
Women gave up something crucial when we entered the workforce on men’s terms. We didn’t demand to be treated as women—women who become mothers and shoulder the sole responsibility for pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. I don’t place blame at the feet of those who marched before me. Who can argue with the civil and social rights that women have gained over the past century and a half. We now make up half the work force, and if forecasts are accurate, we’ll be the more educated, skilled half of the workforce in the coming years. It is time to right the injustice, for women to claim and elevate their roles as not just women, employees, but also as mothers, wives and the caregivers of our society.
One could argue that I’m running away instead of staying and fighting for paid family leave, flexible work schedules, regulation to require employers to provide pumping rooms, on-site daycare, et cetera. I like to think of it as non-conformance. I am striking from the workforce until working mothers receive equitable treatment. I’ll still be fighting from the sidelines.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Saturday, January 29, 2011
I worked on my taxes this morning. In past years, it was a little like playing the slot machines watching the turbo tax refund box tick up and down until it landed on a nice sizable sum. It is now one of my least favorite activities. Now the question seems to be who do we owe and how much. I’ve been thinking a lot about taxes lately because of how this is now really figuring into my decision on how to balance paid work and family life. We’re stuck in that place that most young families in high cost of living areas find themselves. We’re young professionals making a decent dual income but we don’t make enough to be able to afford to buy a house. Therefore, we can’t take the mortgage interest deduction to be able to itemize our taxes.
So…I’m trying to figure out how to work it so that I make enough in whatever my next job is to supplement my husband’s modest teacher salary while keeping our tax bill to a minimum. This is not to say that I’m opposed to paying taxes. In my soon to be former career, I work for a local government. I know what taxes are used for, and they are things that I value like education, public safety, and infrastructure. However, I do believe that the current tax structure places an disproportionate burden on the wage earning class. I also feel as though dual income families are also further burdened because when the second parent has to go to work because they need to earn a sufficient income to pay for all the expenses associated with it. This includes things beyond the traditional childcare expenses; it ranges all the way from convenience meals because no one is home to cook to household help.
I hope that in working through this in the next several months that we’ll find a good balance where one of us can be almost solely dedicated to taking care of the family and the other can focus on earning a livable wage. I’ll admit that I’m scared and perhaps even terrified to see our gross income chopped in half in the next few months. I remember days in the not too distant past when we struggled to pay our bills. I do feel better equipped now after these past few years since I’ve focused on budgeting, paying off debt, and keeping our expenses contained. So perhaps, next year, when we do our taxes, in a much lower tax bracket, I won’t sigh when I see that magic number in the turbo tax box. Maybe it’ll even be green.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
So for the last two years, I’ve had a dirty little secret that I turn to whenever things aren’t going well. It’s a tab on my budget spreadsheet that I’ve spent hours poring over tweaking expenses and income to find that perfect match of end meeting end so that I can quit my job. The ends have never met despite all of my attempts at fitting the puzzle pieces together. An endless string of pondering questions: What if we moved to a cheaper house? What if we got rid of our home phone? How much more money would he need to make and how many more jumps on the pay scale to get there? So when I hit the latest bumpy patch at work, I turned back to the spreadsheet. I also did some quick calculations to estimate our taxes for the year, and realized that as a family we are paying over $400 a month extra in federal taxes because I work. So of my take home pay over 40% is going to pay for childcare and taxes. Of course, there are other benefits to consider: retirement savings, health benefits, career et cet. I opened up my spreadsheet again and ran my calculations including our reduced tax bill. Of course, as usual, the ends don’t meet. They’re about $500 precious dollars a month from meeting. My husband is a teacher and we live in a relatively high cost of living area. At first as usual that $500 seemed insurmountable. How could we find an extra $500 a month? The short answer is that we can’t. We’ve pared the budget down to the basics. Then, I began to weigh my choices.
· The status quo.
· Quit my job and find a part-time job in the evenings or weekends.
· Drastically change our lifestyle
As I’ve said the status quo is no longer desirable or sustainable. I can’t stay in a career that I don’t enjoy. I don’t want to make the tradeoffs required as a working mom with a professional career.
The second option started to become much more attractive. I could be home during the day with the kids and then find some part-time subprofessional work in the evenings/weekends. It isn’t ideal. I’d like to leave the workforce entirely for some time but it might give me more of what I’m looking for.
The third option is a possibility. I think it is my plan B if things don’t work out with option two. We could move to 2 bedroom apartment and sell our car that still has a car payment. That would just about close the gap. I do worry about our quality of life suffering. I did spend some time living in a one bedroom apartment with my husband and infant daughter when we were finishing up our degrees. We had one car in an extremely car-dependent city. It was somewhat of a stifling experience.
So the plan for now is to save as much money as we possibly can in the next three months and build up our cushion of savings. I’ll look for good part-time jobs and possibly even look into teaching at a community college as a solid part-time job. In the meantime, I’ll probably still be playing with my spreadsheet.