Deciding whether to continue with her career or be a stay at home mom can be a painful decision for new mothers, and even for experienced ones. There are two dreams, each pulling you a different way.

One is the dream of always being their for your child. Of handling all the needs of your family at home. Being there for every first. Helping your child learn. Making almost every meal at home and being praised as the perfect mom by your admiring family.

The other is the dream of your career. The work you may love, or the dream that you will someday work your way up to that dream job. Bringing home enough money that your family can have all its needs comfortably met, and enough wants fulfilled to really enjoy life.

How to choose between them? It’s not always a pleasant decision.

Consider Finances First

While not what you may want to be thinking about, your financial situation is vital to whether or not you can be a stay at home mom. Will your family have enough money to get by, or will such a decision leave it struggling?

There’s a lot to consider. What would your family’s financial position be without your income, without cutting costs? What sacrifices are you willing to make? Do you know for certain that you could find a way to work at home to bring in extra money if you needed to?

Don’t forget to consider costs that will automatically be cut if you stay at home. You probably won’t eat out as much. You’ll probably simplify your wardrobe. Your tax situation will change. You won’t be commuting, so your car will be driven less.

If your family can’t make enough cuts to make it on one income, you may be stuck for the time being continuing with your job. If considering other factors makes you desperate to stay at home you can continue to work outside the home while working hard to find a way to bring in an income from home.

Which Do You Really Want?

What you really want from your life is important. Will you really be happy without your career? Changing your identity to “your child’s mommy” is a big change, and not always an easy one. Does that idea bother you?

Of course, even working outside the home a part of your identity quickly changes to “your child’s mommy,” if not right away, then when your child gets older and starts making friends. But it can be harder when you’re a stay at home mom and don’t have an outside the home career to talk about.

On the other hand, you may want to be there all the time for your child, and not have to worry about how you’re going to manage to take time off work when your child needs you. This may be the thing you’ve dreamed about even more than a successful career. Being a stay at home mom may exactly suit what you want from life.

Being financially dependent on your husband isn’t for every mother either. It’s rough sometimes knowing that your family has one income. Never mind that theoretically it’s just as much yours as his. There’s a difference emotionally to a lot of people.

The Needs of Your Child

I’ve put this last, but certainly not least. Sometimes the needs of your child outweighs all other considerations.

For most children, so long as they’re in a good situation they can grow up to be happy, healthy, productive adults whether their mothers stayed at home or put them in daycare. Show your children that you care for them and love them, and your decision can be right either way.

But sometimes things aren’t that simple. There can be health issues creating problems. You can have trouble finding adequate daycare. Things can simply work out sometimes to where you have to find a way, any way, to have one parent stay at home, and most often the mother takes that job on.

Take Time on Your Decision

Deciding whether to work outside the home or be a stay at home mom isn’t something you have to decide overnight most of the time. Take some time. Figure out if it’s going to work for you. Don’t drive yourself crazy, but have reasons for your decision and understand that you may have regrets for whichever path you don’t take. That’s just a part of life.

And enjoy your family!