Louise McBride, Freelance Personal Finance Journalist wrote in the Sunday Independent about What’s the real cost of stopping work for the kids and it got me thinking about what the costs and benefits where for me and my family since I stopped working.

Unfortunately for me I’ve worked in Engineering and Production Management in plastics companies since I first left college 17 years ago. So unlike Louise,I can’t work from home and continue in the same kind of roles. All the roles I’ve had in recent years have involved a big commute, usually over an hour to and then from work, so an 8 hr working day, usually ended up with me leaving at 6:30 to be in work for 8, then working on till 5 to keep on top of the work load and then not getting home till 6:30 to put the kids to bed.

The other problem I had with work was that it often in small companies who were linked with construction, and in recent years there has been the small matter of the recession in Ireland.

So the cost of going to work, the childcare, the mileage, the food away from home as well as the cost to my family of being at home so little and very tired, stressed and cranky when I was at home was high. With the down turn, pay rates were reduced and the balance between wither it was worth going out to work was tipping leading me to stop working.

Louise identified the costs to her as her salary, pension and work perks. For us it was the same, my salary was cut to zero and if it wasn’t for some savings we would have been seriously in trouble. We didn’t live the high life when I was working, but when I stopped we still had to make major cut backs, all swimming lessons we stopped for the kids, take-aways reduced to once a month, controls put on grocery shopping to reduce waste, and holiday’s were kept local and at minimal cost. Eventually over 2 years I managed to bring our out goings and spending closer to the amount of money we had coming in. But we did burn through a good bit of our savings in the process.

My daughter’s big hope for this summer is that we’ll get to go on holiday… on a boat, not just to my parents in Belfast or to Donegal, at the moment we’ll have to see how things are going.

Naturally Louise in her article focuses on the impact of stopping work on our financial position… it is her job after all. But with out stopping work I would have missed out on so much, treasures much more valuable and precious than the money I would have made while at work. For starters I would probably have had to move away from home to get a job, and only see my wife and kids at the weekends. I’ve friends who have had to do this, and I would have hated this, it would have been awful for my wife and kids as well. I know why some families have to do this, and I know how fortunate that I am that we didn’t have to take this route.

So actually getting to spend time with my family, even more than I use to is the first major perk. OK sometimes seeing a little less of them would have had it’s attractions, but that’s just the sore head from the noise talking.

I got to do some great things with my kids, cycle with them down to school or run while they used their bikes or scooters. Bring my son to school on his first day, and be there to collect him and ensure that over the next few months that he was happy going in, found the benefit of reading and learning his letters, meeting friends and talking about how he was getting on.

Aidan's 1st Day at School

Aidan’s 1st Day at School

I’ve raised the baby from birth, introducing him to P&T groups, making friends and learning to mix and play with other kids. I’ve become his go to person for everything. We celebrated his birthday 2nd birthday a few weeks ago at the P&T Group with his friends, something he could not have done if I’d been working. The joy in his face was a pleasure to behold.

Enjoying his 2nd Birthday

Enjoying his 2nd Birthday

As a blow in to the town we are living in I knew a limited amount of people as I never grew up here. Limited to neighbours and a few people I’d bump into who I knew from canoeing, which I did before Kids. So I did get to other parents at the school door and improve my own social network.

It has been great for me, as well as improving my social network at the school gate, I’ve also made good friends through the P&T groups. I’ve been able to volunteer and help run one of the groups that I’ve been going to. It also gave me the time to join Toastmasters, which has really boosted my communication skills.

Also it has given me the opportunity to go back and study, as I did for a bit around 5-6 years ago. This most recent spell as a SAHD, gave me time to think back over my career and make some choices about what I wanted to do in the future. I was able to figure out that I either needed a complete career change, or go and develop a career in larger organisations than the ones I had been working in the past.

So now after two and a half years I am gearing myself to go back to work. The youngest has just turned two and needs the stimulation and interaction with other children that he can get in a play-school and so I believe that he is ready to move on the newer things as well.

It has been a good two and a half years where I have settled into the role as a SAHD, perhaps I’ve been a little too comfortable most recently but my kids have found it beneficial and have developed into really confident and happy kids able to take on the world. What ever the next few years hold for us, I am determined to make sure that the family don’t suffer, no more 12 hr long days away from home for 5 days a week.