Most stay at home moms start out staying at home for very good reasons. Sometimes it’s voluntary – you can afford to do so, and don’t mind the break from your career. You want to raise your kids yourself and not pay for childcare. Other times it’s the best financial move at the time – childcare runs more than you’d earn working outside the home at the time.
Good reasons don’t mean you can avoid regretting it over the long run, however. It’s not at all uncommon for stay at home moms to later find that they regret the decision. What was once a sensible, loving decision has a price in the long run, and paying that price can be painful. Finding a good job in your 40s and 50s, for example, can be very difficult. Dealing with the sudden need to work in the event of your spouse’s death or disability, or if you two should divorce, can be a very unpleasant reality.
What’s The Price?
The price you pay is in your earnings and savings. Staying at home for however many years puts a dent in your career, often a big one. Most stay at home moms eventually return to the workforce, but at a much lower level than where they started out.
If you had a solid professional level career before staying at home, you may have to start out almost fresh. You may have to get more education to catch up with your industry. All this means you won’t be earning as much, and you have less time for promotions and raises to increase your salary. It’s a financial hit well beyond the lost income of the years you weren’t working.
But even if you had a lower paying job you left because it wouldn’t even pay for childcare, your future earnings take a hit when you stay at home. It’s that loss of promotions and experience that can get you.
How Do You Avoid It?
You can avoid these problems with good planning and some good fortune.
My own favorite (I’ve said it before) is working at home. I do well enough at it that the past two years, my income has been higher than my husband’s income. It took some time to get there; I’m no overnight success. Still, running my own business from home and making a good income at it is wonderful, making all the time I’ve spent working up to it worthwhile. Stressful as can be at times – business doesn’t always go the way I’d like it to. But now I know I can do it.
Your solution doesn’t have to be your own business. It can be a work at home job, part time work, freelance work… whatever works for you. I really think the key is making sure you keep some sort of relevant work experience going for the kind of career you’d like when the kids are old enough that you want to go back to work. It may not put you as high on your career ladder as if you’d never stayed home at all, but it probably won’t be as low as if you’d left entirely.
Improving your education as the kids get older is another alternative. Going back to school as an older student has its advantages. Most older students are more serious about their studies, because you really know their value. You can study for the career you’d like to have, not necessarily the one you had before you had kids.
Improving your education also sets a great example for your kids when they’re in school. They’ll see you doing homework and studying, and getting good results for it. That can make an impression, plus you can set yourself on a better career path after.
None of this is easy for most families. I firmly believe, however, that you are a thousand times better off if you consider the problems you might face later in life, so you can prepare for them in advance. There’s no knowing where your life will take you, but you can take steps that may help smooth many troubles out at least some of the way.
Regretting the price you paid to be a stay at home mom doesn’t mean you regret the good parts, of course. Even if being a stay at home parent lands you in difficulty later, remember those good parts. Those memories won’t make future troubles go away, but they have their own value.
I’m not saying all stay at home moms eventually regret their decision. Plenty will be happy they did so for the rest of their lives, despite the price. You’re better off, however, if you know what the price is early on, so you can take control of how you pay it.