I never really thought about this question until last week, when I got laid off.
Could I be a stay-at-home mom? Well, yes I could do anything I put my mind to. But the question carries more weight than that.
It really means:
- Can I afford to be a stay-at-home mom? and
- Do I want to be a stay-at-home mom?
The short answer to both questions is not really.
Now the long answers
1. Can I afford to be a stay-at-home mom?
I found this nifty Stay at Home Calculator at parents.com. It looks at your income and expenses and basically tells you if you can afford to quit your job to become a full-time mommy.
According to the calculator, I cannot afford to be a stay-at-home mom. In fact, it would leave us with -$7000 each year. And I definitely under-budgeted savings, vacations, unexpected expenses, and gifts.
But what if we drastically reduced our expenses? If we cut out the following, I could stay at home with baby:
- Cable. I already got our bill reduced by 35% each month when I told our company I was laid off.
- Phones. We have a land line specifically for my job. After my last day of work, I'm canceling it. We could also cancel our data plans on our cell phones.
- Student loans. Our biggest expense, how I loathe thee. I'm guessing we could get the monthly payment reduced, but it would end up costing us more in interest in the long run.
- Food. We don't stick to a grocery budget well at all. I'm excited for the challenge though!
- Entertainment expenses (dining out and other fun activities). We only eat out 1-2 times per week, but we're willing to cut back more. We don't go to the movies or sporting events that often, so there's not much space to cut back.
- Car payment. We could become a one car family. But my husband works 25 minutes from home and is gone 11 hours a day. It would not be very practical- or smart or healthy- for me to sit in the house all day with a baby.
- Races. Races are expensive so they'd have to go
- Vacations and traveling. Vacations are pricey so they'll have to be cut out as well. And no traveling means no visiting my family in NJ.
- Medical malpractice insurance. No one would dare sue my darling husband, right? So we'll just forget about insurance. Kidding.
- Saving money. Who cares about retirement? My husband stands on his feet for 55 hours a week. Totally easy. He can do it until he's 80. And our child doesn't need to go to college. Over-rated. Kidding again.
The truth is, I'm not willing to cut out a lot of these expenses. No races or vacations? Heck no. I learned a long time ago that happiness is more important than money. You never know how much time you have with your loved ones, so you need to enjoy them while you can.
And forgetting about savings? I'm no fool.
This lesson made it clear that I have to work. But, it also showed me I may not necessarily need a full-time job. Working part-time may be enough if we cut some expenses and make money-saving choices (like breast-feeding and cloth diapering which we planned to do anyway).
2. Do I want to be a stay-at-home mom?
Call me crazy, but even if we didn't have to worry about money, I'd still want to work… part-time.
My job isn't just a job, it's a passion. I love public health. I love helping people make healthy behavior modifications, and giving them accurate information to facilitate those changes. But I also know, I'd love to stay home with my children.
The conclusion (…if you made it this far)
I'm still looking for a full-time job, but finding one that will let me take a maternity leave is highly unlikely. In my perfect world, I'll land a steady freelance medical writing gig and it will be enough to help us get by until after baby is born.
I always assumed I'd continue to work full-time once I had kids. But I had reservations about going back to work after baby even before I knew about the layoff. How can you have the career you want and raise your children the way you want? It sucks that a lot of women have to grapple with this decision. Proving yet again that we are the stronger sex