Are you considering being a stay-at-home (or maybe a work-at-home) parent? When I decided to start my family I never considered staying home, because I didn’t think we could make it work financially. When my sweet girl was born in 2011 reality immediately set in and I became aware of how hard it would be to leave my baby at daycare. As the days went on it got easier to leave her, but I still always had that lingering feeling of guilt. Sound familiar?
When I had my second child the guilt multiplied. I was getting home at 5:30 every day, rushing through dinner, bath, and the bedtime routine, and spending no quality time during the week with my kids. Usually, they were tired at the end of the day, and my stress was so high, that we ended up with a lot of yelling and tears. On the weekends, I was trying to balance the housework with play time, and activities and never felt that I could sit down and just enjoy the moments I had with my kids. My brain was overwhelmed with housework, schedules, meals, and a full-time job. I kept comparing myself to all the other moms who work and asking myself, why I had such a hard time with this. Why can’t I be supermom?
It wasn’t until I stopped comparing myself and started to realize that my life is different than anyone else’s. My schedule is different, my kids are different, my husband is different, and my ability to juggle everything is what it is. I couldn’t juggle it all anymore.
The year before I left my job it became increasingly stressful and the last six months became almost unbearable. I would come home from a hard day and couldn’t let go of the events of the day, thus not pay enough attention to my kids. I couldn’t sleep well at night because my mind couldn’t shut down and I was no fun to be around. The stress was really taking a toll on my marriage, and I felt that my parenting was suffering. I had many long conversations with my husband about how I could stay home, and how we could make it work, and eventually, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life and quit my job. Looking back, I am so thankful for that added stress, because it forced me to make a decision I should have made a long time ago, and one I would have never made, had I not been in that situation. I have never looked back, and have not regretted my decision for a second.
Just because it was the right decision for me, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you. If you’re struggling with this decision, here are some questions to ask yourself.
Ten questions to ask before becoming a stay-at-home parent
- How strong is your support system?
Do you have family or friends nearby to help you out when your child is sick, on school vacation, or has a last minute snow day? It really does take a village to raise a child and the stronger your support system, the easier it is to balance work and kids. This was one of the biggest factors in my decision to stay home. We don’t have any family around to bail us out, and it was so stressful when our kids would get sick.
- Do you have flexibility in your job?
Do you make your own hours or do you have to punch a clock? One thing I’ve noticed about my friends who are successfully balancing both is that they have more flexibility to come and go from their jobs and take work home if necessary.
- Can you work from home?
If so, how flexible is it? A lot of people look for work at home jobs and then later realize they can’t get anything done with a child around, so you may still need to find childcare, but working from home certainly, gives you more flexibility on those sick days. It also may give you the option to throw a load of laundry in, or clean your bathroom, during your lunch break.
- Are you willing to give up your career?
This is usually one of the hardest parts of making this decision. You’ve worked for years to build your career, and you don’t want to throw it all away. This is really a decision that only you can make based on your job, but for me, I felt I could easily pick up where I left off if I choose to (and now two years later, I really don’t see myself ever going back to an 8-5).
- Can you afford it?
At this risk of stating the obvious, I have to throw this in here, because for so many years I kept saying I can’t afford it. I never sat down and looked closely at how much money I was spending on daycare, compared to how much money I was actually taking home, and the difference wasn’t enough for me to justify the stress. I had a few people remind me that my daughter would be going to school soon and then I wouldn’t have to pay for daycare. Well, before and after school care is almost as much as paying for full-time daycare! We have definitely made sacrifices and I’ve also been lucky enough to find a super flexible side gig that I can work around my kid’s schedules to help offset the money. We can still enjoy fun outings and go out to dinner from time to time!
- Can you stay home entertaining a child all day?
Confession – I actually have a really hard time with this! My youngest was 20 months when I started staying home, so we try really hard to get out of the house every day. When you have a baby it can be a little more challenging. Weather is hugely dependent on this too. In Maine, our winters can get very long and there are definitely days where I go a little stir crazy.
- Do you live in an area where you can get outside and find things to do?
As I pointed out above; I have a hard time being at home all day, but luckily, I live in an area where there is always something to do. If you live in a rural area, this could be more challenging.
- Are you creative?
As a SAHM you are responsible for your kids fun, so you have to come up with things to do. I know this probably sounds silly, but there are many days where I really struggle with this. There are only so many pictures you can color and so much play-dough to play with. Thank goodness we have Pinterest to help us come up with ideas!
- Are you patient?
Do you have the patience that kids require? The patience to answer the question “why” for the 100th time and the patience to deal with the constant mess? Some people just don’t have the patience to be with kids all day long, and that’s okay! Honestly, I really struggle with this too and patience is something I work on every day.
- What are your children’s needs?
Do your children have any limitations, challenges, or disabilities that require more of your attention? When I left my job I wasn’t yet aware of how bad my daughter’s anxiety was, because she had been at the same home daycare since she was a baby. Nine months after I became a SAHM she went to kindergarten, and I am so thankful that I was able to be there for her through a very difficult transition. I can’t imagine having to put her on a school bus or in after-school care during that time. I am so grateful that I could be the one dropping her off, picking her up, and helping her navigate a huge transition.
Check out my post – How I Said Goodbye to 8 to 5 – for more on how I made the decision to leave my corporate job and how I’ve managed to make a part-time income working around my kids.