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Is it Worth It?


Continuing along the lines of last week’s post on Lessons I’ve Learned Being Poor I’m having an internal debate /struggle with myself.  On one hand I am applying for all sorts of corporate IT jobs that should reasonably pay $80K+ per year with benefits.  On the other hand I am applying for anything that peaks my interest including but not limited to: teaching English in China, church secretary, social work liaison and so on.

I want the corporate job again.  I want regular income, I want benefits, I want travel.  But on the other hand, I want to make  a difference, I want to stay home with my kids (or at least work from home,) I want to feel good about what I spend the majority of my time doing.  I’m really torn.  But I keep moving forward and am just waiting for something to stick.

So here’s where I’m at as I write this.  Today I interviewed for a part time church secretary position.  It is one of my “makes my heart feel good” job applications.  I could do Powerpoints, graphics, some technology and also answer phones, support people through tough times, really build community.  Kind of the best of both worlds in my mind at the time I applied and even after my interview.

Now, as I’m writing this, I have no idea if I will be offered the position.  But I started thinking as I returned home…of the money, benefits side.  It’s part time, no benefits, other than the fact that for the most part they would be willing to work around my kiddos schedule.  Big win there in my mind!  But it only pays $11-12 per hour.  After taxes, I was guesstimating bring home pay would look like $8 per hour.  At 20 hours per week…that’s $160 a week coming home, $640 a month.  Ouch.

So is it even worth it for me to pursue these types of jobs?  With my current part time job and this type of job, I would be working 40ish hours a week bringing home just at half of what I was making prior to November.  A very tough pill to swallow.  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.

I’m still hopeful for some other interviews I’ve had and have scheduled shortly…but I am looking at an considering everything until something sticks.  Lots of moving parts in this job search and considering options that come up.


  • Reply T'Pol |

    Before I say anything, I should say it is your life, your family and your choices. So, I am not judging what you would like to have in your life. It is very personal.

    If you want to know what I think, read on. If not, forget the rest of this comment and I pray, things will turn out just the way you hope for.

    With all that said, I am a 90% rational, 10% sentimental person so, I would definitely go for higher paying jobs with benefits but, in the meantime if something comes up just enough to cover the bills and put food on the table and make me feel happy, I would probably take it. Logic dictates (to me anyway) that, being financially secure will keep you and your family happy and healthy in the long run. I understand that you would like to spend time with them and that you may prefer that quality time over money as an adult but, let’s face it, they are still very young to have “wants” and however understanding they are, they may still feel deprived of some things their peers can easily have. We keep saying material things are not important but they kind of are; at least to a certain extent. Besides, I always think, I should be able to save some money for rainy days and for the future. So, if the line of work does not provide that and if I always find myself spending all the money I make on only “needs” then, I would feel very uncomfortable. Sometimes life happens and we may find ourselves stuck with a small pay check but I would keep on trying to get the corporate job with benefits which will allow me to put some money aside.

    • Reply Cheryl |

      I agree completely with this. I image with four kids who do all types of activities, you need more money than a part time job will make. You also mentioned that you have enough food because of food stamps but how long does that last? I would need a full time job fast because I worry able both now and the future. Cheryl

      • Reply Angie |

        This is an important point. I know you have a lot of pride. But you will need to be mindful of taking low paying jobs temporarily as they may be stealing your time and causing your EBT to be lowered or go away. Make sure you research if you are in the phaseout or cutoff range by taking this job. This would make the relative pay lower than 11-12 an hour if you include loss of those benefits.

  • Reply revdrmd |


    I want to offer a different perspective. Perhaps a part time job as a church secretary is God’s way of providing for some of your needs until something else opens up. If offered the job, I would accept it with the understanding that if something full time opens up, I might have to consider it and perhaps accept it. Surely the church understands the needs for benefits.

    I write this from my personal experience. I was a part time church secretary after I was fired from another job and it was my life line while I searched. I was doing something to help others, still looking, and managed to keep financially together during that time. The temporary nature of the position was understood from the beginning. That said, I don’t know if the position you applied for would allow you to accept it with the opportunity to leave is something else opens up.

    The late Paul Little said “God cannot steer a parked car”. So you are doing the right thing in applying for jobs and accepting interviews. He will let you know what to do if offered the job in the church.

  • Reply Vesta |

    I think that you should keep applying, keep going to interviews, keep praying, It seems to me that while you may not get an offer, you may come in contact with someone else along the way who has that job that will be a good fit for you. Networking I guess is the correct term. Have you read Dan Miller’s book “48 Days to the Work You Love”?

  • Reply Teri |

    I don’t think you’re in a position right now to take the “feel good” job…..not yet, anyway. You really need to get on your feet financially first. I thought your end goal was to make enough money to buy a bigger house to foster additional children? You can’t do that on a part time church secretary salary. You can’t even pay your rent and eat for what you’re being offered salary wise, to say nothing of having absolutely no benefits. Probably it would be a better plan for you to focus on a full time position so that you can start putting money in savings as a safety net/house down payment. Congrats on not taking on additional debt right now, but that will be harder the longer you are out of full time work. If it were me–I’d focus all of my energy on searching for full time work.

  • Reply SAK |

    My opinion. Job hunting – you should first devote your time and energy identifying and applying for jobs that will support your family and secure a solid financial base. Not just make – but move forward. Most likely a corporate job. If the church job or something similar you have applied to offers you a position of course take it to help you bridge to finding a good full time job. After you find that job it may be you can continue to do the part time job on the side – but really is $8/hour worth being away from the family IF (and only IF) you have a fun time job bringing in the necessary income. If you need the income that may be a part time job you keep for a while if possible after getting a full time job.

    You might want to stop reading here because I fear what I say next is going to sound harsh. You need to focus and prioritize. Now is not the time to go teach English in China. I understand what you want but you need to stop focusing on them and start focusing on what you NEED. You need a regular paycheck that shows up when expected every time. You need benefits. You need to stabilize your financial life to stabilize your kids foundation. You need to clean up the past so can start on the future. It isn’t pretty – but until you help yourself ad your family you really can’t effectively help others. Focus on the needs, secure today and then revisit the dreams/wants. But really focus.

    • Reply Katie |

      I wholeheartedly agree. Until your kids are raised, and you aren’t the sole support for a family of 5, you need to be practical. You need a job that pays the bills, provides a cushion and has benefits. Let’s think long-term too. What does your retirement situation look like?

      I don’t like dashing dreams, and I do think for a lot of people, the benefits of teaching abroad are fantastic – financially and culturally. However, you’ve hinted that your kids have issues that prevent them from thriving in a typical school environment. Does a move abroad, where you wouldn’t be able to continue to home school, really work for your family? How would your kids adjust to living in a foreign country?

      I appreciate that you are a dreamer – whether it’s a building a house, fostering more kids or teaching abroad. But please, take a step back and an honest look at where you’re at right now and imagine the solution to leading you out of debt. At $10-12/hour, there is no answer. You have skills that can lead to a job that by your estimate will pay about $40/hour, plus benefits. It may take a bit longer to procure, but I think it’s your best way out of debt, which is what we’re all here trying to help you achieve.

      • Reply Maureen |

        As a working professional who has spent the last 2 years looking for a job after my spouse’s relocation I disagree with you. See my longer post below. If a PT job offers some income and the flexibility to continue the search and still balance family and work like, then I would not discredit it. I have spent 2 years looking for a half way decent job-I am well educated, have connections, good academic and versatile professional skills, and I’m open-minded and outgoing. Maybe it’s my profession. Maybe it’s the market I am currently searching. However, even after an exhaustive and continued search I still have found gainful, meaningful, moderately compensated employment. It’s been 2 years!

  • Reply Anon |

    You should NOT do this as a long term plan. If it gets you through now that’s ok. But I see a pattern over the years with your decisions and this seems to mirror some of the ones that did not and will not set you up for success. Find a corporate gig. Get yourself on a good solid plan, live on nothing like you have been if you want and save save save. Then, when you have a cushion (a years worth of expenses in your case) and NO debt including student loans, and you’re saving 15% of your money in retirement then I would say you can consider something along these lines if you really want to. But it is unwise for you and your kids to pursue a path that will never help you succeed. But, like I said, short term do what you need to as long you aggressively keep looking and quit when you get a corporate gig.

  • Reply Maureen |

    Hope, your post really resonated with me today. Although, our personal situations and even beliefs about what type of ideal work we want is different, your feelings on the subject and what you are currently going through is much the same of what I am now experiencing and have spent 18+ months pondering.

    A little backstory. I am a second career attorney that went back to school and amassed almost $200,000 in student loan debt. My choice. I had previously spent 10 years in K-12 education (have a Masters in education) and could have continued on that path, but I guess the law called. Unlike your situation, I do have a spouse that works in corporate America, make a very good salary and has corporate benefits. His salary covers our day to day bills, but my work covers extra student loan payments, vacations, etc. More importantly, I still want and chose to work, in part for my contribution, but more importantly for my own self-worth.

    Almost two years ago we moved from the Twin Cities (MN) to Chicago. Not our choice. It was a promotion with a move or a layoff. In MN, I ran and owned my own solo law practice. I had built it from nothing and it was at the point where it was fairly successful. I loved being my own boss and carving out my own path. We were at the point where we had little debt other than a mortgage (but had a house that was affected greatly by the real estate bubble) and my student loan debt. We were just getting to the point where ready to pay significant overage payments each month to my SL debt and could eradicate it in less than 3 years. Then. The. Move. We lost almost $300K on our house in MN and when all the dust settled I think the move ended up costing us more than $500K-between my lost wages, the higher cost of living, etc. I won’t say we haven’t weathered the storm without stress, more debt, etc. 2 years later we are just getting back to a place where I feel comfortable and my student loan debt is still $120,000. We have other debt besides the house and SL because of the move, but it is manageable and should be paid off by May.

    The job search for me has been extremely frustrating. I completely understand the question you are pondering. The internal struggle. Here, I am a licensed (and experienced) attorney in two states and I am forced to contemplate jobs that pay $30-$40K a year or contract work at $20-$25/hour. I want and need to work! However, do I accept these jobs and work the 60 hour weeks they require (making the hourly wage closer to $9-$11/hour), or continue to hold out for the corporate legal job I want and hope will come? If I don’t take these jobs there are 10 other attorneys who will be willing to step in and take my place. I sat home for a year waiting for “that job” and it never came. I was miserable. I was despondent. An outgoing professional woman (I don’t have children and left all my families/friends in MN) I was barely recognizable in my state of mind. I know that $25/hour sounds like a lot of money (it’s relative to our cost of living though here in Chicago and my debt) or do I hold out for more? What if more never comes? I have started a few jobs that were bad situations (not me, think malpractice nightmare waiting to happen). Now, I have been contracting for the last year between $25-$30/hour. Decent money, but not what I want to do forever. HOWEVER, what I have learned and if I can share any of my own story and similar feelings I have had it is this: Self worth fosters confidence. Being with people has helped me make connections. Doors are starting to open for me because I am out making connections. Do I need to make more money in relation to my degree and debt load? Yes, but after the last year of taking these “other” jobs I have come to see them as a blessing, in part for a little financial stream, but more importantly for my own self-worth. While working “these jobs” I believe my attitude changed and my return to my outgoing former self (after being almost a recluse for a year) will foster new opportunities. Trust me, I get the internal struggle, but take the job if it gets you out of the house and provides a little income. That can eliminate some stress and foster growth while you continue the search.

  • Reply Jen From Boston |

    Teaching in China: NO NO NO! Not while you have minor children who depend on you. How easy would it be for you to get a visa for them to live with you? Would you even be able to spend quality time with them? From what I’ve heard teaching English abroad can be incredibly demanding with little pay, and you don’t always know ahead of time what you’re really getting yourself into.

    You have children who depend on YOU, and YOU alone. You need to provide them stability, especially, IMO, the adopted children. With that focus, you need a job that will cover you basic expenses plus a little more so you can pay off your debt, save for emergencies, and be in a position to help your children get a (modest) leg up, e.g., helping with college costs if they choose that route. That doesn’t necessarily mean you take the $80K corporate job, but it does mean you need to take a hard look at exactly what you and YOUR CHILDREN need.

    I don’t know remember how old your youngest are, but my guess is it’s less than 10 years before they turn 18. And, assuming they’ll take until their mid-20’s to be able to fully on their own (which is highly likely these days for anyone), that’s 10-12 years where you need to be focused on providing for them. After they’re on their own then you can look into jobs like teaching abroad.

  • Reply Laura |

    I think you need to focus on getting a good, steady income for the long term and any kind of income for the short term. If you are offered the church secretary job take it to get some money in the house, but keep looking for a full time job with benefits. If you can get an 80k corporate job, that would give you a solid and steady income that would provide for your family and let you pay off the rest of your debts and plan for the furture. It would be nice if we could all work at our feel good dream job but that is not possible for everyone. Sometimes you’ve just got to take the job that pays the bills

  • Reply Denise @ Finally Get Organized |

    Hope, for some reason this post hit a nerve for me and I feel I need to reply. Please know I am going to try not to be harsh, but it may come across that way. $160 a week will barely cover the gas and wear and tear on your car for the week, much less food, essentials, and other emergency expenses for a family of 5. While the church job may sound fun or easy or stress free, it isn’t a responsible choice. It is a great job for a semi-retired person, a stay at home mom whose spouse works, or maybe even a single person with no kids… but you are the sole supporter for 4 kids. You either need a job with decent pay and benefits, or a real kick-ass free-lance gig that will pay enough to cover expenses. Your kids have been great about living with less, but there comes a point where you can hardly expect them to sacrifice even more just because you want a feel good job.

    As for taking the job until something better comes along, there are two reasons I’d vote against that. For one, the small income you may receive may actually cause you to lose much needed benefits, making a bad situation worse. Secondly, it isn’t very admirable to do that to the church… unless you are 100% upfront that this position is just a stepping stone and you are planning to bail the moment a better opportunity comes along.

    In the end, I know you are resilient and will make whatever decision you decide work out. Good luck!

    • Reply Jen From Boston |

      “For one, the small income you may receive may actually cause you to lose much needed benefits, making a bad situation worse. Secondly, it isn’t very admirable to do that to the church… unless you are 100% upfront that this position is just a stepping stone and you are planning to bail the moment a better opportunity comes along.”

      I second both of these points. The first point is the reason why I think our welfare system incentivizes people to remain unemployed, and sadly, in your case, you cannot afford to lose the few benefits you’ve gotten from the state.

      The second point is also important. Doing good also means treating others with respect. Getting a job a church only to leave it within a year is disrespectful to the church, and it means they have to go through the rigamarole of hiring a new person. Again. I know if someone did that to my church I’d be really, really irritated.

  • Reply JayP |

    This reminds me of something I read on a blog(affordanything I think), and it says something to the effect of “you can afford anything, but not everything”.

    You really need to prioritze. Being a single parent, kids activities, home schooling, work you love, decent income – something will probably have to give. My suggestion would be to focus on your income and providing a basic stable home for your family. A part time job is fine, but not a permanent solution – keep your eye on the prize. With full time good pay a lot of the rest will work itself out over time. Good luck.

  • Reply Meghan |


    I would like to offer an opportunity to look at what you see as two different things (the corporate job or making a difference) as one thing. Taking a corporate job does not mean that you cannot make a difference or that you are doing something that is not in service to your goals. By taking a corporate job you will have the opportunity to do the following: provide your children opportunities and security and set them up to go out into the world and be successful humans. You will be able to work faster toward your goal of owning a home which you could, in future, use to house other foster children in need. You will be able to set money aside that you could use for a variety of purposes; saving for your future so you will have the ability to agree to an opportunity such as teaching in China when you are in a realistic position to do that, helping out others who will no doubt find themselves in the same position you are now by offering the same blessings you have been receiving.

    As someone who was in your position last year of “any job is something” I can understand that taking the part time job at the church can be tempting, but I beg you to think hard about if it is a wise choice. While it is part-time and 20 flexible hours a week, at this point in our economy finding work is a full-time job and that is 20 hours per week that might be better served in seeking something full-time. And, since it is a part-time job with no benefits, I am sure that the church would be happy to receive your services in the future as a volunteer helping a couple hours a week with the technical work. Further, unless by applying you mean clicking a link and submitting an already made resume, I would discourage seeking out these kinds of opportunities at this time because, again, they are not really in service of your main goal of full-time employment in a technical field.

    Also, while the goal would be a corporate job that allows telework, I would encourage not excluding an in-office job for a few reasons. 1. The company may never have considered offering telework before so it may be something they are open to discussing. 2. Some companies require a period of in-office time before allowing telework. My company for example, allows telework after your first year. 3. While you are accustomed to working from home, there can be benefits to having the separation of work and home life.

    I wish your great luck and many prayers for the right thing to come your way. I think that as you and your family are open to relocating that it opens many more doors than other location specific job hunters so hopefully something will open up soon. Hopefully, with the feedback and considerations that the commenters have offered you will be better able to narrow down exactly what your goals are for the short- and long-term and how you can best achieve them.



    • Reply Jen From Boston |

      I agree!! Not only will the steady pay and benefits enable you to care for your children and save towards long term goals, but it can also enable you to do good NOW. You may have a little bit extra money which you can donate to a worthy cause. Or maybe your corporation is a sponsor to one or more charities that you can help through employer programs.

      For example, I work for a large global corporation that does a lot to help the communities it’s in. Each employee can take up to 2 days per year to participate in a volunteer program that’s organized by the company. Last year I helped make braille children’s books. My manager regularly participates in volunteer days to clean up the islands in the Boston harbor. Additionally, this company is the only company I’ve worked for that will match my donations (excluding religious donations). I love that my donations to the local food pantry, my alma mater, Doctors Without Borders, etc., get doubled.

      Another possibility is going to work for a large non-profit, such as a college or the United Way. You still won’t make as much as you would at a for-profit corporation, but good odds you’ll get paid more than you would at a local church. And you’d get benefits. Also, many colleges give their employees a generous break on tuition, and many will allow employees’ children to attend at a big discount.

  • Reply Adam |

    Hey Hope –
    This is a great post. I am so sorry for your struggle but it is inspiring to see how you are handling it, working through things, and you are sharing very vulnerable moments that are really good to read.

    Having had good corporate jobs, I have had the same struggle, but from the other side. It’s very nice to have a steady income and not have to worry about paying bills. But I (and probably millions of people like me) often long for something more fulfilling, and I have had to ask myself what I am willing to sacrifice for that? What’s the lowest income I can make and still provide for my family? What are the long term implications? Kids college, retirement, etc.

    I find that a lot of people in the millennial generation make short sighted decisions on jobs and career based on what feels right (whether it’s fulfillment or salary), but are not aware of the long term impact of decisions they make now. Hope, you are no millennial but I’d just encourage you to think long term as you work through this struggle in addition to what seems right for your family right now.

    You’re doing great, hopefully something will break your way soon.

  • Reply Sarah |

    Have you thought about Upwork.com as a temporary income source? It sounds like you have a lot of skills that you might be able to use to help others via freelancing. I know it isn’t a corporate job with benefits but it would help make ends meet. Or taskrabbit?

    Never done either one of these but I know upwork has been around for a while (used to be known as odesk).

  • Reply Joe |

    In my opinion, you’ve set up a false choice for yourself of “taking a corporate job” vs “making a difference”. There is no reason those things need to be mutually exclusive.

    Having said that, whatever you choose to do, my advice remains the same since I first posted it probably over a year ago: Do whatever you need to do to save up 15-30 thousand dollars in cash. Then re-evaluate from that much stronger financial position and I suspect your options will be much improved!

    • Reply Kiki |

      I agree with this. The old adage “Bloom where you are planted” comes to mind. One is able to have a positive impact as a church secretary, working in a non-profit or in the corporate world or anywhere. It ‘s also wrong to think that a job in which one earns more is somehow unworthy because it is not classified as the “feel good” job that Hope talks about.

      Also, looking for a job can BE a full-time job. Sometimes it makes more sense in the long run to fully commit to the job search rather than be sidetracked by temporary jobs that will not support us.

  • Reply Sandra |

    You might be interested in the “Good and Cheap Cookbook” by Leanne Brown. It is an online downloadable PDF. The cookbook is geared to people using SNAP and trying to eat well on $4/day – $28/week. ‘Hope it helps.

  • Reply Kate |

    Hope, what I see right now is that your way of making the world a better place and doing what you love is raising your children. And a corporate job will allow you to do that. I think one day when all the debts are paid off and the twins are living alone and supporting themselves, then you might reconsider. It’s ok for your job to be a means to an end (supporting your ability to take on more foster kids one day and support the kids you have)

  • Reply first step |

    Hope, you have a big heart, and you are already “making a difference” by adopting the twins. Yes, you receive money to help with their care, but by parenting them and teaching them how to be successful adults, you will save the Commonwealth of VA thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars when the boys grow up to be productive citizens instead of a very different possible outcome if they had aged out of the foster care system without a support system. Do what you need to do to get in the best financial shape possible–build a big emergency fund, before you start tackling the world’s problems. I think the saying “charity begins at home” has deeper meaning for you now, and it’s time to put yourself and your family’s needs first.

  • Reply Eliza |

    Hope, I think you’ve got a lot of good advice from a number of posters already. It may be hard to hear, but sometimes an outside perspective can help you see things that you can’t see from inside the situation.

    Have you looked at doing work on Amazon’s MTurk platform for some extra income while you job hunt. One of the nice things about it is the flexibility. You pick up relatively short/small tasks as your schedule fits. And if you know how much you can make in a given pay period without compromising your benefits, you can track what you are making and ensure that you stay under that limit. It’s not a full-time income or a long-term solution by any means, but it could be a welcome supplement. It would take some time to get up to speed, but there are a couple of good tutorials and forums with helpful people who can answer questions.

    I used to use it a lot to get supplemental income, but haven’t much since I switched jobs last year. A did do a couple of test days while I was off work this winter around the holidays and was pretty successful at earning $40 – $75 a day depending on how much time I put in. A reasonable estimate would be $6-8 per hour, but that’s going to vary widely depending on time of day, type of work you are interested in, and how fast you are.

    Whatever direction you end up taking, I wish you the best!

  • Reply Christa |

    What about looking for a corporate job with a company where you can do good? Since it seems like you are open to relocating, look at people/companies you admire or follow. I’ve been in your position and just a few I looked up were Dave Ramsey, Proverbs 31 Ministries, Dani Johnson. You hear on the news all the time the great benefits IT companies offer. Start looking in non-traditional places.

  • Reply Gaby |

    I know this is going to be unpopular but I think you need a dose of reality. This is one of the most selfish ideas I’ve heard. Due to your bad decisions hope. You have crammed your children in to a tiny apartment with to little space and too many people and animals. You need to be looking for a job that will support you family. Clothe, house and feed them. You need to stop thinking of your wants and concentrate on their needs.

  • Reply DIY$ |

    Long term, you definitely don’t want to waste time with low paying work when you know you can earn so much more. Short-term, it’s better to have some income than no income. That being said, I’m not convinced that you can’t find high paying work that is also meaningful. Maybe finding something that meets both goals should be the long term goal.

    I value time with family above most other things, but short term your kids will learn more from your example of hard work and how you deal with these challenges. My mother-in-law struggled through school and work for years as a single mom of several children and her children developed a lot of their character and work ethic through this time.

  • Reply Malady |

    Reading about the things that have happened to you and your family over the past few years Hope, I really feel for you.

    There are some silver linings – imagine if you had gotten the loan for a home, then lost your main job. Not being able to afford your mortgage would have been worse than where you are now (albeit that where you are now is very challenging).

    I’m a proponent of getting whatever work you can to tide you over. There is absolutely nothing wrong with trading up once you have a job – regardless if it is corporate or church based.

    Wishing you all the very best.

So, what do you think ?