Here are some of the big things that I struggled with and had to work through before coming to my own decision to become a stay at home mom.
I was in a good place career-wise before becoming a mom. And, in fact, never imagined myself as a stay at home mom!
No, I wasn’t some high-flying financial whiz or a fancy VP of anything, but I had made real progress in my own education and career.
I was rightfully proud of my efforts and accomplishments. And, oh – the friendships I’d developed and travel adventures with amazing colleagues, I really had some amazing experiences through work!
I was a ripe, old 36 before welcoming my first daughter (and, 38 with my second.)
All of a sudden, I started to question whether continuing my 9+ hour days away from home made as much sense for our little family.
And, in the end, I decided to submit my resignation and extend my maternity leave.
How did I get to that decision?
I’m not gonna lie, there was a lot of emotional turmoil, questioning my own identity without work, and wondering if I could spend an entire day with an infant and not go crazy…
No, I Don’t Have the Answers
And, unfortunately, no, I don’t have all the answers to the questions below. We’ll all have different answers anyways and end up making different choices.
But, I sure wish I’d had found a few more lists like this to help me organize my thoughts!! So, hopefully I’m paying forward a little kindness to other mothers going through the same struggle that I did a few years back.
Can we get by without my paycheck?
This is the obvious one that most people think about when considering leaving the official workforce.
You know the drill: what are you spending, what are you earning, and what’s the difference. Then, what can you cut? And, finally, what does the picture look like without your income?
Don’t forget fixed expenses: mortgage/rent, car payments, insurance, utilities, food, mobile phone services; and long term investments, like: college funds, retirement, or other savings accounts.
What about those “extras”? Holiday or birthday gifts, eating out, vacation, salon or spa trips, entertainment, or any other special treats that you and your family enjoy.
Can you make it work without your budget?
By the way, don’t freak out if you don’t have all of this information at your fingertips. Grab a small notepad, throw it in your purse and start tracking. (Or, google to find a budget tracking app. There are so many out there!)
What about childcare?
If you’re planning to go back to work after maternity leave (or already are working), then you probably have started investigating childcare options for your newborn. You may have already signed up for several waiting lists for an infant spot, or you may have an older child in daycare or school already.
As you’re going through the decision-making process to be (or not to be) a SAHM, don’t forget to include childcare costs in your budget planning.
Yes, that’s right. Here’s what I mean: will you be cancelling your existing childcare arrangements? Did you already sign a contract or submit a prepayment? You may forfeit that money or a portion of it if you withdraw your child.
It may just be a one-time loss, but investigate timing (especially if you have a child already enrolled.) Maybe if you provide one month’s notice (or more), delay your departure from your job by just a few weeks, you may be able to lessen your withdrawal fee.
And, what about moving forward, will you be sending your small child to preschool a few days a week or signing up for fee-based mommy-and-me activities? Or, having a mommy’s helper a few days a week (for some peace!)
Sure, they may only be $40 or $50 at first, but add up a few of those in a single-income household, and they start to pinch the budget!
So, just something to think about as you build your budget and plan ahead!
Will quitting my job affect my family’s benefits and healthcare?
So, this may have been the part of the HR conversation that you zoned out about when you had your new employee orientation…
If you’re the person in the family who brings in the health benefits, then this is really important. You’ll need to investigate your options for getting health insurance through your partner’s employer or on the open market.
What other benefits do you receive from your job that you will no longer have access to? Besides medical and pharmaceutical benefits, do you get an annual eye or dental exam covered?
How about student loan or educational expenses payment contributions? Or mental health counseling? Professional organization memberships? Continuing education courses (to maintain licensing)?
Side note: if your job is the source of health benefits for your family, and you will be taking any length of maternity leave, be sure to double check how your medical benefits will be paid (and whether you need to pay out of pocket or make arrangements to ensure your benefits do not lapse during your maternity leave!) That’s a whole other discussion, but an important one!!
And will my career break affect my long-term career advancement?
So, your baby won’t be a baby forever, and what then? Right?
Have you thought about how long you plan to be a SAHM?
One year? Two years? Five years? Or more? Yes, this can and will change, and maybe unexpected opportunities will pop up…
What will it be? What will you want? Same career? Something new? Full-time? Part-time? Contract?
No, this doesn’t have to be written in stone, you might have another kiddo or you might move and life changes, but in general, have you thought about your goals?
Or (and maybe this is easier) your list of what you don’t want.
It’s just that the more conscious I’ve been in my options and choices, the more confident and content I’ve been in where I’m at.
And, vice versa, when I’ve just been struggling through some phase, not thinking about why I’m there or where I’m going, I’ve been frustrated to no end with that day’s immediate struggles… like wiping little noses or picking up the same exact mess for the ten thousandth time.
Back from my tangent: Please think about what you want with this SAHM gig and how long you want it to last. And, depending on your career, take a look and think about what sacrifices you may make in your long-term career advancement… and whether you actually care (about those impacts.)
Will leaving my job affect my retirement?
I mentioned it earlier when calculating your monthly budget, but retirement and savings really do deserve a little extra attention.
If you’re concerned at all about your budget as a SAHM, there are a thousand or more different resources and blogs about frugal living and savings… (I’ll try to link a few more here as I have time.)
But, the quick and dirty on this: how will your SAHM status affect your family’s emergency savings, college savings and retirement savings?
In particular, how will your leaving your job affect any retirement plans that you have with your current employer? What about social security? Have you been with your company long enough to vest in any retirement or benefits plan?
Is a break not even an option?
Let me just acknowledge this… Yes, I was lucky to even have the choice to consider downsizing our family budget and stay home for a while. This is just NOT an option for some.
And, I think that sucks (restraining self from rant about U.S. childcare policies!)
Leaving work or switching to part-time (or other arrangements) isn’t feasible for everybody. Single parents, families in high-cost-of-living cities and so many others especially may need every full-time paycheck just to meet their expenses.
But with some planning, and asking the right questions, many of us can find the right accommodations to build the lives we want to live.
Other Resources for the Decision to Go From Working Mom to Stay at Home Mom
Let me save you some time with Google. Here are a few other bloggers with more on deciding to go from working mom to stay at home mom:
- 7 Questions to Ask Before Quitting Your Job
- 10 Pros and Cons of Being a Stay-at-Home-Mom
- How to Become a Stay-at-Home Parent Without Pulling Your Hair Out
What questions have I forgotten? What other resources have you found helpful as you struggle with this decision? Drop me comment down below, and help me make this post even better for the next mom that stops by for some help!