I love being a stay-at-home mom. It’s definitely not easy. It’s exhausting, messy, maddening, solitary (and did I say exhausting?). It’s really and truly the most taxing and tiring job I’ve ever done. I am completely wiped out by the time my kid is in bed.
But despite this, I love it.
Many people see this as a luxury–being with my child all day. I realize that in many ways, it is. But what’s implied in this idea of “luxury” is that it’s not an option for the majority of people. I’d like to make the case that it could be.
[I should preface this by saying that I don’t presume to know everyone’s circumstances. I realize that for many people, for a variety of reasons, having one parent at home really, truly isn’t an option. I don’t want to diminish that. Neither am I interested in judging the merits of being a stay-at-home parents vs. being a working parent. The fact is, I wanted to be home with my kid, my husband wanted me to be home, and we think this is a valuable thing so that’s why we do it. I’m not judging you for going to work.]
All of that aside, I have heard many new moms express some amount of devastation at the idea of going back to work, and I want to tell them that it might just be possible to be at home, if they really want it.
Here are my suggestions for how to make it happen:
1. Talk frankly with your partner (an obvious but important step.) Both partners need a clear understanding of the expectations to mitigate the possibility of resentment later on. Is this a priority for both parents, or just one? Is the at-home parent going to be responsible for most of the housework, too? It’s inevitable that at some times, each parent is going to feel like the other has it “better.” But agreement and understanding are like the life jacket that keep you from sinking in that occasional flood of resentment.
2. Prioritize and embrace the idea that you might not be able to have it all, all at once. (This is the big one.) You will need to make some choices.
Most of us get married, get a job, and begin to build a two-income life. Therefore, when it comes time to have kids, living on one income seems pretty much impossible financially.
There’s no question that living off of one income is tough. But when you prioritize and make value judgements about your life, things that seemed essential become less-so. We really, really wanted a new car. Our car is shit. It’s tiny. It’s ten years old. It has no air-conditioning! But it’s paid for and it runs. It’s really OK. When it comes to a decision between new stuff and being with my kid, the sacrifice isn’t so bad.
The other side of prioritizing is that the at-home parent might have to put off other career aspirations for a while. This can be terrifying, especially if you’ve begun a career that you will have to leave. You likely won’t be able to walk back into your old role. You might have to go back to school to refresh your skills, or you might end up making a career switch all together. Focus on the big picture, and accept the idea that some of your dreams and plans will have to be shelved until later.
3. And then (unless you’re extremely lucky,) downsize. You might have to take drastic steps, like selling your home or moving to a lower-cost-of-living area, selling off a car or getting a more affordable one (and if you aren’t willing to do this, that’s ok–you’re back at #2, making a decision about what’s important to you). Whatever your solutions, going from 2 incomes to 1 will be a big adjustment. But so is having a kid; this might be the best time to make big changes in your lifestyle, because big changes are going to happen anyway.
This might sound extreme (sell your house?!). But this is what I’m talking about, and why it’s step #2 that’s really the crux of it. What’s the priority? It’s for you to decide. Implementing a plan is secondary to making that decision. While I say it easily, I don’t say it lightly. We are living with great sacrifices (see my housing woes, which would be different if I was working) so that I can be at home. But I don’t feel like I’m living a poor life, at all.
4. Consider additional ways to make money. Most stay-at-home parents I know have income coming in from some source. I watch another baby 3 days/week. A lot of “stay-at-home” parents work part-time on off-hours. Many do direct-sales programs like Arbonne or Steeped Tea. If you have a skill you can do freelance, consider trying to build up some of that work to a manageable level. Swap kids with other at-home parents to give yourself some more work time. Get creative–there are many small ways ways to make some money to contribute to the budget, the mortgage, or the savings. It probably won’t come close to touching your potential salary if you were working full-time, but every little bit helps!
5. Stop worrying. I have often found that scenarios which seemed utterly impossible quickly become the norm. We are so remarkably adaptable. So when you’ve made this decision and taken the steps to make it work, embrace and enjoy it. Have faith that things work out the way they do.
Do/did you stay at home with your child(ren)? Do you wish you did?