(editor’s note: please welcome Margaux Cameron with a very interesting guest post today. Thanks, Margaux!)
My own mother was a stay-at-home mom. She quit her job when I was born, had my brother 4 years later, then started going to college full-time. By the time I was in high school, she had completed her bachelor’s degree, going to school full-time for the last two years while also raising two kids. At that age, I didn’t understand what going to college entailed, much less going back to school at 40 years of age. Looking back, I don’t know how she did it. She could be tough on us kids; we didn’t have a lot of money for after-school sports and activities; we learned to help with household chores as soon as we could walk. But now, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
One of the first things a prospective stay-at-home mom should consider is the practicality of that option. In her 2002 book The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued, Ann Crittenden reports that most women who quit their job to remain at home with their children give up close to $1 million from income, retirement savings, pensions, and other benefits. This can cause issues for legal reasons such as prenuptials and, of course, the reality of switching from a two-income household to one. Anyone considering this change should talk extensively with her partner about money matters. Some couples actually say that it’s easier for them to save money on one salary—if you earn more, you usually spend more. Also, if neither parent stays at home with the kids, childcare bills become an important factor. Think about setting up a Spousal IRA. Consider working out of the home: 45% of businesses owned by women are run from the home, and consulting for your old company is a good place to start looking into. (Cost of being a stay-at-home mom: $1 million) There are plenty of resources, both online and through your bank, that can help you determine whether staying at home is a viable financial option for your family.
For some, figuring out the economics may be easy compared with the emotional components of this life-changing decision. Many women struggle with giving up a career (especially one that may have taken several years of education or training to achieve), free time, activities and hobbies, social engagements—most of the components we normally associate with a functional and independent lifestyle. Many stay-at-home moms say that the most important thing to have in that situation is pride in what you do. Thinking of it as a conventional job can help, both in valuing your effort and arranging your calendar. Make sure to schedule in time for yourself; take up a new hobby that can be done at home. You will likely lose some contact with friends, but your truest friends will provide you with an incredible network of support. (4 Things a Stay-at-Home Mom Needs to Know)
Being a stay-at-home parent isn’t the right choice for every mom—it is life-changing. For my mom, it not only ended her first career, but it also inspired her to earn her bachelor’s degree and start a completely new career after her kids were grown. If you make the decision to try staying at home with your kids, always, always be aware of yourself. Having children is in itself a huge lifestyle change; adding a total readjustment to your daily routine creates a lot of stress. If you cannot take care of yourself, you cannot take care of anyone else. It’s a prospect that demands great personal reflection and cooperation with your partner, but for many women, it ends up being one of the best decisions of their lives.
Image courtesy of Big D2112 via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.
Earnest Parenting: help for moms trying to decide the best path.