Bringing home the bacon

While we are settling in nicely since the move nearly 4 months ago, the fact remains that I’m working outside the home and bringing in 100% of the income, and Nutella has so far been unable to find suitable employment. This is very different than how it used to be. We used to make fairly equal salaries, have our own separate bank accounts, split the cost of nearly everything in half (not literally, but she paid certain bills and so did I), and it felt completely egalitarian. The original plan was to move to an area with a lower cost of living where I would be employed full-time and Nutella would get a part-time job and do more childcare, being able to then pick Curly up from public school at 2:30pm starting next year, thus negating any need for aftercare. It was a great plan, and when she was asked to come in for a second interview at a local college, we thought for sure that would be it.

Unfortunately that job didn’t work out and here we are. We’ve opened a joint bank account (which we would’ve done anyway) and I pay all the bills. Right now, Curly is in pre-school which is free until 12pm, so instead of paying for aftercare at the same facility, Nutella picks him up and spends the rest of the afternoon with him. So she is a “stay-at-home mom” (which is kind of a stupid title since they’re usually out and about, especially in the lovely weather here) and is the primary person who not only prepares dinner like she used to, but is now responsible for keeping the house in order, doing all the shopping, running all the errands, making all the phone calls, etc. Definitely a job, if not a paying one. Of course, this drastic change in roles has brought up a lot of different feelings.

I will say first that there isn’t “resentment.” I don’t feel resentful because she wants to be working, she and I both know she’d be happier working, and she’s trying. But the niche for what she does is small, and smaller still because she’s looking only for part-time work. We’re starting to wonder if she should just take any available job…barista at Starb*cks for example, just to be working. It’s a sticky situation, since to do so after having had a career in higher education administration and student services is to take a giant step away from that, but to not work at all for an ever-extending period of time never looks good on one’s resume. So basically she’s been applying to the jobs at the local college that come up and we’ve been holding our breath and crossing our fingers.

What I do feel is the heavy weight of shouldering all the costs on my salary alone. It’s a good salary, but at this point, we’re pretty much breaking even. Luckily we have some leftover money from the sale of our house, as well as some savings, but to not be able to save more, and to have to dip into that money for every unforeseen expense doesn’t feel good at all. And yesterday I had some weird “dad” feelings…I came home from work and Curly and Nutella were out in the yard. Curly was talking at me a mile-a-minute, blowing kisses, and all that….Nutella made a comment that “he’s all about you right now” and I replied that it’s because he’s with her all the time now while I’m at work. It brought me back to my childhood…having been with my mom for those few hours after school, and running to hug my dad when he walked through the door. Curly knows I’m the only parent working right now and that’s a little strange for us, too. Not bad, just different, and not what we want.

So…reaching out to the internets to ask for advice. Should Nutella continue waiting for a job she actually wants, or should she try for “any” job at this point? Is it better to have a gap on your resume, even if you have a good excuse for it (i.e. the move and the staying home to take care of a small child) or is it better to have not much of a gap, but to be working a job that is outside of, and what some may view as “below” your career aspirations? Anyone have similar experiences to share?

10 responses to “Bringing home the bacon

  1. Can she be open to a full time role? It sounds like that may increase the opportunities.
    I think the move is a good excuse for a gap on the resume.
    What about temp agency that could put her in a professional position more aligned with her experience?

    Also, can I just say how amazing it is that preschool is free!

  2. I’m a recruiter and can tell you that a career gap is no big deal at all especially given the reasons. Now if there were several career gaps that would raise a flag but one gap following a move with a small child is not only acceptable but expected. Good luck you guys!!

  3. I would recommend that you stop thinking about the equality of your finances and who pays for what. You are a family and you know that each contributes equally, and equality doesn’t necessarily mean money. Just because of our chosen fields, my wife and I have always made much different salaries, but we are able to pay our bills and both of us are working hard to contribute to the family, so we are happy.

    However, I would say that you need to be careful that Nutella doesn’t become a stay at home mom just by circumstance if she doesn’t want to. We know someone that this happened to – she graduated with her PhD and couldn’t find a job – and she started to resent her time with her kid. This went on for a few years until she expanded her definition of what kind of job she wanted (taking a job as a high school teacher instead of college) and she is much happier. But because of this experience they went from wanting to kids to just sticking with one, because the mom just wasn’t happy. Is there a way to expand the field to be open to more jobs? Also, there are jobs that are more professional than Starbucks that would probably make her happier even if it’s not the right field. There are certain jobs that are made for moms who want to be home with kids – just a few hours a week during school – which are worth looking for if you can find them.

  4. Jessie – A large part of the reason why we moved to an area with a lower cost of living is so that Nutella could take a part time job and spend more time with Curly. So her working full time would defeat that purpose, even if it does open up more opportunities. I think she is registered with one temp agency at this point, but it couldn’t hurt to register at more.

    JK – We do not think about financial equality anymore…we knew it would drastically change once we moved and we are both fine with that. The problem is not inequality, the problem is Nutella having a difficult time finding the right job. She is expanding her search to positions in HR and admin. asst. but those are hard to come by as well with the hours she would like.

  5. This is a tough one. We have been all over the map with jobs in our household. In general, my wife has the greater earning power, so she’s been the bacon-bringer. Yet we’ve needed my income to supplement, for sure. After Jaybird was born, as you might recall, we made a big cross-country move and it was hard to get resettled financially and otherwise (though we don’t regret it, at all). I almost applied to Starbucks myself! Benefits at half-time…opportunities to become a manager…not a bad option. Yet difficult to make the shift in professional identity.

    With baby #2 next summer, I may try to go back down to half-time. I’ve been considering applying to part-time contract positions (via a temp agency or otherwise) – they seem to crop up at the local big university and at tech companies. The part-time hours thing IS hard. Has she thought about adjuncting at a local community college? I did that for a few years. The pay here is pretty good per class, though it wasn’t as good in TX. Of course, I have no idea what her degree is in, and teaching isn’t for everyone (though isn’t she a theater person? 🙂 ) I’ve also taught for local arts orgs – kids’ writing workshops, that kind of thing. Maybe there’s a corollary for drama education, if she’s interested. Pay is never great, but it is rewarding. Good luck! It takes time.

  6. MamaDeux- We figured you might be able to relate 🙂 Nutella has no teaching experience and does not have a Masters degree, so adjuncting isn’t an option for her- she has to stick with administrative positions. Too bad since there is an adjunct drama professor position available! At this point, she is considering a part-time position with less-than-suitable hours (but still not bad) or possibly getting a full-time position just for a year or so to help supplement our income so we can get stuff done with the house and start saving!

  7. The job market here sucks for education jobs. My wife teachers at a university and has been looking for another position since last July with no luck. She applies to everything but hasn’t had any luck yet. Our plan is for her to find a new job and then me find a part time one so I can stay home more with our boy. I hope Nutella finds something soon!

  8. I also work in higher ed admin and it can be a really difficult market (esp. for part time) I don’t know about the colleges/universities in your area but the school I work at has it’s own Temp Pool that we often hire people from on contract or for part time positions – it would be worth looking to see if any of the schools around you have an internal temp process (more often than not those temp positions become permanent as well). And for us once you are employed on campus it’s much easier to be hired to another on-campus job – we have some positions that are posted internally only and/or people favor on-campus employees for whatever reason.

    My wife had a small gap in her resume because of weird unforeseen circumstances and it didn’t really hurt her – just be honest about it in interviews etc.

    Hope she can find something soon!

  9. chunkandmommy

    I think if she wants to work in order to get out, have adult interaction, supplemental income, etc. than any job is better than nothing. M works full-time at a job she hates, but it helps pay the bills that we couldn’t afford on my salary only. (btw, free preschool? Amazing. We pay about $800/mo) Both of our degrees are in the arts, so employment and a solid career path are hard. Being that I have my masters and a stable job in my profession, I know I will always be the full-time professional when and if we add to our family. M actually worked for Starbucks after she had her undergrad degree and loved it. It is a great company with good opportunities…you can’t always be so stuck on what is acceptable because sometimes, a job is a job.

  10. If she can wait for a job she wants, she should wait.

    Mrs Bean is at home most of the time with the kids. For her to get back to her profession would require office space and some heavy-duty networking to get started again (she’s a therapist). She’s thought about taking a part-time job but it doesn’t seem worth it if the babysitter/nanny/childcare will cost about as much as she’d make. We’re making ends meet, and soon enough our second will be off to school (well, 3 more years, but time flies!)

    I saw a profile on LinkedIn (for a technical person) that had this listed:

    Stay-at-home Mom
    Home and around town
    April 2009 – June 2011 (2 years 3 months)
    In a true Agile fashion, managed development of a young human with ever changing requirements!

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