“Should I leave the workforce and be a stay at home parent?” I believe, ultimately, you already know the answer to this question. BUT, there are some things you may not have considered as part of the equation. A lot of parents focus on finances when trying to decide whether one parent will be staying at home. Then there are a lot of hidden considerations that can go overlooked. While I can’t give you the answer, I can give a little insight to some factors to be considered if a parent should ditch the 9-5 to become a stay at home parent. It’s a big decision and should be heavily weighed before handing over your resignation letter. Where do you start?
Will there be resentment from the working parent towards the non-working parent? Will the stay at home parent resent that the working parent gets “a break” from the kids, adult interaction, a further identity than just Mom or Dad? Will there be resentment because of how long the working parent is gone for the day? It might seem sweet and sunshiny to be with the baby all day long, but the sleepy newborn days end and by 4:45 you could be at your END. When Dad is 10 minutes later than normal, he is almost guaranteed to walk into a shit show. The working parent has to be able to take on kid duty as soon as they walk through the door.
How will you connect with others? How will it feel to be without adult interaction day after day? Unless you have a lot of friends that live nearby who have kids that are at least somewhat close in age to yours, you might be pretty lonely only talking to someone who can’t communicate all day every day. Signing up for multiple activities does not guarantee a Best Mom Friend, at least not immediately. All mom’s are very busy and their babies/kids have their own schedules so trying to make the leap from acquaintances to friends outside of a class/activity can be a hurdle since the best way to make a friendship grow is constant interaction. Gaining mom friends is a constant hustle.
Loss of Identity
Leaving the workforce, even if it’s only for a couple years, can leave you feeling like your identity slipping away from you. Being at home all day with the kids turns into an identity as Mom. I can’t even recall how many parents I know simply as ‘so and so’s’ mom. You remember the children’s names but it’s always so hectic so mom and dad’s name gets lost in the shuffle. Sometimes it’s hard to separate from mom duty in order to attend to your own hobbies and interests.
How will you “refresh?”
Getting space away parenting to attend to your own hobbies and interests is vital not only for your identity. Don’t feel guilty about this one! Treat yourself to some self care. Wether it is once a week, month or few times a year, make it a priority to have some time away from your baby/babies. Everyone needs a break from Mom Mode. Being burnt out constantly means the entire family suffers. Schedule a date night or a Mom’s Nite Out or just go for a run.
Think beyond newborn phase
Try to think beyond the sleepy newborn phase where you’re cuddling, napping, or walking in the stroller all day. At some point your baby is going to start to sit up and roll. Then comes the crawling, the walking, and the talk talk talking! Beyond that, there’s regressions, behavior issues, power struggles and boundary pushing. As a parent you have to roll with this no matter what, but when you’re home ALL day, every day, it’s a whole other animal!
What will you be doing all day?
Being home all day can make you stir crazy fast. Draw out a tentative schedule of activities. Maybe it’s lunch with a friend or family once a week or a mommy and me class. The eat, sleep, play cycle gets boring fast. Look up what’s available in your community.
Budget For Activities
There are free and cheap things to do with baby besides going for walks and the playground, but there are so many cool things to do, even the less expensive activities will add up.
Consider what you experiences you might want to have with your baby and price it out with a liberal guess at how much and how often you will go. Will you want to do dance or art classes? How much is the indoor playground? If you live somewhere with tough winters take into account that you might want to go frequently in the winter when you’re unable to play outside.
Think beyond income vs. daycare costs. Additional costs of working would be commute (time/gas), health insurance costs, take out food costs. Keep the income loss amount in perspective. Take home salary is usually about a third less than your actual salary (in the US at least).
When and how and/or if you will reenter the workforce?
I have probably edited my plan several dozen times, but even if it changes, there should be a plan. Think about when you would go back, after the youngest is in elementary school? Only a year? Then, think about how to reenter the workforce. Keep your resume updated, if possible, do volunteer or part time work in your field, and keep up with networking connections.
After all these different factors have been thought out, which are you leaning towards? If you are leaning even slightly towards one or the other, you know your answer. It’s never easy, but often times the decision is simple after working it out. What will it be for you?