It’s a question that’s as old as the chicken and the egg: should I work or stay home after I have kids? Well, maybe not quite that old, since for centuries it was assumed that women would stay home to raise their family.
But in today’s world, not only is it not expected or assumed that women will stay home once they have children, it is actually the heart cry of many women who feel they cannot afford not to work.
I perhaps, came at the decision a little backwards. As one who was told I would never be able to conceive or have a healthy pregnancy, I never assumed I would have children, much less stay at home to raise them.
Even once I did get pregnant, by the grace of God, I always assumed I would be back to work as soon as humanly possible. After all, that was where I received praise, adoration, and affirmation-something I knew would not be forthcoming from a newborn.
Let’s face it, when we work in a field that aligns with our gifts and we are able to flex our mental muscles, we feel good about ourselves. There is typically an assigned task and clear expectations that result in praise, or at least payment, when completed effectively.
Again, none of this is true for parenting.
And yet, when I held that baby girl in my arms for the first time, I immediately wondered how I would ever leave her side, even if only for a few hours at a time.
Luckily at the time, while working in higher education, my boss was very understanding and allowed me to be flexible with my hours, even coming into work in the early hours before anyone got there or even on weekends, as long as I proved that I got my work done. But before long, we realize that my husband and I were operating like two ships passing in the night, sometimes with me being gone from 6 AM to 2 PM and then him leaving immediately when I would get home and working from 2:30 to 10:30.
It was simply not sustainable.
It was ironic that we finally had the family we always dreamed of and yet never got to spend any time together, much less quality time. The sleeplessness, grumpiness, and overall confusion at having been married only a year with a newborn, and it was a recipe for disaster.
As much as I felt called to work, I also recognized I was called to be a wife and a mother, and I was determined to figure out how to make those calling successfully coexist.
On paper, I had no idea how our little family would survive without my income, but upon further reflection, I realized I wasn’t looking at the whole picture clearly.
When I factored in what we were paying to have a second car, insurance, childcare, work outfits, gas and the like, I realized I was paying out almost as much as I was earning. Yet I was still hesitant to make the leap.
It wasn’t until I became pregnant with my second child just a few months later that I realized a change was imminent.
Ironically, the decision was made for us when we thought we were going to move states before our son was born. I gave notice at the University in advance of our move, but then the sale of our home fell through. We had two kids under two and were all of a sudden forced to live on my husband’s Starbucks salary alone.
It felt like one of the scariest times of our lives, but looking back, it was actually one of the sweetest.
Because I wasn’t working, we sold our second car. Where we lived, I was actually within a 1-mile walk of the grocery store, bank, Walmart, bookstore, and even my husband’s Starbucks. In a pinch, I could walk there to get the car if I had to take the kids to the pediatrician or meet someone for a playdate. Almost every morning, I would pull out the double stroller, and join two other friends on our street who were in similar life stages. We would walk to Publix to get a balloon and free cookie for our kids or to the bookstore for story time.
Sure, I could only get enough groceries as would fit in the bottom basket of my double stroller, but it kept us active, on the move, and focusing on only what we needed.
Did we have a lot? No. But we had what we needed. And more importantly, I was home for the major milestones of my kids’ youth.
Ironically, just the other day I was lamenting how they don’t remember all the Bible verses I taught them or the songs I made up to teach them new concepts, but I laid a foundation that paved the way for what they know and who they are today.
I also had to cut myself some slack because even though they don’t remember some of my “hall of fame” parenting moments, they also don’t remember some of my worst parenting fails. It is truly the grace and sovereignty of God to create such resiliency in our kids.
So if you’ve been dreaming of staying home with your kids, believe me when I say, it is possible. Here are some practical questions to ask.
3 Questions to Ask When Considering to Work or Stay Home with Kids
1. Are all debts paid off?
Or perhaps the better question is, “Can I pay off my debt if I stay at home with my kids?” Erin Odom, popular blogger and author of You Can Stay Home with Your Kids, promises that “you’ll feel so much freedom when the noose of unpaid loans, credit cards, medical bills and more is loosened, and you are able to pour one hundred percent of your income into your family’s current and future needs”. Once debts are paid off, you can use that money towards other goals, like staying home with your kids.
2. Can you curb your spending?
In our social media society, it can be easy to covet what others have and get jealous easily (heck, that’s easy even without social media!). Odom encourages us to unburden ourselves of the stress that comes with leaning towards excess and instead practice the freedom that comes from living within your means. If you don’t foresee yourself being able to curb your current spending habits, perhaps staying at home is not the right move for you right now.
3. Can you create more income?
Regardless of whether you are already a stay-at-home mom who can barely afford it or if you’re currently working and know your family cannot survive without your income, start looking for ways to create additional income (Erin offers great tips for how to create income from home in her book). This alone can help make your dream of staying home with your kids a reality, or at least help alleviate the stress of simply living on your husband’s income.
So, are you ready to take the steps to stay at home with your kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts below. And don’t forget, you can preorder Erin Odom’s newest book, You Can Stay Home With Your Kids, right now!
Is it your dream to stay home with your kids? Or have you already made the move? How did you make it happen?