Should You Quit Your Job To Stay Home With Your Baby?

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Sleeping BabyThis is a post by Connie Brooks, a new mommy in Louisville, KY.

Should you quit your job and stay at home with your baby? This is probably the biggest question new parents have to face once they find out their little one is on the way. The truth is, there’s no right or wrong answer to this question. It all depends on what is best for your family. If you quit your job and stay at home you are going to lose income. You have to weigh that against the benefit of having more time with your child.

Before you make that decision, it may help to weigh the pros and cons a bit, and take a logical look at things.

Can you afford to quit your job and stay at home with your baby?

Losing a large chunk of your monthly income isn’t easy for any family. You will have to make a lot of adjustments, not the least of which is trimming your budget. If you are home to take care of your baby, then you can breast feed without interruption (obviously if this is mom staying home and not dad!), you can cook regular meals instead of eating out, and you can spend less on clothing. All of those things save you money each month. You will also spend less on gas, and you will not have to pay for daycare services.

The only way to tell if you can really afford to quit your job and stay at home is to work out a detailed monthly budget. Factor in how much money you will lose, and how much you expect to save. Do not forget that you will have additional expenses once your baby arrives. You will have to pay for clothes every couple of months, formula if you use it, and more diapers than you will ever believe.

If you cannot make things add up, and you don’t see any way that you can quit your job and stay at home with your new baby, then you may want to look into working from home instead. You may not be able to bring in as much money as working your old job, but it may be enough to get you through.

Pay Down Your Debt First

If you have a large amount of revolving debt on your credit cards, or a hefty car payment or mortgage, make sure you factor those things in. If you were using the income from your regular job to pay off your debt, what is going to happen when you quit? You do not want to be forced to make late payments on anything, ever.

If you know you are in debt, and you are having a baby soon, please make paying down that debt and starting an emergency fund a priority. I say this because if you quit your job, and an emergency comes up, you will have no cushion. The best thing you can do for your family, and your new baby is to be in a strong position financially before you quit your job. What if your baby gets sick? What if you do? You have got to have enough money socked away to not run things down to the wire every month.

The Unexpected Parts of Staying At Home

Having a baby is overwhelming, in every sense of the word. It’s amazing, and there are no words to describe how wonderful it is, but it’s also very stressful. You new little one is going to sleep at most four hours at a time. The constant wake/eat/sleep cycle is enough to confuzzle even the most organized person.

You also have to remember that for nine months you have had various hormones blasting through your system, and after the baby comes those hormones go away. It’s not “in like a lion out like a lamb” either. It’s more like “In like a lion, out like a hurricane”. You can expect to be moody, possibly depressed, and certainly sleep deprived. There will be days where you are lucky to get a shower and eat regularly. It does pass, I promise! But the first few months will be hard. Whether you stay at home or go back to work, get your baby and your family on a schedule as quickly as possible. It will make either transition much more manageable.

Feeling Lonely?

Staying at home with your baby is wonderful, but you could find yourself feeling lonely. I am not a terribly social person, and I still found myself “attacking” my husband when he got home – just for a little conversation!

Make sure that you involve your support network as much as possible. Friends, relatives, in-laws, whoever wants to help, let them help. Especially if you go back to work. If you stay home, make sure you are getting enough social interaction. Loneliness, combined with post-partum depression is not fun, and it is avoidable.

The best advice I can give you about deciding whether or not to quit your job once your baby arrives is this:

Decide well in advance.

If you have nine months to work towards your goal of staying home, then you are going to be a lot more prepared. It is the hardest thing in the whole world to leave your baby somewhere and go off to work. If you know you have to work to provide for your family, or you want to work because you enjoy it – that’s ok! Just make sure that you make the necessary preparations in advance, and give yourself some breathing room. You may want to return to work, but not right away.

If you arrange all of the details before your baby arrives, then everything will go smoothly. You might be able to arrange with your boss to have an extra month off, or if you are staying home, it gives you that much more time to save and get ready.

If you are quitting your job for good, then give your employer as much notice as possible. There is no sense burning bridges! You may need to go back to that job some day, and the best thing you can do is to leave on good terms.

Whatever you decide, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Other women in particular have very strong feelings about this. Don’t let your mother, your mother in law, or your boss decide what is best for your family. Only you can do that. Just take the time to work through everything before you take the plunge – one way or another, if you plan it well enough everything will be fine.

(Photo: mackro)

{ 12 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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12 Responses to “Should You Quit Your Job To Stay Home With Your Baby?”

  1. Benjamin says:

    When my wife and I where running the numbers to determine the “financial implications” of her staying home with our newborn daughter, we where stunned at the marginal financial gain of her continuing to work.

    Considering taxes, child care, and other job related expenses, her $40,000 salary was only going to net us a little over $12,000 net gain!

    It just wasn’t worth it for us!

    • I just ran the numbers for my salary. I have a 3 1/2 year old and a baby due this summer. I have a 60K salary and after taxes, transportation (I ride the bus), daycare and workplace incidentals, I also would net only $12K per year!

      I started freelance writing in January 2009 and made $6k freelancing in 2009. Needless to say, I’m about 95% certain of my decision.

  2. Benjamin,

    It’s funny how much child care eats into a budget isn’t it? I am so glad that you and your wife worked through everything.

    Congratulation on your beautiful baby!

  3. Cameron says:

    I was thinking about this. It seems the best solution is for a parent to stay home that could have a job that works from home also. Like you Jim, I’m not sure how much time is taken up by your actual blog and I have no idea how constant attention is needed by a baby during ‘working’ hours, but it seems like if you had a part time job from home that would be the ideal situation for most families to keep two sources of income.

  4. Julie Ali says:

    I’ve stayed home for 14 years now and I have to admit it is a mixed experience.
    First of all, looking after kids is way different than completing job requirements (which are usually completed in short time frames unlike raising kids which tend to take forever). It is a different mindset and one that I, unfortunately did not learn until a few years ago. For the first decade, I treated raising kids sort of like my new job – with goals, predicted results and profit margins. Maybe some mums succeed in making motherhood a job at which they excel at but my two boys, after 13 years of training, have finally taught me that motherhood isn’t a job where they are products, that there isn’t any need to create superchildren and that really, I should just relax and enjoy them.

    Secondly, you do lose a lot financially and career wise when you stay at home. I was earning a decent wage as a medical laboratory technologist before I stayed at home. Now I’m doing grunt jobs for half the wages or even less. It’s hard to reconfigure your ego around this drop in returns for extended educational investments made in your twenties and even thirties. You pretty much have to retrain if you want to return to the workforce and not be stuck in the grunt job ghetto.

    Thirdly, if you aren’t a naturally patient person, if you tend to be type A and into perfection, maybe you should go back to work. I’m a type A person and the boys have had a hard time with me for a mother.

    Would I do it again? Yes. I wouldn’t have been able to spend the quantity time with the boys if I’d been working. My belief is that you should always do what makes you happy. Life is short. Kids grow up darn fast. It really is not a question about money but about values. Your values and the values of your spouse. Somehow your spending seems to increase with every increase in salary and similarly, it can be decreased with every drop in salary. It is amazing how little money you really need for clothes, junk purchases and entertainment. If you buy all this stuff at thrift stores, you can pay for essentials (rent, taxes, transportation, utilities and food) with one income. But of course, you’re right. You can’t be servicing a megadebt load and be able to do this easily. But it can still be done. In my opinion, you can do pretty much anything – if you really want to.

  5. @ Camron,

    Working at home while raising a child is a true sense of the word “blending”. My daughter is in my lap as I type right now. Being able to work from home is a joy that I am thankful for every day of my life, because I get to be here with here. But there are downsides too. I’m frequently awake late into the night while I complete projects, My daughter watches too much tv while I complete projects. (I usually make sure they are learning videos, but still).

    It’s a whole lot of give and take, and it never works out perfectly. All I can do each day is get up and do the best I can, just like every other parent out there. In my mind, it is the best solution, but it is never easy.

    @ Julie You are so very right about everything lol. It is difficult not to expect perfection from our children. My mindset on that changed a lot when I discovered Still though, I fight it every day.

    You are also right that you can adjust to a single income. My husband and I have often noticed that no matter how much money we bring in, the bank balance always returns to a set amount – the amount we are most comfortable with. This is something we are working on, but the truth is, exactly as you said, we adjust our spending to match our income and always have.

    Thanks for your comments!

  6. JW says:

    My wife and I decided early on she would stay home with our kids. Friends and family often tell us how “lucky” we are that she is able to do that. The word “lucky” kind of makes us chuckle–there isn’t much luck involved. We have worked hard to boost my income (additional schooling, working part time, etc.) and sacrificed to the bone to make the numbers work.

  7. JW,

    So many times in life people want to attribute other’s accomplishments to luck. It’s sad to me that people never consider the sacrifice that comes with reaching a goal. They just see the victory, and then say “well aren’t you lucky!” And then they go home and get angry that their life isn’t like that.

    I have found that the more success I have in life, the more people do this! So, really it means you’ve moved in the right direction, eh?

  8. Gates VP says:

    Julie Ali: You pretty much have to retrain if you want to return to the workforce and not be stuck in the grunt job ghetto.

    Are you saying that despite education and experience as a medical laboratory technologist that you can no longer work in that field?

    Are you sure about this?
    Do they take away your degree and permanently revoke your license to practice b/c you stopped working?
    Isn’t there like a “refresher course”?

    I’m asking, b/c I keep hearing this line of reasoning (being a homemaker ends your previous career), but I haven’t seen any real substantiating evidence. It sounds to me like most people don’t want to go back to their previous career not that they were banned.

    • Rebecca says:

      What’s hard to comprehend about it? The workplace doesn’t stop evolving new technologies and procedures while Mom is on a 10+ year hiatus. Sometimes the required qualifications change too; jobs that didn’t require a degree may require one now.

      So yes, retraining is required often. I’ve seen this happen to several stay-at-hom moms of my mother’s generation.

  9. Sarah Tennant says:

    Ouch. That “get that kid on a schedule” comment may have been throwaway, but it made me cringe a little. Babies do best psychologically and physiologically if they can nurse on demand for at least the first few months. My sister-in-law put her baby on a schedule starting at two months because she found night feeds and his “snacking” habit draining… he’s now lost enough weight his doctors are concerned, and she’s reluctantly had to go back to more frequent feeding.

    Meeting a baby’s needs is hard on mothers. I know. I am one. But that’s the way it works. If you have one of those rare babies who naturally falls into a four-hour wake-eat-play-sleep pattern, that’s great; but if you don’t, please don’t sacrifice your baby’s sense of security and your own instincts in order to force the child into a schedule. Babies are small, utterly dependent and helpless – give them a break!

  10. Carol says:

    I have worked 30 plus years and if I had a chance to do over I would be a stay at home Mom,
    .Our kids are expressing to me how much they missed having their mom in their life.i am a grandma now and retired and I’m home everyday raising the grand kids.what a different life.

    In your life time ,corporate America won’t even be as important to you as you thought it should be.your family will don’t miss out on raising your family.

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