Deciding to stay home with your baby or return to work can be a hard decision for new moms. Every family’s situation is different, and every woman is different. There isn’t one answer for everyone. But if you ask yourself these five questions, you can form a plan for your future.
1. Do my finances allow me to stay home?
This is the first question you should ask yourself. If you can’t survive on one income, you can’t stay home. Figure out your current budget (if you already haven’t) and subtract your paycheck. Use a spreadsheet like the annual budget template on Google Sheets.
Can you make ends meet? If you can, do you feel like you would be happy living on just one income? This was the deciding factor for me. I wanted to live comfortably and not have to worry about budgeting. So I went back to work.
You also need to consider the cost of daycare. If you’re lucky enough to find a friend or relative to watch your baby for free while you work, then this doesn’t apply to you.
Compare your budget of one income versus two incomes plus the cost of daycare. Is it worth it? If the cost of daycare outweighs your income, you might as well stay home. How much money per week is worth working? If you’re only making $50 a week after paying for daycare, do you still want to work 40 hours a week?
2. Where am I in my career?
Not to sound too much like an interviewer, but where do you see yourself in 5 years careerwise? 10 years? Do you have major plans to climb the corporate ladder and in what kind of timeline do you want to accomplish your career goals? Can you step away for a year? Or maybe even 5 or 10 years? Do you want to continue with your career at all?
Some moms will quit and never feel the need to return to the workforce, and that’s fine. Congratulations on your early retirement!
Others will plan to go back to work when their youngest child is in kindergarten. Some go back to work when the kids are teenagers.
If you do plan to reenter the workforce later down the road, you’ll need to have a reentry plan. Can you get back into the same industry? Can you get back into the same company? Are you ok with taking a pay cut in the future? After taking years off from work, you may need to either start over at the bottom or at a lower level than you are currently.
3. Can I handle staying home all day?
Now this sounds silly. You’re thinking “Can I handle it? It’s easy, right?” Wrong. Being a stay at home mom is anything but easy. I know that I am not the type of person that can handle staying home with a baby or a toddler all day every day. There are women that can easily handle the type of stress, but I am not one of them.
How do you do all day by yourself with the baby? Are you completely overwhelmed by the end of the day? Staying home might not be the best option for you.
There are other factors besides your own internal feelings to consider. Does your partner come home at a regular time from work or do they have to work late often?
When my husband was in his previous position, he never knew when he would be home due to the nature of his job. Sometimes he was home at 3:00. Sometimes not until 9:00 after Toot has gone to bed. When I had her all day by myself on Saturdays and he worked late, I had to do everything myself. From the time she woke up to the time she went to bed, I did everything. I know I cannot do that on a daily basis. I would implode.
Are there any other outside factors in your life that would make it hard for you to stay home all day?
4. Can I handle leaving my baby with someone else?
Do you have someone you can trust completely with your baby? Leaving your baby at a daycare for the first time can be a whirlwind of emotions. Can you handle it? Or do you have a friend or a relative willing to watch your baby (whether you pay them or not), and how do you think you would feel about leaving the baby with them?
Can you handle missing out on 8 hours of your baby’s life every day? This is the hardest part of going back to work. You can feel like you’re missing so much of your little one’s life.
Once your baby is sleeping through the night, you only have so much time with her while she’s awake.
Toot can sleep 12 hours overnight. I only got 3-5 hours a day with her while she was awake on workdays. Sometimes I got more but it’s was about an hour in the morning and 2 to 4 hours when we got home before she went to bed.
Do you think you would be okay with spending the majority of the day away from your baby?
5. Can I compromise?
Maybe this isn’t an all or nothing decision. Find out if there’s a way to compromise between staying home or returning to work. Can you work part-time at your current position or get more flexible hours? A lot of companies are offering more flexible hours for working parents now. Ask your boss or HR representative if they might be able to offer some flexibility.
If not, can you work part-time somewhere else? Or can you get a job through a temporary service? Temp agencies are great for moms who want to work sometimes but not all the time. They may only need you for a couple days here and there or they may have jobs that go for a month every quarter.
Would it be better if your partner stayed home with the baby? If you make more money or have a more invested career, it might make more sense for your partner to stay home. I would have a lot fewer reservations about working full time if my husband were to stay home with Toot, but he still makes more than me so that wouldn’t work for us. It may work for your family, though.
Can you work from home? There are lots of ways you can work from home. Talk to your boss or HR representative to find out if your job (or another position in your company) can be done remotely.
You could get also get into another line of work where you set your own hours like direct sales or running a blog.
You will need to take into consideration that you can’t really work when the baby is awake. The baby will require your full attention, and you can’t effectively work while taking care of a child.
I started my blog and after about 18 months I was able to quit my job because I was making enough money that I didn’t need to work anymore. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m free to do my own thing and spend more time with my littlest love. You can start a blog too!
Overwhelmed with questions?
Don’t worry. You’ve got plenty of time to decide. And your decision may change. I changed my mind when Toot was 2-years-old.
You don’t have to decide while you’re on maternity leave. You can go back to work and then decide to quit anytime.
If you’ve been staying home but want to go back to work, it’s never too late. This is a hard decision to make, but if you weigh all of your options, you’ll be able to figure out what’s best for you and your family.
What is or was the deciding factor to stay home or go back to work for you?
Let me know in the comments below!
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