- I’ve balanced childcare and working from home for years. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.
- I fit in paid freelance work and use the money to fund my retirement and my kids’ college.
- It’s also helped me afford two life insurance policies to protect my family.
My oldest daughter turns 6 at the end of July, and by that time I’ll have saved my family approximately $150,300 in childcare costs by working my paid job around watching my children full-time.
This isn’t an exact amount, but with the average nanny making $33,398 a year in Colorado, where we live, and factoring in the months that I’ve taken off for three maternity leaves and a few months here and there when we actually did have nannies, it’s a decent estimation.
Like most women, I do deserve a medal, but I also recognize how incredibly lucky I am. On top of being a full-time parent, I’m also a freelance writer. I make a full-time salary, but I’m able to decide whether or not I use childcare because of my flexible hours.
Although we have tried using nannies periodically over the past six years, for one reason or another they have always fallen through — moving on to their careers after graduating from college, or finding full-time jobs that paid more than I was offering for the few hours a week that I needed care.
After a few unsuccessful attempts, I decided to rely on a steady stream of nap times, a sister-in-law who stayed with us for a few months and, finally, preschool and then kindergarten to work while parenting. (Luckily, my husband also works from home and helps with school drop-offs and pick-ups, which is another lifeboat.)
Friends and family have, over the years, questioned my decision to do things this way, sometimes after noticing how tired I am, or after I’ve complained about my scenario, if I’m being honest. The truth is, though, that while I am always re-evaluating whether this is the right decision, I keep coming back to a resounding YES.
It goes without saying that I’m so grateful for the ability to spend as much time as possible with my girls. The other big perk, though, is that I’ve been able to make the most of the money that I’m saving and earning by doing things this way.
I’m putting ‘enough’ money away for retirement
As a freelancer, there are no employer-sponsored retirement savings options for me, and definitely no company matches. I started freelancing in 2012, so that’s 10 years I would have given up on investment returns if I hadn’t opened a retirement account that’s good for self-employed people and had the money to invest in it routinely. By forgoing childcare for these early years, I’m able to make more of an investment in my future by putting extra money into my retirement accounts instead of paying for care.
I’m ahead of schedule for my kids’ college savings
It’s unclear where the whole student loan argument will land, but for now what I do know is that if I can afford to help my kids go to college without taking out loans, I’d like to do that. That meant having a conversation with our financial advisor to determine what funding a state-college education will look like at the time of their high school graduations, and making a plan to put a certain amount of money every month into a 529 plan to help reach that goal.
Funding three kids heading to a state college in Colorado a few years into the future means putting $500 each into those three accounts every month — and that likely wouldn’t cover a private school, and it definitely won’t cover a master’s or doctorate. Luckily, that hefty monthly price tag comes with tax advantages, which helps.
I’m able to cover a reasonable life insurance cushion for our family
I’ve seen and read enough to know how important a life insurance policy is, particularly for a family with young kids. Although my husband and I have been lucky with our health so far, I don’t take anything for granted.
We opened our first life insurance policy in the months leading up to the birth of our first daughter, and then we increased the policy after our third daughter was born. We also made the decision to open both a term and whole life policy, in the hopes that the whole life policy will provide us with an extra retirement cushion, or provide additional emergency funds should we ever need it.
Forgoing childcare isn’t a feasible, or even reasonable, option for a lot of families (not to mention single parents, who deserve all the help they can get, and then some), and I fully recognize that. I gave up most of my safety nets — like paid maternity leave, paid vacation and sick days, and an employer-sponsored retirement plan — when I decided to freelance full-time all those years ago. If being a little extra tired some (OK most) days means that I can afford to add some of those safety nets back in, then to me, it’s worth it.