The decision to stay home or go back to work is extremely personal. But before you decide if you should become a stay at home mom, consider these 6 things to help you make the best decision for you and your family.
It didn’t take long after finding out I was pregnant for me to start thinking about quitting my job. It wasn’t that I didn’t like what I did, but I always wanted to stay home with my kids. I figured that whenever the time came, that’s just what I would do. Easy peasy, right?
But the decision just wasn’t that simple. There were a lot of things that I needed to consider. Pros/Cons lists to make. Conversations to have with my husband. Research to do.
And while our situations may not be exactly the same, I wanted to share the things I considered as I made my decision as I hope they can be helpful for you too. And just remember that no matter what you decide, you’re still an amazing mom!
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Your Own Feelings
As moms we tend to put everyone else before ourselves, caring more about what’s best for others and making sacrifices to keep the rest of our family happy. But if you remember nothing else from this post, please remember to consider your own feelings when deciding whether or not to become a stay at home mom. There is no doubt that this decision will have a significant impact on your life, so make sure are comfortable with it. And remember, you don’t have to meet anyone’s expectations except your own.
Think about what you really want. Would being with your child every day make you happy? Or maybe you can’t imagine not going into an office? There is no wrong answer here and no reason to feel bad one way or the other. Happier moms are better moms and each of us is going to have our own preferences.
For me, even though I really enjoyed my job, I was very excited about the possibility of moving on from all of the “red tape.” No more meetings. No more uncomfortable shoes. And no more having to request time off. But in reality, this was all just a bonus because my main focus was to stay home with my daughter. I wanted to be there with her, every single day. That’s what was in my heart, and I knew if we could make the finances and all of the others factors work, that this would be my ultimate decision.
Your Mental Health
Even though you won’t be getting paid, being a stay at home mom is a full-time job (more like two!). You may not be wearing business casual dresses or sitting in meetings all day, but you will be working hard and will be challenged constantly. Your job is now to raise your kid(s). Everyday you’re making an impact on your child(ren) and shaping the life of the little (adorable) human(s) that you created. It’s just one of the reasons why motherhood can be so amazing.
But as we all know, motherhood can also be extremely stressful. There’s a reason mom’s joke about living off of coffee, having a glass (or two) of wine at night and needing nights with their girlfriends. So when it comes to your mental health, be honest with yourself about the stress that you can or cannot handle, and if you’ll need any help along the way. As someone who has dealt with anxiety (and undiagnosed postpartum anxiety), I know first-hand that a healthier you means a better you, for both yourself and your family.
Being a parent is an incredible time in your life. And while choosing to stay home can be an exciting opportunity, it can still be a hard transition. Your family will likely need some time to adjust and it may take a while for everyone to figure out their new roles. Just be easy on yourself– easier said than done, I know. But try to manage the expectations you put on yourself– there is no need to always be the Pinterest parent. Your kids will love you just as much if you buy the party decorations from the party store, I promise.
There’s no way around it– parenthood will change your relationship with your spouse. It’s no longer all about you two as a couple; instead it’s about these amazing little people that you’ve brought into the world. And if one parent decides to leave their job and stay at home instead, that can have an impact as well. Before making that final decision, I’d encourage you to talk things through with your spouse and make sure that you’re both on the same page.
A good place to start is by setting expectations. It may be hard to know exactly how your life will change until you’re actually doing it, but do your best to set a basic foundation. For example, maybe with both of you working you were getting takeout a few nights a week, but now that you will be home, you’re going to try to save money by cooking more often. You may consider meal planning together, doing meal prep or making every Friday night “takeout” night when your spouse picks up dinner on his or her way home. Then, as you develop your new routine, you can work together to modify expectations and see how you can better help one another. Just like parenting, this is all trial and error, so keep in mind that you can always rework things along the way.
To give you an anecdote of my own experience, I had a hard time with feeling like I wasn’t contributing to our family, because I was no longer bringing in money. Subconsciously, I was trying to make up for it in other ways like keeping the house clean or having dinner ready on time. I would always say sorry if I didn’t get to the dishes or if I had a bad day and just wanted to order takeout. Every time, my husband would tell me there was absolutely nothing to apologize for and that he had no expectation of me doing it all. That I am doing even more important work by staying home to raise our daughter and helping her to learn, grow and become a good person. The expectations that I put on myself, consciously or not, have definitely improved, but every now and then, I still have to remind myself that my husband (and daughter) are perfectly happy with ordering a pizza and that it’s okay if our laundry forms a mountain. I’ll get to it eventually!
This is the big one. For most of us, becoming a stay at home mom will come down to whether or not we can afford it. Going from two incomes to one income can have a significant impact on your lifestyle– anything from how often you eat out at restaurants to your monthly health insurance premium. There are just so many things to consider when it comes to your finances.
Childcare can be expensive. Shocked? Didn’t think so. You may even find that the cost of childcare is the same as or more than your current income. If this is the case, you may have a pretty easy decision, assuming you would prefer to leave your job.
But, of course, there are other things to look at as well. Your job may provide health insurance or other benefits. Will your spouse’s insurance plan be enough to cover your needs? Will you still be able to see the same doctors? On the other side, your job may also require you to spend money on gas and/or work clothes. Would these costs, in addition to the expenses that come with a child (diapers, formula, toys, classes/activities, etc.), mean that you had to cut costs elsewhere or that you needed to form a stricter monthly budget?
When evaluating your finances to figure out if becoming a stay at home mom is feasible, look at what you’re bringing in (including extras like job benefits) compared to what you are spending. Do you have enough to cover your expenses with only one income? Are you comfortable with any lifestyle changes you may have to make to stay within your budget?
Future Work Plans
The good news when it comes to your future work plans is that nothing is permanent. No matter what decision you make now, you can always reverse course later. And with so many options available to us these days, we can each balance motherhood and a career in the way that works best for us.
Do you want to stay home but also don’t want to give up working completely? Look into side hustles, part-time jobs, contracting, freelancing or starting a blog as a way to bring in a secondary income without having to make a commitment to a 9-5. Companies like The Mom Project help women stay connected to the workforce throughout their motherhood journey, working with companies who are seeking women in this unique talent pool.
Or maybe you prefer to leave your job and focus on being a mom. Make sure to keep in touch with your network and stay up to date on your skills! It’s unfortunate, but having a gap in your resume, even to be a mom, can be looked at negatively and mean making less money or starting at a lower level. So if you ever do choose to return to work, you’ll want to put yourself in the best position possible.
One significant benefit of being home, or keeping one foot in the door, is having availability when something unexpected comes up. You don’t have to worry about a nanny getting sick, daycare closing for a random holiday or who can watch your child if they catch a cold. I can’t speak from experience but have heard from friends who are working moms that this is one of the more complicated things they have to manage.
Though my preference was to stay at home, I still had conflicting feelings about leaving my job. But then someone told me that work will always be there, but she will only be this little once, and it stuck with me.
It’s hard to really know until you’re in it, but time does seem to go much faster as a mom. The days are
so, so long but the years are incredibly short. Kids change so much, so quickly, especially in the early years, and you just can’t get that time back. I’m so grateful to have been around for every milestone– her first smile, first steps and first words. And even though there have been some incredibly challenging days, the experience of staying home with my daughter is the best decision I’ve ever made.
So Should You Become a Stay at Home Mom?
There is no one size fits all for moms. Whether you work or you stay at home, each role is amazing, and difficult, in their own ways, and it’s up to each person to decide what is ultimately going to be a better fit for them. And remember that what you choose today does not have to be what you choose in five years. Maternal instinct is a crazy thing, so trust your gut and know that you are being the absolute best mom you can be to your little(s).