Stay at Home or Return to Work? 5 Questions to Ask Before Deciding
If you're facing impending parenthood, you're likely weighing a lot of tricky choices. From 'which stroller is best for my family?' to 'home birth or hospital birth?', there's a LOT to think about before your family expands...and while pregnancy can feel like a long process, the end comes at you faster than you'd think!
One of the biggest questions expectant parents deal with is the whole issue of childcare...you can choose between enrolling your little one in daycare or hiring a nanny...or you (or your partner!) could opt to stay home and eliminate that decision from the equation.
But the truth is, both working parents and stay at home parents face pros and cons in their setups — and it may take some serious consideration before you can figure out what the best solution for your family really is.
On the fence? Ask yourself these five questions before committing to one over the other.
Could one income cover our expenses...and our baby's?
It's a no-brainer: In order for one parent to stay home, you need to be sure there's enough money coming in (and enough job stability!) for the arrangement to work. But here's what you may not be considering: Life gets a lot more expensive when you have a baby up in the mix. It's important to really sit down and think about how far your finances stretch before one of you quits your job. One idea? Consider returning to work and strictly living off one income for a few months after you've had your baby. If it works, having one parent stay at home may be the right choice for you — that is, if it sounds like something you or your partner would enjoy doing!
Would childcare costs swallow up my salary?
Believe it or not, leaving the workforce may actually be a smarter financial decision for some. Childcare is expensive — and if you live in a big city, don't have family members nearby, or have more than one child, you may find you're spending your whole paycheck on it. That's not always a dealbreaker (the personal satisfaction you get from work may be just as important as the paycheck!), but it may be worth considering if you're looking at the financial implications of both options.
Can I jump back in if I take time away from work?
Some career paths lend themselves to taking a few years off and jumping back into the workforce without skipping a beat. Some, on the other hand, are tougher to navigate after a significant break. If you feel like you could easily take a few years away from your job to spend with your kids before jumping back in once they start school, that might be a great choice for your family...it could allow you to have the best of both worlds! If you're considering becoming a stay-at-home parent for the beginning of your child's life and then heading back to work, you may want to chat with someone in your industry who has done something similar to learn more about the logistics of it.
Is there a middle ground?
Could you go part-time at work? Could you negotiate some increased flexibility? Could you do freelance work or start your own side hustle? Could you start a thriving business while rocking your baby to sleep? If you're having a hard time deciding between working full-time or staying at home, there could be a great middle ground for you to test out.
What would really make my family the happiest?
Ultimately, this is the most important question you could possibly ask yourself. If you know your heart will break every single morning when you leave your baby...well, all the money or accomplishment in the world may not be worth it. On the flipside, if you know you'd miss the thrill you get from climbing the ladder in your career if you chose to leave it..you do you, Mama! At the end of the day, what really matters is that you and your family are happy with the arrangement you settle upon — and while it's important to make the practical choice, it's also important to make that one that just feels right for you.