I’ve written previously about how it’s not really possible to “have it all” and that work-life balance is about not getting too off-kilter in any single direction. There is no silver bullet to walking the tightrope without swaying to one side at times. Still, if it’s a strategy that you want, I have two I can provide. With the caveat of course that these are not silver bullets. First, my main stress-reducing (or rather, guilt-reducing) strategy is to tell the daycare not to tell me when my son hits a big milestone. I want to know what he does during the day and that he is attempting to wave bye-bye, but please don’t tell me when he actually does. This eliminates a lot of my guilt and stress of missing his “firsts” because I get to experience all his major milestones. Now maybe he was standing by himself at daycare for weeks, but when he did it for me at home, it was so much fun to celebrate with him. Of course, this strategy is not working as well now that he’s in his second year and the major milestones are more scarce.
My second stress-reducing strategy is to be clear with yourself and with your spouse about the trade-offs you are making. I had a lot of guilt when I first returned to work, even though I knew I would not be a good SAHM. I still made sure I looked hard at our finances to see what the right decision would be. Both my husband and I make more than enough to each cover the cost of daycare. But if you are both working, do the math and see how much more your after-tax income is compared to the cost of daycare. There is no single threshold for determining whether it makes to stay at home or not as it varies by many factors, your own preferences being one of them. But actually calculating that number helped me prioritize and own the choices we are making. For example, once we knew what the difference was, we had a conversation about what we were doing with that money. Was it just to have a bigger house or fancier clothes? Those things are nice, but not that important. One thing we decided to do was invest in our son’s college fund. He may only be 17 months old and college is a ways away, but part of the trade-off we are making is that he will spend time away from us now so he can have a great start in his adult life and not have to worry about how to pay for college. You might make different decisions, but the key to be conscious of the decisions you are making and own them. Because when you own your choices, they cause much less stress.