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Mechanical Engineer: decide to work or be a stay at home mom?
Old 02-04-2013, 07:02 AM   #1
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Mechanical Engineer: decide to work or be a stay at home mom?


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Old 02-04-2013, 07:48 AM   #2
gone traveling
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Fairfax, VA
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First off, don't think that staying home to raise your children is "lazy" or anything of the sort.

I'm 31, and my wife and I just had our first child last year. I will tell you that our situation is somewhat similar (but we have slightly higher income, and no paid off house). We had this very same debate when my wife was pregnant.

What did we end up doing? We tried to manage our schedule to keep our child at home while allowing my wife to work part-time. Does you or your husbands profession/office allow for part-time or even telework?

Here is a combination of things you can do to keep your kids at home, out of daycare, have yourself enjoy the experience, and still "build wealth".

- Either of you can cut back to part-time work. My wife is at 60%. She goes into the office on Monday, and my mother-in-law happily watches my son. She goes into the office on Friday and I stay home to watch my son. Tues-Thurs she gets in a total of 8hrs of at-home work.
- Can family members watch your children at all, even 1 day a week? You mention you're "orphans". Were you ever adopted? Any sort of family?
- You can ask your employers about modified schedule. I now work Mon-Thurs (4 10hr shifts) to have Friday's off to watch my son.

That being said, even if you can't manage any of these lifestyle changes, one income with no mortgage and low expenses, you'll still be ok.

Good luck.
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Old 02-04-2013, 12:43 PM   #3
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I can relate to your subject line. I'm a woman engineer that juggles being a mom and working.

For our household there were several factors that made me consider continuing work after the boys were born.
- I enjoyed my work (at the time.) And was well compensated for it.
- I had a *much* better benefit package than my husband (medical, salary, stock, bonuses... all better than my husband's).
- My husband is a very hands on dad - so it doesn't fall entirely on me. He shares in the day to day raising of the kids from more than just a managerial perspective... he's there doing school drop offs and pickups, he takes off at least as much as I do when they're home sick. (In fact he's home today with a sick 10 year old.)

Plus - at the time, I wasn't sure I'd get the intellectual satisfaction being a SAHM. I realize that's selfish - but it's how I felt. My opinions have changed significantly now that they are school age and can engage in very challenging debates.

My compromise was to downsize my hours. It was a boom time (early 2001) for engineering jobs when I came back from maternity leave and I was able to negotiate a 60% pay for a 3 day work week. Later I had to upsize it to 80%/4 day work week. But it still gives me one day to get all the chores, school volunteering, etc. and still be fully available to them on the weekend. (No excuse that I can't help them with a school project because I need to do laundry, mop the floor, etc.)

I'm now looking at early retirement as a way of ruining impacting their teen years. I hope to retire sometime in the next few years (1-4 years). So I'll be able to help them/guide them through their teen years. It's a trade off. But this will allow us to send them to a better magnet school for middle/high school than the neighborhood school (commute will suck, but if I'm not working, it will be ok.) It will allow me to continue to coach them in FLL robotics. It will allow them to participate in more enrichment activities after school since I can chauffeur them.
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Old 02-04-2013, 12:48 PM   #4
gone traveling
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Location: Fairfax, VA
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Originally Posted by rodi View Post
I'm now looking at early retirement as a way of ruining impacting their teen years. I hope to retire sometime in the next few years (1-4 years). So I'll be able to help them/guide them through their teen years. It's a trade off.
Haha. This is exactly my plan for ER.
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Old 02-04-2013, 01:06 PM   #5
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This is such a complex question and depends so much on personal interest and personal qualities and the qualities of not just you, but also your spouse and your children.

Where I come from:

Attorney - did not marry until age 37

First child just as I turned 40 - went back to work when baby was 6 weeks old. I have to admit that I was ready to go back.

Adopted 2 children (who were then 3 and 8) a few years later

Now - 58, kids range from 16 to 21.

I worked extremely full time most of the last 18 years. However, I had a spell of about 3 years when kids were young when I worked reduced hours - about 30 hours a week.

For the last 2 1/2 years, DH has been retired and I've worked very part-time - between 10 to 15 hours a week. During this period of time we've homeschooled our daughter.

I don't think I would have liked to be a pure stay at home mom and at the time I couldn't have really afforded it without major lifestyle changes. Some of our kids had some really expensive health related needs and my working let us pay for and meet those needs.

That said - if I could back I would have stayed at the 30 hours a week for the entire time. At the time my firm was balking a bit on it and really wanted me full-time. I worried that they would want to get rid of me and so gave in. With the benefit of hindsight, I realize that wouldn't have happened and I could have safely stayed at the reduced hours.

In part because I did work then, it was easy for me to go semi-retirement when DH retired and I've really enjoyed this last 2 1/2 years with 2 adolescents still at home. It enabled us to homeschool our daughter and I've enjoyed it.

To me this has been more meaningful than it would be to stay home when kids are really young.

I am also reluctant for any parent - male or female - to totally give up working for, say, a 20 year period. Stuff happens such as divorce or death and the spouse who gave up a career can end up in very dire straits. I would much rather see a parent work reduced hours or both parents work reduced hours or have both parents switch off who stays home for a period of time. That way, you don't have one parent (usually the mom) who ends up basically being unemployable 20 years later.
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Old 02-05-2013, 08:12 AM   #6
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I'm not a Mechanical Engineer, but I married one and gave birth to two of them, so I feel somewhat qualified to weigh in here.

My kids are grown and gone. I feel your pain - I wrestled with this my whole career, and feel like I've just finally come to terms with the decisions I made.

I won't ramble on, but will just sum up what I think was best for my family. I don't think I would have been a great "at home" mommy. I just didn't feel like I could have given them enough stimulation. I was lucky enough to find a wonderful home for them to go to every day, with a very motivated, engaged caregiver. It was a dream situation, really.

I've been with the same MegaCorp for decades, and when they were teenagers, I was lucky enough to get a telecommuting job. Their teen years are THE time you want to be around as much as possible. For a period of time, I began to question whether our sons were human. They were sneaky, surly, snarky, snotty brats, and it was not a fun time. Suddenly their senior year of high school, they grew out of it. IMHO, their teen years are when they needed us the most. If I'd gotten out of the work force, I'd probably have had trouble getting job like I got.

So, that's just my take. If you like your job, work now while you can, save up, build your retirement cushion and some savings so that when they get older you too can be around more during those critical teenaged years.

Welcome to the board!
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