the prohibitive cost of working

Just read this post via a fellow mama on Facebook. It sure brought back memories…

When Being A Stay-At-Home Mom Isnt A Choice.

My situation was not quite so dire, but I remember doing the math. Full-time daycare in Greater Boston costs around $1500 per month. Childcare for an infant or toddler will run close to $15,000 a year, and that’s if you go with a home-based, family daycare provider.

Preschool jumps up to close to $2000 per month, because you have to drop them off before 9am, and pick them up at 6pm. You can’t work “mother’s hours” and still get benefits, right? Preschool costs roughly average $20,000 a year, for full-time, outside-the-home, quality preschool with a curriculum and all that early-learning stuff.

And when your kids are finally school-age, you’re not out of the woods completely, because you’re still paying for before- and after-sch0ol, and you have to factor in summer camp. This is assuming you live in a city with good public schools, but, then again, even if the schools are not good, can you afford to shell out $20,000 a year for private school?

But don’t forget to save another $5000 for summer camp or a sitter or something, because when school ends, those kids can’t sit at home alone for 3 months.

Start with your annual salary. Take out 30% for taxes, and another 8% for health insurance. Then subtract the basics: food, clothing, and shelter. If you have even $10,000 per child left over, consider yourself lucky.

When I stopped working, I looked for babysitting work. I had 2 families whose kids I picked up from school a few days a week. Yes, they paid me, just enough to cover my gas and car payment, but it felt good to be helping out a few fellow moms.

NB: All numbers are based on my own experience, so don’t go fact-checking me. 🙂


part 2 of career shape-shifting: INFJ

— Apologies for the long hiatus. I hope you missed me. 🙂 —

I’ve always been fascinated by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It was developed by a mother-daughter team and based on C.G. Jung‘s theory of psychological types. The test (“instrument,” they call it) identifies how you prefer to interact with the world across 4 categories.

Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).

Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).

Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).

Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

— Myers-Briggs Foundation, MBTI Basics

There is no right or wrong, no value judgements, no “better than” positioning. You can take it online without a counseling session here. My results confirmed that I am an INFJ, though I have strong leanings to the center of the Thinking/Feeling spectrum. I’m also not nearly as introverted as I expected. My counselor (a lovely woman, by the way, who I need to thank for getting me on the right track) then gave me  a loooong list of careers that suit my personality type.

I expected the MBTI to be a magic bullet of sorts, that would zero in precisely on what I was going be when I grow up. I was also afraid it would tell me to become an astrophysicist or neurosurgeon — going back to school for that long sounds like hell, expensive hell. The careers on the list ranged from Psychologist to Lawyer to Reporter to Art Teacher.  Psychic was awfully intriguing, but I had to be pragmatic.

Interior decorator… now that was compelling. After all, I had set on that path 10 years ago when I was still working in marketing. What made me stray? Hope you don’t mind, but that’s a story for another post.

part 1 of career shape-shifting: the parachute dilemma

Starting a business is no easy task. It’s been a tough road just getting to the point where I know it’s what I want to do, and my blogging has largely been silent on this. Now, with the spectacles of hindsight, I think can write about it in a coherent, non-whiny manner.

This is the first of several posts looking back on my 1-year journey into entrepreneurship. It started with figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.

When I left the real world of work just over a year ago, I knew I only had one more chance at this career change thing. Let’s face it, I’m almost 40, my husband and I have 2 kids to raise, and we’re pretty sure there are no trust funds out there waiting for us to come of age.

I had graduated from Boston University with a BA in Philosophy and Political Science. “What the hell were you planning to do with that?” you ask — everyone asked. Truth is, I didn’t care. I liked reading and I liked writing, and I could still take plenty of art classes as electives. I quickly decided law school was not my gig… and thus began my “multi-faceted” (read “directionless”) career.

I have been a retail manager, furniture salesperson, prenatal/infant care expert, event planner, marketing/PR specialist, investor relations manager, legal assistant, administrative assistant, and stock broker assistant. What to do with this crazy cocktail of experience was completely beyond me.

So I sought out a career counselor. I looked into independent career counselors, and found that they charge upwards of $125/hour. That’s our weekly grocery budget! This was clearly out of the question. But wow, what a great gig these independent consultants have. Then I remembered how fortunate I am to be living in the city of my alma mater.

I gave the BU Center for Career Development a call. When I went to BU, it was called the Office of Career Services. It was in a basement of a building on Deerfield St in Kenmore Square and smelled like a basement. These days, it’s a “Center” that “develops” you rather than “serves.” It has also moved up to swanky digs on the 3rd floor, about to move into swankier new digs in a brand new building across the street. I think they’ve figured out that if they do a better job of helping liberal arts majors like me make a ton of money, they’ll get a piece of that in alumni donations.

As an alum, I was eligible for three counseling sessions and two assessment tests for the bargain price of $90. This was a steal, and I’d be crazy to turn it down. Plus, I LOVE taking personality tests.

Tune in next week for Part 2 of Career Shape-Shifting: “INFP”

SIDE NOTE:  If you’ve never perused the Work/Career section of your local bookstore, the blog title refers to “What Color Is Your Parachute?” which I read in my 20s. Please don’t take my recent state of career confusion as evidence the book fails its intended purpose. It’s a fabulous book. My career track derailment has more to do with variable commitment on my part than anything else.


career   /kəˈri(ə)r/

noun  an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress

verb  move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction

Oxford US English Dictionary

Isn’t this the oddest word? In American culture, we are taught as children that a career is what we decide to “be” when we grow up. We are what we do. We are expected to pursue a career in a deliberate and linear fashion: we go to college and, possibly, graduate school, with a goal in mind, then we get a job in our chosen profession at a company that will employ us, promote us, provide benefits for our families, and fulfill us, until the time comes for us to retire happily. But nowhere in either definition of the word “career” is anything related to personal fulfillment.

I never knew this word as a verb, but I identify with it much more, especially the “swift and uncontrolled” part. Now that sounds exciting! For my whole life, I’ve been careering, and my specified direction was always UP the corporate ladder. I thought that getting promoted was the sign I was doing the right thing. But, at two points in my life, I realized that I had attained career goals that just didn’t fit me. The first time, I was 25 years old. I thought I was hot shit and envisioned success, power, and money in my future. I called it my Quarter Life Crisis. But more on that another time.

This time, I’m approaching 40, and all I want is time and energy to enjoy my family. I don’t really want anything in my life to be done swiftly and out of control. I don’t need it to be a smooth trajectory upward or a 65mph highway. This time, careering will be a meandering path through back roads that slows down and speeds up here and there, with no dead ends or head-on collisions.

Direction. What’s yours? How did you find it?

oh my, it’s been a while

I’ve been busy, uninspired, procrastinating, stressed out, and just plain lazy. Reading begets writing, and I haven’t been.

Instead, I’ve been going to summer field trips, school concerts, kindergarten graduations, birthday parties, and parent meetings. I signed up for a CSA, found a drop-off class for D, registered H for summer camp, painted my stairway (finally!) and took first steps towards starting my own business. We bought a new car and still managed to scrape together H’s tuition for next year. I took the kids to NJ to see Papa and Gramma, and we hung out with friends at Sebago Lake in Maine.

Friday was my 38th birthday (though I just keep saying I’m 40 to get myself used to the idea by the time it happens). I’ve been home for a full year. It’s time to motivate. Just do it (thanks Nike). No excuses.

more to come…

what’s the problem?

picasso quote

This quote by Pablo Picasso resonates with me on many levels. As a mother, it makes me think about how to continually nurture my little artists’ creativity. And as a grown-up individual, I wonder where I failed to nurture myself as an artist along the way. There are so many mundane yet necessary responsibilities we slowly acquire as adults — it’s too easy to let them get in the way of creative pursuits. I haven’t got an answer to the problem, but I’m glad I know what the problem is.

~ via Every Child is an Artist | Fotoseeds Photographic Education.

mind the gap — do a lot of work

It’s Sunday morning, the kids are peacefully watching Cars 2 and playing with Legos. I’ve got my cup of coffee and am trolling through Pinterest, my new favorite timesuck source of inspiration and ideas.

I came across this pin quoting Ira Glass on creative work, which led me to the fabulous Writer Underground blog, and this video. (I listen to his radio show, but never knew he was fairly easy on the eyes as well)

To have a vision, and not be able to execute because the quality of our work isn’t good enough yet. I’m so in that phase — with writing, decorating, crafting — and it’s incredibly frustrating. I tend to think I’m either creative, or not, and if it doesn’t come easy I fall into the “not creative” category. It is tough to remember that great work doesn’t just spew out easily and painlessly. Kind of like giving birth. It’s work, after all, and we treasure the final product more knowing the effort we gave to create it.

“It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.”