It’s one of the biggest decisions you will make as a parent: should one of us stay home? It was a decision my husband and I thought long and hard about. I grew up with a mom who worked full time as a night-shift nurse. My husband’s family enjoyed having a mom who was at home most of her mothering years, though at times she worked to supplement their income. The thought of me being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) was a new one for me. I wondered if it was the best fit for our family. Here are 5 considerations that helped us make this decision:
1. Can we make it work on one income?
When my husband first became a youth pastor our family moved, leaving my beloved job behind. Before we moved, God was gracious enough to provide a job lead for me, but the new job was not available for five months. At that point my husband and I decided to teach ourselves to live on just his income. For the next four years my income was used solely to pay off debt and build an emergency fund. If you are considering dropping to one income, can you find a way to give it a trial run? Try putting your second income into savings for a set period of time (say, 10 months during pregnancy, or maybe your 6 week maternity leave). Discipline yourselves to stick to spending only one income and saving the other. Even if no one decides to stay home, you can build up a nice emergency fund during this period of time, which will be great as babies will be adding in some expenses of their own.
2. What does/will it actually cost us to have a second income?
When I was still working outside of the home, my commute each day was a 60 mile round trip. Making this trip four times a week meant more fuel to get there, more wear and tear on my car, and a whole hour I would spend away from my family. Those were huge costs, just for me to get to and from work.
Also, because my workplace was so far from home, I found myself eating out at least once a week, a cost I knew I could add up to $15-$20 a month in savings if I had prepared my meals at home. I know from experience that I would have eaten out with more frequency with a baby to get ready to take to daycare each morning, so that cost would have increased for my family.
In addition to car maintenance and food costs, consider how much you will need to pay for childcare. My job at a not-for-profit did not pay me a lot of money. When I added up these costs, I realized I would actually be making a whopping $2 a day. That was an easy answer for us!
Remember that childcare may not cost what the internet estimates it to be. For instance, had my parents lived less than 300 miles away I would have happily left my baby with Grandma for a few days of work a week. Or maybe you can find a college student to help out with child care. When I was in college I worked as a nanny for my primary income source. The pay was right in line with the averages in the area, but the perks were incredible. I got to eat their leftovers for lunch instead of cafeteria food and I got to sit on a comfortable couch instead of cheap dorm room furniture. The kids took naps and I got paid to sit and do homework! Maybe you could strike up a similar deal with a college student you know. If they know in advance, they may be able to manipulate their class schedule to accommodate your work schedule.
3. Can I handle postpartum emotions and transitioning back to work?
This is a necessary question. I am not a crier. Not at all. It’s just not a part of who I am. But, let me tell you, postpartum hormones kicked my new mom butt! I cried more in the first 2 months of motherhood (for no real reason at all) than I did in the 8 years my husband knew me before we had a baby. If you do not have my emotionally void nature, this is a question you need to spend time thinking over.
4. What will I do when my child has his or her “firsts” with someone else watching?
“Do you want me to tell you when they have a first?” It was a great question a sitter asked asked a friend of mine before she started watching her children. “No” was my friend’s reply. Everyone celebrates the milestones with their kids–the first time they roll over, the first army crawl, the first steps, the first words–these are all exciting events! My friend chose to enjoy the firsts as she saw them, even if her child had been crawling at the sitter’s for a week before he would crawl at home. This is something you will need to consider because it will come up. Know what your answer will be or proactively ask your childcare provider at the start of your time together.
5. What will work best for your family right now?
While I have been enjoying my work as a SAHM, I try to cherish each day at this position, knowing it may not last forever. We are very aware that nothing is a guarantee in this world. My job, or my husband’s job could necessitate a supplemental income if our family grows to include more people. Many families have experienced times of unemployment that force everyone to look for ways to make money any way possible. Today it works for my husband to serve as a youth pastor and me to serve our family as a SAHM. Tomorrow it may not. Today it may not work for you to stay home, but a promotion may create that opportunity tomorrow. Do what works for now and recognize that nothing is permanent. Whether you are at home full-time, part-time or nights and weekends, make the very most of each moment you have with your children.