Choosing whether to stay home with your children and leave a steady income is an extremely difficult decision. It’s one of those “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situations: leave your job and put all the financial burden on your partner’s shoulders; stay, and miss out on more of the already fleeting early years. I remember the feeling after I’d had my daughter and I thought I would have to go back to work (it never ended up happening); I was almost crying every day when I looked into her eyes and thought about how miserable we would both be to be away from each other.
If you’ve been thinking about leaving your job to stay home with your children and you just want someone to give you that little push, consider this your permission. When I decided to go back to school (in hindsight, not the best use of my time and money) rather than going to a new job, it was the best decision I could’ve made at the time. Every day I woke up knowing I owned my time completely and could kiss my little girl’s face all day long and I will never regret not having the income I could’ve made during those years. Not having a traditional job means I can focus my evenings on pursuing my dreams instead of preparing for the next day.
For some people this issue is a little more complex. I recognize I am viewing this through the lens of my own privilege that my husband can support me, so forgive me if your situation doesn’t match mine and I oversimplify (for example, I know there are single parents for whom staying home isn’t an option). However, I hope these considerations will make your decision obvious no matter what your situation is:
- Do you love your job?
If the answer is yes, your career continues to add joy and meaning to your life and you look forward to going to work nearly every day, then don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about it. Your mental health and that of your children will benefit from you staying put.
This study finds that women with high-quality jobs who want to work, and women who stayed home with their children and did not want to work, had equally low levels of maternal depression. It is the women who work at low-quality jobs, who work but don’t want to, or who stayed home with their kids but wanted to be working that suffered from depression.
It seems obvious, of course. Do what makes you happy. But if you are reading this, it’s likely you aren’t sure whether you’ll be happier at home or have regrets in the future.
- Do you have enough savings?
Most financial articles, such as this one by Grayson Bell, recommend that you have enough in savings to cover 6 months’ expenses before you quit your job. Consider your expenses minus childcare and determine whether you have enough of a cushion in case the unthinkable happens (you quit your job and your partner loses his or her job, or an emergency comes up, for example).
If you don’t have enough savings, how can you reduce your expenses and accelerate creating an emergency fund? Can you move to a smaller house and get rid of your mortgage (kids don’t need their own rooms if bunk beds is what it takes!)? Can you stop doing some of the lessons your kids are enrolled in? It may take sacrifice to make it happen, but you will find a way if it’s important to you. Before I left my job my income was higher than that of my husband and when I left I didn’t just quit, but enrolled in university and had to pay tuition! We went from never having to think much about money to mulling over every purchase, but it was worth it. I’m going to do a future post on the power of minimalism and how it helped me prioritize and focus, and how you can apply it to your own life to do the same.
- Do you want to be your own boss?
To me, this question should be a hugely important factor. Many people will tell you that as a stay-at-home-mom your opportunities will be limited to jobs like selling cosmetics in a MLM (multi-level marking) scheme or doing medical transcription. I say dream bigger. Being home with your kids is an opportunity to realize your dreams. You can do it in the evenings when you’re working a traditional job as well (in fact, nap time and evenings is when I work) but you may have your intellectual energy drained by working all day and find it difficult to stay motivated.
It’s also worth considering that once you leave the work force, it can be a struggle to re-enter the same field. Thankfully many companies are changing their view on parents who leave to raise children and there is even now the concept of a “Returnship” to get back to work. However, not every field is quite so forgiving and picking back up where you left off may not be so easy, so a fresh start may be a better option.
If your dream is to own a business, your best shot at making that happen is to take back ownership of your days. You may fail but it would be worse to look back in 20 years and wonder what would’ve happened if you’d tried. You won’t have to worry about juggling too many things and burning out; you can focus on your kids during the day and creating your business once they’re in bed. You won’t have to worry about the fact that leaving a steady income means loss of future income, retirement benefits, etc. because you will be creating a new future for yourself!
- Do you want flexibility with raising your kids?
Flexibility is one of the things that I love most about being home with my kids. I love being able to wake up and decide we will have a picnic at the zoo, or be able to spend over a month visiting grandparents. I know that homeschooling my children is a real option for me and that I can change their schooling at any moment if they’re unhappy without upending my life. Most of all I love that someone else isn’t in control of how my children spend their days (maybe I’m a control freak).
Flexibility isn’t as much of an issue for some people; a lot of parents (and children) thrive on a constant routine. If you feel like a caged bird when you’re at the office, maybe it’s time to break free.
I hope that this is helpful and not too biased- it is difficult for me not to push other women to choose the same decision that has brought me so much joy but I do realize it’s not the right choice for everyone. Whatever you choose, do it because it makes you happy and not because you are afraid of damaging your kids- ultimately, as the study in point 1 illustrates, what makes the mother happiest is what makes the children happy. Countless studies have shown that children of working mothers turn out just as well as those whose mothers stay home.
One of my overall goals for this blog is to show women that when you choose to stay home, you’re not making the decision that motherhood is the only goal you have in life. It’s the beginning of something new. We live in a time when you can create a business anytime and anywhere. If you want a change and want some encouragement to make the leap, feel free to reach out. I am rooting for your success as always!
Good luck and stay ambitious!