Do You Really Wish to Be a Stay At Home Mother?
11 No-Nonsense Questions You Must Answer Before Making The Choice
For one lucky woman named Jennie, the decision to be an at-home mother was a simple one. She had always known it’s how she wanted to parent. Her family and friends supported the idea and let her know it. And from the beginning of their marriage, she and her husband had planned the household budget so that they were not dependent on her income. When time for the birth of their first child approached, she simply cleaned out her desk and moved home to begin her new “career.” Five years and two children later, she says she’s exactly where she wants to be and that she loves her at-home lifestyle.
But for other women (probably the vast majority), the decision is a much more complex and difficult one. They want to spend more time with their children, but a decrease in family income seems insurmountable. They are not exactly thrilled with the quality of their child’s daycare, but aren’t confident they have the know-how to do much better themselves. What if they leave their jobs and discover that full-time parenting isn’t fulfilling at all but simply tedious?
What if they’re never able to regain their footing on the career ladder? And after all those years of education and employment, what will people say if they walk away from their jobs? For them, and perhaps for you, the decision to become an at-home mother isn’t so simple.
Although you may have a strong desire to be at home with your children, there are several issues you should consider before making your choice. They range from questions about your motivation to plain old practical concerns (like how the heck will your family survive without two paychecks?), to psychological and relationship issues. By answering the following questions you are likely to become more confident that you’ll make the best decision for you and your family. The questions will also suggest things you can do to ensure that at-home parenting will be a positive experience.
1. Why do you want to be an at-home mother?
Is it because you genuinely want to be there for your children whenever they need you? Because you believe you are the best person to nurture and guide them? Because you love the time you spend with them and want more of it? These are all wonderful and positive reasons for choosing at-home mothering. If your answer to these is “yes,” you are probably on the right track and will be able to structure an at-home lifestyle that works for you and your family.
On the other hand, is full-time parenting looking good simply because you’re bored or frustrated with your job? Or because, compared to what you’re doing now, being an at-home mother seems like a piece of cake? Or because you’re tired of your demanding boss and cranky co-workers, and you just can’t get ahead? These aren’t necessarily bad reasons, but you’re likely to find yourself disappointed in full-time parenting if they’re your only reasons. While at-home mothering can be fulfilling, it’s certainly not springtime in Paris. You don’t know what boredom and frustration are until you’ve sung nine thousand verses of “Where Is Thumbkin” to the crankiest, most demanding associate of all–your own dear two-year-old. But if your desire to be with your children is what’s motivating you, you’ll manage to keep going and even find it worthwhile.
2. How much money are you really taking from your outside job?
Have you ever calculated your real take-home pay? That would be the amount that’s left after taxes, childcare, commuting costs, work wardrobe, meals out (or expensive convenience foods), gifts for co-workers, and the cost of household help for chores you can’t get done when you’re gone from the house 40 or 50 hours a week. Most women are pretty surprised how little is left.
3. Is your income absolutely essential to your family’s survival?
If the answer is yes, can you negotiate to bring some or all of your work home? Or can you job-share or otherwise work fewer hours to be at home more and actually be better off by saving on some of the previously-mentioned expenses? If you are a valued employee, you may find that your employer would rather negotiate with you than lose you altogether. Or can you start a home-based business that fits around your family’s needs rather than the other way around? More and more women are finding this a perfect solution to the wanna-be-home-but-gotta-have-money dilemma. There are abundant resources available to the budding entrepreneur.
4. How much can you “earn” by simplifying your lifestyle?
Can going out to dinner become a treat, rather than a frequent event necessitated because both adults are too exhausted to cook? Can you buy food in bulk and clothing from the sale rack? Can you vacation in the off-season, or sometimes skip the hotel getaway in favor of backpacking? Do you really need a new car, or will a used one get you where you want to go? Will your friends like you as well when you host a backyard potluck rather than footing the bill at a fancy restaurant? These are all ways to “earn” by simply spending less. Think of it as “creative spending”–it’s only deprivation if you choose to see it as such.
5. What about financial security for the future?
It’s a common worry for at-home mothers that the time will come when they’ll need outside employment and they won’t be able to find a job. Unfortunately, divorce does happen, or the primary wage-earning job disappears, or an emergency in the family requires that more money must appear now. You can’t ever be sure it won’t happen to you. You can, however, begin now to contribute to an emergency fund (many financial advisors recommend 3-6 months’ expenses). You can also keep your career skills up to date, and in fact make yourself even more marketable than before. As an at-home mother, you decide your priorities and daily schedule. Take a class in computers or management or whatever is appropriate. Learn a foreign language. Keep in touch with your former co-workers and cultivate new contacts, remembering that it’s often “who you know” that counts. There are a hundred ways to ensure you’re not “stuck” if and when the time comes to re-enter the workforce.
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