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New Moms: Does it Pay to Go Back to Work?

For many new moms, deciding whether to go back to work or not can be difficult. In those delirious first few weeks, it’s hard to imagine leaving your new baby – not to mention feeling rested enough to don “business casual” and engage in adult conversation. However, unless you have a partner whose income easily covers your household expenses, it’s a decision most new mothers must confront.

Once you’ve emerged from the newborn fog, consider these financial factors before making your choice:

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  • Childcare: One of the biggest expenses of returning to work is the hefty price of childcare. Childcare centers average nearly $12,000 a year, but costs vary based on where you live. The cost of employing a nanny, too, varies widely from state to state, but this is typically the priciest option, ranging from $26,000 to $36,000 a year for full-time care. Home-based childcare is usually the least expensive option with annual costs averaging around $8,000.
  • Taxes: Take a close look at your annual income to determine whether returning to work will kick your household into a higher tax bracket. This, coupled with childcare costs, may cancel out any financial benefit of working outside the home.
  • Gas: With gas prices on the rise, the price of filling up your tank is one you must consider. If you’re commuting to and from work – and to and from childcare – how much will you pay at the pump each month?
  • Clothing: Depending on the nature of your work, you may need to invest in new clothing. Be sure to factor in the costs of dry cleaning, too.
  • Food: While packing a lunch is always a good option, many people enjoy eating out during the work day. The cost of lunch can add up, so be sure to include this among other expenses of working outside the home.
  • Household costs: If you’re working during the day and caring for baby at night, you may find you lack the time or energy to mop the floor and scour the sink – consider the costs of a housecleaning service. You may also find it difficult to prepare a home-cooked meal after a long day at work. You might see a rise in your restaurant expenses, too.
  • If you’re working during the day and caring for baby at night, you may find you lack the time or energy to mop the floor and scour the sink – consider the costs of a housecleaning service. You may also find it difficult to prepare a home-cooked meal after a long day at work. You might see a rise in your restaurant expenses, too.

It’s a lot to digest, but it’s a good use of time to assess the financial benefits of returning to work. If you can’t make up your mind based on finances alone, consider alternative work settings that would allow you to earn an income while remaining flexible. Evaluate the viability of home-based work or a part-time job. You can also seek out employers known to accommodate working mothers.

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