Hungering for Parenthood

I know who I want to be. I want to be a mom.

Is it wrong to want to be a mom? It seems like I’ve read lots of blog posts and magazine articles lately about young women fighting against the pressure to have kids. They just want society (especially their own mothers) to get off their backs and let them be who they want to be: sans children. But I know who I want to be too. I want to be a mom.

Let me give you some backstory. I have been very lucky in love. I’ve been married for five years to an amazing guy, and we have an excellent relationship. He wants to be a dad and is great with kids. We have no known health problems which might affect our fertility. So why are we child-less? Money.

So we’ve been working. We both hate our jobs. Not like a resigned Office Space kind of hate, but a weeping-and-rage hate. Still, we’re afraid to change. Neither of us has the kind of degree or work history that impresses HR managers; and we have heaps of student loans to pay off. The money we make now is enough. There is no extra, but there is enough. Enough to eat, and buy clothes, and pay bills, and if we’re careful—to put a little into savings. A full third of our current combined income goes right back out the door to the student loan lenders.

For the last five years I’ve dutifully taken my birth control pills. Back when I had to pay for them, I would remind myself that while $35 a month seemed like a lot, it was still quite a bit cheaper than clothing, feeding, and diapering a kid. (By the way, we live in the US. But I bet you’ve guessed that by now…)

Maybe a year ago, I decided to reevaluate this existence. There must be a way to make enough money to survive and not hate how I spend most of my day, right? And if I’m a “good feminist” I should have clear career goals—be ambitious and driven. The thing is, I don’t. Even after a year of thinking and over-thinking, there is nothing I’d rather do than staying home with a baby. I dream of the day when I will open diapers and clean up spilled juice for a wee one who doesn’t yet recognize that I’m a person, instead of opening mail and cleaning up spilled coffee for people who never will.

After hearing for the umpteenth time from parents I trust, “You will never have ‘enough’ money to have kids,” I took a closer look at our budget. I worked my already meticulous spreadsheet forward to July of 2015. To my amazement, I found that if everything continues as it has been without a major hitch, and if I can reduce or defer my loan payments, we can actually afford to have a kid. What’s more, I can afford to stay home for the first two years or so! We still can’t buy a car. We won’t be able to eat out, travel, or buy nice clothing. But it is possible.

This brings me back to the beginning: Is it wrong to want to be a mom? Is it wrong to ask my husband to go to work at a job he hates while I sit around breastfeeding? Is it wrong to bring a helpless person into a world where we can only eek by? Is it wrong even to want this instead of an impressive career?

If it is, I am so very wrong.

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  • Amy March

    It isn’t wrong at all. For me, this is the one big down side of birth control. If you can control when you have kids, well you better line up all your ducks first! Versus- ah yes, you’re pregnant, let’s figure this out.

    • LydiaB

      I have never thought of it this way!

    • MTM

      That “one big down side” is what keeps a lot of folks from being in poverty. Not everyone has a supportive partner/friends/community to help out.

      • Amy March

        I don’t disagree. I’m a huge fan of birth control. But I do think it has brought a new pressure. Absolutely still worth it though.

        • js

          I get what you’re saying with this. I got pregnant because I was young and stupid and taking my birth control incorrect. I wouldn’t change that because it gave me my daughter, but now that I’m actually trying to conceive, it’s awful. When you don’t know any better, when you’re in your early 20’s and the routine is praying the stick won’t turn pink, it seems so much easier. Before we could try this time, we HAD to get married. We had to get out of debt, pay off our wedding, buy a house. We HAD to save money. Ignorance was bliss, when I didn’t have to be mature, be a grown-up, when I didn’t have to try. I love birth control, and women’s rights, reproductive or otherwise, but I long for simple these days.

          • Meg Keene

            So interesting. And I hadn’t really thought it through, but this was so true of my friends who had kids at 19 or 20 or 21. In some ways, as crazy as it sounds, I model my parenting on theirs. They were chill ass moms with chill ass kids… because they had to be.

          • La_Venus

            Yes!! My friends who had unexpected pregnancies are the most even-keel moms. Seriously. They just roll with it and it is awesome. I really do aspire to be as grounded as they are when we have kids. Just make it work. Oh you want to go play mini golf? Let me just strap this baby to my chest and we are good to go. Awesome!

    • Meg Keene

      Yeah, I really agree. Because having kids is SUCH a choice (and god bless) there is an idea that we have to do it at the perfect time, and be perfectly sure we want kids (yeah, I’m still unconvinced that’s a thing, possibly excepting waiting for long enough that you’re very under the gun which will make any decision feel sure). And then, when we have them, you did a special snowflake thing so now you’re in it on your own AND YOU BETTER DO IT PERFECTLY. (Or, you know, you didn’t use birth control so you’re a slut/ waste of space/ dumb/ leach/ whatever endless terrible words society assigns for the young and accidentally pregnant.)

      It’s all, frankly, kind of emotionally unnatural.

      • Shotgun Shirley

        Let’s not forget that birth control can fail, even reall stellar birth control… And then you kinda get both of those reactions, whee…

        • Meg Keene

          But such a CUTE mistake ;) Love her.

          • Shotgun Shirley

            Best accident I ever made.

      • Alyssa M

        I think “emotionally unnatural” is my new favorite way to describe that. Humans have been (for lack of a better phrase) pack animals for the vast majority of our history. It “takes a village” and all that. It just doesn’t make sense that we isolate and judge people for having children…

        • Meg Keene

          Yes. Exactly.

  • Alexis

    Of course it’s not wrong. Being a mom, raising kids – that is an impressive career, even if you’re not bringing in a paycheck. And it’s not wrong to ask your husband to go out and work as you do the work of raising your babies, as long as it’s by mutual agreement.

    I hope that the blogs and news articles about women not having kids aren’t making you doubt yourself and your decision. As one of those women choosing not to have kids, it’s not because I want an “impressive career” so much as it’s just not the right choice for me. And I certainly don’t make this decision as a statement about moms/stay-at-home moms/people who choose to have children.

    • Violet

      Alexis, your comment and this post reminds me of the name-change discussion. Why do we feel we have to have a “good enough” reason to want something? In this case, like you said, an “impressive career” can be used as justification for choosing not to have kids, but then where does that leave women who want neither an “impressive career” (whatever that is) NOR kids? Sheesh. You want what you want. “The right choice for me,” as you say. Good for you! You sure as heck don’t owe *me* a reason.

      • Yes! I said this to my boyfriend last night (about something completely unrelated to this discussion). We were going back and forth trying to rationalize a choice we were making, and then I was like, fuck it. We want what we want, we can afford it, and it doesn’t affect anyone else. That’s reason enough.

  • Eh

    Yesterday I had to make a career decision. At first it seemed straightforward: take a promotion for 9 months or not. Then I was told that if I wait 5 months there is the *possibility* that I could have a promotion for a full year. When it was just the first contract I knew that’s what I wanted. When I was informed of the second I started second guessing myself. I am a logical person so I decided to think about it logically. If I take the one that starts now I can start training for the position sooner (we have new professional development money as of April 1 and so I would qualify for courses for my new job then instead of waiting until August when there may be fewer opportunities). The one that starts in August is not an offer (the person suggested I was at the top of the list) and a lot can come up between now and then (there was a job I was supposed to get last year that I didn’t get and I know other people have been told they were getting jobs that they didn’t end up getting either). If I didn’t end up getting the job in August I would be kicking myself in the butt for not taking this one. My husband and I are planning on starting to try to get pregnant in the next few months and if I waited for the contract that starts in August then in the end the contract could be less than 9 months.

    And I know this is not a good reason to take the contract that starts now but a couple years ago I said I wanted to be promoted to this position before a certain birthday that I have this year in May. So taking this job would also mean that I achieved that goal (waiting for the other would not).

    • ash

      For what it’s worth it would take the promotion that starts now even though it’s for 3 months less whether I was thinkingof starting a family or not. Like you said a lot can change between now and Aug.

      • Grace

        I agree with this advice. Who knows what doors could open when those 9 months are up? Plus your TTC plans stay on track.

        • Eh

          That’s my other thought too. There might be another opportunity in 9 months (contracts frequently get extended or other jobs open up). Or if I am pregnant it might be nice to go back to my less stressful job.

      • Eh

        Exactly! I normally don’t second guess myself. Yesterday I had an uneasy feeling when I was.

        • Go with your gut. You don’t know what could happen, but if you listen to your intuition, you will rarely be sorry. Everything you’ve said tells me that you want to take the position now. Do it.

  • Waiting

    EXACTLY! Except I haven’t been quit so lucky in love, so I work my decently paying job, pay down those loans and my mortgage and consider ever miserable pay period an investment in a future when I do meet Mr. Right for me and we can have kids with less debt than if i’d met him in my 20’s.

  • LydiaB

    No no no! This is me! It is not wrong at all! 5 years into a relationship, getting married next year, plans for kids soon after. I can’t wait to leave work (a job I also, depressingly, angrily hate) and get to be a mum and at least be sometimes angry and depressed about something I really care about!

    Our generation has it rough with such high expectations, just because we have been given the freedom of choice doesn’t mean that you have to feel guilty about choosing to be (what some would see as) conventional.

  • Jessica LK

    If it is wrong, I’m right there with you. I’ve worked hard academically, checking all the boxes in securing a bright, successful future. But now that my education is over, I have masters from a top university, and what I really want? To stay at home with our future kids we hope to start having in a few years. In my circle of high achieving friends and family where most people have a doctorate this is a source of constant stress. I used to think that once I found something I’m truly passionate about professionally that desire would change. But then I realized, what I’m really passionate about is my family, and while I’m still interested in working from home in some creative way, mostly, I just want to take care of our lives. I’m still reconciling feelings of guilt about it, and not worrying about what society might have to say. But at the end of the day, it’s important to us, so we’ll make it work.

    • WhalenWolf

      This is me too! Right down to the guilt part. Here’s what worries me though– my mom stopped working when I was five to take care of my younger brothers and I full time. But then once we were teenagers and didn’t need her as acutely as we did as children and toddlers, she suffered through a pretty intense identity crisis. She felt a complete lack of agency as she was dependent on my Dad financially (it’s tough getting back into the job market after a 15 year absence), and her self-esteem took a huge hit because she felt like she had nothing to contribute to the world anymore. For a long time she couldn’t see herself as anything but a mother with no kids left to raise.

      So my question is, what does a mom do when the kids are gone? How do you maintain a fulfilling life outside of your kids that’s not about who you are professionally?

      • Jessica LK

        I worry about this too. My mom, and my fiance’s mom stayed at home. Both didn’t suffer an identity crisis (something I’ve asked them about since I really worry about it!) which they both attribute to being very active in their communities. They had circles of friends outside of other parents and volunteered a lot. I think a great danger in staying home can be to lose sight of yourself in any role other than a parent, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m hoping I can learn from them as we move towards that future.

        • Amy March

          And don’t forget the danger of divorce. Being 55 and having not worked since your 20s and suddenly needing to is so very very hard.

          • Caroline

            Or just any situation where you need to work suddenly. My fiancé’s dad was the breadwinner and his mother was the homemaker. They have very much what we think of as the classic 50’s dynamic (which probably never existed for most people, but was what his mom expected out of life). When his dad became disabled, and unable to work for a few years, they got into serious financial trouble because his mom had no post-high school education and no work expeirience other than 2-3 years as a teacher’s aid, 7 years previously. She just had no skills with which to go to work and support a family while his dad couldn’t.

          • Peekayla

            My dad got laid off twice in 4 years. That pushed my mom look for a full-time job a lot harder than she had been.

          • Class of 1980

            Don’t want to get off-topic, but … I see this thought expressed more and more online that question if the classic 50’s dynamic even existed for most people. I don’t know where this revisionist history is coming from. That dynamic existed long past the 1950s.

            When I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, the vast majority of moms stayed home. Notable exceptions were divorced moms, but they were in the minority. Yes, poor women worked, but percentage-wise there were fewer poor people when I was growing up!

            Mom has told me that the attitude was that “working women” consisted of young women who weren’t mothers yet, or older single women. My grandmother who was born in 1911 worked prior to marriage and then stayed home afterward. My mom worked a couple of years after I was born in 1958, and then stayed home till I was 17.

            Rumblings of mothers going to work started picking up steam in the late 1970s, but the major entry of mothers into the workforce was in the 1980s. My own mom followed this trend by beginning to work part-time in 1975 when I was 16-17 and then starting a full-time career in the 1980s until she retired in her 60s.

            The recession of the 1970s, the birth control pill, and feminism were all factors in changing the script for mothers. Going back to work was more rhetoric in the 1970s and reality in the 1980s.

          • Class of 1980

            Also, my mom considered herself a feminist, but the one dirty thing she thinks feminism did was to send the message, however subtle, that stay-at-home moms were losers.

            She said it was like the whole script got flipped almost overnight, and made a lot of women feel bad about themselves that used to feel great about themselves. The thing is, I was old enough (my teens) to remember what she’s talking about and it’s true!

            That attitude has only gotten worse over the decades to the point that now young women feel they owe society an explanation if they decide to stay home.

          • Caroline

            I don’t know for sure, but my understanding is that it is not that people are trying to revise history, but to acknowledge that there is not a monolithic experience. This is not my area of expertise, and I wasn’t around then, but my understanding is, for example, that most black women worked in the 50’s. my understanding of the idea of the 50’s not really looking like that is that it focuses only on a white middle-class point of view. (Which, yes, there were way more middle class then than now). That’s my understanding but I could be wrong. As I said, it is not my area of expertise nor my own experience.

          • GCDC

            I think it also depends on geography and class. I grew up in a
            relatively rural area in the Midwest. Every single woman in my family
            since at least the turn of the 20th century has worked for pay. These
            jobs may have been on the margin of the economy (taking in washing,
            raising chickens, running an in-home day care or hair salon) but my
            mother and both grandmothers (and at least one great-grandmother)
            considered themselves working women.

            So yes, not a monolithic experience at least in terms of my family experience and those families that I grew up around.

          • Class of 1980

            As I said, poor women worked, though probably somewhat flexible jobs. And I don’t want to ignore the experiences of black women, which were always harder. We know that. But that doesn’t change the fact the the vast majority of mothers were at home.

            Yes, the middle class was HUGE compared to today and poverty was far less. This is a difference that I can actually feel just by looking around. We’re in a very different world now – almost unrecognizable when it comes to family. The only mothers that worked in our gigantic neighborhood were divorced. And there were only three of them! This was a working class to middle class neighborhood.

            I lived during those times. We’re talking endless suburbs with only small pockets of poverty. Blue collar families were able to have one breadwinner. It may not have been 100% of families, but it was absolutely the norm and the percentage living that life had to be extremely high. We certainly did not have so many children living in poverty as we do now.

            The reason I’m calling it “revisionist history” is that most of the people questioning it are too young to have lived then. I sometimes get the feeling it sounds like a fairy tale to them!!! And that is just surreal to me.

            This is one of the most unexpected things about getting older. We expect ancient history to be full of holes. But I never would have dreamt that an era as recent as my own growing up years would be so often painted differently than they actually were.

            The other thing is, as important as feminism is, most women were not actually unhappy at the time. Yet I constantly see references to “frustrated housewives”. Even my mom who ended up with a career she loved later on, and was in an unhappy marriage, will tell you that most women weren’t miserable and frustrated. And I definitely don’t remember a bunch of miserable moms when I was growing up. People in general weren’t any less happy than now.

            I have always worked and intend to keep going for a long time. BUT, I don’t subscribe to the myth of the miserable housewife of previous decades. That said, it was a safer gig for a long time because the divorce rate was lower.

          • Caroline

            That makes sense, that it wasn’t everyone’s experience but it was a lot of people’s experience, and because my generation literally can’t conceive of the economic climate then, it feels like revising history because we beleive it was less common than it was. For instance, I do live in a high COL area but I can’t conceive of the idea of being able to afford a one-bedroom apartment on one income in your 20’s. my partner’s mom was 22 when she had him, and was a Stay-at-home mom. I know maybe… two 20-somethings who can afford a one-bedroom apartment on one salary and no roommates and they work in tech. Actually, I think just one. Everyone I know having children is 30+, and almost all of them need two full salaries to afford a house (rented or owned). I have one friend who is a stay at home mom, and one friend with a stay at home dad. Neither is by choice, but by economic realities of the cost of raising kids/daycare/extra costs/time raising special needs kids(advocating for their education, taking them to therapy etc), etc. and the economic realities of a parent who can’t find well-paying work.

            The idea of a stable-middle class lifestyle, in which you could own a house, afford healthcare, have some retirement savings and send your child to a okay-ish school on one income and have a little extra for the occasional meal out, or vacation or treat or whatever on one income is not in the things that I can imagine. It’s literally easier for me to imagine how we might achieve faster than light space flight than the ability to live a stable middle class life which includes good education for your kids, health insurance for your family (a little easier to imagine with obamacare, yay!), saving for retirement, and owning a house, and occasionalky having a little extra, on one income. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, it just means I don’t personally know anyone who can.

          • Class of 1980

            Yep. Most women became mothers at a much younger age back then. My parents were 22 when I was born. I’m the oldest. Doctors used to designate a 30-year-old first time mother as “elderly primagravida” believe it or not. ;)

            Housing was more modest and most people had one car. Started seeing two cars more in the late 1970s.

            Another thing that’s surreal to me is the language used when women talk about staying home with kids now … “the luxury of being a SAHM” … “privileged”.

            NO ONE thought they were living in luxury or privileged to be a SAHM back then. Actually “stay at home mom” wasn’t even a phrase. It was the default expectation.

        • Sarah E

          I think that’s the answer no matter what you’re life circumstance. If you pour all your energy into your job, then suddenly don’t have it (laid off, retirement, whatever), I think you’d be similarly in an identity crisis. I don’t think it’s unique to stay-at-home moms to have these issues. A diverse life of hobbies, work, family, friends, etc. takes a lot of time and energy, but it’s so necessary. And both our societal attitudes about parenting and work (put absolutely everything into it, at all times) hamper our ability to enjoy our knitting circle, plus rock-climbing, plus drinks with old friends, and still have time for relationships.

          • Alyssa M

            Yes! so. much. this!

      • ruth

        I agree with JessicaLK. I have this fear for myself, going into parenthood, but I plan to deal with it by continuing to engage in meaningful part time work. I can’t and frankly don’t want to work full time in the corporate world with a baby, but I can take on freelance writing projects, finish writing my novel, volunteer in a leadership capacity. This way, once my babies are grown, I will still have demonstratable accomplishments – because, sadly, you can’t put “raised two, quality human beings” on your resume

        • Meg Keene

          Studies show… this is actually exactly the right way to tackle it. All that earning power you loose staying home, you don’t loose if you keep an oar in doing part time or contract work.

          • Laura

            That is very encouraging to hear! I want to stay home with my kids but I also want to keep working part time (to have adult conversations as much as for the income). So I’m glad to know that it can help keep me in the pipeline for full time work later.

          • NTB

            Meg, yes! Staying in the game has helped a lot of mothers in my field (librarianship), even if they are one or two days a week. On-call, contract, and remote librarian positions are becoming the norm as libraries have trouble funding full-time positions anyway. It’s not a perfect solution, but it can afford us the opportunity to go back to full-time work when kids get into PreK or Kindergarten, because we haven’t totally lost our skills. Working 2 days per week would be a great compromise for us.

      • Sarah

        Oh man, I hadn’t really thought about this before. Such a good point, but now I just got a little more stressed…

      • jashshea

        My mom didn’t finish college before she had me and my brother and always regretted it. She took night school classes from the time we were about 7 or 8. She transitioned to working at preschools when we were in late elementary school and graduated from college when I was 16. She started her first FT teaching job when I was 19 or 20 (and got the required Masters after that).

        So, all that to say: You don’t have to have it all decided now. You can piece it together as time goes by. And it doesn’t have to be professional, of course.

      • H

        Or what do you do if you’re like my mom – gave up your career to raise kids for 21 years, then your husband (who you thought would never, ever leave you) leaves you for another woman and undermines your entire financial security. My mom has very, very little earning potential. She doesn’t have health insurance. She’ll get half the retirement fund, which wasn’t much, after the lawyers take their cut. Sh was an incredible mom and I value so much that she stayed home with us, but as she’s facing down another (hopefully) 30 years and doesn’t know how she’ll stay afloat financially, I wonder what she should have/could have done differently. This happens all. the. time. It’s terrifying.

        • Lauren from NH

          Death is also a significant possibility. I have heard of more dads dropping dead in the their 50’s than I care to count and one of them was mine. Perhaps the financial impact of either of those outcomes could/should be addressed with life insurance and a postnupt for partner’s who leave the workforce for a while. Then you are still left with grief, anger, and an identity crisis but at least you aren’t worried about having a place to live and food to eat.

          • Sarah

            Lauren, this was my situation, too (lost my father when he was in his early 60s). As an only child watching my mother struggle now in a somewhat low income job, I worry all the time about whether or not I will have to support her later in life. This is why I will probably never take extended time off work to raise children, as desirable as that seems. Life insurance is crucial, but in our case it really didn’t help much in the long term.

          • Peekayla

            My grandfather died in his late 30’s, leaving my grandmother and their 4 kids. She didn’t have a job, education, or even a driver’s license! She worked as a lunch lady for many years and left the home chores to the kids (read: her 2 daughters). It was tough for a long time, but when she remarried I don’t think she continued to work . . .

            Slight subject change: My mom went directly from her parents’ home to the home she shared with her new husband. Her biggest regret was never knowing if she could support herself on her own.

        • swarmofbees

          While it doesn’t protect everyone perfectly, this is why I think stay at home moms/dads really benefit from a legal marriage – at least you do get half of the retirement fund. It gives you an enforceable contract that protects you in the breach. The thought of leaving someone high and dry after they raise your kids is just awful. But, unfortunately, people are awful, and a legal marriage at least mitigates that.

          • Class of 1980

            And if you’ve been married at least ten years, you are entitled to a spouse portion of social security even if you get a divorce.

            Probably not enough to live on solely, but it’s something.

        • Yep. This is a real thing. My parents got divorced after 17 years of marriage, all of which my mom spent taking care of me and my brother. My dad was really sick at the time, so there wasn’t even much to split between the two of them. The last few years have been really hard on her as she tries to figure out how to manage her finances and get back into the working world, but she’s doing OK. She has her BA, so she went back to school at the local community college to get her paralegal certificate and is now working full-time as a legal assistant. I’m not really sure what the right answer is, but her situation has taught me that I will never stop working for an extended period of time. Also, always have (and be contributing to and managing) your own retirement account.

        • BD

          THIS is exactly the reason I’ve determined I will never be a stay-at-home mom. Not because I don’t want to be one (honestly, the idea is very tempting at times) but because I’m not psychic and don’t know what my future holds. As much as I’d like to think my loving husband would never leave me, or never drop dead in some freak accident or sudden heart attack, I don’t KNOW that it won’t happen. Maintaining a career for myself is the only thing that will catch me in that worst case scenario – neither of our families have much in the way of money, so I can’t depend on them financially – it will all be on me. I think this is a real concern that a lot of wives don’t think about enough, because it’s unpleasant, and we don’t want to consider our partners leaving or dying too soon. But I’ve seen it happen too many times in the real world to just pretend it isn’t a possibility.

      • Jennie

        My mom is the opposite. She worked hard when I was growing up. She got her PhD in nursing when I was in 2nd grade and has had a job as a nurse practitioner in a busy pediatric office for the last 15 years. When my dad left her for another woman two years ago, I was so thankful that she was in the position she is. It was sad growing up not to have her around as much as some of the other kid’s moms, but I’m so proud of how hard she worked and so thankful that she isn’t in a bad place financially when it is my dad’s issue.

      • Meg Keene

        Yup. This is such an important part of the equation. And it comes a lot earlier than the teen years, I think. It really comes once the kid is in full time school.

        And yes. The wave of divorces that comes when the kids are flown the coop and the mom has no means of support: fucking fucked up, and not rare either.

    • jashshea

      I could really reply anywhere, but something you said got me thinking and I wanted to pull it out:

      “I just want to take care of our lives”

      When I read that, the first though that came into my head was “I want someone to do that!” My husband and I both work well paying jobs that we’re good at, but loathe. We live in a relatively cheap area of the country and own a modest+ home in a fantastic neighborhood. His hours are terrible and he’s routinely unable to sleep due to stress/frustration/etc. I work fewer hours than he does (about 40-45 to his 50-60), but they are taxing in their own way (let’s just say I’m all out of fucks to give by around 11:15 each day). I try get home, clean up, and get dinner started before it’s legitimately bedtime.

      I stress about having a kid because I don’t see where we fit a whole new person into this dynamic. Obviously other people have figured it out and so will we, but I wish there were more flexibility somewhere in our schedules…which is exactly what the OP and you’re saying, right? For OP, the flexibility would be financial, for you societal, for me time.

      *Don’t get me wrong, two people with two well paying jobs isn’t the worst problem to have and I’m not quite complaining about that. It’s more about what bottlenecks we see vs. what others see.

      • Jessica LK

        Exactly! I want the flexibility to “just” take care of our lives, for that to be enough. Which, of course it is, if only I could societies nagging voice out of my head.

        Edited to add: I’m not really complaining either, we’re lucky enough that this is an option at all for us, for that I’m very grateful.

      • Gina

        Yes, yes, and yes. There’s just no way to have kids when BOTH of you have inflexible jobs. I’ve looked at this every which way but I can’t see how a kid would fit into my husband’s 80-hour-a-week schedule and my 60-hour-a-week schedule.

      • Eh

        I struggle with putting off having kids (as I mentioned below we plan on starting to try in the next few months) because I clearly have nothing to complain about (at least in the eyes of everyone around me – as you said “what bottlenecks we see vs. what others see”). My husband and I both have full time, permanent jobs. We both have opportunities for advancement. My job has benefits. We have a house and a car. My student loans are paid off, and we are working on paying off his. (The ducks are nicely lining up.) We live in Canada, which only makes any of my complaints even seem pettier since we have yearlong mat/parental leave (and this is actually what I’m having trouble with). I see so many of my friends and coworkers taking off a full year (sometimes more) and I don’t see how I can do that (I’m the breadwinner and we can’t live off my reduced pay for a year). It has become the norm in my circle that the mother take a year off, so I’m feeling a lot of societal pressure to figure out how to take a year off. People in our parents’ generation always say “oh you are so lucky that you get to have a year off, we were lucky to get 3 months”. I need to find more people where the husband has taken parental leave. I believe that it’s very important for fathers to be active in raising their children (my father was our primary care giver) so I think having my husband take parental leave would support that goal. I know a few people where the husband has taken parental leave but it’s usually been because the wife didn’t qualify for leave because she was self-employed or a student. The good thing is that my husband would be very happy to take parental leave

        • jashshea

          It is a possibility for him to take the leave? Or for you to take the 3 months and for him to take time during/after that? Do you have to take a pay cut for any leave? My (US) company is generous in that both parents get 3 months at 100% (taken right after birth) and either/both could do another leave after that at ~60% pay.

          The unfortunate thing is that whatever you do, people will talk about it. I have friends who barely survived the 3 months of leave because it was dull and others who were able to take a full 12 months and used that time to plan out how they could quit full time because they loved it so much. There really isn’t a right answer, but maybe that’s the good part – if there’s no right answer, there’s no way to do it wrong?

          • Eh

            At my company I would get the first 17 weeks at 95% and then the next 10 weeks at 75% but after that I would take a huge cut (it would be less than 60% of my pay). There is no problem with my husband taking the time off (in Canada federal maternity benefits are for the birth mother for 17 weeks right after birth and then parental benefits are for either parent and are for 35 weeks after the maternity benefits are used up, if you qualify). I don’t think his work “tops up” his government benefits but that would less of a hit on our family income than me taking off more than 27 weeks (I make more than twice his income).

            I know people will talk if/when he takes parental leave (or even if he doesn’t). I have friends that are self-employed who are called selfish for going back to work a week after their baby was born (one friend was told to find a job where she qualified for mat/parental leave or don’t have babies). I have had friends return from a year off and be so happy to be at work because they were bored at home and then felt guilty that they were happy to be back at work. I have friends who have taken two years off and I know people that quit their jobs afterwards too. I really hope it becomes more popular for men to take parental leave and for there to be less pressure for woman to take the whole year (“because we have it and our mothers didn’t so we should use that opportunity”). In our case, financially and career-wise it makes more sense for him to take the time off then me.

        • Meg Keene

          I wrote about this after the baby was born. I was so mad I didn’t get a year, and then so weirdly glad (on a personal, not policy level). I wanted to go back to WORK. I needed to go back to work, frankly, for our finances. There was already (in the current Bay Area culture of stay at home motherhood as the new affluent progressive) a lot of pressure to not go back. But if the standard had been stay home for a year, socially and emotionally it would have been really hard.

          If it makes you feel better, starting daycare with him at three months has been so good for all of us.

          • Eh

            When there is a policy that says that the government will pay you (albeit at a reduced amount) and your job is protected for a full year there is an INSANE amount of pressure to use everything you are entitled to. Especially when your mother and MIL were career women and went back to work shortly after having their babies because they didn’t have those entitlements. I would get a lot of flack about letting other people “raise” our children if I/we didn’t take the full year off (my self-employed friends who don’t qualify for any leave so didn’t have a choice but to put their babies in daycare hear this all the time). That said, WE are entitled to a year. It’s not just me. I am very thankful that my husband can take the time off (at least according to the government – unfortunately the societal pressure is still all on the mother). And I don’t think it should matter if I return to work (and my husband stays home) because I want to go back to work (I like my job and I find it fulfilling) or if I go back to work because financially we can’t live off of less than 60% of my income or because my husband wants to stay home for a bit. People should just trust that we are doing what is best for our family (and hopefully along the way making father’s staying home more common).

          • IG

            Daycare has been great for us too. And I guess that’s what jumps out at me from this post — it’s easy to say that you can’t wait to be a SAHM, or that you know you’ll hate it, before you actually have kids. I thought I would never want to stay home, but loved my six months of maternity leave, and might have extended it if financially feasible. On the other hand, make sure you give yourself permission to say “you know, I thought I would love this, but it’s totally different than what I expected, and, if I’m being honest, I’d really rather go back to work.” Every kid is different, sometimes PPD hits, sometimes your relationship changes in ways you didn’t expect, sometimes you can’t breastfeed or don’t want to … flexibility and honesty are key.

          • Meg Keene

            Yeah. It’s a little unpredictable. I’m wanting more time with the kiddo NOW, for example. I like babies, but it’s not really my AGE you know? Now that he’s really good company, now I miss him lots during the day.

        • Glen

          My husband took the full month that he was allowed (as a teacher in the US) while I took most of my leave (a little over 3 months; I qualified for 4 months but by then it was summer vacation and my husband could stay home with our child). I know he was happy he took the leave and had the time to bond with our child. I was very happy he took the leave because I had a c-section and it took 2 weeks before I was able to bend at the waist much, and 4 weeks before I was feeling relatively normal. If he had had to go back to work right away, we would have had to hire help to care for the baby; there was no way I could do it on my own those first 2 weeks. (Our families were not able to help, for various reasons.)
          I was happy to go back to work; child care is exhausting! I probably would have taken the full 4 months if my husband didn’t have summer vacation, but I don’t know if I could have done a year — maybe 6 months, at which point she was getting very active and really needed that social interaction that she gets at daycare. She’s very happy at daycare (usually too busy to even wave bye-bye at me — bittersweet), and we’re thrilled that she has wonderful child care providers.

        • Laura

          In Quebec fathers get an additional five weeks of leave that only they can take. I think this is GREAT because since only fathers can take it, there’s no stigma attached to them doing so, and no social pressure to transfer the time to the mom. That gets people accustomed to the idea of fathers taking parental leave.

          I also like that Quebec gives you the flexibility of taking a second year of parental leave if you want. You don’t get any money during the second year, but your job is held for you until you get back. Obviously there are sacrifices involved in that second year, but it could really make a difference for a family knowing that the parent can just resume their job.

          • Eh

            I wish the rest of Canada had paternity leave. I hope it does normalize taking leave and hopefully more will start taking (at least part) the paid parental leave that either parent can take.

            It’s a case by case basis but my employer does allow for a second year of unpaid leave (and this has become more common). I haven’t heard of anyone being turned down, but theoretically my employer could and they don’t have a formal policy (it falls under the general LOA program). My employer does give new fathers a few days paid leave also.

      • I think our culture totally underestimates how much time it takes to be an adult/run a household. Even just working 40-45 hours a week, making time for errands, chores, doctor’s appointments, long commutes, physical fitness, calling about that weird charge on your bill, etc leaves VERY little free time. It’s sort of shocking to me that I work from home, have no children, and yet I’m still running low on fucks and often don’t feel like we’re getting all our shit done around here. Again, I can’t complain about our lives, but I do wonder how it’s possible to do it and not feel like you’re drowning without all the luxuries and flexibility we have, or with another person or two in the mix.

        • Yep. This discussion always (somewhat tangentially) makes me think of vacation time, too. If you’re lucky enough to get PTO (which, ridiculously, so many are not), you usually get 2 weeks. With so many people living a plane flight away from their families of origin and extended families, you basically have to reserve 3-5 days of that time to visit or host around the holidays, and, while I love my family, I do not count this as a “vacation.” Other than that, I have 1 week and change out of the ENTIRE year to myself. So, not only are there not enough hours in the day/week to take care of everything on my to-do list, there aren’t enough days/weeks in the year for me to take a break from my job/to-do list. I feel like I’m being set up to always be exhausted or something.

          • Meg Keene

            This comes down to our societal values in the US, and how we don’t value life, just work.

          • Lauren from NH

            As a super awesome receptionist (some sarcasm and an attempt at pride there), I am shocked how many people struggle to take time off work for their important personal appointments. Doctors, dentists, and I myself am in Estate Planning. This is all important stuff that an employer who cares about your basic wellbeing should support, I should think.

          • Stacie

            “…while I love my family, I do not count this as a “vacation”. THIS. We call these “obli-cations”. Between my dad being ill in Florida, and Fiance’s family in California, we’ve realized that our honeymoon will be the first (and possibly only, for a really long time) REAL VACATION we will take together.


        • jashshea


          It takes me at least a month to call my doctor back for my annual appointments (you know, after I duck the phone call the first time because holy shit I just spent 9 hours on the phone).

          I had a streak last month where several things I’d had delivered to my house arrived broken or were the wrong items. I shopped online because I don’t want to fit a trip to the store into my weeknight. I ended up spending a few hours getting it all straightened out and could have saved all of that if I’d just gone to the dang store.

          I know this sounds super petty and it absolutely is. But I find that I have very little patience for life shit these days. And patience was never a strength.

        • Class of 1980

          I’ve said this a million times …

          Back when men were the breadwinners, it was expected that when they got home at the end of the day, they would eat dinner, play with the kids, and REST.

          And people were working fewer hours back then to boot.

          It’s absolutely fucked the way we live now. Even if two people have full-time jobs and run the household equally, both of them have less time to recuperate at the end of the day. That’s not a life.

          I work at home, but I’m going to hire a housekeeper because we are both sick and tired of chores during evenings and weekends. It’s no way to live.

        • MsDitz

          I was JUST thinking about this as I was cleaning our shower for the first time in…I can’t even remember. I am on my third day of maternity leave, but I am still about 3 weeks away from my due date. So many people are surprised that I am actually taking the full month of disability my state allows pre-birth and not working right up until I go into labor. First of all, you are given a month for a reason — being 8 months pregnant is HARD! Secondly, in these three days I have gotten more done around the house than either my husband or I have in the past 3 months. I’ve set up the stroller and sleeper that have been sitting in boxes in our garage since my baby shower, filed our taxes, made countless appointments, stocked up on important things like food and diapers, and am now starting a full clean sweep of the house. There is no way we would have been ready to bring a baby home had I not taken this time to get things in order. I don’t even want to think about what our lives/house would look like if I had to go back to work right after delivery.

          • Lauren from NH

            Kudos to you! The negative working culture in America gets in all our heads a little. Good for you for drawing boundaries, prioritizing your and your family’s needs, and using the time you deserve and are entitled to!

          • Catherine McK

            Oh man this comment makes me want to pack my bags and go home now. 38 weeks here. I commend you for knowing yourself and taking the time. (And clearly I am being a super productive employee as I watch these interesting conversations unfold here today)

        • Erin E

          YES. Completely agree with all comments. Sometimes I think to myself “we have all of these electronics and appliances that supposedly save time… why can’t I get my household together?!?” but then I also think about how many more hours we (in the US) work these days (both men and women) AND I think about the crazy pressure we put on ourselves to do A LOT of really time consuming lifestyle things in the name of improvement/perfection. Especially for women. Like eating healthy (which means cooking your own meals and/or growing your own food), being physically healthy (which means time working out), being physically attractive (which is time on personal upkeep), having a beautiful home, volunteering in the community, etc., etc. Who has time for ALL of this??? I don’t have kids yet and I also wonder how on earth I’d fit another person into the puzzle.

    • 39bride

      I hear you! You put it perfectly: “I just want to take care of our lives.”

      Work has brought me a lot of joy and success (classical musician with a masters from a top-tier school, multi-award-winning writer and teacher turned successful nonprofit fundraiser), but deep down I always wanted to be a “housewife.” My recent period of extended unemployment has indulged those feelings, and my husband has been deeply appreciative of how I stretch our limited dollars and make home such a peaceful and comfortable place for him. Add to it that while we’ll likely never have children of our own, we are up to our eyeballs in transitioning two preteen relatives to permanent residency in our home. The motherhood flag is flying high and–other than the financial strain–I really couldn’t give a flying f*** about finding another job at this point.

      And even though it’s been 15+ years, I half pray my college professors and former colleagues never find out that’s how I really feel.

      • Hannah B

        I’m in opera, and there have been so many articles floating around our subset of the blogosphere variously titled something along the lines of “why you’ll never be a professional opera singer” that drive home the point that the career is all sacrifice and do you have what it takes to give up everything? And I call bullshit. The reality in the business now is: it’s all about how you define success and how you choose to make your career and balance your own life and happiness. It’s a fact, though, that all you ever hear about in school (from colleagues and the professors) is the Big Career, the A list houses, the festival contracts in Europe (assuming you can’t get an A house contract), and pish posh, if you must, regional opera. Forget about chorus work or freelancing, those are for the people who aren’t talented enough to make it as a solo singer, which of course is the only reason to be in music: personal glory. No regard for the economic barriers to the arts, for the cost of pursuing the career. Please. Whether or not you’re a singer, I’m sure you can relate (even if you had all the expected successes!).

        And honestly, if you are happy being a mother to pre-teens (bless you) and you are finding fulfillment outside the practice room, then good for you! And it doesn’t mean you’re less of an artist or less of a musician and it certainly doesn’t mean you don’t love music or teaching or working as a fundraiser- it means your vocation is shifting. Some other muse is calling you louder right now. Your training isn’t “wasted” now that you’re away from the profession; studying music has altered how you view the world, your brain itself, and will always be a part of you, and will be of use to you in unexpected ways. Do what makes sense for your life!

        I don’t usually rant in comments, but the line “And even though it’s been 15+ years, I half pray my college professors and former colleagues never find out that’s how I really feel” got to me, because I’ve been around those people, and I am so tired with the judgement going on in conservatories and in the music community that it’s all or nothing; you’re either a dedicated professional consumed by music or you’re “not really” a musician.

        • I think creatives have this huge burden of being set up to want to be famous instead of set up to want to be working and making a living for their work. I think it starts young, with how we think about creative professions as all glory and splashy and special and don’t talk about how the goal can simply be making a living at a creative job you love. I struggled for a long time to tell people I’m a writer or to feel proud of where I was in my career path because I was comparing my position to those major undeniable signs of success that we equate with having “made it.”

          • Hannah B

            Exactly. In any profession, there are benchmarks of success, but in the creative professions, those benchmarks are much more fluid and individual. Sometimes (most of the time?), you achieve those benchmarks without corresponding financial success.

            As an aside: My fiance is currently student teaching senior English at a low-achieving school. I just had this thought- If the kids write an essay that is full of complete, supported thoughts, that is a very successful essay. If that essay happens to be written in a way that uses proper grammar? Stellar. Elsewhere, that is the minimum for writing anything! Success is relative to where you are when you begin and then where you end up (for his kids, maybe 8th grade level? Hopefully getting closer to 12th by the time/if they graduate?). Granted, this brings up a separate topic about the whole failure of our education system and of society, in general, but in regards to being a successful writer, it’s relative.)

        • Meg Keene

          It’s just a toxic message in conservatory anyway. Mine was “If you don’t act, you failed.” It took me a long time to get over that to quit. Spoiler alert: I don’t think I failed as an artist :)

    • lady brett

      “But then I realized, what I’m really passionate about is my family, and while I’m still interested in working from home in some creative way, mostly, I just want to take care of our lives.”

      oh my yes. i am currently trying to get the balls to talk to my boss about moving to part-time (i’ve written up a proposal and everything), because of exactly this.
      (and, financially, we spend so much *money* trying to make up for the places where we can’t take care of our lives, i don’t think we’re even going to have to make any real sacrifices when our budget changes.)

      • “and, financially, we spend so much *money* trying to make up for the places where we can’t take care of our lives, i don’t think we’re even going to have to make any real sacrifices when our budget changes.”

        Never thought of that, but you’re absolutely right. I’m sure this is true for so many people.

        • Kelsey

          Big time yes

        • Meg Keene

          Oh yeah. It costs… about the same as rent (again) to be able to afford to have two working parents.

          The flip side is that doing that, long term, is a huge financial investment in your financial future. IE, having a parent drop out of the work force for the years that you have small children and then go back, is a huge financial hit over the course of a lifetime. Not only do you never make that money back, studies show that you loose something like 20% of your earnings after you do go back. SO. Paying your whole salary to childcare can feel nuts at the time, but it’s actually an investment that’s worth it look term, if you’re looking at a pure numbers play.

          Life is more than numbers, but I do think it’s important to consider the “what happens after the kids are back in school” piece when you’re walking through decisions.

    • Kelsey

      I feel you. I’m will get married in a few months, after just having completed my Bachelor’s degree in biology. I’ve always been good student, full tuition scholarship, and since high school I had planned to go on to get my Doctorate of Physical Therapy. The more I grow up, and the more I spend time with my nephew, the more I realize I would really like to stay at home. My fiancee and I would both like one of us to stay at home full time, and while my fiancee is willing for it to be him, we would both prefer it to be me. And yet the thought of not working makes me wince. He will be a teacher (read, one third my anticipated earning potential) and I’ve gotten my identity from academics for most of my life, so that to not go on seems like a waste/like I’m letting people down. Plus, its just humbling. I would technically be unemployed, as opposed to being a doctor. I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would be for me if I had already earned my (expensive) advanced degree/half our parent friends didn’t have a stay at home half of the couple.

  • LBH

    Thank you thank you thank you for this. We are absolutely ready to have kids but are don’t think we can afford it. My husband doesn’t feel it as acutely — he has a six year old son from his previous marriage (who I adore as well) — but I’m so ready to have babies. I may need to revisit our budget and see if I can eek out a way to save more.

    I also really struggle with how badly I want to stay home. I have a law degree, I’ve been working since I was fourteen, I love to work. Honestly. Not necessarily my current job, but working in general is something I really enjoy. All I want to do is stay home with kids though. I feel like there is a lot of pressure on me to live up to some “potential” I’m not necessarily interested in. And I have some friends who are doing it all and doing it marvelously — working high powered jobs, taking care of cute babies at night, but I just don’t think that’s the life I want.

    • Gina

      Oh gawd. You are me exactly, right down to the law degree and wanting to stay home instead. I can’t imagine trying to “do it all”– I know I’d just be exhausted.

      If you figure out how to make it work, let me know!

  • Paula

    I don’t know if you’ve looked into this, but where I live, many cities and towns offer “moderate income” housing assistance. It varies by the town, but in one particularly affluent suburb, a single person making under $80K could get reduced rent. That is not a typo. The income limits are *really* high. I know a woman who bought a condo in a really nice area for around 1/3 of what it would have cost anyone else, just because she is a musician (and probably making under some income threshold that is more generous than you’d think). It was “artist” housing, again through some city program. Heating fuel assistance is also IIRC available to more people than you would think. You may qualify for WIC once you become pregnant, too. You might look into some of these programs, which could make your financial situation post-baby more comfortable.

  • Adria Rizzo

    It’s so far from wrong…
    Sometimes I think the whole feminism thing gets misrepresented. What I want feminism to be, and what it is for myself, is the ability to make my own decisions and not have them forced down my throat. And I think we’ve reached that point (for the most part). Gone are the days where women have to stay home and do nothing other than raise babies and cook/clean for their spouses. Let’s not let feminism turn us into a society where we feel the only option we have as women is to all want to “lean in” all the time, stop worrying about wanting families, and only focus on our careers and how much money we make in comparison to our male counterparts.
    You won’t ever have enough…it’s true…in regards to time, or money. But you will have enough love if you want to have a baby (or 12!). And truly, love is all you need. Babies know when they are loved, and they thrive on it. There are inexpensive ways to do all parenting – breastfeeding is free, cloth diapers save gobs of money (and the environment), clothing is always gifted, and if not, available at most consignment/thrift stores in great condition and at low, low prices (surprise! babies wear each outfit only a few times before they outgrow it. this is truth…my daughter has received so many outfits from family and friends, she has outgrown some that still have their tags on’s insane).

    • Kate

      I admire your positivity but “love is all you need” is not exactly sound financial advice for prospective parents. Breastfeeding and cloth diapers are not logistically possible for many moms working to support their families. Clothes are always gifted? Maybe not something you can count on if you lack a community or come from a struggling one. Babies very quickly grow into pint-sized people who need to eat solid food, go to the doctor, and wear shoes. They need love, but that’s not all they need.

  • Cara

    For some women, it’s biology. As much as we’d like to think that our brains are more powerful than our bodies, our hormones can stir up a baby-wanting chemistry that’s more powerful than a drug addiction. Don’t apologize. And for as grateful as I am for the sacrifices of our second-wave feminist mothers, I gotta say that they sure put a damn lot of pressure on us not to screw it up. If you want to tap out of the career rat race, tap out. At the risk of sounding too undergrad about it, it’s only good for The Man anyway.

  • “I dream of the day when I will open diapers and clean up spilled juice for a wee one who doesn’t yet recognize that I’m a person; instead of opening mail and cleaning up spilled coffee for people who never will.” This line really jumped out at me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with anyone, male or female, wanting to take care of their family instead of work in an office (or wherever)…but that line just reinforced my belief that there’s something fundamentally wrong with how we approach work in this country. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this conclusion, and I think it’s totally feasible that some people are just better suited to working inside the home than outside of it….but hot damn, where does that leave the people who have no choice but to work outside the home? If anything, I hope that our generation can lean in to making the workplace a better place to be a human.

    • Sarah E

      Agreed. The worst part of the statement is colleagues (or superiors, or whatever) not recognizing other employees as people. Somehow, it’s too easy to forget that there’s a human being on the other end of your interactions all. the. time. At work, at restaurants, on the phone. We’re all human and we’re all connected.

  • Amber

    Parenthood is the most important job anyone could have, so it’s definitely not wrong that you want to immerse yourself in it and do it right! Congrats on the light at the end of the tunnel/baby in your future :)

    • Anon

      This is not directed at you, I just wanted to weigh in on how often this is statement is used.

      I wish society at large would stop using the “Parenthood/Motherhood is the most important/difficult job” statement. There are lots of very important, very difficult jobs out there–President/Prime Minister or Pediatric oncologist, etc, . Parenthood is not an option for everyone, and it’s a “job” that some people think they will love or hate only to change their minds later. Jessica Valenti does a much more eloquent job explaining this in her book “Why Have Kids?”.

      • So this. The organizations I work with do a HUGE amount to serve children. Most of us as individuals don’t have them ourselves. It is not something we personally want to do in our own lives. But we are impacting the lives of families and youth through our work. My relatives who are parents do not have a more important “job” than me (and my job isn’t more important than being a parent), we just made different choices.

  • Lauren

    To address the financial side of your problem, I totally can relate. While my fiance and I are not ready for kids yet (emotionally or financially), we have similar finances as you. Here are some resources that have helped us:

    YNAB ( is a great budgeting tool. Unlike Mint, it makes you enter all your transactions, which was a big turnoff for me at first, but has led to me keeping a closer watch on what I’m spending money on. If you have Steam (the game application) it often appears there on sale.

    All Your Worth by Elizabeth Warren is a GREAT book for people with lots of debt and trying to get out. It proposes a stupid simple budget system based on percentages of your income. Some would argue that it doesn’t go far enough (see below) but it’s an awesome starting point and has been incredibly helpful for me.

    Mr. Money Mustache ( retired at the age of thirty with his wife so that they could spend more time with their son (among other reasons). He is a big proponent of financial independence, and I highly recommend flipping through some of his articles and the forum (you can even post your current budget on the forum to have it “critiqued” by fellow mustachians and given more detailed advice). The entire blog can serve as great inspiration.

    I hope that helps! I know finances can be especially stressful when you’re in a job you hate (been there, done that). We both have jobs that come with a lot of stress already tacked on (he’s an elementary school teacher, I’m a server in a restaurant) and sometimes finances are just one more thing. I wish you the best of luck!

    • jashshea

      Echoing/Seconding finding a good online community to help out with the budget if you aren’t already doing so. I struggled with learning how to budget in my 20s and (back then) message boards really helped me work through that.

    • I second YNAB. It’s really helped me save for future expenses on my meager income, and entering transactions manually keeps you accountable. It costs money upfront but in my experience it’s paid for itself.

      • jbryant6

        I just heard about YNAB last week! My fiance and I are definitely going to start using this after the wedding. We’d start now, but since the wedding is like 6 weeks away at this point, I know we would fail miserably if we started now.

    • Outside Bride

      I LOVE the Elizabeth Warren book. I have this really specific memory of being in a town that I knew was temporary for me at the height of the real estate craziness. Everyone (no, really, everyone) was pressuring me to buy a house, for all the reasons that you would expect. That book was like my lifeline to sanity. Three years later, just as the market was tanking, I got the job I had always wanted in a place where I could see myself forever. Being able to tumble into my dream without having to worry about how I was going to ditch an overpriced house in the middle of a financial meltdown made that book literally worth it’s weight in gold. Maybe more. On one hand, I wish they would do an update, on the other, the fact that’s it’s still relevant is awesome!

      • Erin E

        Seconding Mr. Money Mustache. That blog has really urged me to reevaluate how I spend my money and what is important to my family. Financial changes can be so hard to make, but are so worth it. I felt like this site really helped me get to a different mental place about money.

  • Lucy

    This essay makes me feel like there is an elephant in the room…and it’s not a question of being a parent, staying home, finances or anything like that. Of course it’s fine to want to be parent and stay home, of course it’s fine to feel stressed about money and worry that you won’t be able to make it all work. What’s odd to me about this essay (and in some ways the comments on it) is that there isn’t much encouragement for the OP to think about different career options. I would hate to be in a job that made me, as the OP said, feel “weeping and rage hate”. That sounds AWFUL! Regardless of what happens with parenthood, staying home, etc, I would really encourage everyone to second guess that work has to be miserable.

    Unfortunately or not, work is how we make our lives go financially in this country (longer discussion on the merits/values of that is warranted of course) but it just makes me so sad that both the OP and her husband are so miserable and drained by work every week that there is very little optimism that that (very dominant and unpleasant) factor of their lives could change. When my fiance was in a miserable job he was miserable to live with. Now that he loves his job, both of our lives are so much better. I’ve been lucky to always have work I love and I know it can make such a huge difference in your overall outlook on life.

    • MisterEHolmes

      Yes! Maybe it’s just in light of the name-change conversations we’ve had here (where we mourn that men don’t even have to think about it), but this feels like a very “female privilege” situation. They both want kids, but she takes it without question that SHE would be the one to get to stay home while HE continues to work in a job he hates. No consideration of other alternatives? Sure, there is a biological situation at play, too, but lots of working mothers go back after maternity leave: they make it work.

      That may not be the right situation for this family, and that is FINE, but to not even consider other options? What would it hurt for one or both of them to look for other career options, particularly if they’ve agreed that she’ll stay home for a couple of years. One of the joys of the internet is the ability to self-promote: maybe she’s crafty and can sell homemade thingamajigs on Etsy, or can offer online tax-preparation help, or I’m sure there are other things she could do as a micro-business owner that would allow her to contribute to the household. AND, if he is going to be working, start looking for another job that doesn’t burn you out from the outside-in. Leaving a job is hard and scary, sure, but NOT doing it out of fear is no help at all.

      And hopefully they’ve discussed this, because, who knows, maybe they would BOTH rather quit their jobs and become organic apple sellers or whatever. Their gender shouldn’t limit either of them.

      • Lucy

        I think for me this essay didn’t seem too tilted by gender…it was more the hopelessness about their work situations (for both of them) that struck me. Believe me, I know that job change is hard and awful and scary…my fiance went through a year long job search and it was the hardest year of our lives. We also have big student loan payments and live in an area of the country with a high cost of living.

        I just think, as you said, that there is a ton of flexibility these days to make your work something you at least enjoy parts of, if not love. The internet etc opens lots of new doors and the traditional job market is also there too. When you are miserable at your job that pessimism and unhappiness can permeate your hopes for the future and I think that is sad, but fortunately fixable! I’m not trying to judge the OP, just wanted to pointed out a factor in this essay that doesn’t actually totally relate to questions of parenthood.

        • Meg Keene

          It’s so interesting that I, you know, have created (several) of those internet jobs, and I’m not sure I share your optimism with, “there is a ton of flexibility these days to make your work something you at least enjoy parts of, if not love. The internet etc opens lots of new doors and the traditional job market is also there too.” Maybe it’s where I come from (very little money, very few options, lots of friends doing what they have to do to pay the bills, having done plenty of that work myself), maybe it’s having had to work through two recessions, the second time single handedly supporting a family. Maybe it’s having a husband in law, with a market that’s been… through hell and back, giving me a few rounds of supporting the family with my internet job. But. I just don’t share that optimism.

          I think it’s important to retain the hope that things can get better. But I think for lots of the world, the reality is you do whatever it takes to pay the bills, and I want to take my hat off to people in the midst of doing that. It’s hell. But it also makes you a survivor, and that makes you strong.

          • Lucy

            I definitely am an optimist by nature…and I am also very aware that a lot of that comes from my own luck. I also know that time is an important thing here, yes there will be weeks, months, even years where a job situation is less than ideal and even miserable. I’m not trying to discount that fact, or claim that changes can happen rapidly if you “Just put you mind to it”. I think that would be pollyannish and I’m not one to minimize struggle.

            However, my fiance and I have been through the worst of a horrible job market (he was unemployed for over a year, which had lots of financial and emotional consequences) but I had to hold onto the fact that our circumstances would, at some point, change. It was really the only way for us to keep our relationship strong and it has laid the foundation for our marriage in a way that I could have never predicted.

            My goal in participating in this thread was really just to point out that being miserable at work can color a lot of things in life and that proactively thinking or hoping for a change in that misery should be a reasonable option. Being trapped in a bad job does not have to be forever although it might feel like forever to get to the other side.

            Again, everyone is different, and you are right, the surviving does make you strong.

        • Sarah E

          I’d agree with Meg that I’m less-than-optimistic about the flexibility you outline in the job market. As someone half-way on the job market, I can tell you that I look at Internet jobs, and the doors they open are under-paid or not paid or available to people with skills I don’t have (like coding), and the traditional market is full of competition from people with years more experience, or only available to part-timers or non-skilled labor. Personally, I see the major entrepreneurial shift in the economy and I’m generally a fan, but it really means that you need to work two jobs non-stop for a while until your “passion work” takes off.

          Your point is entirely accurate: a miserable job situation certainly bleeds over into the rest of your life. I just think the options that are touted at-large are mostly theoretical.

      • Meghan

        OP here. You have some excellent points! We have talked about him staying home. Sadly, student loan deferment/reduction is hard to get. One way is to be the primary care provider for a child. Since most of the loans are in my name, it makes much more sense for me to be that care provider. (Not to mention the “biological situation”…) I do hope to make a little extra by opening an Etsy store. And I plan to take free online courses. Our pipe-dream is that after those first two years or so, I can find a job which will support us both and he can stay home. He’d be better at it anyway!

        • MisterEHolmes

          I’m not just trying to be critical of you, I hope you know that! It’s just a broader cultural situation I’ve been thinking about lately; women have the “option” to not work a livable wage/have a career plan and that is seen as okay, but it doesn’t even come up for men. It’s been interesting to think about.

          Obviously you’ve put more thought into it–sorry to assume!

        • NTB

          It is awesome that you are creative. Opening an Etsy store is something I am interested in doing, too. I picked up a few books about it from the library, and they have been helpful. Anything I can make on the side would be a help. Good luck!

      • KimBee

        I’d like to push you on the idea of “contributing to the household.” The way you’ve framed it seems to suggest that a financial contribution is the only way to add value to the family. Stay-at-home moms and dads contribute to the household in multitudinous ways. Child care is legitimate work in its own right, which is why we pay so many people to do it. A person lending his/her gifts to his/her partnership can make an amazing and valuable contribution even if it brings nothing to the home financially.

        • MisterEHolmes

          Child care is definitely work–my mom runs a daycare, so believe me, I know firsthand–and certainly valuable, but it brings in zero income, and as other people in this thread have shared, that’s a precipitous place to be. You need more than faith in your partner if you set yourself up to be completely 100% dependent on their income–you need a plan for the contingencies and a way to demonstrate skills to get you a job in the event that you must. So yes, I believe EVERYONE needs to foster skills that someone might pay them for, and sadly, as someone else said, you can’t put “raised two wonderful humans” on a resume.

        • Meg Keene

          YES. I agree. Raising a small child (or children) full time is hard and exhausting and much much harder than an office job. The pressure that you need to be, like, running an Etsy shop too? I don’t like that. I don’t think that’s fair.

      • Eh

        I like the comparison to the name-change conversation. I agree that it’s about assumptions that the woman will do something because that’s how it has been done (or because the women that came before us “fought” for it or didn’t have that opportunity). Even in Canada where fathers have the option to take time off and be paid, they don’t (except in Quebec where they get five weeks of paternity benefits which only the father can use so over half actually take some time off). Based on what I’ve seen there is a lot of societal pressure for the mother to take the full year off even if that isn’t best for the family (or she doesn’t want to). Taking a year off is not the best situation for my family yet I know I will get flack for not taking a year even if my husband takes the remainder of the year.

    • Jennie

      I think it depends on where you live and what your background is. The economy has been crap since my husband and I graduated from school. He is smart, good with people and good at getting jobs. And yet, he works in a field that is mostly contract work. He stayed at his last job even though he was miserable, because it was the only one he got while on unemployment. This time around on unemployment, he took a job at a drug store to help us make ends meet until he gets a better job.

      Like you said, you’ve been lucky in work. Many people aren’t. Some people are able to get out of bad work situations. Some people can’t. That’s the elephant in the room.

      • lucy

        Totally agree that a lot of this depends on many factors, area of the country, job field, personalities etc.

        As I said below, my fiance was unemployed and job searching for a year. It was awful, and similar to your situation, it was doubly frustrating because I knew that employers were missing out on someone awesome. I will always have empathy (for the rest of my life I hope!) for the struggle that goes on when work is not clicking into place.

        I know I’ve been lucky, but I also think that misery in job situations doesn’t have to be permanent. I was really frustrated and angry and how long and demoralizing my fiance’s job search was, but now that we’re on the other side I’m both grateful for the lessons we learned and that our luck did finally change.

        • Meg Keene

          I think sometimes the best you can do is pride in your work. SADLY. I didn’t have options in my secretary days, bills had to be paid. But I was able to develop tremendous pride in my work… and that’s about all that kept me afloat.

      • Alyssa M

        I was trying to find a way to say this… but couldn’t quite find the right words. Thankyou.

      • Meg Keene

        Yeah. This. I just said that above, but this. I ended up able to find a way to get out… at almost 31. But there was 20 years of working before that, much of it hellish. And for many of my loved ones, a full time job that can pay the bills IS amazing and lucky. I’ve said this before, but, I don’t think having a life you are proud of is an economic privilege. I learned pride in whatever work you do from the blue collar place I grew up. But having a job that is your passion? That happens in a lot of places on the economic ladder (IE, I know a lot of hair dressers who do their passion and rich ass bankers who don’t), but it’s hardly a right that everyone has access too.

  • La_Venus

    APW, you did it again. You read my mind and posted exactly what I have been processing recently. I recently realized that I am at a point in my life where I can *stop*. For so long I have been fighting for a different job, planning the next ascension in our lives, or we have been about to or having just moved. Now we are here. My husband has a stable job, I have a part-time job that I like. What this means is we can stop planning babies for “after the next thing”. It is not a current impossibility. And we would be financially stable enough (with responsible budgeting) for me to stay home. But you know what? I still feel the same guilt/defensiveness as the OP. Simply put, I was not raised to be a stay at home. No matter how clear it is to my husband and I that this will help keep our lives at the pace we want them (slow) and provide stability for our family, and no matter how badly I want it and am acutely aware of how quickly I would drop this job that I have worked for, I have been thoroughly and carefully programmed to value career and work more. My Mom believes staying at home is unnecessary and short-sighted. She doesn’t see it as something valuable. And when I boil it down? Her voice is inside my head. All the time.
    Needless to say feeling confident and calm about our child-raising decisions is something we are working on as we prepare to conceive. For me the quickest way to an identity crisis is this constant barrage of self-doubt. So, I will work to understand it, and continually stay in touch with both my heart and my internal process and hopefully come out the other side as someone who won’t snap at/deliver long speeches to anyone who asks, “So when are you going back to work?”

  • Outside Bride

    Has anyone read Overwhelmed (Bridgid Schulte)? I was only able to listen to an author interview, but one thing that hit me hard was both 1) The way we work here (US) is really messed up, and 2) There is a better way, and other countries are doing it. In particular, the deck is stacked against parents here, where we have one of the worst parental leave systems (with the idea that it’s important to get beyond just “maternity” leave) and are about as deficient in family friendly polices as you can get in a developed nation. I’m guessing that part won’t come as a surprise to most of you, but one thing that made me pause was the idea that in lots of other places, putting in more than your 40 hours signals that you are just inefficient. At my office, the workplace culture makes it tricky to avoid the landmines of half-hour non-work conversations, meaning that it’s easy to spend time not really getting my job done but also not really spending time with the people I would choose to not-work with. This is going to be a big social overhaul, but I think we can, and will, get there. I’m a childless person, and I don’t think twice about how my taxes go to “subsidize” anyone else’s children’s educations because public schools are just part of the social contract. I’m looking forward to a day when that’s true of parents in the workplace as well.

    Also, it’s been said before, but this student loan debt thing has just got to stop. Tell anyone over 30 what you pay per semester, I promise their jaws will drop.

    • Jeez, I just love your whole comment. I could respond to anything you said with a huge cheer, so I’ll just point this one part out:

      “I’m a childless person, and I don’t think twice about how my taxes go to “subsidize” anyone else’s children’s educations because public schools are just part of the social contract. I’m looking forward to a day when that’s true of parents in the workplace as well.”

      Thank you (even though I strongly feel that this should be the majority sentiment)!! If I hear one more person complain about their tax dollars going to [insert public works program here], I will seriously lose my shit.

    • Kaylle

      Thank you for the recommendation, I am going to go check out that book!

  • Gina

    Regarding the student loans, have you considered income-based repayment (IBR) and federal loan forgiveness programs? You may want to look into those. the IBR one takes into account your dependents, as well, so if you DO have kids, it will reduce your monthly payment.

    There’s also a public interest loan forgiveness program that forgives your loan balance after 10 years if you work at a non-profit or government agency. So if you hate your job, maybe that could be an impetuous for change? I would consult with a financial adviser on this stuff!

    • Meghan

      This is great advice! Sadly, I’m too old for IBR. It only applies to loans taken out after 2007. But I’m still really glad it’s a thing, and I’m glad you’re getting the word out about it!

      Also, YES non-profits! I cruise the local non-profit job boards every few days, and my husband dreams big dreams about government work.

      • Amy March

        Keep an eye on this. The President is proposing extending the program pre-2007, but caping the total forgiveness amount. Not at all clear it will happen, but worth following.

      • Gina

        Ah, I see. I’m sorry to hear that– and hope they DO extend it to pre-2007 loans soon! And yay for cruising job boards! I’m in the same situation as you, in terms of job satisfaction, and last night I was hemming and hawing about whether to apply for a specific government job and my husband was like “why wouldn’t you?” Well, the true “why wouldn’t you” is because I DO want to get pregnant soon and I don’t want to be starting a new job at the same time. But if the alternative is to be stuck in my current job indefinitely, maybe it’s better to just take the leap…

        • Meghan

          I struggle with the SAME thing! A few people I trust (including my husband) have told me to keep looking. The idea that encourages me the most is that it will be easier to be a working pregnant lady if my job is less stressful.

          • Gina

            That’s a really good point. And, for me, there’s a motivation to find a job that has a more maternity-leave friendly policy (where I’m at, any maternity leave I took would be unpaid AND I’d probably have to keep working from home at the same time).

          • Ashleigh

            This was very much a factor in my recent job hunt, I couldn’t come back from maternity leave (UK here so it’s longer) to a job that made me miserable and deal with all that entails while learning how to be a mum and I imagine not sleeping so much. So finding a new job before we tried for a family was important for me. Now I’m in the new job (yay) I’m enjoying it too much to want to take the time out quite yet but I still feel like I’m in a better place when the time comes.

            Again I’m in the UK so things are maybe different but it seems like the job market is finally picking up. My husband and I have both got new jobs after years of being miserable in our jobs and it’s made everything so much better.

            Hope you get it sorted. Xox

        • Alyssa M

          We plan to start trying for kids in 3 1/2 years… and it’s JUST close enough that it’s always in that back of my mind when looking for new jobs. My job right now is… acceptable. But there’s ZERO room for promotions and my pay is bare minimum. My best career choice would be getting a new entry level position with room to move up beyond where I am now, but I keep thinking that if I’ll spend three years working back up to the level I’m at now and then quit, I might as well stay where I am…

    • guest.

      I’m not sure how to relay this without sounding harsh, so please accept that I do not mean any disrespect over this. Not to the writer or the commenters or those who go through these programs.
      However, here’s my issue…no one forced you to take loans beyond your means. How is it different than credit card payments? Work out a savings plan and pay it off. Yes it’s difficult; yes you have to put far more than you should on hold; and yes it’s unreasonable. But that’s what the Lendee signed up for. Perhaps legislation should target education on these debts and teaching the present & future value of these loans. Perhaps along with describing Majors or Concentrations, colleges should have data supporting future salaries.
      Also IBR extends the life of your loan. That’s not a solution. In this example (used only as an example and not personally), deferring payments or using IBR will result in higher payments later on. Assuming children happen, this “later on” period will also have retirement saving, college funds, day care bills, formula/food expense, mortgage payments, car payments for the bigger car that is necessary with a few kids, etc. Payments don’t go away unless you pay them.

      • Amy March

        If you can’t pay off your credit cards, you can declare bankruptcy. Overall, the government makes a profit off student loans. As someone paying off 130 k at. 7.8%, I contribute to that profit. I have zero issue allocating a portion of that profit to people who haven’t gotten as good a job as me.

        • jashshea

          7.8% Holy. Mothereffin. Shit.

          ETA: That’s more than 2x my mortgage interest rate.

      • Eh

        I graduated five years ago with a Master’s degree and I paid off my student loans (from both of my degrees) within two months of finishing school (I was really lucky and I know that). My husband finished school last year and has an average amount of student debt. I think something that is missing from the conversation is what job prospects we (thought we) had going into post-secondary education vs what the real job prospects when we finished. I was lucky. I finished in December 2008/January 2009 so I could put more effort into looking for a job than those finishing in the spring. I was also lucky that I got in just before there was substantial downsizing (and that I made it through the downsizing) in my field due to the economy tanking (before I got my job it was typical for someone to work on contract for a year and then get permanent after that – it took me over three years to get permanent). My husband went to school for IT and the IT sector where we live was hit hard. My husband is a manager is a restaurant because he needs to work/have a purpose (when he was unemployed he was not happy and it was very stressful for us).

        Anyways my point is that my husband went into school thinking that he’d be making a lot more than he is now but he didn’t know that the IT sector was going to be hit so hard where we live. His college does/did post on their website employment rates and the types of jobs graduates gets for their programs and when he started in the program the employment rate was almost 100% and the types of jobs graduates were getting would suggest that he’d make close to double what he is making (I don’t think any of his friends from school have jobs in their field and actually most are unemployed). Also, he didn’t know that he’d meet me (as we started dating after he started college) and that my career would be here (his father has suggested that we move so he doesn’t “waste” his eduation and I have pointed out that he’d have to have a job offer of more than what I make for that to make sense). We don’t have any issue paying off his student loans but if he was single he would struggle (that said, if he was single he could also move to places where there are jobs in his field).

      • Violet

        I struggle with this, I really do. On the one hand, 18 year olds are immature. On the other, they’re legally adults. One the one hand, insane loans feel like punishment. On the other, they’re a natural consequence of the lendee’s decision (which by law, had to have been fully informed), mixed with whatever unfortunate factors (eg. Great Recession) come along. The only way I see myself being 100% on board with loan forgiveness is if the government decided to also reimburse my husband for the loans he paid off from working tirelessly at a job he hated with a terrible supervisor- because he was always told paying off his student loans was the “right” thing to do. And they’re never gonna do that, so I don’t see a way to make this fair. Ideas?

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Paying the least interest possible over the life of the loan is not always the most prudent choice. Our grocery budget was less than food stamps in 2013 partly because a big chunk of our income was going towards student loans, and because we had the income, we didn’t qualify for public assistance. We also deferred some medical care. Now I have a new job and make more than twice as much as I used to. I’d say paying some extra interest would have been better than eating crap for a year. [I didn’t qualify for IBR.]

        Some schools are required by law or industry standards to provide employed-at-graduation rates and some salary information. But, as others are saying, those can change fast over the course of a 3-, 4-, or 5-year program. So can students’ personal circumstances in terms of where they can live/look for work.

        I don’t resent my student loans or think they weren’t worth it or think I was tricked. I think I was unlucky graduating in 2008, and am lucky to have my new job. But I think there’s also some truth to a piece on Slate years back that egg freezing is a good graduation present for young professional women. In other words, that our systems for beginning professional careers and for beginning families are in conflict.

      • Sarah E

        I didn’t really sign up for four years of under-employment when I took out my loans. I have very few loans, and the only reason I’m able to stay ahead of them is my educational award from completing a year-long AmeriCorps contract. Unlike credit card payments, I signed up for my (modest) loans because I hoped and expected my income to increase by more than $1 an hour (which was the difference between my college job and my first job out of college). Colleges often do have data supporting future salaries, but a lot changed in four years. Personally, I changed to a brand-new major in an emerging field (so data would be incomplete on salaries), and then the economy changed to shit in four years, so that even highly skilled engineers, like a classmate of mine, searched for over a year nationwide for a job, even though he had a masters’ degree.

        While I agree that, to an extent, a radical savings plan can propel more people towards loan repayment, I’d argue that for most people, that would mean a seriously alternative lifestyle, which in itself takes a lot of time and effort. And in many cases, people are stuck living in high-cost areas where they can’t afford rent, but also can’t afford moving expenses.

        So while you acknowledge that current loan situations are difficult, unreasonable, and both government and educational institutions should do something about them, I think boiling it down to “make a stringent savings plan” ignores the larger systemic issues that make this strategy so difficult in the first place. Due to economic circumstances, sometimes we have to make non-ideal decisions like deferring payments.

      • Gina

        I completely agree, and I’m not offended at all. The reasons you list are exactly why I buy (used) cars with cash, never carry a balance on a credit card, and will only by a house when we can put down 20% and pay it off with a 15-year mortgage instead of a 30-year one. However, in order to be a professional in the non-profit sector, I am literally unable to make my loan payments without IBR (and the public interest loan forgiveness program). Could I go out and try to get one of the super-competitive jobs in my field that pays over 6 figures? Yes, I can try. But the reason the public interest loan forgiveness program was created was to make sure professionals (in my field and others) could work in public interest, get paid the substantially lower public interest salary, and still make it work.

        I’ve done the math every which way, and even if we save 60% of our combined salaries and subsist on ramen and I babysit on the side, we won’t pay off my loan for at least 6 years. That’s 2 years short of when I’ll qualify for federal loan forgiveness. Is there a possibility that program won’t be there when I qualify? Absolutely, Congress does what it wants. Does it scare me? Yes. Do I think it’s the best decision based on my current income, the job market in my field, and the options available to me right now? Yes.

        • guest.

          This is really insighful. Thank you for explaining.

      • Meg Keene

        UM. No disrespect taken, but if you didn’t have to take loans, you’re lucky as shit. For many of us, it was loans and scholarships or no eduction. We are paying them the hell off. Don’t worry about us, we’ve got this.

        SORRY, but I have no patience for those of you who didn’t have to take on debt judging those of us who did. Without debt, I’d still be working IN A GAS STATION.

        • guest.

          That’s a huge assumption you made and I take offense to it. (I guess we have similar patience levels.) Please don’t think that my situation is different from yours. I supported my family while he went to school. We both got Master’s degrees. We come from lower income cities and now live in a rather expensive big city. We have a child and a home.
          I took loans and my husband took loans and we, collectively, are paying them along with our other debts. What I’m saying is, I’m not expecting to receive any forebearance on those loans because things didn’t turn out as I intended.

          • Meg Keene

            Well then if you have loans, you should have empathy for people dealing with them. Also, this is part of the social safety net, and part of the *terms of the loan.* We offer loan deferment for people doing important public service work. We offer IBR because it’s important and necessary. It’s not being somehow less then to use these programs.

            Glad things worked out well for you. They worked out well for me to, I’ve paid off my loans. That doesn’t excuse me from empathy for people in different situations.

      • Mezza

        I feel like this is a pretty unfair approach to the student loan crisis. I have no loans from undergrad, because I purposely went to an in-state university to save money for grad school. Even with that money and a 1/3 tuition scholarship, the loans I had to take out to finance my Ivy-League law school education would require a payment equivalent to my rent in one of the most expensive cities in the country. When I started at this top-tier school in 2007, the assumption (shared by Career Services) was that every graduate would have his/her pick of offers from elite law firms with $160K starting salaries. In 2008, none of my classmates could even get summer jobs. By the time we all graduated, I could count on one hand the number of people I knew with offers from those elite firms, many of which were collapsing.

        I consider myself extremely fortunate to now have a job I love that comes with a salary, benefits, and PTO. It is not in the legal industry (though I do use my legal skills) and it will never pay $160K per year. There’s also no way a law firm would ever hire me with 3 years of non-legal work experience since law school. Without IBR, my loan payment plus my rent would be more than I make in a month. With it, I can save for the tax hit I’ll have to take when the remainder gets forgiven, and I am completely on board with paying whatever monthly payments my income mandates for the next 25 (or 22-ish, now) years. I can also do things like get married and start a family, which would not have been in the realm of possibility before. I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic when I say that my life would have been pretty much ruined without IBR.

        • Gina

          Dude. I also did the top-tier law school thing, and every. single. person. thought they would have that $160k job when they graduated too! Damned if my husband with his high school diploma doesn’t make more than I do now.

          I completely empathize with the impact IBR has had on your quality of life. In some ways, reading this made me feel a lot more calm about not putting my life on hold for 8 years in order to pay off that debt as fast as possible. It’s something I still struggle with, and as you already know, there are tons of disadvantages. But I am also super grateful that we don’t have to live on the streets in order to pay it off!

        • StevenPortland

          I am living proof that a law firm will take someone after 3 years of non-legal work experience. After law school I worked as an associate for less than 2 years and hated it. I left law to be a computer consultant for 3 years. Then out of the blue one of the people I worked with at the law firm called me up and offered me a great position. Part of what sets me apart from other attorneys is in fact my non-legal work experience, and understanding how the real world of work operates. So if the job lookout for attorneys improves at some point, don’t discount yourself just because you were out in the real world. It is all about showing how useful those non-legal skills are. Of course, if you never want to be an attorney then that is great as well since being a lawyer at a firm is no fun at all (IMHO). Good lucK!
          And regarding the theme of this essay — I left that great law firm job that my friend offered me after 6 years so that I could take a job with more realistic hours, knowing that we were going to start having kids. While I used to go to work in expensive suits everyday at the firm, I’m much happier in my jeans and Target t-shirts for work attire and then leave the office after 8 hours to get home to our 2 young sons.

          • Mezza

            Well, I think it makes a major difference that you did actually work at a firm. I’ve literally only set foot in them for interviews. Hiring me would be exactly the same as hiring someone straight out of law school. (ALSO I have absolutely zero desire to re-enter that world, so there’s that! God I would hate going to work in suits.)

      • An 18-year-old can’t buy herself a beer, but she can sign up for a lifetime of debt because “no one forced her to”? Come on. I don’t think so many young people would be drowning in debt if it was just as simple as working out a savings plan and paying it off. I’m not saying there’s no personal responsibility involved, but the economics of a college education shifted dramatically in the last few years and I don’t think it’s fair to expect a bunch of 18-year-olds in 2005 to see that coming when everyone at the time looked at student loans as a good investment.

        • Sara P

          Yes, exactly.

        • Laura

          Yeah, especially when financial literacy skills ARE NOT TAUGHT in schools! I mean seriously, high school students are expected to do advanced algebra and calculus, but apparently it’s not important to teach them about budget pies or the loan repayment process. I think at least some student debt could be avoided if high school students were given the heads up on what was facing them. I’m all for post-secondary education but I might have taken more time to think about my major (and wouldn’t have had to startea new one two years in because I hated the first one) if I’d been walked through the implications in high school.

          A lot of the debt crisis is due to overblown expectations of what you need out of life, combined with an eroding middle class in a craptastic economy. But a large part of it is a major lack of financial literacy skills.

      • Tennymo

        Everyone has made great points about how difficult it can be to predict in advance what within “your means” will add up to 3, 4, or 5 years down the line. Especially when the whole reason you are taking the loans in the first place is to get a degree that will improve your job prospects. My husband and I both grew up in low-income families – and he was the first in his family to go to college. We had to fight to get to college (and then to law school) in the first place. When your whole family sacrifices to raise you so you can have something better, and puts their hopes on you – when your college acceptance is your “ticket out,” and you don’t know anybody who is unbiased and qualified to advise you on the reality of loans, you are going to take them. It makes sense to take them. We did. And now we have an insane amount of education debt. But we’re paying it – you’re right, we signed up for it, we’re lucky to both be employed and what choice do we have? I think the point is not about individual responsibility – of course people are doing the damndest to pay their loans. It’s about whether as a society, we want a generation to be living like this. There already aren’t enough students from low-income families in college/grad school. Do we want those who make it there to then have to put off children, not be able to save for retirement, not be able to take the risk to leave their job and start a business for a substantial portion of their adult lives? Personally, that’s not a world I’m really digging.

        • “I think the point is not about individual responsibility – of course people are doing the damndest to pay their loans. It’s about whether as a society, we want a generation to be living like this.”

          YESTHIS. I think sometimes people forget that having 2/3 of college graduates leave school with student loan debt is bad for everyone. In addition to all the very real stuff you mentioned (less saving for retirement, less professional risk-taking [especially for people from low-income backgrounds], etc.), it delays (or makes impossible, altogether) big purchases like cars and homes, the type of buying that keeps the economy ticking. The way the student loan system is set up now is not beneficial for individuals nor for society as a whole.

      • Whitney S.

        For guest. and anyone else who might be interested, here’s an article that a sociologist wrote on how debt looks different across different generations.

        He touches on why credit card debt and student loans are different kinds of debt, how debts affects different groups of people (SES groups, racial groups, and so on), and how our debt level compares to our incomes. It’s a long but interesting read.

        • jashshea

          Interesting! I was wondering how this particular bubble compares with my parent’s generation’s double digit inflation and interest rates.

  • Peekayla

    My parents didn’t want my fiancé and me to get married because they felt that “husbands should support their wives” and I’m currently the breadwinner. They said that they saw us as a good match, but that we were putting the cart before the horse and that my honey needed to “step up” and get a better job before we got married.

    When we first were engaged they were incredibly upset and not supportive at all. It was only after my fiancé changed jobs (from cook to copier repair technician) did they stop squawking (we were talking about a career change for him before we were engaged and my parents were jerks about it all). They still haven’t said “yes we support you.” But they’re no longer negative.

    They also think that when we have kids I should be a stay-at-home mom, like my own mother was. However, they also paid for my college so that I could leave school debt-free and be able to succeed without worrying about student loans. They’re a gigantic contradiction. They want me to have a good career, but as soon as I get pregnant I should quit my job and stay home. I like kids, now, but am not always good with ones I’m not close to. I’m constantly worried that I won’t be a good mother (ie. I’m not very good at “play”) and think my fiancé would be a great stay-at-home dad, though it may not be financially feasible.

    I don’t think I want to be a stay-at-home mom. I don’t think
    it’s in my personality to be happy at home. Plus, my job is technologically-sensitive
    and I worry that once I’m out it’ll be hard to get back in again. I know that
    when we have kids, no matter what plan we follow (unless I’m stay at home), we’ll
    meet opposition from my parents and it will be very difficult. ::sigh::

    • Lucy

      My mom went through this contradictory phase in the early years of when I was dating my now-fiance. I wish I could offer the magic words that made her grow out of it, but we are fortunate that she has. She now sees that staying home full time might not be a good choice for me and my personality and that the world has grown harder to take on without two incomes. Obviously doable, but depends highly on what jobs you and your partner have and where you live. However, I do relate to her very heartfelt desire that I have the agency to make my own choices and her hope that I will have time in my life to enjoy my children. I tell her all the time that those are my hopes too and we’re working hard to make that happen!

      • Peekayla

        “She now sees that … the world has grown harder to take on
        without two incomes.”
        I don’t think they see this. They see not being able to support your family on one income is a sign of failure and that you don’t lack the drive. My dad told my fiance that if his current job didn’t pay enough for me to stay home (with the kids we don’t even have yet!) that he should essentially man-up and get a second or third job to support us. My dad totally didn’t see that though D’s hourly wage was less than mine (and still is for the meantime), that he actually took home more money than me because he was paid partially under the table. And when we laid out a plan where D changed his hours so our imaginary little one wouldn’t have to be in daycare 100% of the time, they came back with “that’s not a valid plan.” It’s going to be a landmine when we eventually have kids!

        • Lucy

          That is really tough. I think I tried to combat this by giving examples of people I knew in my life who were struggling with both questions of family decisions and income. For example, I would often mention to my mom that I knew a colleague who was miserable in her job, wanted to stay home with her two kids, but had a mortgage that required both her and her husband’s incomes. This mortgage was for a house in a town with great schools, another “requirement” of raising children these days. I told my mom I didn’t ever want to be in that situation but that sadly more and more people find themselves facing those types of difficult decisions. It took a lot of conversations but it helped.

          The other thing I really focused on was that I might not be happy if I stayed home. I told her I couldn’t predict the future of course but that my personality might not work with staying home. This was a longer conversation but I do think one thing that helped was that I stressed that I was willing to reconsider our decisions in the future. What works in babyhood might not work in childhood for example. I feel for you though, the idea that two incomes is “failure” is really tough.

          • Peekayla

            It’s been tough since the beginning. When we moved in together my mom was very negative about the whole thing. It took her months to finally fess up that she was upset because she saw living together as a precursor to marriage. I told her that we were talking marriage and she never said anything again.

            Communication is hard with my parents, especially my mom. We fought a lot growing up and I have a hard time not reading/hearing everything she says as a critique, “insult,” or back-handed compliment. I’m learning to talk D about how I’m reading something and then have him read it and tell me how he sees it. Half the time he tells me she’s trying to tease me or that it’s “constructive criticism” and not the wholly negative put down that I’m seeing it as.

            Their whole mentality is stuck in the 50s. Considering how both their families struggled financially, you’d think they’d welcome us wanting to both work to be financially stable and flush. We have at least 2 more years before we’lI have kids (wedding is this September and Honeymoon is the following June). So we’ll see what happens!

    • Eh

      My mother was the breadwinner when I was younger (my dad eventually caught up to her) and my MIL is the breadwinner. So I’m glad that me being the breadwinner has not been an issue with our families. Though it is an issue when it comes to societal norms and my social circle.

    • Caroline

      This this this! My parents only started truely approving of the match when my partner left his work and closed his small business as a craftsman tilesetter (where he didn’t make much money because of the decrease in new construction and renovations due to the recession.) to go back to school with the intention a career where he could make a lot of money. And yet they push me hard to achieve and get a good career, but my mom also tells me to leave the door open to being a stay-at-home mom and their expectations are very contradictory.

  • GB

    Guys I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too. My husband took a leave of absence from his job so I could follow my career, and we both want kids but keep thinking that now can’t possibly be the right time. And then I realized – if he’s not working, maybe now is the PERFECT time to have kids, when the little one can have daddy-day-care for while. Financially I’m still not sure it make sense….but if we were both working, I would be worrying about how we were going to afford day-care. I just starting reading “Your Money or Your Life” and it has kind of revolutionized how I think about this (not advertising, just that I found it really helpful and a lot different than your average personal-finance book).

  • js

    I just want to say, I appreciate this post. I’ve been feeling ganged up on lately, by the media and all the “good” feminists who don’t want kids. There is nothing wrong with not wanting kids or feeling like you’re not made to be a mother, but somehow it feels the conversation has turned so far left, it’s wrong of me to want to be a Mother, and even worse like Stay At Home Mom is the new curse word. I wish women could support each other more, period. It seems like we’re each others biggest enemies. My SIL, who’s a great Mom, is always put in the position of defending her right to work and be a mother and now I’m in the same boat, because people don’t understand why I’m at home with my teenager. So what if the picture above this post causes one woman anxiety and the other intense longing. Isn’t there room for both? I love this post about wanting babies but it kinda threw me when it turned into a lament on the workforce, because both are such loaded topics. I think women should have the courage to say they want babies, or don’t. That they want a career or don’t, and own and embrace it. I don’t think that’s wrong, I think it’s brave.

  • It’s all I ever wanted to do. And I even enjoyed the job I did. But I still dreamed of not working a paying job so I could work as only a mom instead. So I’m wrong right along with you.

  • Lauren

    I’d love to dissect what many people call the “feminist” opinion/decision of not having children. Do the vocalized opinions of women choosing to not have children have more to do with the simple fact that these women prefer not to be mothers? Or does it also have to do with the overall questioning (and perhaps criticism) of why women are wanting to birth their children, as apposed to, say, adoption or fostering. Or maybe those are two different conversations? For me, I choose not to have children because I don’t want to be a mother. If I do someday, I will foster or adopt. I am so fascinated with why humans yearn to create other humans. I know its biological, but we are also intelligent beings able to reason and overcome biological urges. Anybody have these thoughts ever?

    • Alyssa M

      In general I’d say those are two different discussions, although they’re both in the BS mountain of judgment put on people who have/want kids.

    • NrgGrl

      “I am so fascinated with why humans yearn to create other humans.” I’m right there with you. I’ve never been interested in having children, and when I close my eyes and picture my future, I just can’t see them. Most of the time I think this makes me weird, although apparently it puts me in the “good feminist” category, so that’s a nice side benefit (just kidding…). I’m curious about the idea that wanting babies is part of biology — are we sure that’s not a (socially-constructed) myth? (I will go look this up now.)

      But related to this topic, reading this post and the comments was very eye-opening for me, since I was not aware that women who decide to have children can be made to feel like “bad feminists”. (I suppose I’d only felt the societal pressure/criticism that NOT wanting kids is weird, since that’s what applies to me personally. But apparently we are damned if we do, damned if we don’t.) I’m frustrated by the fact that some feminist camps lodge criticism at women who undertake traditional gender roles (e.g., homemaking, childbearing/rearing). Sure, gender roles can be a problem for equality in plenty of instances, but I think we as a society can be mindful of that without criticizing the choices that other people make in their own dang lives. Perhaps that’s just one school of thought, though.

      • Laura

        No I agree with you completely! I don’t have children yet but I do really want them, and I’ve been given flack for it. The way I see it is, I’ll support people in whatever they decide, whether they want kids or not! They know themselves well enough to know what they want. But in return, I kinda respect the same courtesy, and I don’t always get it.

        • NrgGrl

          Exactly. Same here.

          And I’m glad you mentioned the biology thing in your first comment, because I’ve always been curious about that and I finally took a second to Google it. According to this, at least, there’s no real evidence that the “biological urge” is in fact a biological thing: It makes me feel better to know that!

    • flyingOlive

      I’ve always imagined my life with kids, but until I was 30, I didn’t have what I describe as a biological urge to literally have the kids. Right about then, I started absolutely obsessing over babies; my reaction to them in public places went from annoyance to “give me that baby.” Anecdote, obviously, but it definitely felt like a switch turned a couple of years ago. Haven’t given in yet, but I will soon!

  • It seems to me that our biology and our social development are in contradiction. The older you get (yes, I think I’m older than most people in APW) the less you care what others think. So this whole concept of “Is it wrong?” in comparison to other people I just don’t get. You either want something or you don’t. As long as the thing isn’t illegal and not hurting someone, you don’t have to justify your decisions to others. I grew up in an extremely dysfunctional household and early on I had to establish boundaries and differentiate myself from my relatives. At times I’ve mourned my unhappy childhood but it actually gave me great boundary setting skills. The other issues raised here about finances are entirely different than “is it okay to have kids?” Of course it is if you want them. It’s the figuring out how that can be an issue (and let’s not forget that not everyone can have babies the old fashioned way).

    • Meg Keene

      These days, I’m older than most people on APW ;)

    • MDBethann

      I turn 35 next week, so I’m probably older than “most” people on APW too. You might be surprised how many of us are out there :-)

      • Just trying to say that as we get older we care less what others think. We learn more and more that life is not a competition. We’ve weathered some seriously hard knocks and learned that we can get through it. It’s just too bad we don’t benefit from these lessons when we’re younger and striving to have everything together. When we’re a bit older we learn that nothing ever lines up the way we think it should. That’s just life. I look back at my former self and wish I could tell her to lighten up. Life doesn’t have to be so hard.

  • Ohhhh yeahhh. You are speaking my language. I dream of the day I breastfeed. Have you heard of the website ? I found it to be really validating and empowering in a world where you’re “dumb” or “uneducated” if you happen to be relatively young and want babies. I’m 23 and will be married this year, when I’m 24. My partner is 14 years older than me. We want kids *relatively* soon. For many reasons, but our age gap and the fact that it may be complicated since we are both women are big ones. Thanks for publishing this APW!

  • Man – this hits home as we are expecting our first baby. I agree with the sentiment that no one is ever 100% ready to be parents. There’s just no way to prepare for the onslaught of new emotions, worries, struggles, joys, gifts, and changes that parenthood brings. However, I think everyone has their own version/idea of what logistically needs to be ready before they take that step. We probably aren’t 100% where I’d like to be and while it will certainly be tight for a few years, it won’t be impossible by any means. If anything we’re looking at waiting longer to buy a house, but hey, there’s nothing wrong with renting.

    I think another aspect to the “when are we ready/when should we have children” discussion is the overall more-ness of our society. More games, more toys, more trips, more lessons, more this, more that. A lot of the things we’ve been trained to “think” we “need” for parenting small children is bullshit.

  • So, since I’m pregnant (9 weeks today!!!!), I feel the need to comment.

    It’s not the right time for us to have kids. The wife is still settling her business, I’m in grad school, we’re still adapting to the dog and renovating the house… There are lots of things. But it will never be the exact right time. Or it will, but too late for our uteri. Sometimes you gotta jump.

    My wife will be staying home with the baby and I’ll be going back to the office after 3 months (kind of paid) maternity leave. It makes me sad, but it makes sense. I provide a lot of income for us and our health insurance. My wife runs a home-based business. We can do a kid hand-off at the end of the day and she can get work done. But I’m sad I’m not going to be there. And also a little bit grateful that I get to escape.

    I wanted this baby for years before it finally decided to show up and now that I know it’s coming, I am terrified. You know, how you do.

    • Meg Keene

      !!!!!!!!! <— Congrats you guys.


    • Meg

      Super congrats to you!

    • Caroline

      “But I’m sad I’m not going to be there. And also a little bit grateful that I get to escape”
      This!! We aren’t having kids yet, but our plan is I will take what Maternity leave I can get, and then be the breadwinner/more career focused parent. I don’t think my partner will stay home, but the plan is that if someone needs to leave work to take the kiddos to the doctor, it’ll be him not me, if someone needs to scale back their career, it will be him not me, etc and that is exactly how I feel about this plan!

      • Eh

        My work gives me paid leave for doctor appointments, parents-teacher meetings, etc. so even though I am the breadwinner (and more career focused) I will be doing most of that. Though if my husband continues his current job where he works mostly afternoons/evenings he will hopefully be able to do some of that too.

        • My office occasionally does the ‘well, you have leave, but you shouldn’t use it’ attitude, so I try to be sparing about it. We’ll see what happens.

          • Eh

            That’s annoying. I know that some departments at my work are stricter than others. I’ve never had to justify my leave but one of my coworkers in another department had to. Her point was that she was using it for what it is intended and that they are supposed to take her word on it, and if she uses it all up that’s her problem.

          • I’ve never had to justify my leave, but my workplace attitude is such that when I inform them of my impending maternity leave, I’m pretty sure they’re going to go batshit and vindictive (which is pregnancy discrimination, but hey, whatevs). They’ve been punitive with colleagues who are frequently sick and once I’m back, I want to try to figure out how to take leave so I don’t get the same issues.

  • amandanoel

    If it weren’t for Income Based Repayment on our loans, my husband and I would have found the idea of having kids impossible. We’re still scared about how finances are going to play out with this one, but we know once he’s here we will find a way to make it work between the two of us, and not having to pay MORE THAN RENT in student loan payments every month is what makes that possible. But it’s still a huge burden hanging over our family. I still question why I spent so much money on grad school… :(

  • NB

    Great essay and a great discussion, as always, here on APW. Wow. This essay really struck me. I have also heard the ‘you will never have ENOUGH money to have childen’ argument time and time again, especially from my own mom.

    My husband, like many others in this depressed economy, was laid off last July. We’ll be married for two years this coming June, and everyone keeps asking ME why we don’t have kids yet. And, like you, my response has been: money.

    I took a hard look about my expectations related to money and children. I did the math. Like you, I found that YES IT IS POSSIBLE to have children, if we don’t eat out, travel, buy expensive items, or try to purchase a home that is out of our budget. I guess I’m willing to admit that looking at and assessing my expectations related to money, nice things, and my image was a pretty shitty wake-up call. I like nice things, and I want them now. I’ve been real lazy with my credit card, and at times, reckless. Realizing how much I care about my shoe and handbag collection made me want to stop caring so much about material goods, and stop caring about what others think of me related to my perceived social/economic status.

    I married a man whose family thinks that a happy childhood is directly related to how many toys and Patagonia jackets a child has. I love Patagonia jackets as much as the next person, ya know? But when I assessed my expectations, I realized that I (we) don’t NEED to have loads of money and luxury goods in order to provide a safe, stable, and loving home in which to raise children. I guess I will always love the idea of having more money (who doesn’t?) but looking at what we need versus what we want was a reminder that being happy with less CAN be a solution.

  • Laura

    I have grappled with this question a lot, this question of “Is it wrong?” And I realized that perhaps I needed to rethink what I consider to be valuable work. In our society we often consider the only valuable work to be work that you get paid for. Of course this is patently untrue; look how much work it takes just to get the laundry done and the dishes washed so you can have a home you feel sane in. Or the hobby that you really love to do but don’t get paid for, so you don’t consider it “real work.”

    Raising a child is extremely valuable work; it is work that is absolutely necessary for the continuation of society. But because you won’t be paid for it, people don’t think of it as such. The thing to remember is that people are mistaken.

  • Meg

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be a mom (aren’t we all glad our moms wanted to be moms??). Stop asking that question because there will be some idiot out there who will try and tell you yes and tell you are selfish or something

    “I dream of the day when I will open diapers and clean up spilled juice for a wee one who doesn’t yet recognize that I’m a person; instead of opening mail and cleaning up spilled coffee for people who never will.” – This sentence crushed my soul

  • Lisa

    Good lord no it’s not wrong. Some women are hard-wired this way. And we have every right. Also, your feelings may shift, as your kids get older. You aren’t choosing now what you are going to do for the rest of your life.

  • MT

    I thought that I was making the best choice by delaying motherhood while I obtained an education, paid debts, purchased a home, and all the other things that I thought I was supposed to. But, these things take time. And time is not your friend in terms of fertility. As the fertility treatments I’m undergoing become more aggressive and more expensive, the more I think this is a conversation that needs to be had.

  • Penny

    Thank you for this post! This is so my life right now, and it’s nice to know I’m not alone in this mindset. I, too, have always wanted to “just” be a stay-at-home mom. But living in in an expensive city, and having average jobs doesn’t afford us that option. I’ve been with my husband over 7 years, married 2 – and the only thing that holds us back from kids is money. Hopefully, if things continue to progress as they are, we can at least afford – in a year or so – to do the kid thing, but I’ll need to do the working mom thing too (where 3/4 of my salary will go to daycare, but we can’t live off one salary either). While not ideal, it is just the reality…

  • laddibugg

    This post is making me tear up a little. I really want a kid, but the $$ doesn’t look right and I don’t know when it will. I’ll be 35 in a month so there isn’t *that* much time left. Also, I’m starting to wonder if it’s practical to even get married or if it’s better to ‘officially’ stay single in the eyes of the gov’t (I actually started making a pros/cons list).
    Re: Loans. I have an embarrassingly high amount of loans, and……….I haven’t graduated yet (I plan to go back. Someday) Not discounting anyone else’s experience but it’s such a sucky feeling to have this burden and literally nothing to show for it.

  • Amanda Otto

    I have been a single mom for the past 8 years, and am about to get married in May. I would have liked to be a stay at home mother, but well that just wasn’t an option. Now I am considering moving to a small town where housing is cheaper, and work full-time while my new husband stays home and home schools, and will likely run a small internet business as well. My point is this: When it comes to children “plans” kind of go out the window. You think of new things like daycare and school systems.

    Your budget will change drastically, but it isn’t purely added expenses. You won’t be spending money at bars, or fancy restaurants, or whatever it is you used to do with your free time. Because your free time is the 20 minutes your child is napping after you finish doing the laundry, dishes, and taking out a ton of dirty diapers.

    If you want a kid, just have one!

  • BlueBelle

    Reading this post was like eating a stale, plain bagel with no liquid in sight.