Priorities. I’ve been thinking a lot about priorities lately, and where the best place to spend my time is. For really, in all the economic turmoil, falling markets, housing crisis talk, who among us is immune to questioning where we best spend our resources? Yes, money is the currency being talked about on the news and at the checkout, but for those of us in the middle class at least, money is largely a function of time. Spend more time working? More money. Take the kids to daycare for more hours? Less money. For any mom who’s had to calculate the “day care differential,” this is old news. If you haven’t thought this through yet or lately, it goes something like this.
If I go back to work, one thinks, I make X dollars per hour. But daycare costs Y dollars per hour. I need Z dollars for clothes decent enough to wear to work (oh! I hate this part of it, because it implies that all stay at home moms wear sweatpants). After taxes, will X be greater than both Y and Z?
I’m lucky. I don’t have to do the day care differential and the day care dance. My husband has a great job (ahem. the one i used to have too. ahem.) and makes enough to let me stay home and make raising the kids my full-time job. I know just how lucky I am. But I still wrestle with issues about spending time and resources, and I know I’m not alone.
Working women worry about the day care differential, and make choices that cost them money but save them time (cleaning services, anyone?) – time that they can then spend with their children.
Work at home women worry about the time devoted to their children and the time devoted to their work, and wish that the boundaries were more clear cut.
At home moms worry about the finances, knowing that they are giving their children their very best effort and love, but wonder how our decisions today will play out in our careers down the line.
I struggle with this, like most moms, and it shows up in my everyday decisions. When a leak flooded our kitchen, destroying our cabinets and molding under our floors (two layers were growing black mold. ICK), we had to make tough choices. Hire a professional kitchen design-and-build contractor, or piece together materials and installers from Lowe’s? Top of the line dishwasher, or something that just gets things clean? Gorgeous cabinetry, or something to hold the dishes? With every decision, my own decisions echoed in my mind.
If I were still working full time, we would have gone with the all-in-one contractor, making install easy for us, and paid out the nose. We could do that if I had a full time job. Actually, we could do it now, but I don’t like debt. I really don’t like debt. And I’m not willing to make the choices that a full-up new kitchen would really require.
Fancy handles? That’s $100 — another hour or two that I can spend on my children instead of my work.
Convection overn? That’s $1600 — a couple days with my kids, free and clear.
One professional contractor, and none of the hassles of this patchwork of electricians, drywall guys, plumbers, and installers? That’s $35,000 to $50,000 (actual estimates!) — and that is a full-time job.
So when you see my new kitchen, I want you to know that I’m proud of it, but I’m proud of the decisions that it represents as well.
The handles are simple. The oven is standard. The tiling behind the sink is still not done (because I’m a do-it-yourself-er, and I haven’t learned how to do it yet). But the colors are beautiful.
The walls were painted with love by my husband and parents-in-law, while I watched the kids (and they helped me recaulk the bathtub upstairs, staying out of the paint). The pictures are simple, from Home Goods or handmade. But I picked the first ones out with my mother-in-law, and the kids, grandparents, and I painted the others ourselves. My father took out the old drafty fan. My mother helped me pick out the cabinets and handles at Lowe’s. We all decided on the floor, and agreed that it will make this house our home.
Our home where we spend time with each other. Our home where our kids will grow up. And in that sense, this is the most beautiful kitchen that I could dream. We made it together, and we made the right choices, choices that aren’t sending us into debt or me back to work more than I want to go.
As a family, these are our priorities.