I'm Leah, and in a lucky twist of fate, I've landed my three dream jobs:
book editor, writer, and mother. Since having my son in December 2008, my
work-life has been in constant flux - full-time? part-time? freelance?
working at home or in the office? It depends on the day and which way the
wind is blowing - and figuring out how to keep it all going is a constant
challenge. Heck, I'm still getting used to the idea of being someone's
Check out my profile on Work It, Mom! and my personal blog, A Girl and a Boy.
A different kind of depression is affecting women these days–economic depression. I, like everyone in America, have been hearing about this depression/recession nonstop for months, but until this week it was still something that was happening to other people, not to me. Then, on Monday afternoon, I stopped by my office to say hello and show off my little guy and discuss with my supervisors my impending return to work, and that’s when I got the bad news from a coworker: Instead of the modest end-of-year raises we’re sometimes blessed with, this year the lucky ones among us got 10 percent pay cuts–“lucky” because that means we weren’t the ones who got laid off. As my maternity leave dwindles, I’ve had all the usual jitters about getting back into the swing of things after a prolonged absence–including taking a financial hit for returning only part-time–but I never thought this would happen.
And yet, it’s hard to complain too much (or at least too loudly within earshot of management) because thank god I still have a job to return to, right? But still, a pay cut at any time and in any circumstance is never a good thing, and of course it’s hitting my little family especially hard now that we have an extra person to support on this super-downsized salary that we never accounted for when deciding to get pregnant in the first place. As of this afternoon, my spouse is looking for more work; as for me, I’m in negotiations with the space-time continuum to eke a few more hours out of every globe spin so I can cram in extra freelance gigs between nursing sessions. (And that’s assuming there’s even freelance work available; a combination of fewer opportunities and more competition in the strained workforce might mean I’m out of luck).
So, there’s the mortgage and the diapers and the $40 co-pays at the monthly pediatrician visits. There’s gas and dinner and one pair of jeans to fit my post-pregnancy body. It seems like everyone is talking about where they can afford to cut back their monthly expenses, but I wonder how I can possibly do that when I’ve just given birth to a living, breathing, permanent expense. Now that the baby’s here, we have to make it work, of course, and while I wouldn’t trade my son for all the riches in the world, I do wonder if, knowing then what I know now, I’d have made a different choice a year ago. Perhaps saved the money for prenatal vitamins and spent it on condoms instead? It’s a sad thought–postponing a family because of widespread financial crisis–but it’s one that many people are facing now.
New York Times Magazine, WebMd, and Work It, Mom have all featured stories about how economic recessions negatively affect birth rates and the numbers of children per household. Expanding a family–whether the old-fashioned way or through fertility treatments or adoption–is expensive no matter how you cut it, and in addition to the three major costs I was stressing about last fall–maternity leave, childcare, and health insurance–there are dozens of other financial factors that might influence a couple’s decision to have a child…or not. Can you afford a bigger house to accommodate a bigger family? Can you afford to relocate for a job? Can you afford to become, at least temporarily, a one-income family to alleviate sky-high childcare costs? Can you risk taking maternity leave when your company is restructuring and downsizing? What happens if in losing your job you lose your health insurance?
It’s heartbreaking to think of the dreams being deferred in the wake of something that is largely out of our control. Has the economy affected your decision to have a(nother) child in the near future? Or are you saying to hell with it and ignoring Wall Street to following your gut? Or, have you discovered the secret to making babies affordable? (Oversized fig leaves instead of diapers? Giant plastic bubbles intead of health insurance? Monkeys for nannies?)
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