Do you stay or do you go? No, not the popular ’80’s song by The Clash, but as a new mom, do you return to work or do you stay at home? This question is not so easy to answer as it has many implications. If a woman chooses to return to work, she may be missing out on valuable time with her young children, on the other hand, if she decides to be a stay at home mom it may put a great strain on their finances.
With today’s busy families, working parents often face a constant juggling act of professional commitments and personal family time. Below are a few factors to consider when weighing such an important decision:
- Breadwinner: Who is making the most financial impact in the relationship? If the mother’s salary is the higher of the two-parent incomes, then a very frank discussion should be started. According to the Childcare Aware 2013 Report – Parents and the High Cost of Childcare with the exception of the western part of the nation, childcare is the number one household expense (only housing costs exceeded childcare in the western states). In some parts of the country the cost of sending your infant to a qualified daycare center can cost as much as a year’s tuition in a public university. This puts a huge burden on those low income parents whose combined earning still keep them at the poverty level. If financially covering the cost of daycare will not send your finances into a tailspin then perhaps a qualified daycare center is a feasible option. Do your research and talk with other working parents. Make an appointment and spend some time at a reputable childcare facility to watch how the staff operates and how they deal with disruptive children or difficult bullying situations. The great debate on childcare and children is one that will not be solved for many years. There are far too many mitigating factors; socio-economic, personality of the child, quality of program, low teacher to student ratios and the like. Interestingly enough, a study about a mother’s level of education and the well-being of her children were highly determinate to their child’s overall success and achievements, not whether the children were in daycare or at home.
- Health Benefits: If the working mother’s job is the one that provide the family health benefits this can be a very important reason to continue employment. Children often pick up an assortment of virulent bugs and viruses or suffer numerous tumbles and spills, some of which can often lead to a frantic trip to the nearest emergency room. Medical bills can become costly and exorbitant, especially in the event that an infant may need any type of medical procedures. Health benefits that cover the entire family are incredibly essential in keeping your children and spouse healthy. Weigh the risks versus benefits.
- Career Opportunities: Depending on the mother’s field of work, it may require her to put in extra time in order to further her career. Employment advancement often takes years of hard work, extra hours and experience in order to accrue a certain status level in her woman’s professional field. Careers in law, teaching, medical or business are very time sensitive and only those who have a vast number of years and on-site experience will see the fruits of their labor pay off. Again a very precarious balancing act must be approached. If the working mother’s job requires a lot of travel, her husband must have a job that keeps him close to home. It can work, but it requires a huge amount of commitment and support from both parents.
- Maintaining a sense of self: This is difficult to address, as once a mother immerses herself in raising her brood; she may feel as though she has lost her own identity. Some mothers decide to return to the work force when their children reach a certain age, say elementary school in order to spend time with her own peer group and developing a life outside the home. If you decided to be a stay at home mom during those critical infant and toddler years and now wish to forge a new life, this may be a good opportunity to find a satisfying career and job.
- Stay at home mom: If you have weighed all the pros and cons and still believe that your children are much better off with a parent at home, then begin this new chapter of your life, but don’t forget to paint it with a broader and realistic picture. It may be tough at times financially, especially if the two combined incomes made for a comfortable lifestyle. You may need to revisit the family budget and look at ways to cut costs and pinch pennies wherever possible; perhaps selling your current home for something more affordable, keeping vacations closer to home and thwarting fancy dinners on the weekends. It can be done. And a well-organized mother plans ahead for the leaner times. Get connected with your community. Often times garage sales will have perfectly fine baby clothes and toys that are a snap to clean up and reclaim. Consider joining a mother’s (parenting) group. This is a great way to meet other stay at home moms and develop friendships for yourself and your children. Such a group may even have a babysitting co-op so that you and your spouse can still enjoy some adult time, without breaking the bank. If you are an at home mom look to the internet for some part-time job opportunities. Many parenting websites seek practical guides on parenting tips and ideas for children.
- Stick to a schedule: This is very important. Young children like routines, there is a means to an end and a comfort in a certain way things are done. If your routine requires that you are up at the crack of dawn to get the day started, maintain that schedule. Working mothers must be organized to have themselves and their children ready for the entire day. Plan outfits out the night before. Pack lunches or snacks and put them in the refrigerator so that grabbing stuff on the go is a breeze. If you are a stay at home mom, don’t let your schedule go. Keep that precious early morning alone time sacred. Get up as you would with your normal job and plan out your day, too. Perhaps a day at the park will be enough stimulation for a three-year-old and an infant. Bring lunches/snacks/blankets. Everything that will make the day that much more enjoyable. As a mom, you should look upon your employment years as good training for parenting. After all, you will need to be flexible, adaptive, patient and tenacious. These are great traits to keep in mind. At your previous employment, you may have had a difficult boss, apply those coping techniques you used when he screamed at you, the next time your toddler throws an adult-sized tantrum. Maybe a stubborn, hard-headed co-worker that made your day difficult at work can seem tame compared to your daughter’s refusal to wear a jacket in twenty degree weather. Remember the all-nighters you pulled on those last minute projects, barely scraping by to get your work together, the stress of getting the job completed. Now, you will know the true meaning of chronic fatigue as your one-year-old enters the wonderful world of teething.
At the end of the day, children are not so particular about who their parents are. They just want to feel safe, secure and well-loved. And with the ever-changing tides of life, it is often not unheard of to see a ‘stay at home dad’ these days. After all, a parent may still desire to be that primary caregiver, to tend to their children’s needs, regardless of which one stays home. Whether you decide to take the ‘stay at home’ route or choose to return to work, you can still be a loving devoted parent to your children.
The important part is that you were there for them, watched their soccer games, helped them learn to ride a bike and went to their many school events. Childhood is a fleeting time. Though it may seem like forever, especially with a cranky toddler and a newborn, truly you will be able to look back upon those days with a sense of pride and accomplishment.