Q: Lately, I’ve been thinking about leaving my job to stay home with my son. One of my closest colleagues is about to have her last day in the office because she’s leaving to stay at home with her daughter. We’re just not quite there financially for me to make this move, and I’m not sure how I’ll feel not having the stimulus of work when I’m a full-time stay-at-home mom. What can I take do to gain more clarity on whether or not leaving my job to stay home is right for me?
This is a question most working mothers ask themselves at some point. And I’ve found it’s common for women to bump up against a wide range of opinions from many well-intentioned people as to the “right” choice. My view is that this decision is a very personal one. The decision to give up work and be a full-time stay-at-home mom is neither right nor wrong; it’s about making a choice that works for you and your family.
Give voice to your heartfelt desires.
What do you want? I encourage you to get in touch with your needs and wants to determine what works for you and your family. For many people—women in particular—they often allow their decisions to be biased toward what other people or society thinks they should want, getting caught up in the need for external approval. This influences their decisions in the short-term and often leads to resentment down the track.
There’s a great book written by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay called Womenomics. Claire and Katty, both working mothers, share their challenges of balancing life, work and being a mother, as well as addressing many of the multi-layered questions which often come up in making life work for you. There’s a good “gut check” guide on page 53, which may help getting in touch with what you really want. I recommend reading this book for further insights.
Look into working reduced hours.
Many companies are allowing their staff to work shorter work weeks for a reduced salary and offer job-share programs. With this in mind, another way of leaning into being a stay-at-home mom is to reduce the hours/days you work each week. For many, this is the best of both worlds: you maintain the financial security of a steady income coming through each week along with the stimulus of your job, but you free up days and get to spend more time at home with your son.
One woman I know decided to resign from her job to be a stay-at-home mom. However, the company considered her such a valuable employee, they offered her to come back as a consultant. It works perfectly for her, giving her the right balance of work and spending time with her children.
Test out full-time stay-at-home mom with a sabbatical.
It can be a little scary to consider walking away from your job to stay at home, particularly if you’ve never done it before. Some companies have a sabbatical program that allows employees to take up to three months leave from their job without pay—there’s usually a criteria of number of years worked at the company before you’re eligible. However, if your company has such a program, this could be a good way of trialing life as a stay-at-home mom before leaving your job for good.
Get a clear picture of your finances.
Before considering giving up your job, I would spend time getting a very clear picture of your current finances. This not only includes your current monthly financial commitments and spending, like day to day bills, mortgage and car repayments, but also any future financial commitments, like school-related expenses for your child. Look at the areas you can reduce your spending if needed. Is there still room for savings each month? Without a regular income coming in, do you have a financial buffer in case an emergency crops up?
Put as much detail in your budget as you can, including a financial buffer for emergencies and monthly savings. Having a clear financial plan can help make the transition easier to stay-at-home mom.
Some mothers/parents fear isolation.
Some of the women I speak with fear isolation when thinking about giving up work to stay home full-time. To ease some of this fear, consider researching local mothers/parents groups ahead of time. Take a vacation day and arrange to take your child along and spend time with the other parents. The rewards of going to the office each day can also include the social interactions with colleagues. So, if you know you can replicate this social interaction before making the decision to leave, then it can help you gain clarity with your decision.
Do you plan on returning to the workforce?
If you plan on returning to your career at some point, think through the steps you’d need to take in order to return to work. Once you’ve been out for a couple of years, you may need to re-qualify for certain licenses or associations and you may need to do further training to get back up to speed. For this reason, you may conclude it’s better to work part-time than leave the workforce altogether. Or you may decide you’re done with your current career and go down a completely different path once your children are grown. Again, it’s your choice. But it’s worth considering what you would like to do once your son is older.
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