The choice to be a stay at home mom often occurs when your children are very young, or perhaps not even born yet. It’s a time you know that you’re needed by them as a mom. But what about as they get older? Will it then be time to head back into the workforce?
Maybe. Maybe not.
I’m not one to say all moms should be stay at home moms as long as kids are growing up. I’ll leave that to others. But I will encourage moms to really think about how long they should keep being at home.
There’s much to be said for continuing to be a stay at home mom even through the teen years, as I am. Kids don’t need you in the same way when they’re teens as they did as babies and young children, but they do need you.
Being at home with them means that you have the chance to get to know all their friends. You get to know what they enjoy doing. You get to continue guiding them in their choices.
It’s possible to do all of that as a working mom, of course. It takes more effort, especially if your schedule isn’t cooperating, but it can be done. The stay at home mom simply has the simpler way to manage all of that.
There are a lot of factors to consider. Some people find that they come to regret being a stay at home mom. Many feel isolated. There are ways to minimize some of the problems that may come of being a stay at home mom, but some problems are more difficult to manage than others.
What Do Studies Say?
Some studies show that having a stay at home parent longer is a benefit to children. Eric Bettinger, associate professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education, found that there were educational benefits to having a parent stay at home even at the high school level.
It’s not all good, unfortunately. Studies also show that stay at home moms suffer from more depression, sadness, and anger. It found that 28% of stay at home moms suffer from depression, for example, in comparison to 17% of working moms.
The study also showed that stay at home moms tend to smile and laugh less.
It’s no surprise at all that these numbers are worse for low income stay at home moms. In some measures, middle and high income stay at home moms evaluate their lives at about the same level of enjoyment as working moms. But when you add in the stress of having a low income, those numbers drop sharply.
Of course, what matters to you is how well you’re doing. Are you thriving at home or is it time for a change?
How Do You Feel About Staying At Home Longer?
I’ve always said being a stay at home mom isn’t for everyone. Neither is being a long term stay at home mom. It’s a lot of work and despite how some feel, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do other things with your life as well.
A mom who is miserable staying at home may not be as good for her kids as one who is happy working outside the home. You don’t really want to be showing your kids that it’s okay for mom to be miserable in her lifestyle. I feel that you can still make your children a solid priority even if you aren’t a stay at home mom.
My own ideal is to keep doing interesting work while being at home with my kids. That’s why I have my own business, for example. I’m able to fulfill that ambitious part of me without giving up too much time with my family. How could I resist that?
My solution isn’t everyone’s solution, of course.
One of the wonderful things about kids getting older is that you can think about if you really need to be home all the time. When they’re in school, you certainly have the choice to do something other than wait for them to come home. It might be a hobby, it might be a part time job, it might be a business, it might be saying “wow, the house is quiet…” although you’ll probably get over that last one.
How Are The Finances?
Most families make a big financial sacrifice when a parent decides to stay at home. It’s not cheap. As the kids get older it might be time to rethink the finances and decide if the sacrifices are really worth it.
You still have the choices of a stay at home job or a home business, but if you’re doing one or both and not bringing in enough money, you may be considering something outside the home. Or you may be saying “I can finally get enough hours in now that the kids are in school!”
You should be paying attention to your finances even if you aren’t struggling, of course. You don’t need to be bringing in enough money to pay for huge family vacations every year, but you should be doing well enough that you don’t struggle with debt.
What About Your Retirement?
I think about this one a lot, as my income isn’t such that I can readily save for retirement. Being a stay at home mom means you’re probably not contributing significantly to your own retirement plan. Not a problem now, but in the future?
It’s much harder to save for retirement when you’re a stay at home mom. When you have a job, you can have money taken out for retirement before it ever hits your bank account. Saving as a stay at home mom means planning for it.
If you don’t have a way to save for retirement, start thinking about one. It’s never too early to get a start. You may need to talk to a financial professional.
Remember that you’re the one who will be most affected by how much you save for retirement.
How Will The Kids Feel About You Returning To Work?
You’ll naturally be concerned about how your kids feel about you returning to work. They’ll often be a little concerned, especially if you’ve always been there for them.
Sometimes you’ll have to return to work even if the kids don’t like the idea. If your family needs the money to get by, that’s the most important part. If you’re going back to work more for your own satisfaction, you can talk to your kids about that. Be honest with them. Kids love having happy parents.
Some children have more need of their parents than others. If there are genuine problems that mean you need to stay home, that’s a big factor to consider. There are times that it is necessary to sacrifice your personal goals. That’s not going to be true for many families, but if there’s more of a need for you to be home, don’t forget about it even as the kids get older.
Don’t be at all surprised if your feelings about whether you should continue on as a stay at home mom become mixed as your kids get older. That’s normal. There’s so much of an expectation that moms will go back to work that it’s hard to go another path. But if continuing to stay at home is right for you and your family, do it and be proud. If going back to work is the right choice, do it and be proud.
Keep doing what’s best for yourself and your family as a whole, and it’s probably going to be the right decision.
Would Working At Home Be The Right Solution?
The main reason I’m still a stay at home mom is that I also work from home. For me, this solves a lot of the problems that come from being a stay at home mom.
Working at home gives me a lot. An income, the satisfaction of working, and a way to avoid boredom. It also allows me to show my kids that moms can do more than raise children if they want.
Working at home adds challenges too. It is NOT always easy. Some days are frustrating. Balancing work and motherhood is difficult some days. It’s easier now that the kids are older, but some days their needs still make working difficult. Perhaps the greatest challenge for many is simply getting started working at home.
Overall, it’s my preferred way to balance motherhood and career. It works for me.
If you want to work at home, be realistic about what you expect from it.
You won’t be able to start a career you wouldn’t qualify for outside the home, for example. And if you start a home business, success may take a long time. Being at home doesn’t magically change these simple facts.
What you can expect from working at home is that it gives you a path to stay home with the kids for longer if you so choose. It helps you avoid the financial hazards of being a stay at home mom for too many years. It can help you avoid a crippling break in your career. And if you’re really lucky and work hard, you may find that you don’t have to return to working outside the home ever, unless you want to.
This can even be a time to improve your education and career training. Take the time to get that certification you need, a more advanced degree, or whatever it takes to bump your career up a notch. Then find that work at home job that gives you the work-life balance you need as a mom.