How to Decide Whether to Be a Stay at Home Mom or Working Mom

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My wife and I are expecting our first child, which means we have a thousand and one things to do before our little one arrives. One of the things we can check off the list is deciding whether or not my wife would continue working after we have our child or if she would be…

My wife and I are expecting our first child, which means we have a thousand and one things to do before our little one arrives. One of the things we can check off the list is deciding whether or not my wife would continue working after we have our child or if she would be a stay at home mom. I’ll save the suspense – we have decided it is in our best interest for my wife to be a stay at home mom and raise our child at home.

Should you be a stay t home mom, or working mom?
Can you afford to be a stay at home mom?

The decision for us was fairly easy – we had been preparing for it since we got married 2½ years ago. Shortly after our wedding we began preparing to have one parent stay at home. We paid off all our debt and started living on less income than we earned. Shortly after paying off all our debt, my wife took a job that paid less, but offered a better quality of living. We decided at that time to live on my salary and split her salary between saving for retirement and building a nest egg. Here is a quick way to make up to $250 free money to save away just by opening up a Chase Bank Checking Account. You have to start saving somewhere, here is a good start!

But the decision isn’t always an easy decision for everyone to make, and there are many factors that come into play. Here are a few things to consider:

Should you be a stay at home mom, or a working mom?

Can you afford it? This is the first and most obvious factor many people consider. Giving up a salary is hard to do, especially in a difficult economy. But you might not be giving up as much money as you would think. After you take into consideration the costs of daycare (anywhere from $4,000 – $15,000 per year), taxes, commuting, professional wardrobe, eating out, and other work related expenses, your take home pay may be less than a third of your actual salary. If you can afford to give up that amount of income, you may decide it is not worth the headache of juggling the stresses of work and raising a family.

Do you want someone else raising your children? This was the deciding factor for us. My wife and I prefer to raise our children instead of shipping them off to day care for the first few years of life (we do not have any family close enough to help out). Your situation may differ if you have a relative who can watch over your children while you work either full or part time. But we want to cherish the time we have when they are young.

Will being a stay at home mom hurt your career? This is an important question to ask. Taking a several year hiatus from the work force can set your career back if/when you decide to return to the work force. But that doesn’t mean you can’t remain active and work on your skills while you are a stay at home mom. You can work as a freelance writer, remain active in professional organizations, obtain professional licenses or certifications, teach online courses, teach evenings at a local community college or university, go back to school, start a small business, etc. There are many other proactive things you can do to lessen the affect of being out of the traditional work force for several years. You may even decide to use this as the launching point for a new career.

Should you stay at home, or return to work?

You will probably get an opinion on this from just about everyone, but this is a decision that should be made by you and your spouse. For my wife and I, the decision was easy. But I know it is a difficult decision for many people.

I would love to hear your thoughts on being a stay at home mom, or returning to the work force after having children.



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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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  1. momof3 says

    you know, it would probably be really good if you started lecturing people (really, that’s what you’re doing, with the language you use in the post and your comments) AFTER you’ve walked the walk.
    I’m a mom of 3 and I’m not even going to bother telling you which ‘side’ I’m on in my life since that’s besides the point here. This decision isn’t one you make once and for all. There is likely a constant rebalancing, shifting of needs, schedules, financial considerations, siblings being born, etc, going on. Once you’ve done that for a while, I’ll be happy to listen to your perspective on things.

  2. baby4ontheway says

    This has been a very difficult decison for me as I have always worked and feel as though I am contributing more with my income. However we are expecting our 4th child soon and daycare is going to double in cost. plus my husband travels sometimes for months at a time so both of us are away from home alot as I work 60 hours a week at times. The hardest part for me in all this worrying we won’t be able to budget adeqjetly to make up for my lost income. I know having the kids at home would be amazing I am just scared of all the what ifs.

    • jessica says

      For our family deciding for me to stay home was something we had to prayerfully consider. There are a lot of things you can do to help make the budget possible if it is something you are truly considering. I know for our family we started by cashing out my 401K to pay off our minivan, not having that large monthly payment was one of the only ways we were going to be able to make it! Then I started doing little things here and there to save us money, like couponing, I generally save $30-40 on average, I know that many people save more but I am still learning. I also cook from scratch way more then I ever did, and buying in bulk helps a lot! I have also started making my own laundry soap! Its so easy and works just as well as the name brand stuff! (I used to be a tide snob) the ingredients to get started are around $10 and that should be enough a family of 5 or 6 to last all year. Lastly, things like shopping at goodwill, and buying things from craigslist can help too. We can’t afford cable anymore but we do have Netflix so we can still have family movie nights. I wish you well on your journey no matter what you choose 🙂

  3. rosie says

    I have enjoyed reading the various opinions on this issue. I have been married 33 years with eight kids ages 9 to 32. During the 80s, I loved being a SAHM and even ran a home daycare on base to make extra money while my husband served in the army. In 1990, at the beginning of the gulf war, I panicked, visualizing myself becoming a widow with 5 kids and nothing to fall back on. So I made a deal with my husband that if he left the military (after 10 years of service), I would go to school and learn a trade. So he got out in August, and in September, I started my first semester at community college while he worked as a fast-food restaurant shift manager. I still considered myself a SAHM since I only went to school part-time. It took me 7 years to get my Nursing degree and another 3 years to earn a Master’s. During this time, I also had 3 more kids. Though the lucrative salary of a full time RN seemed attractive, I valued being home with my kids and only worked weekends and a few evenings while my husband was home to watch the kids.
    Then the unthinkable happened when my husband had a heart attack at age 40. He did recover, but I knew that keeping the burden of supporting such a large family on his shoulders while I had earning potential was not right for me. So when a full time position opened up, I took it. Mind you, I chose a job that paid less money, but was 10 minutes from home and my children’s schools. As a nurse manager in an administrative office, I had flexibility to take “long lunches” or get to work early or late to meet the needs of my children. Entering the workforce also gave me the advantage of networking, so when my company started hiring maintenance people, my husband was able to apply and got a job. We have worked in the same building on different shifts for the last 12 years! He loves his very non-stressful job. Because of his health, he does call in sick a lot and his paycheck gets docked, but it’s no problem because my income is steady. I have good retirement and health benefits and also take advantage of the healthcare savings plan to cover the extra cost of his medications.
    I would have loved to remain a SAHM and I often feel sad that my 16 and 9 year-old sons did not have me at home as much as the other 6 kids did. But in the long-run, I thank God that he allowed me to pursue a career that could help me to take care of my family when it was needed.

  4. Mindy F. says

    I am a stay at home mother/wife. i have a choice i know i do, but i love being an at home mother i get to see my kids grow up and spend as much time as i want with the. Now my husband works and only bring home 500 $ a week, making a total of 2000 $ a month. It is still very hard for us to make it through the month with car payments, rent. utilities and most often Groceries. we struggle more now than we ever have. My husband use to work as a buyer for his brothers lot and was bring in almost 7 thousand a month..but one thing we learned was never mix family with business if you have different ideas and goals than your partner, this can put a strain on the family if not careful. so we lost our house and every bit of belongings we owned. we now live in a VERY..small 1 bedroom apartment with three kids and trying to pay off bills to make it into a real house. i offered to go back to work at the general store. my husband believes that we tried daycare and that had a very bad result to the end and we never put our children back in the care of others outside of the family.
    I am currently looking for work online as i have been for the last 7 years, but have had little luck. i will continue to look as i go. The stay at home mother/wife lifestyle is almost every womans dream, not every but almost every. Financially with this economy we are having a bit of a struggle. but we make sure our children have everything they need before we take care of our selves.

  5. Anto C says

    My mom decided to set up her own business in order to bring up my two young brothers and stay at home. She experienced to having working and being far from me and my elder brother when we were children. She was (and is) upset for not having the chance of bringing us up. She felt very guilty because of that, so she wants to keep on working and at the same time to be with my other young brothers. It is really difficult as well, but she feels comfortable and safe to have their children close to.
    Saludos desde Argentina 😀

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