Becoming a mommy is such a crazy, life-changing experience. There are so many choices to make, things to learn and new roles to fill. For some of us, whether or not to stay at home is pretty much decided for us.
Some of you are single mommies. Of course, you don’t have this option and that is okay.
Some of you have high need or special needs children, and staying home is your best option. Or, like me, you just know it’s the right choice for you.
No matter what your situation, if you just can’t seem to decide what is best for YOU, your family and your child, here is a list of questions to ask yourself to help you decide.
1. What do you find delight in?
As a child, I daydreamed about having 20 kids (yes, TWENTY), homeschooling, being married to a hunky man and having this perfectly beautiful house. Through my college years, my circumstances led me to believe that maybe this dream life wouldn’t happen for me – and honestly, I was okay with that.
Then, BAM! My hunky husband showed up. He built me a beautiful home. 6 months later, he knocked me up. 10 months later, I’m a stay-at-home mom. It happened so quickly, and all of the sudden I have this life that I had always dreamed of. I didn’t have to think twice about any of it.
But, to be really blunt, I don’t like kids very much – so I really don’t think that’s a question that you should be asking yourself. I never liked babysitting, and working with groups of kids under 12 has always made me want to pull my hair out.
But there’s something magically different about your own kids. You watch them grow inside of you. For months you feel them kick, roll, hiccup and bounce, and wonder about who they will be. Whether it’s immediate or takes some time, eventually we all fall in love. It’s just science. We were created to nurture and protect our young. Unless you have severe postpartum or mental issues, you cannot help but love that naughty little human that grew inside of you. There’s something truly magical about having a little you. They say it’s like having your heart walk around outside your body, and that couldn’t be a more accurate statement.
So, my question to you is: What brings you true delight?
Everyone can make a baby. That doesn’t mean that every mom needs to stay home with those babies.
We need women in every aspect of our society. We need teachers, doctors, scientists, lawyers, women in government. We also need caring women to take care of our children.
My best friend and my little sister are two exceptional women. They are extremely success oriented. They have desires to change this world for the better. Their hearts are set on careers and success. I think that is wonderful! We need women like this in our world! I can’t foresee either of them choosing to be a stay-at-home mom unless they had to.
My sister-in-law and I are the opposite. We’ve both had jobs before, but it was truly WORK for us. Of course, there were fun things – relationships with co-workers, really fun days at work, inside jokes… and as sad as it was to let those jobs go, ultimately it was relieving for us. Staying at home was an easy choice for us and neither of us regrets it a bit.
If your job seems like a mundane, frustrating part of your life and brings you no delight, this should be a factor in your decision.
If your job doesn’t even feel like a job because you love it so much, and it satisfies a deeper part of you, then this should also be a factor in your decision!
You shouldn’t be stuck in a frustrating and draining place if you don’t have to be. Naturally, there are other parts of the decision and sometimes you will need to do a job you don’t prefer for a season. But make sure you are looking at this facet of the big picture.
2. Can you balance two roles (career woman + mother)?
I have SO much respect for working moms. Seriously.
Personally, I am an OCD (perfectionist) maniac. My house must be kept in tip-top shape at all times, or I literally go insane. Laundry, dishes, dust and crumbs piling up bring me to a serious state of anxiety that is not healthy for my marriage or my mothering.
That might sound a little dramatic to you, but that’s the honest truth. I am insane about my house.
I also deal with a lot of anxiety about my schedule and to-do list. It creates a lot of stress for me when I’m busier than my list of responsibilities allows for. I prefer to have more time than things to do (but really, don’t we all?).
Some people are more relaxed than others. I wish I was blessed with the ability to CHILL. Alas, I am not. And for my husband’s sake, it is better for me to be home so that I can manage all of it in a stress-free environment.
If you have been blessed with the ability to smoothly run a household while simultaneously holding a career, YOU ARE MY HERO.
Consider your abilities, both physically, mentally and emotionally. Think about how that will affect your family if you choose to stay in your career.
3. Can you afford it?
Most people naturally assume that two incomes are better. Why wouldn’t it be?
But what a lot of people forget to consider initially is the huge $$$ for daycare.
Now, I’m not saying that daycare is too expensive. The workload of caring for multiple children WELL is more than I would care to take on. It’s a hard job, and those workers deserve their $$.
But the truth is, if you have a full-time minimum wage job, you won’t have much left after paying for daycare.
The average yearly cost of daycare for an infant is: $12,697
The average yearly income of a minimum wage job is: $15,008
That leaves less than $3K yearly profit. That $3K could easily be made by a part-time job from home.
Even if you have a better paying job than this, the difference doesn’t amount to much. Ask yourself if it is worth it. Which leads me to…
4. Are you thinking in terms of seasons?
It might be scary for you to decide to stay at home, because what about your life? It can seem like you are throwing it away. But the truth is that our lives are so long, and our children are babies for SO LITTLE of that life.
My personal opinion is that staying home for a year or two, if possible, is the best option for both mother and child. You get to nurture and love your baby as they begin to understand the world and develop their security. That first year happens SO quickly and you will never get it back.
Daycare costs for an older child are much lower than for an infant, and if your kid is at school all day and then spends an hour at daycare before you get home from work, this is doable! Things will change as your child grows.
Make sure to remember that your choice doesn’t have to mean forever. Life comes in seasons and with every season there are new opportunities.
5. What are your expectations of motherhood?
Expectations. We all have them.
Do you think that staying at home is going to be a walk on the beach? Because it won’t be.
Do you think that having a career will get you out of being a mom? Because it doesn’t.
Explore your expectations, hopes, and dreams of being a mom. Write them down. Here are mine, just to help you out.
- To raise well-behaved, selfless, servant-hearted children.
- To pour myself out in loving and raising them.
- To give all of my kids a well-rounded education that is individualized to champion their personal abilities and interests.
- To teach my kids how to be responsible and wise adults.
- To have a personal relationship with each of my children where they can trust me fully and will desire friendship with me as adults.
- That all of my kids will personally know Christ as their Savior.
- To have a picture-perfect, clean and organized home that my children never mess up.
- To be a healthy, thin and perpetually joyful mother.
It’s important to realize the difference between the three. Expectations are very important and okay to have, but we need to make sure that they are actually attainable. Unmet expectations are the biggest source of frustration and depression. Good expectations are things that are attainable and mostly under your control.
Hopes are also attainable, but they are out of your control. They depend on someone else. We need to steer our lives in a way that guides us towards those hopes.
Dreams are what we need to be careful with. Dreams are all well and good to have, but we often put those dreams in the place of expectations. This is where a lot of frustration comes into play. Make sure your dreams are not your goals.
Now, take a look at this list you have made. What is the best fit for your family, based off of these expectations, hopes and dreams? Can you achieve these goals and aspirations as a career mom?
6. Will leaving your career behind shatter dreams and expectations for you?
Some of us are just driven to succeed. It’s the way we are wired. Our dreams are full of people, tasks, change and moving up the ladder of success.
What are your goals in the career world? Do you have really big hopes and things you want to accomplish?
My mother went to college to be a music teacher. She was able to do a bit of teaching but ended up quitting and homeschooling for 27 years. She poured everything she had into teaching me and my 7 siblings. We had a wonderful education and all felt very loved through the whole experience.
Recently, after having my own child and discussing homeschooling with her, her best advice to me was to never give up on my own hopes and goals. I didn’t expect this coming from her, because she was always 1000% invested in her kids.
But one of her biggest regrets now is that she lost herself. She doesn’t regret homeschooling or investing in our lives. But she finds so much joy in playing and teaching music. When we all grew up and gave her a bit more freedom, she has started adding some of that music back into her life. And she is so happy!
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with pouring into your children. It’s our job to make sure that they grow up in the best possible environment. But, even through that, be careful not to lose yourself, whatever that means for you.
7. Can you handle it emotionally?
I would say that the #1 worst part about being a stay-at-home mom is the loneliness. If you struggle with depression, this is something that you definitely want to consider. While there is immense joy in raising your children, there is also a sense of despair and worthlessness that can sometimes haunt you.
Now, please don’t be scared away. I am not saying that this is a norm for momma’s who choose to stay home. I personally have only felt this way during my postpartum period. Every day since those hormones leveled out, I have loved every second of being home.
But if you already struggle with depression, please be aware that this a struggle you will most likely encounter. Whenever I start to feel like what I am doing is worthless, or I am tired of being alone with my kid all day, I do these things:
- Remind yourself of why you are staying home.
- Pour yourself into something that makes you feel worthwhile (meal planning, cleaning, laundry, etc.)
- Do some retail therapy – grocery shopping usually does it for me.
- Hang out with your kid. Read books, play, watch a show and snuggle together. It helps you recharge and remember who you are doing this for.
- Get together with another mom. The play time will be good for your kids, and the talking will be great therapy for you.
- Exercise. Stroller walks are my go-to when my son is awake, and yoga when he is asleep.
If you already know that you won’t be able to handle being alone at home with kids all the time, then being a stay-at-home mom is not an option for you. Perhaps moving to a part-time job would be the best option for you, or staying in your current job will be best for you.
At the other extreme, if you deal with anxiety, staying home might be the best option. Having more time to accomplish tasks and perform all your duties at your best will help relieve some of that anxiety.
Take some time to consider and pray about your emotional and mental strengths and weaknesses. Ask your spouse, mother or friends what role they think you will do best in emotionally. The best thing you can do for your child is to be 100% stable emotionally and mentally.
8. Are you self-motivated?
While this doesn’t make you a better or worse mother, it can most definitely make you a worse stay-at-home mom. When you have the option to sleep in as late as you want, stay in your pajamas all day, or just sit and watch TV all day, YOU NEED SELF-MOTIVATION.
I was always that kid that made my own daily schedule and stuck to it religiously. I got straight A’s in pretty much all except math. I did my chores and woke up at 6AM every day just because I wanted to.
Of course, I always have days when I just give up. There are days when I choose to not shower, change, or make dinner. But for the most part, I am very motivated. No one has to bribe or push me to get stuff done – it’s just part of my nature and personality.
If you are someone who has always struggled to get things done, being at home all the time might be detrimental for you. Make sure that you have the stamina and desire necessary to be a successful stay-at-home mom.
9. What is best for your child?
Every child is so different. Some kids are very anxious, while others are chill. Some are sociable, while others are shy. Some kids have learning disabilities, while others pick up on everything quickly. Some have a hard time falling asleep, while others sleep wherever they happen to get sleepy.
All of these things affect whether or not you should stay home with your babies. What does your kid need from you?
The most important part of your decision is what is best for your child. Make sure that your choice is meeting his physical, emotional and mental needs.
10. What does your gut say?
Take a second to envision yourself being a working mom. Think about your daily schedule and responsibilities. You have to get everyone up early to get ready, you drop your kid/s off at daycare, spend the day at the office, pick up your kid/s at daycare, rush home to make dinner, put your kids in bed and flop on the couch exhausted.
Now, switch it.
You’re a stay-at-home mom. Every day is spent with your kids. You can’t get away from them. They wake you up by jumping on top of you, you all eat breakfast together, they bother you while you try to do laundry, exercise, clean or pay the bills. You have time to make dinner, but the kids destroy the house while you are distracted. Your husband gets home and wants all your attention, just as the kids have all day. You finally get everyone to bed and flop on the couch exhausted.
Which picture brings anxiety or unease? Which one brings relief to your soul?
The reality is that both ways of mothering have their pros and cons. You just have to decide which is right for your family, your future, your income, and your sanity. Remember that your choice has no merit on your mothering.
YOU ARE A GOOD MOM.
This choice is individual and only you can know what is the best for your family. Whatever you choose to do, never let guilt set in. Follow your gut and intuition, and then enjoy every second you are given to do what makes you and your kid’s lives joyful.