The emails trickle into my inbox. “I want to quit my job to stay home with my kids,” one reads. “I want to be a stay-at-home mom so badly,” another begins. Each email tells a unique story, and while the details are different, the resulting question is almost always the same. Should I become a stay-at-home mom or stay at my job?
Stay at Home Mom Versus Working Mom
I’m not an expert on the stay-at-home mom versus working mom decision. I’m just a mom who shared my personal decision on the internet. Yet, ever since I wrote about my choice to become a stay-at-home parent, readers have emailed me for advice.
Yesterday, I received an email brimming with thoughts, worries, and excitement. It started like so many others I’ve read. “I have a good job, but I don’t enjoy the work. I want to become a stay-at-home mom.” Three thousand words later, the email ended with one simple question: Do you think I should quit?
Brilliant, talented, successful men and women stumble across my blog while searching for guidance. Most of them reach out after reading one of these posts:
- Quitting My Six-Figure Job: Walking Away From a High Paying Career
- Should I Quit My Job If It Makes Me Unhappy?
- Live Simply, Quit Your Job and Follow Your Dreams
- I Don’t Want a Career Anymore. What Should I Do Now?
Unfortunately, I can’t tell my readers what to do. That’s a personal decision they must make for themselves. Instead, I share details about my situation and some guidance that might help.
Becoming a Stay At Home Mom
I begin each response with my stay-at-home mom story.
Before my son was born, my job was my life. I worked as a software engineer, and by all accounts, I was an overachiever who quickly climbed the ladder of success.
If life went according to plan, I might still be working, but instead, my career took an unexpected turn of events. In 2011, just two weeks after announcing my pregnancy, I was laid off. My entire team was cut, along with two hundred other employees in my department.
I landed a new job quickly and negotiated an eight-month delay to my start date! My twenty-six-week severance check would easily cover my bills until I returned to work.
My stay-at-home stint was supposed to be temporary, but after a few months, I had a change of heart. I wasn’t ready to restart my career. My husband and I hadn’t touched the severance money, so there wasn’t a pressing financial need to return.
I called my new boss to tell him the news. Then I collapsed into a ball of tears. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made.
It’s been nine years since I quit my job to become a stay-at-home mom. Here is what I wish someone would have told me before I quit.
Should I Become a Stay-At-Home Mom?
First things first, before giving up your job, it’s essential to consider what you are giving up. Some women love staying home with their kids, and some end up hating it. It may sound ideal to become a stay-at-home mom, but for some people, it can feel like a very lonely, sometimes dull existence.
The experience depends on how old your children are, what type of social network you have, and how you like to spend your time. Before you decide to quit, ask yourself why you want to stay at home and how much time you want to spend with your kids.
Some parents want to spend every moment with their children. Others just want a little more time than they have right now. If you fall into the second bucket, it’s time to start asking questions at work.
Can you work from home, decrease your overall hours or work a more flexible schedule around your children’s routines?
Can You Modify Your Current Job to Make the Best of Both Worlds?
Two of my former coworkers created work-from-home arrangements that provided the best of both worlds. Their managers gave them extra leeway to work around their children’s schedules. As long as my coworkers completed their work on time, their bosses didn’t care when they performed the work.
If you trust your manager, have an open conversation so you can discuss your options. Are there ways to make your job less stressful or more enjoyable? Can you switch positions or find methods to take on fewer stress-inducing tasks?
Write down a list of tasks you perform and review them with your boss. Which ones can you complete at night or early in the morning? Find out when you need to be available throughout the day and if you can diminish your time in the office.
You can also ask about decreasing the number of hours you work each week. Can you cut your workday from eight hours to six? Can you modify your schedule to work four days rather than five per week?
Don’t assume that you must choose between being a full-time, stay-at-home mom and a full-time working mom. Keep in mind, though, that even with the best of schedules, it can be challenging to balance family and work.
Calculate Your Lost Pay and Benefits
If you can’t create a flexible work schedule or you’re sure you want to quit, it’s time to review your finances.
Find your most recent paystub and start looking over the figures. Factor in your salary and employer matches to your 401k, 403b, TSP, and health savings accounts.
How much do you currently pay for medical, dental, vision, and life insurance? If you switch to your partner’s benefits, how much will you need to contribute each month?
While running the numbers, make sure to calculate rising wages, bonuses, and stock grants. If you have money left over after paying for childcare and other expenses, run further calculations to see how much those investments will be worth ten, twenty, or thirty years from now.
If you want to stay at home, don’t forget to account for how much your partner earns. Can their salary support your current lifestyle without any extra income?
Figure out how much you spend on work-related items if you don’t quit. Add up monthly figures for gas, clothes, lunches, and daycare. Then review these numbers with your partner. How much will you earn after deducting the expenses associated with work? Some couples find that they aren’t giving up that much.
After running the numbers, keep a balanced view of the stay-at-home debate. Remember that money is one factor in the decision to stay at home, but it’s not the only one.
Will Money Become a Source of Stress?
If you want to become a stay-at-home mom, I urge you to look at your finances and see if you can quit without causing financial hardships.
There are two ways to spread your money. You can earn more or spend less. What can you cut back on, and how much can you save before you quit? The less you need to make to pay your bills, the easier it will be to leave work.
Weigh the benefits of working to build up your emergency fund and rainy day savings accounts. If you already have money in the bank, you may be able to make the leap. If you don’t, now is the time to save up. Try to create a healthy buffer so money won’t become a source of stress after you quit.
Look for Opportunities to Earn More
Remember that leaving corporate America doesn’t mean you’ll never earn money again. Think about your current skills and ask yourself if there might be other ways to make money without a typical 9-to-5 job. Can you find time to freelance, start a blog, sell items on eBay, or create an Etsy store? What else can you do to bring in extra money?
In an ideal world, you can test these techniques before quitting your job. If you can trim expenses, you won’t need as much money to live on, but finding small ways to boost your income is equally helpful.
Don’t expect to spend hours working while your baby naps. You will be exhausted in those early months. Staying home with kids is time-intensive, and the first year is incredibly challenging.
Stay away from MLMs and avoid schemes that promise to make you rich. Be wary of friends who try to entice you with tales of selling their high-priced products. Companies prey on stay-at-home moms who are searching for ways to increase their income.
Search for legitimate forms of income, and see if you can bridge the gap between what you spend and what you need to pay the bills.
What Are You Giving Up When You Quit Your Job?
Work has benefits outside of your bi-weekly paycheck. Do you enjoy spending time with your coworkers, working on long-term projects, or solving complex problems? Do you yearn to work in an environment where you consistently reach a flow state?
It’s not easy to achieve these same benefits after you quit. If you plan to stay at home with your kids, how will you engage with others, solve problems, or carve out time for deep thinking?
The life of a stay-at-home mom can feel incredibly lonely. If you decide to quit your job, make sure to ask your coworkers for their private emails. Every few months, I met my former business partner for pizza at a shop across from my old office building. She was happy to share a pizza while cooing over my kids.
I stayed in contact with other coworkers through email. We didn’t have work in common anymore, but we still had plenty to discuss. Becoming a stay-at-home parent can be lonely. Don’t cut former friends out of your life just because you leave the workforce.
Look for ways to get out of the house to meet friends and former coworkers. Then investigate ways to meet new people and forge new friendships.
What Will You Miss About Work?
While I dreamed about becoming a stay-at-home mom, I knew deep down that I would miss work. I started babysitting when I was eleven and took on my first real job at fifteen.
For years I tied my self-worth to my net worth. I craved external validation and year-end reviews with bosses who praised my work. I enjoyed working on complex problems and teaching myself new skills too. While I love my children with all my heart, they don’t provide the kudos I’d grown accustomed to receiving as an employee.
I also missed stimulating conversations. Chats on the playground were often interrupted by children who were hungry, tired, or bored. It was tough for me to fill the air with chit-chat about my new life.
The Benefits of Becoming a Stay-At-Home Mom
Continuing to work has its benefits, but staying-at-home has some pretty nifty perks too. For one, I no longer felt squeezed by workweek time constraints. I didn’t need to fit a laundry list of activities and chores into a few short hours at night or on the weekends.
When my kids get sick, I didn’t worry about taking time off to help them feel better, and when snow days and COVID closed schools, I didn’t miss a beat.
I don’t have to worry about doctor’s appointments or dentist appointments, and sporting events, soccer practice, and other activities can occur on any night of the week.
While I need to get my children to school in the morning, I don’t have the extra stress of getting to work on time. And when the day is over, I don’t feel the added pressure of driving home, figuring out what to cook, and preparing dinner too.
My stress level dropped immensely after choosing to become a stay-at-home parent.
You Only Get One Chance
When I was in my mid-twenties, I suffered from a severe medical condition that could have killed me. I know that life is short and that I shouldn’t take a single day for granted.
Some women love their jobs and feel a passion for what they do, but I knew deep down that I would regret spending those early years sitting in a cubicle.
I will be forever grateful for the time I’ve had with my children. It was hard to give up my job, but I enjoyed nursing, rocking, singing, playing, and witnessing my children grow into the unique humans they are today. During non-COVID times, I enjoy spending time in my children’s classrooms and volunteering at school too.
My Decision to Become a Stay-At-Home Mom
I understand the hesitation to quit your job to become a stay-at-home mom. Under different circumstances, I’m not sure if I would’ve left corporate America to stay-at-home with my firstborn. Honestly, it would’ve been challenging to walk away from my twelve-year career.
When the HR representative handed me my severance package nine years ago, I failed to hold back my tears. At that moment, I wondered what I would do and where I would go next, but I never imagined quitting my career. Yet, here I am nine years later, living my best life.
I am grateful for a lifetime of saving for rainy days, a husband who continues to support our needs, and children who have brought more joy to my life than I have ever known.
I wanted to nurse my babies, snuggle them at nap time, comfort them, sing to them, take them on adventures and waste away the hours playing and reading books. When they called, I wanted to be the one to answer, and when they cried, I wanted to comfort them. Over the last nine years, I’ve gotten to do all of that and so much more.
There is nothing wrong with becoming a stay-at-home mom or choosing to remain a working parent. We each have different needs, dreams, and desires. In fact, although I love my children and my stay-at-home decision, I have often felt lost, dazed, and confused since leaving work.
It took me years to figure out why. I didn’t want to return to my prior career, but I did yearn to pursue passions outside of parenting. Many stay-at-home moms have told me similar stories. While they loved their children, they wanted to carve out time for themselves.
Over the years, this blog has become my outlet—a place to share my story with those who may need to read it. It also made me a millionaire, but not in the ways you might imagine. When my children are grown, I hope that they will read it too.
If you plan to quit your job to become a stay-at-home parent, I urge you to continue to carve out time for your passions. No matter what you decide, please don’t lose sight of yourself.
Do You Want to Become a Stay At Home Parent or Have You Made the Decision to Be a Working Parent?
If you have thoughts or questions about this topic, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your stories.