Why I chose to work and to finish going to school to work in a field that makes me happy:
1. I grew up with a mom who loved her career but quit to stay home with kids, and she never went back and yet always seemed like she wanted to, only by the time she really made the effort, she was either too old or out of work too long to get back in. This struck me as incredibly awful and also hypocritical because once we kids were in school all day, what on Earth was she doing at home? Was it the dishes and laundry? Not usually. Was it cleaning? Nope, the house was still a mess. So I didn't get the need to stay home (after the kids are in school) because there's nothing there to do for the kids anyway. (and yes, I think that for my mom, working was the thing to do because it would have given her a purpose instead of letting her spiral into a mental health funk where she didn't do much at all because it was too overwhelming, but that's another topic)
2. I am a better parent when I get a break to be an adult with other adults. When the kid was born I wound up having to drop out of school for the semester and that 3 months home with her made it clear that I am not patient enough to be a full-time child watcher. I just can't do it. It isn't me. Yeah, I really liked getting to hang around the kid all the time and enjoy all of her great moments, but when she started daycare I still got to enjoy almost as many great moments (and I'm a believer that it's the first time when I see whatever new skill it is for the first time because there's no sense guilting myself about not watching every little thing she ever does). I also enjoy our time together so much more because I'm not burned out by hours of saucy behavior and drudgery. We don't get into as many ruts because we don't spend all our time together either.
3. Not being broke. This is pretty lame as a reason to work, but we could get by on just the spouse's income if we didn't have childcare costs. It would be tight, possibly very tight. After having seen what it looks like to be poor, we don't want that. We didn't cope well as a couple either, having to account for every dollar because we had so few to go around. Now that we each get a $10 monthly book budget we're much happier (and I know that $20 a month in fun money isn't much, but it's what's in our dinky budget and it helps). I want to know that we'll have enough saved to retire some day when we're ready. I want to know that we will be able to help the Kid and Little Monster pay for college. I want to know that we'll be able to build up savings so that if something bad happens we will be ok for a few months. No, I will never let her have a pony though (perhaps because I don't like horses and I'll always be too cheap for that) and we'll take one vacation a year at most and not to somewhere super exotic. There's a line between financially solvent and gloatingly wealthy, and I prefer to err on the side of spend less and save more.
4. Being a role model for the kid. Right now she's really fed up with me doing homework all of the time and not getting to play with her enough, and she's right. I'm working on it, the balancing thing. We talked about how when she's done with kindergarten, I'll be done with homework and will just go to work (and then graduate after a year of rotations, but that's a different thing all together and so I skipped explaining it). I hope that in the future she will better understand how important it is to do what you love with your life. I love being a mom and I love being a (student) pharmacist, so it makes sense for me to do both. I also imagine I'll be a lot more fun when I'm not sweating bullets about exams too, and I do need to make more of an effort to be present and play more often.