Choosing to Be a Stay At Home Mom: What You Need to Know

Although advancements in women’s rights in the workplace have encouraged women to enter the workforce and acquire increasingly high-ranking jobs, every year thousands of women – for a variety of reasons – choose to leave their jobs in exchange for life as a stay at home mom. In fact, recent evidence suggests that women may be choosing to stay at home in increasingly large numbers – and it’s not for a lack of education or promise, either. For many, it is simply that they do not want to miss the opportunity to raise their children.

But what types of things do stay at home moms need to consider before making the jump from the workplace to the home? For example, what will this mean for a household budget accustomed to two incomes?

Is it Financially Feasible to be a Stay at Home Mom?

Although the prospect of living on one income may seem impossible to some, you may be surprised to know that millions of Americans each year do so. In fact, according to the 2000 census, nearly half of all children younger than two – and 25% of those between three and six years of age – are cared for exclusively by one parent. However, most usually only do so for a couple of years.

After that, most seek out jobs with flexible hours or part-time work to allow for more time with their families. Indeed, some 25% of working women do so on a part-time basis.

So the question is not is it feasible? but rather is it feasible for you?.

Things to Consider

While making the decision to stay at home may seem like a good one, there are some things every parent should consider before making the move, such as:

  • Your financial situation. Although staying at home is possible even on a modest budget, you’ll need to do a careful overview of your family’s finances before deciding to leave your job. While scaling back on a few things may be relatively easy for some, it can be difficult for others. Plot out your family’s spending and factor in your bills and debt payments. Then plan how you would adjust these payments on a single income. Is it feasible?
  • Your personality. For some mothers, the idea of being around their children 24/7 may sound more daunting than anything else. And that’s okay. If you know you are the type of person who thrives on independence, you may want to carefully consider what staying at home might mean for you. Of course, like any full-time job, staying at home does carry its challenges. You just have to know if these outweigh the benefits for you.
  • Your attachment to your career. Is your current job your life’s passion or are you just going through the motions? An unfulfilling career can take its toll on your mental and physical health, which doesn’t bode well for good parenting. So take a look at your job and evaluate your satisfaction. If your job is important to you, staying at home may be more difficult. If, however, you are unhappy at your job, staying at home may be the best decision for both you and your family.
  • Your family’s values. Staying at home may be your goal, but are you sure it’s shared by your partner? Having open and honest conversations with your spouse as well as any family members who may be involved in raising your child is a key way to ensure you are making the right decision.

How Do I Plan My Household Budget?

One of the key things to take into account when planning your household budget, before moving to a single income is: How much does it cost you to work? Although you might not realize it, working costs you money – just think of transportation, food and clothing costs, not mention the taxes, and now, childcare.

You may discover that all of these things combined only leave you with a small amount of gain each year. When you consider that against the potential benefits of staying at home (being able to raise your children), you may decide it’s simply not worth it to continue working.

Of course, that doesn’t mean all your expenses will be eliminated by choosing to stay at home; you’ll still need to account for all of these expenses, although certainly to a lesser degree. The best way to do that is simply to make a list of all your monthly expenses (example: food, transportation, education, health care, bills, debt payments, rent/mortgage payments, etc.) and allocate a certain amount to each. Sticking to your budget is a key tenet of any good financial plan.

Tips for Saving Money

There are tons of ways to scale back once you decide to stay at home, without completely eliminating small luxuries from your lifestyle. For instance:

  • Limit dining out. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat out at all, it simply means you’ll have to scale back. Try limiting your restaurant excursions to once or twice a week tops. And if you and your partner are in need of a little romance, try sticking to the appetizer menu, or sharing main meals – the portions are often more than enough for two people to share!
  • Make a list before shopping. Don’t simply go to the store to "browse". Have a specific list of things that you need so you won’t be tempted to veer off track.
  • Take transit or ride a bike. Limiting the amount of time you drive can significantly cut back your transportation and gas costs. If you and your partner each have a car, you may consider selling one. You’ll save tons on insurance, and limit the stress of parking, traffic, and dangerous roads!
  • Try vacationing locally. Although the sunny beaches of tropical locations may sound tempting, you’d be surprised how many beautiful places there are to visit in your local area. Planning camping trips or vacations to places you can drive to can save you a bundle, which help make your vacation even more relaxing!
  • Scope out the thrift stores. Whatever your reservations, it’s worth it to check out your local consignment and second-hand stores – especially for kids wear. Kids go through their clothes so quickly, they barely have time to wear them in. You’ll be surprised the treasures you’ll find at a thrift store. And all for a fraction of the price of retail stores!
  • Start a babysitting club with friends to alleviate the costs of babysitting, while still maintaining some well deserved down time!

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