If you’re a working mom, chances are you’ve fantasized about staying home with your kids full-time. No schlepping kids to daycare, no deadlines, and you can stay in your pajamas all day if you want to. Sounds great, huh? As any stay at home mom will attest: It ain’t easy, Sweetheart. Before you take the big leap to becoming an at-home parent, make sure you look at this from all angles: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Be realistic. Staying at home isn’t easy. There are many drawbacks to staying home that every woman should consider before quitting her job.
Financial stress Quitting your job undoubtedly means less money for your household. What will this do to your style of living? For some women it may mean giving up their vacation to Maui, for others it means worrying about how the mortgage will get paid. You should carefully go over your budget and make sure you will be able to live on one income. This isn’t to say you have to maintain your current lifestyle, either. Are you willing to give up certain things to stay at home, such as new clothes and eating out? Will you be disappointed if you can’t buy that new sofa for your living room this year? The more you are willing to make these trade-offs to stay home, the less stress you will experience by having less money.
Loneliness Being at home often means cutting yourself off from your friends and adult conversation. People differ in their need for social contact. Some women are happy to go all day without speaking to another adult, other moms would go crazy. What type are you? If you are the type that needs lots of social stimulation, do you have a support network of other stay at home moms on whom you can rely? How will you maintain the level of adult interaction you desire? Are there playgroups or classes in your area that will provide you with social contacts?
Sense of self How much of your identity comes from your job? How will you define yourself as a stay at home mother? Some women go through an identity crisis when they no longer are able to say “I am a nurse,” or “I am an attorney,” etc. Is being a wife and mom enough for you to feel fulfilled as an individual?
With that said, let’s talk about the positive aspects of staying home. It goes without saying that most women would rather be spending time with their kids and family than spending time at the office. Stay at home mothers often get to know their children better because of the sheer amount of time spent with them. They can also offer their kids a sense of stability and security that is more difficult to achieve when working full-time. Stay at home moms also often report they feel less stressed, more at peace with themselves, and often times more fulfilled.
No regrets. How many of us really think that when we look back on our lives, we will say, “I wish I had worked more when my children were little.” Of all the stay at home moms I’ve talked to, none of them have said they regret their decision to stay home. Although most do acknowledge that staying home isn’t easy, they wouldn’t want to change their current situation. These are times that you will never be able to get back. Mothers with full-time jobs often see their children less than their daycare provider does. What does it mean to you that you may not may not be there for your child’s first steps, first words, or first fall off a bike?
You CAN make it work. Too many women don’t realize that staying home may be easier on them financially than they think. When my husband and I were first married, things were tough financially. We both needed to work full-time to pay our most basic expenses, such as grocery bills and the rent. We got into the frame of mind that two full-time workers in our household was necessary, even after six years of marriage and a few jobs later. When we learned we were expecting our first child, we really didn’t think staying home was an option. Once we really sat down and crunched the numbers, things were better than we thought. Make sure you really know your financial situation before assuming you can’t make it work. Read the article The Cost of Work to give yourself another view of what your income really is.
All or nothing? Many women feel that they either have to work full time or not at all. For many stay at home moms, this isn’t the case. Supplementing their household incomes with part-time jobs has become commonplace, and can both alleviate financial stress and also give moms a better sense of self. You may not be sure what type of part-time work you will do now, but opportunities may present themselves after you have been staying home for a little while. Being home may allow you to explore your real talents and interests, creating opportunities to use your skills to make money.
Trading the pressures of work for the stress of being with kids all day isn’t a decision you should take lightly. Make sure you know how staying home will affect your life, both positively and negatively. After you’ve gathered as much information as possible, you’ll be able to make an informed decision that is right for you and your family. Don’t let anyone else decide for you, only you know what is best for you and your family. If staying home is your goal, find a way to make it work. It is a decision you will probably never regret, and a great gift to give your family and yourself.