Do What It Takes
Sara Shay, freelance editor, Maple Glen, Pa.
Married to John McCauley, a chemist with a pharmaceutical company. Mom to son Jacob.
Decision she faced: How to work part time at home to stay close to her child.
How she worked it out: Everything was going well for Shay when Jacob was born. After 4 1/2 months of maternity leave, she was telecommuting four days a week, working at home in Pennsylvania for a business magazine based in Boston while a nanny cared for her son in the next room. But Shay’s plans fell apart when she was laid off two months after her maternity leave ended. She wasn’t sure what to do: She wanted to keep working, but because of the slowing economy, she knew that finding a job wouldn’t be easy. Plus, she really wanted to continue working at home, and she didn’t want to lose her wonderful babysitter. “I wasn’t ready to look for a job where I had to commute and put Jacob in day care,” Shay says. So she decided to try freelancing from home, even though it could take a while to get established. Luckily, her sitter agreed to work just two days a week. Now, Shay works two days a week launching her freelance-editing career.
Pros: Shay has plenty of time to spend with Jacob, and when she is working, she knows he is with a nanny she likes and trusts.
Cons: Finding work hasn’t been easy, and sometimes she only earns enough to cover child care. As a feminist, Shay says, she sometimes feels conflicted about having her husband go off to work to support the three of them while she stays home.
Financial issues: Shay and her husband can survive without her income, but it worries her that she’s not putting much money away for retirement. Fortunately, as it turns out, the two are financially conservative and had saved money before Jacob was born. Now they are postponing unnecessary expenses until Shay’s work situation improves.
How she feels about her decision: Although she obviously would rather not have been laid off, Shay manages to see that gray cloud’s silver lining. “Some good things came of it—like being able to spend more time with my son,” she says. She also feels fortunate that Jacob could be cared for at home. “It is a luxury to be able to have in-house day care,” Shay says. “But we both felt that our son’s quality of life was the most important consideration.”
Her best advice: “If you can figure out a way financially to spend more time with your child, it’s worth it.”