It Was the Second Kid That Hosed My Career

Mom Moment 9

I have a friend who's on the fence about having a second child. She had her daughter three years ago, and she says now that things are finally getting -- well, as any parent knows, easy isn't quite the right word, but ... less consuming, let's say -- it's hard to imagine doing it all over again with another baby. I know how she feels, because that's exactly how I felt when my first son was a toddler and my husband and I were considering the timing of a second. It was, and I say this with all the love in the world, like contemplating parachuting back into a war zone for a second tour of duty.

We chose to forge ahead, and I am so incredibly glad we did. Our boys are close in age and they're the best of friends (when they're not fighting to the death over a toy, that is). But of all the major changes a second child brought to our lives, I could never have anticipated how my life as a working mom would be affected.

Okay, I admit that the title of this post is hyperbolic -- my second son didn't actually hose anything other than maybe my waistline. (I maintain it was the second C-section that gave me a permanent pudgeflap above my scar, and not my habit of snacking in front of the television every night. SHUT UP IT WAS THE SURGERY.) But it's true that while I found it challenging but doable to work full time outside the home after my first child was born, having two kids was a whole different ball game.

Ferrying two kids to and from daycare each day became a logistical nightmare on par with the fox/chicken/sack of corn river crossing puzzle: I had to get the baby's bottles all strategized because daycare policy was to discard any unused milk from each feeding rather than refrigerate it for later use (so god forbid he did one of those feedings where he took like one sip before falling asleep, which would essentially waste an entire bottle) while encouraging the other child to use the potty and packing extra clothes in case he had a Didn't Make It to the Potty Situation later and changing the baby because he'd spit up all over his outfit and lugging carseats and my laptop and god, it was just so hectic.

Plus there were the daycare fees, which were astronomical. One child was in the wildly expensive infant care room, the other was in the not-exactly-cheap toddler room. The combined cost took up more than a third of my salary.

I could have dealt with those things, of course. The expense, the hassle -- plenty of parents balance childcare and work every day, because they have to. What really became impossible to manage, however, were the sick days.

My boys have always been generally healthy, knock wood, but once they were both in a daycare environment, the everyday childhood illnesses came fast and furious. One kid would get a cold or an ear infection or whatever, they'd be down for the count for several days, and just as they were getting over it, the other kid would start running a fever. I developed a crippling phobia of getting The Call from daycare, but being paranoid of seeing their number pop up on my phone certainly didn't stop me from getting that damn call every few days. Worse, my husband and I were spending way too many mornings arguing about who was going to stay home with the barfing/coughing child this time. It was a crummy game of Whose Job Is More Important in which there were no winners -- if I stayed home, I felt guilty for not showing up at my job for the millionth time, if I went to work, I felt awful for leaving my kid.

There were other things going on with my job that made it unpleasant, too. I had a commute from hell and my office wouldn't even entertain the idea of working remotely. I'd had a revolving door of bosses who kept quitting or getting fired. I felt increasingly unappreciated and trapped in a dead-end position.

So when I'd finally built up enough freelance work, I had no problems saying goodbye to my software marketing salary, my benefits, my free iPhones and iPads, my gourmet chef-prepared lunches and dinners. It wasn't that I felt I had to stay home to be a better mom, it's that I believed our family life would be more manageable this way. And for the most part, it has been. I definitely miss working outside the home for all kinds of reasons, but I'm incredibly grateful to not be spread quite so thin.

Now that I have two kids entering school this year, life is going to be even busier than it was when they were little. Every day I have to drop one kid off at the bus stop, take the other one home, take him back to the bus stop for a noon pickup (he's in half day kindergarten, which is the only option in our neighborhood), then go back to the bus stop around 3:30 to get both kids. Not to mention driving them to and from afterschool sports and whatever other activities they're involved in, and dealing with the 32 -- THIRTY-TWO! -- no-school days this year.

My rambling point here, I guess, is this shit is tough no matter what. But I think adding more children to the mix definitely complicates things, particularly if you have a traditional full-time career. I don't know what I'd say to my friend who's having such a hard time deciding whether to have another baby. On the one hand, I doubt she'd have any regrets. On the other, I can absolutely understand her reluctance. She's got a great job and a great kid, and there's nothing wrong with not wanting to rock the boat.

Did having more than one kid change how you felt about your career?

Image via Linda Sharps

sick days, working moms


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JS0512 JS0512

I still work full time outside the home and hate it. My oldest is 12 my stepson is 8 and my youngest is 2.5 i was able to stay home for almost 6 months with her and loved it. We never had to deal with two kids in daycare at once, thank god!! But have been tossing the idea if another baby around and I don't think there's any way I could continue working. The daycare expense alone is insane, but like you said, I'd be spread too thin. The 12 yo takes 4 dance classes and plays volleyball each week, the 8 yo plays on a travel hockey team and the youngest....she's TWO! Enough said.

howcrazy howcrazy

Daycare costs would make working fulltime seem pointless to me. It is different if you are in a high paying career with the potential of continued growth, but I am not. I am now trying to figure out what to do when all the kids are finally in school, but I have 4 kids, who never get sick at the same time! I will have to take a month off when the stomach flu is going around. I want to work, but I do not know what to do!

nonmember avatar April

I did the midnight shift for years, to avoid day care costs and to ensure that one parent was always home. I also have worked part time, around my husbands schedule. Now I work full time days, now that one kid is in middle school and the other is in his last year of elementary school. It's easier now that they are older, and I have a few more people to call if they get sick at school. I'm also incredibly lucky to have a very understanding supervisor who works with me if I have to leave work

Jana-Marie Wells

LOL, it was the surgery. I too didn't have that until my 2nd C-Section!

Tonya Egeland-Parton

Personally, I felt like my job was important to me as a person and a parent.  I felt I was a better parent because I had time away from my kids.  But every person is so different in how they parent and how they perceive their careers.  To me it wasn't just a job, and I wasn't very good at the infant stage.  Now that they're both entering school, I could definitely see the appeal of being at home because of all the running that you mentioned.  Bottom line, it's a personal/family choice of what works for you and your situation.

Keya25 Keya25

Due with my 2nd in November & we're trying to figure out how to schedule everything. Im going back after 3 months so having a 4yo & newborn is going to be rough financially for a little. I have faith it will work itself out. It has to.

nonmember avatar Me

I didnt have a career until my youngest of three went to kindergarten. I was stay at home mom for 7 years out of the simple fact tgat daycare fees would have eaten all my income. I didnt have an actual career though before hand, I was 22, and never went to college, I went to school the last two years I stayed home.

So jyst out of financial point, unless youre a dr etc, yes another child might make you a stay at home mom for awhile to avoid the crazy infant daycare fees

Mom2J... Mom2Just1

I decided after our 2nd child that I would stay home. There are times I question that decision until I have a day like today.  My husband had a last minute business trip scheduled and he won't be back until sometime tomorrow. Our oldest called home sick,  had to take him to the dr, pick up meds, and still doing laundry.

Nancy... NancyJ422

I confess we have only one child (ok, he was 23 this year!) because while we were living in California I honestly didn't think we would be able to afford more than one and I knew I was going to have to work fulltime for probably the rest of my life.  I had a miscarriage when he was about 1-1/2 years old and since it was my second and I had a difficult pregnancy with him I said "one's good!".

I am somewhat jealous of people with more than one child but I think it was meant to be.

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