Before my husband and I got married, we were both pretty clear on the fact that we wanted me to be able to stay home once we had children. After marriage, but before our son, we talked a lot about our goal of finding jobs that were flexible and/or had the potential to be worked remotely. And if you know me in real life, you know that I agonized for months over the decision to stay home with our son – even though it was what I’d wanted to do since before our son was ever in the picture. This past February, after buying a home and deciding to live in our (relatively) new city long term, I finally found the courage to make the transition from working mom to stay at home mom.
I am often asked how things are going – probably because I talked about it so much in the months leading up to this transition – and honestly, I love being home. This was definitely the right decision and I’m glad that I took the leap. But there are some things that have made this transition rough at times! I wanted to share some of the things you might end up needing to re-assess if you’re thinking about making the switch from working to staying home.
Even with good planning, the loss of one full-time income doesn’t really hit you until it hits you. It’s important to be careful to pay attention to how you’re spending, because whatever spending habits you had when you were both working might not make the most financial sense when you lose one income. In our case, we’ve had to really get out of the mindset of just habitually buying certain items (for example, purchasing a coffee every morning instead of making it yourself at home). We’ve also changed where we shop for groceries because the prices are cheaper at one place than they are at another. And where our weekends used to be a “whatever comes up,” kind of thing where we might spend money unexpectedly, we are now planning where our money is going to go. That may seem to make life a bit dull, but it teaches discipline and it’s important to experience delayed gratification every once in awhile. We were never “wealthy” by any stretch of the imagination and we’ve always stuck to a fairly tight budget, but even still, when I look back I can definitely see times where we’ve had a surplus of money and didn’t spend it as wisely as we could have. My staying home is giving us an opportunity to be better stewards over what we earn.
Aside from wanting to spend more time with my son, one of the other reasons I decided to stay home is because I am not the type of person who does very well with constraints on my time. As I am getting older, I am realizing how much time freedom means to me. I need to have enough time in my day to create, write, wonder, explore, and read. If I don’t get to do these things in adequate doses, it negatively affects me both physically and mentally. But although I don’t like to be on a schedule, I don’t like to waste time either. I enjoy being productive and feeling as though I am contributing in some way. I used to think that I was good at time management, but that’s because all of my time was managed for me (going to work at a certain time, getting home at a certain time, doing chores), and really I didn’t have much time to myself to begin with. Now that I am staying home, I’m questioning whether I am really as good at time management as I previously thought? And I’m working to fine-tune a schedule that fits my needs, the needs of my son, and allows for the maximum amount of productivity possible.
Now that I have been both a working and a stay at home mom, I have come to believe that you just can’t escape mom guilt. It’s just there. When I worked, I felt so badly about my son being in school for between 9 and 10 hours a day. I hated the fact that I had such limited time to spend with him at night and that my weekends always felt so rushed because there was so much to do before the work week began. I felt badly about the fact that my house was usually a mess, laundry went undone for days, dishes piled up, you know how it goes. I was never able to perfect the art of balancing work life and home life.
As a stay at home mom there is a different type of mom guilt. I’m not contributing as much (financially) as I used to. Is my son now spending too little time at school with friends? On those days when I have a lot to get done, do I let him watch too much television? And if, at the end of the day, I didn’t complete everything I thought I would – I feel badly because I was home all day and have no excuse for not having gotten it done.
Mom guilt is real and won’t necessarily go away. But if you know you’re doing the right thing for your family, push past it and keep doing what you’re doing. If you feel that you’re not doing the right thing for your family, then make the appropriate changes!
The decision to stay home was definitely the right one for our family set-up, (and also for my sanity). I plan to keep this going for as long as I can, and I think that my life as an individual and our life together as a family will be fuller and more productive because I stay home.
What works best for your family? And why?