I did it. My mother did it. Her mother did it. Many of my friends did it, and I know countless other women who did it. Reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 40% of mothers with children under age 6 are currently doing it.
Maybe you’re considering being a stay at home mom, too.
A year ago, I was faced with the dilemma of what to do with my life after I had my baby. Like many soon-to-be parents, I was approaching a crossroads and needed to decide the role I would play as the mother of my child.
Would I be a working mom who would continue to provide for my family and further advance my career, or would I stay at home as the full-time care provider? I was a successful industrial engineer who had graduated summa cum laude. Would I really just “throw it all away”?
Being a stay at home parent can be a very worthwhile experience for you and your child. You will, however, end up facing many important unforeseen possibilities. Life is unpredictable, but once you become a parent, you don’t get to be selfish anymore. You can’t bury your head in the sand about the consequences of major decisions.
Both paths were scary for me. Ultimately, I followed my heart and chose to stay home with my son. To make this difficult decision, I was forced to think long and hard about the benefits and the consequences of my choice.
You’ll make your own choice, and in that process, consider some of these pros, cons, and questions to ask. I wish I had all of this information to help me through the decision-making process so that I could listen to everyone’s stories and take in all of the advice available.
Pros: 8 Benefits of Staying at Home
1. I Commute No More
I live in the suburbs of Atlanta, but I worked close to the city limits. The commute was intense, so I tried to leave my house before the traffic started to build up and return home after the traffic died down. That increased the length of my work day, and my commute was still at least 45 minutes each way.
As much as I tried to maximize my commute time by making phone calls and listening to books on CD, it was still an hour and a half of unproductive time. By staying at home, I got an hour and a half a day back in my life. Especially with a baby, that’s a huge chunk of time!
2. We’re Spending Less Money
I was surprised how much money I spent just to get through the daily routine of having a job. Though my office’s standard attire was business causal, I did have to look presentable and wear professional clothing and makeup. We had fancy lunch meetings and various parties that required wedding and baby gifts. I even spent time and money on pot luck dinner preparation on a regular basis. On top of it all, I was filling up my car with a tank of gas every week, despite efforts to cut the cost of commuting to work.
If I went back to work, I’d have to hire someone for childcare, which is another significant expense. Instead, the only things I spend more money on as a stay at home mom are utilities, since I’m in the house more. One way that I’ve been able to cushion that blow is by taking advantage of various ways to make money on the side.
3. I Have More Time with Those I Care About
I was gone from my home from about 6:30 am to about 6:30 pm everyday when I was working. When I got home, I had to make dinner and take care of the house. It really didn’t leave me much time for myself or my friends and family.
Now that I’m staying at home, however, I meet my husband for lunch several times a week. Although I’m busy all day long, my schedule allows me to spend more time with my friends and family. Even though I don’t go to a workplace environment each day, I still get plenty of time to spend with adults as long as I make the effort.
4. My Baby Is Only a Baby Once
When I left my job, I was only six months away from being fully vested in the company’s pension plan. As much as I wanted to reach that goal, I did not want to work just for that. It would mean I would miss out on the first months of my child’s life, and I would never be able to get that back. Perhaps I will be fully vested and be able to receive pension one day if I decide to re-enter the workforce. But even if not, I still don’t regret my decision.
5. I’m Exploring New Career Possibilities
In college, I worked really hard to get my B.S. in industrial engineering. After graduating with highest honors, I was on track to have a great career. But after reflecting on my time as a stay at home parent, I learned that I also have other interests. I’ve enjoyed being an engineer, but there are plenty of other careers I would like to try out.
Pro Tip: Regardless of what you do, if you decide to re-enter the work force, be prepared for the prospect of having to once again start at the bottom of the totem pole. To keep from falling too far behind, stay active in business groups. You’ll have something current to put on your resume, and you’ll establish and maintain your career connections.
6. I Don’t Have to Split My Time
I enjoy not having to do it all. I feel that many women are often pressured into feeling that they must be both a mother and a career woman to be successful. This is certainly not true. I have cherished this time in my life when I don’t have to split my time, and I don’t have to be everything society tells me I need to be to be considered a successful woman.
7. I Savor the Pleasures of a Humble Lifestyle
I made a good living as an engineer. My husband and I had quite a bit of discretionary income, and we were able to buy pretty much whatever we wanted. Now our income is half of what it was, and we’ve had to make many adjustments to our spending habits.
It is humbling for me that I don’t bring home a big paycheck anymore, and it is humbling to not be able to spend money because we are on a strict household budget. However, I truly believe that humility is good for the soul, and I am becoming a better person because of it. I am learning the difference between needs and wants on a daily basis, as well as how to deal with income inequality in marriage.
8. I Appreciate the Unpredictability Factor
While it is great to live by a schedule, there is something about waking up and not knowing what is going to happen in your day. In fact, I look ahead at my life, and I don’t know what is going to happen in the upcoming months or years. As scary as that is, it’s also exhilarating. I am currently out of the rat race known as the workforce, and it is anything but monotonous.
Cons: 2 Important Questions to Ask Yourself
Those advantages are the pleasures, upsides, and silver linings of staying at home with a newborn or young child. Of course, there are some negatives to consider as well. Since you’ll face some serious financial and practical consequences, ask yourself these two general questions and consider the results.
1. Can You Afford It?
You might think it’s a simple and obvious question, but it’s actually a loaded and complicated one. Not only do you need to figure out if you can afford it on a monthly basis without your income, but you need to consider what it will cost you ultimately. Consider the more obscure financial losses of being a stay at home mom:
- You’ll be financially vulnerable. Having two incomes provides a safety net should you or your spouse lose your job. With just one income you are risking financial disaster. That’s why it’s imperative that you have an emergency fund.
- Your retirement fund stops growing. If you aren’t employed, then you’re not contributing to a company retirement plan, and nothing’s going toward your social security or pension plan. Sure, your spouse may be contributing to a plan, but even with a company matching program, you may not be saving enough to keep you afloat when the time comes.
- Your employability quotient declines. For every day that you are not working outside the home, you are losing your appeal to potential employers. Your work skills become dated, and in this fast-paced technological world, you may become obsolete. Even though you’re working your butt off to provide for your family at home, employers don’t always find that particular type of work very appealing.
2. Are You Prepared Should the Unthinkable Happen?
This is a tough one for most of us to even think about, and it’s something many of us won’t face. The unthinkable is just that, unthinkable. But what if:
- Your spouse becomes ill or disabled or dies. No matter how much we wish it weren’t so, life is not eternal and we are constantly susceptible to the fragility of our human bodies. You have to be financially prepared should any one of these happen. Finances might not be the first thing on your mind if you’re facing a sudden illness or death in the family, but when you face the practical issues, it’s a major financial problem.
- Your spouse leaves you. While I don’t believe you should ever plan for a divorce since you should never marry someone if you believe that it’s even a possibility, unfortunately, many marriages do end in divorce. If your partner is the sole breadwinner of your household, he or she may just take all that bread with them. If divorce is impending, you may be stuck with nothing until it’s settled, leaving you with nothing. Spouses, both men and women, skip out on spousal and child support all the time. If this is a concern for you, consider having a financial plan should the unthinkable happen.
- You leave your spouse. If you aren’t working then you have no income, but your living expenses and needs are immediate. It takes a second to walk out the door, but it could take months to find a job. This all being said, keep in mind that if you do work outside the home instead of staying home with the kids, there are added pressures involved in a two-income family lifestyle and less time available to spend as a family. This will only add tension to a strained relationship whereas staying at home may help alleviate those tensions and prevent a divorce.
The “what-ifs” of being a stay at home mom are hard to face and equally as hard to talk about. Leaving your job to stay at home is a big decision that you shouldn’t make lightly. Life is hard and unexpected, but it can also be great, as long as you take the time to consider your options and protect yourself and those you love.
Ultimately, being a stay at home parent is what you make of it. You can even make it into something profitable with side business ideas even if you are not receiving a paycheck? I have, and there is not a day that I ever regret the wonderful decision I made.
Are you a stay at home parent? How did you prepare for your new role and what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?