Just when you thought the decision to start a family was hard, now you're thinking about making the change from working mom to stay-at-home mom. Before you box up those picture frames and potted plants on your desk, consider these five factors to see if life as a stay-at-home mom will work for your family.
1. Your Money
Evaluate your finances before you get your heart set on giving up your job to stay home with the kids.
Sit down with your spouse and go over everything from how much you're paying for someone to watch your children while you work to how much you spend on gas, eating lunch out and buying clothes for your job.
Compare those numbers with what you earn to see if you'll be barely scraping by or if you'll be able to save some money along the way. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that what you thought you were bringing home was actually going straight to childcare and your daily commute.
2. Your Feelings
Forget what your mother-in-law thinks. Ignore comments from other parents about how a good mom stays at home.
How do you feel about being a stay-at-home mom? You don't need guilt or bullying to push you into becoming a SAHM. You need to experience the personal satisfaction that your decision is best for your family.
You should want to be a stay-at-home mom before you take the leap into this always rewarding, sometimes stressful life as your children's full-time cook, maid, chauffeur, playmate and nap warden.
But being a SAHM isn't for everyone so you should never feel obligated.
Millions of children with working parents have grown into successful, loving adults. The same goes for children with a parent staying home with them.
3. Your Spouse's Feelings
Life will change for the both of you almost as much as when you brought home your firstborn.
When you and your spouse work, you're more likely to split chores and errands. As a SAHM, those daily responsibilities make a major shift toward your side of the to-do list.
You have to be a team. Even though you've spent the past 10 hours cooking, cleaning and raising your children, it doesn't mean your spouse is going to walk in the door and take over your shift. It doesn't mean he shouldn't help out anymore just because you've been home all day either.
It's a give and take situation. On the one hand, your spouse must understand you've been working all day too. On the other, it's important to realize you're not off the clock just because the other parent is home from a long day at the office.
It's much easier to talk about each other's roles while you're deciding to become a stay-at-home mom rather than after you're already home with the kids. You're both getting a new job - yours as a full-time SAHM and his as the sole provider.
Make a plan together beforehand so you'll know what to expect. This will eliminate a lot of frustration that can easily enter into your relationship as you both adjust to the changes in lifestyle.
4. Your Healthcare
Whose insurance is your family using? Your company may offer better rates and better coverage than your spouse's so it wasn't an issue when you weren't thinking about becoming a SAHM.
If you leave your job, you won't have that choice. Put the policy from your company next to the policy from your spouse's to see what exactly will change if you do move your insurance.
You also want to make sure all of your family's doctors accept your spouse's insurance if you switch plans. Look at costs for deductibles, trips to the emergency room, doctor's visits and prescription drugs.
Have your spouse ask co-workers about their experience with the coverage as well. Have they run into insurance problems in an emergency? Has the insurance paid the claim in a timely manner? Arm yourself with as much information as you can to ensure your family is protected when, not if, you have to dash off to the hospital for broken bones and stitches.
5. Your Future Work Plans
As your kids grow, will you start longing for the days to put on a suit and sit in an office again? Having a gap in your résumé while you're not working could be a turnoff to potential employers who don't value the sacrifices a stay-at-home mom makes for her family.
You can always volunteer, pick up a part-time job or work from home to keep your résumé fresh. If that's not a possibility, just be persistent in your job search when you're ready to return to work. With more highly trained and educated people leaving the workforce to raise their families these days, employers won't be able to ignore the assets a SAHM has to offer.
Even if you feel confident today about whichever decision you make, there will be days doubt creeps in. Just know that your decision doesn't have to be permanent. You can always go back to work or you can leave your job later if now's not the right time.