In the never-ending mommy wars, the discussion of whether a mom should stay at home or work is constantly at the forefront. There's no right answer to the question of whether you should become a stay-at-home mom. To figure out if it's right for you, weigh the pros and cons— including potential financial concerns, as well as your own personal goals—before tendering your resignation letter.
Before Danielle Ness Kramer of Severn, Maryland, became a stay-at-home mom, she wasn't sure if she was truly cut out for the job. After a career managing project finances and schedule in the government contracting world, "I didn't know if I had the patience or motivation to keep everyone on track and entertained," she says. But when her contract position was up, she made the move to staying at home with her two youngsters, and she hasn't had a moment of regret. Some of the perks of staying at home include being present all the "firsts"—crawling, walking and talking—when little ones are babies, as well as seeing them off on the bus and being present for school functions as they get older. Leaving your job to stay at home can also reduce stress, not only by lifting the burden of actual work responsibilities off your shoulders, but also taking away an aggravating commute and giving you more time to keep your family life running smoothly.
Perks of Working
Being a stay-at-home mom isn't the right path for everyone. Beyond the obvious perks of an extra income, some women are simply the type to want to work, even after childbirth. "I love my job and find a lot of enrichment from working," says Charlene Smith, a senior software consultant in Delta, Pennsylvania. "I like the day-to-day challenges it poses, and I also feel like I accomplish something every day." Kramer acknowledges that she's missing something staying at home: a built-in community that working provides. "When I was working full time, I built relationships with my co-workers and had daily adult interactions," she says. "Staying at home, and living in a new area, I've found it harder to make connections." For some women, there's also a concern that, if you take time off to be a stay-at-home mom, you won't be able to catch up or even get a job when you're ready to return to the work world.
Figuring Out Finances
One of the biggest considerations for stay-at-home moms is finances. Heidi Pippin, a stay-at-home mom in Westminster, Maryland, said that when she first broached the idea of leaving her job, she was worried about how her family would make it work financially. However, she says, they did a test run—and it was easier to stay on budget than she expected. The family had to cut out a lot of extras, "And there was definitely an adjustment period," she says. Keep in mind, though, that you'll have the bonus of not having to pay for very pricey child care, as well as work-related expenses, such as gas for commuting, lunches out and business clothing. Before you tender your resignation, sit down with your spouse and crunch the numbers to see if giving up one income is realistic. "Now, I couldn't even tell you what we had to cut because it feels like a million years ago," Pippin says.
For some women, knowing whether they should stay home is a gut feeling. For others, researching the pros and cons can help. If you're considering putting your child into daycare instead of staying at home, that could be good for him. A U.S. National Institutes of Health study published in 2010 in "Child Development" determined that kids who are in high-quality daycares at a young age scored a little bit higher on academic and cognitive tests at teenagers. However, there were also drawbacks—the same kids tended to be more impulsive and prone to risk-taking.