Ever since my husband and I were just dating, we talked about having a family with a few kids and me staying home with them. Of course this just seemed like a dream, but I was hoping that it could some day become reality. When the time finally came to make that decision, there were a lot of thoughts in my head over whether it would be the right one, not just for me, but for our family.
After we had our first baby, I was able to take 8 months off of work while still keeping my job. When I went back, I had already found out that I was pregnant with baby # 2. I was only back to work for a couple months before giving birth again and taking another extended maternity leave.
After the second baby was when I really contemplated staying at home with my kids, especially because daycare is $$$$. There were so many pros and cons I had to weigh, but inevitably I made the decision to stay home (it may not be forever, but for the time being).
The Mom Guilt
Mom guilt is a real thing and it seems like no matter what you do, it could end up being the wrong choice. You feel guilty staying at home because you’re not bringing in any money to help your family financially, in turn putting a large burden on your husband to support you. You also will feel guilty being a working mom because you may only see your children for 2 hours a day and not get that bonding time and building memories with them on a daily basis.
I did experience both of these guilty feelings since I stayed home for awahile after my first baby and then returned to work. Both choices have pros and cons and I still go back and forth with my decision at times. However, deep down I know I will never regret not working, but I will regret not spending the time I have now with my children while they’re this small. They don’t stay little forever and I want to be there every day to make the most out of the time that they are.
Do your homework first
I highly suggest first going over your financials and making sure your family can afford it. The worst thing you can do is put a tremendous burden on your family. You don’t want to put any added stress on yourself or your family while having a new baby which is already stressful enough.
The other big question is whether or not you’re cut out for it. Being at home with children isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sure, when they’re newborns, they’re adorable and you can just hold them all day long while they sleep soundly in your arms. As they get older, they get so busy which could leave you pulling your hair out- especially if you have more than one! Make sure it’s something that you can physically and mentally handle because for some people, going to work is easier!
If you’re contemplating whether or not you can swing it, here are some of the ways I was able to make this decision and how I knew it would definitely work out for us.
Practiced living on one income
We wanted to make sure we would be financially stable before actually giving up one whole income. Before we had my 1st baby, I elected to put 50% of my salary in my 401K retirement account. Then, with about 25% of my salary being taken out for taxes, I was only taking home about 25% in my pay check. Whatever was left, I made sure went right into our savings account, so basically we were living on one salary and knew it could work.
Try doing a few months (especially months where you may be spending more, like around Christmas time) of living off one salary. If you don’t want to lock your money away into retirement, just put your salary directly into savings (or under a mattress, whatever works) where you can access it easily if needed. Even if you do all the calculations, the only way you’ll really know if you can afford to live off one salary is if you try it first!
Smart Mom Ideas has some great tips on How to live on one income so you can become a stay-at-home mom.
No childcare help
I’m envious of people who have free childcare from grandparents, parents or other relatives because that would make it so much easier to still go to work. Unfortunately, we don’t have that luxury so paying for daycare was our only option. Even with a military discount that my husband receives through work, daycare still eats up a huge chunk of money.
With 1 child it was feasible, but paying for 2 kids in full-time daycare would just be silly to do financially. I figured out that after daycare and commuting expenses, I’d be paying a huge portion of my salary to not see my children for 50 hours a week! This didn’t make sense to me when I realize how much I would actually be making in the long run.
More regret not staying home
I was thinking to myself, What willI regret more in the long run? That I didn’t spend enough time with my children while they were still babies, teaching them, bonding with them, and watching them grow up through each and every milestone, or that I didn’t make extra money to put in our savings?
The truth is I won’t really know until the time comes, but I realized it would most likely be spending time with my kids. They’re only this young once and I want to make sure I can savor every bit of it before they grow up. On the other hand, when we can’t afford the bigger house I want or the annual family vacations, I may regret not making the extra money, but time is something you can’t get back and I will choose being with my children over all the material things.
Needing a break from my job
In all honesty, I needed a break from work. I had been working for 6 years straight at the same job ( I know thats not a terribly long amount of time, but sometimes you do get burnt out), and was looking forward to getting a break from that and trying out a new ‘career path’- full time mom. Sure parenting is hard as well and I’ll probably need a break from that soon too, but for now I’m ready for the new adventure.
No growth at my job
I have a great career and really enjoyed going to work everyday, however I wasn’t one of those women who was striving for promotions and working up the corporate ladder. Working in a school with children, I wasn’t interested in moving up to any administrative or supervisory role and I certainly didn’t want to switch settings like working at a hospital or rehab. So for the rest of my career, my job is going to be stuck as status quo (which I’m fine with), but it didn’t give me much incentive to stay there.
Fall back of still having a job waiting
I was very lucky to have a job that granted me 5 years of childcare leave in which I could take time off (unpaid) and come back at any time within that point and be guaranteed a job. Not many people have this opportunity and the fear of leaving your job and not knowing if you will get a job back when you decide to work again can be unnerving. This gave me the cushion of not having to resign from my job, but basically putting it on hold for 3, 4, or 5 years and coming back and getting my job back if things didn’t work out.
We had more than a years worth of living expenses in a savings account so I knew we had enough money if something were to go wrong. However, even though it may seem like enough to live off of, you never know if any huge expenses are going to come your way, especially being home owners.
Here are some simple ways I save money everyday, even while shopping!
Find a different part time job
In my line of work (occupational therapy), there are a lot of opportunities to work part time. Nowadays, many industries offer freelance or per diem opportunities where you can make your own schedule and work on your own terms. I knew I could get another job locally that I could make my own hours and work 1 or 2 days a week if needed. There are also so many various work-from-home jobs, as well, like blogging for instance! Just creating this blog has allowed me to still bring in a bit of income (not much, as I’ve just started) while staying at home with my kids.
I’m the type of person who needs people around or else I’ll get so bored. One of the positives of going to work everyday is interacting with other adults and socializing. Even if the work environment isn’t solely social, you are still provided with somewhat of a social outlet there. Being at home by yourself can wear on you if you’re a social person and need to talk to someone else beside a 17 month old who just says no and more all day.
I didn’t have many other local friends in the area who were stay-at-home moms, so I found a solution to this by joining as many mommy and me programs that I could find. I tried to find free activities because the $$ adds up and they’re not cheap, but some programs were worth the money. For example, stroller fitness helped me lose weight while giving my baby opportunities to play. Also, gymboree, mom meet up groups, rec centers, the library, play cafes, etc. Facebook was a great place to find these things.
My husband was supportive
My husband doesn’t make me feel guilty for staying home with the kids and not bringing home money. He doesn’t make me feel bad about spending money (although I’m smart about it) or that some days I’m still in my pajamas when he gets home from work. We have a good relationship in the fact that he is supportive of me being home with our children.
Husband had job security
My husband works for the federal government so we know that his job is pretty stable. Of course, anything could happen, but the likelihood of him losing his job is very slim.
Again, there is still always some guilt associated with being a mom in general, and making the decision to continue to work or stay home will always be something that is tough for me, but make sure you’re happy with your decision and it will all work out.
Think about in 20 years, what will you be happier doing? Furthering your career and climbing up the corporate ladder, keeping yourself educated and current in the workplace, or being home with your children, teaching and spending quality time with them everyday? It’s a complicated decision, but make sure it’s whats best for your family as a whole.
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