Work and Family: It’s a Balancing Act

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I work a full-time job with a crazy schedule that allows me some extra time to do some freelancing writing and editing. I’m not a TV-watcher like my husband, who could spend every minute of the day (and night) in front of the boob tube, so in my free time, I hustle for a little extra money to offset any major expenses and pad our savings account.

Now that we have Baby Frugalista — who turned 1 year old on Groundhog Day, and will always be my “baby,” no matter her age — I’ve sought out fewer gigs so I can spend more time with her. It’s a no-brainer, but it gives me more pleasure to spend an hour at the park with her than to write an article. But with the costs associated with raising a child (CNN reports a 40% increase in the cost of raising a child in the past decade), such as food, clothing, daycare and saving for college, I find that we could use that extra money.

Compromise

After our daughter was born, I was on maternity leave for 6 months. So not only was I not getting my usual salary, I wasn’t freelancing, either. When I went back to work, I was able to find a balance — I’d only take on freelance assignments if I would be able to complete them in the evenings after the baby went to sleep. That meant not working on projects on my days off or weekends. As she settled into a bedtime routine, I found that this is what has worked for me. We still have family time, and I still get to keep my skills sharp and increase our cash flow.

The good thing is that I can accept most projects offered to me, but I’ve also turned down a few that didn’t fit into my self-imposed limitations.

It’s just one of the ways my life has changed since her birth. As parents, you’re supposed to make sacrifices for your children, and I do so willingly and lovingly.

Working parents — how have you sacrificed when it comes to balancing work and family?

7.5 Weeks With No Pay, 4.5 to Go

When it came to maternity leave, I’ve always wanted to be able to spend as much time as I could with my newborn baby. That’s why, when I found out I was pregnant nearly one year ago, my husband and I decided that I should take 6 months, if possible. My employers amazingly agreed to the time period when I proposed it, for which I will be forever grateful. But I knew that I would only be getting disability and family leave pay for a total of 12 weeks – the other 12 weeks would be unpaid (I’ve taken 24 weeks off, rather than 6 straight months, a slightly longer time period).

That’s why, even while pregnant, I worked my ass off doing side gigs in order to further build up our savings. I also knew the baby would come around the time we’d be getting our tax refund. As much as I planned, the baby had other ideas, showing up 5 weeks early. Luckily, she was healthy as a horse, and the upside was that I could spend all of my maternity leave time with her, as opposed to going out of work at 38.5 weeks as scheduled, then waiting around for the baby to show.

For the past 7.5 weeks, we’ve only had Mr. Not-So-Frugal’s paycheck coming in. While I know many readers can make it work on one income — even with a mortgage — it’s something that’s almost impossible here in Northern New Jersey, in the shadow of New York City. We bought a home at a good price, put 20% down, and it’s still tough. It appears that I’ve planned out our cash flow perfectly, but now we’re getting down to the wire — there are just 4.5 weeks left until I return to work!

It’s difficult watching our checking account dwindle now that we’re in the sunset of my maternity leave. We’ve been watching our spending to a point, but now I’m going to be bringing the hammer down. It would be even easier if I could get Mr. NSF to stop smoking (he smokes outside, as he’s always done), as we’d save an easy $300/month right there. But if my calculations are correct, we won’t even have to dip into our savings account.

Although there’s one thing I didn’t consider — when I’ll get my first paycheck when I return. I think I’m going to have to wait two weeks for my pay when I go back, which really means it’ll be another 6.5 weeks without a paycheck coming in, not 4.5!

I’ve cherished this time home with my little one, and I can’t believe it’s coming to an end. Watching her grow from a teeny 4-pound preemie to the chunky baby she is now (13-plus-pounds at almost 5 months!) and hitting all of her milestones despite her early entrance into the world has been amazing. But as much as I love you, Baby Frugalista, I’m actually ready to go back to work! It’ll be hard, putting you in daycare, but we’ve got a great babysitter lined up, someone I’m comfortable with. I know you’ll be in good hands.

I’ve always believed I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but I’m ready for a paycheck again! Unless we hit the lottery, I’ll be a working mom, just like most of the people I know. I know that despite being away from my baby during the day, I can still guide her, teach her and love her just as much.

Work Hard Now, Relax Later?

I’ve been putting the pedal to the metal thanks to a renewed drive to bankroll as much cash in our savings account as I can before my maternity leave. Often this means taking on freelance writing gigs that require a lot of my time — working nights after getting home from my FT job, and usually the weekends, too. I’ve been fortunate that the freelance work is fairly steady, because I want to do it now while¬† I feel good and have minimal distractions.

I’m a natural-born hustler. I’m not sure where I got it from — all I know is that I’ve always worked more than one job from an early age. After high school, I worked full-time for a group of local weekly newspapers and delivered pizza on the side. When the pizza gig ended, I found a PT job at a Polish-American newspaper working 10 hours a week. Then, I tacked on an occasional gig working as a data entry person at college track meets on the weekends. It was crazy, but I enjoyed myself.

I did things a bit unconventionally. After a few years, I attended college full time, worked full time AND had an occasional PT gig. Had a full scholarship the last two years at college. I was no slouch in high school, either. I surely didn’t reach my full potential, but I didn’t break my back with heavy course loads, either — and I still graduated 18th in a class of 238 with a 4.1 weighted GPA.

Now, I still like to hustle for extra cash, but I go about it differently. I don’t work off-site except for my full-time job; any freelance work is writing or editing from home. While I’m still putting in the extra hours, I don’t have to leave the comfort of my home, and I can get the work done at any time of the day or night, as long as I meet my deadlines.

So it’s no surprise I’m getting as much done as possible to ensure our child will be well taken care of once s/he arrives. Because by then, I’ll finally want to have less on my plate in order to fully focus on the baby.

I’m still trying to determine how we will go about putting money aside for our child — immediately, we’ll have new expenses, such as daycare, which will likely run us $1,000/month or more. Will there be anything left to save? Probably not much at first, which means we’ll be looking for ways to cut our current expenses, although we’re pretty frugal with everything except our cable TVpackage. After daycare is paid, we’ll try to divert extra to padding our savings accounts and starting an account for the baby for college and general expenses.

It’ll be tough, as naturally I’ll be dropping a good portion of my freelance gigs in order to focus on taking care of our baby. Perhaps Mr. NSF can find a way to bring in some extra cash, too.

Another thing I need to do is mock up a budget to estimate what our finances will be like from March onward. I don’t include freelance payments, as they are variable. I pretend that the extra cash flow is “found money” — and it goes straight into our savings account.

Writing this down has made me realize I have a lot of financial planning to do.

Any PF moms out there have tips for how they adjusted their spending/budgets once little ones came into the picture?