One of the things I remember from prenatal class was when the teacher said: “You cannot do everything, well.” I have also heard it said: “Women can do it all. Just not all at the same time.”
And boy, have I ever found these to be true in my life.
After having my first child, I really tried to cover all the bases on my own steam. I tried to keep up a successful and current career, keep a clean house, cook all our meals, and spend tons of time with my child. All by myself.
But I couldn’t. It tumbled down pretty quick.
I really loved my job. But, I felt bitter about it when I came home to a dirty disaster of a house, and had to scramble for meals for the family to eat. I also began to feel disconnected from my child, and worried that if I continued on that path, I would miss out on the precious years of him being little. Years that I would never be able to get back.
I remember, coming to a crossroads. The term position I had was ending, but I had been offered another one. It was the sort of job that I would have never dreamed of having. It really fed the part of me that craved significance, value, purpose, creativity, and excitement.
But, I was starting to realize that while I worked at a job, there was another full-time job at home and with my kids being left undone. If I were to continue working outside the home, someone needed to help with all the other stuff. I sat down at the kitchen table and crunched the numbers. I knew that I would need to pay for housecleaning, and childcare, if I were to take the job. However, if I stayed with a smaller 1-day-per-week contract, I would be able to do my own housecleaning, and my son would only need daycare one day per week.
It may not surprise you, that both options were about equal from a financial standpoint. So, I chose to stay home and keep a side-hustle that wouldn’t use too much time or energy. I wanted to spend my days with my kids while they were little, rather than apart, if I had a choice.
The decision of whether to stay home or not is a pretty big deal. (And let us remember that to even have the option of staying home is a privileged position.) But since it can be such a difficult decision to make, today I am sharing the things that I considered at the kitchen table that day. If you are in the same situation right now, I hope the following thoughts will help you.
- Can your family afford to live on one income? Are there things about your life that you will have to change? Are you all willing to make those changes? (We eventually ended up selling our house and moving.)
- What will you need help with if you go to work? (Housecleaning, childcare, cooking, driving or dropping off children, yard work, etc.) Who will help you? Will you have to pay them? What will this cost?
- What do you expect to make from your job? What is left over after paying for the additional expenses you will incur by working? (Paid housecleaners, childcare, fuel and vehicle expenses, clothing, memberships, other work expenses, etc.)
- Quality of life:
- What will your child or children experience while you are away at work? Will the childcare situation be beneficial and stimulating for them, or stressful and exhausting?
- How will you keep up relationships with the people that matter? (Husband, children, other family members, friends, etc.) Will you have enough time and energy to spend on them?
- What do you and your family need or want in terms of – household cleanliness, meals, vacations, extra curricular activities, etc.? How will you best achieve this?
- What will your own schedule look like, realistically? Will you thrive on this schedule, or will you be exhausted?
- Is your job a valuable outlet that you will miss? (For creativity, socializing/networking, academic stimulation, energy, etc.) How will you fill this void if you decide to stay home?
- Professional development:
- Would having a job right now help you advance professionally? How?
- Would staying at home cost you, professionally? How? (Loss of: learning, promotion, status, income, etc.) Would you be able to recover from this loss? Are you willing to make these sacrifices?
- Is there a way that you could keep your career going on a part-time basis? (Reducing your role at work, working from home, starting a small side business, etc.)
While I took all of the above considerations into account, I do remember a pivotal moment when my decision was made, before I even acknowledged it consciously. After explaining my position to a wiser, older woman whom I trusted (but who was not personally invested in the situation), she did something very bold. She told me what she thought! She said:
“Usually, it’s better for the children if the mother stays home.”
And I just couldn’t argue with that. How could it not be better during those pivotal years, for my kids to have time at home with the one woman who loves them the most in all the world?
I understand that every family is in a different position. There are families where fathers are able to spread themselves out more between work and kids, and then the wife does the same. There are families who just can’t afford to live on one income, and if it’s a matter of eating or not eating, they do what they have to do. There are families with grandparents who are able and willing to watch the kids for a few hours a day. There are families who thrive on a lot more activity and stimulation than my family and I can manage.
Whatever your situation, there will be benefits and drawbacks. I’ve seen kids thriving at home, and at daycares. I’ve also seen the opposite…at home, and at daycares. If you pay attention to how your kids are doing, make the best choices that you can within the options available to you, and ask for help when you need it: they will thrive.
Is this a decision you have made or are making? Where’re you at? How’s it going for you? Tell me about it in the comments section.