When you decide to leave your job to raise your children, your first thought may be about lost income. While that certainly plays a large role, there are other financial, logistical and emotional factors to consider. Ask yourself these five questions before you give your notice to stay at home.
Decide how much of the load the stay-at-home parent will take on and how the working parent will contribute.
CAN YOU REALLY AFFORD TO STAY HOME?
When you look at your finances, be sure to look beyond the lost paycheck. Your retirement savings and insurance coverage may also take a hit. Although you won’t be able to replace lost 401(k) matched savings, you can still contribute to a retirement plan, such as a spousal individual retirement account (IRA). If you’re thinking of switching to your spouse’s insurance benefits, make sure you understand what is and is not covered and that it will sufficiently meet your family’s needs. If you held life or disability income insurance plans through your employer, consider establishing your own coverage or continuing any coverage you already had. Life insurance and disability income insurance can make up more than lost income. If a stay-at-home parent were to die or become disabled, your family would likely incur additional costs to pay for things like child care or additional help taking care the house.
HOW WILL YOU BALANCE HOUSEHOLD DUTIES?
Before you decide to stay home, talk to your spouse about what that means. There’s a lot that goes into running a household, especially when children are involved; and as a couple, you need to decide how much of the load the stay-at-home parent will take on and how the working parent will contribute. What expectations do each of you have? Come to a compromise and communicate regularly to avoid pent-up frustrations about who is doing what.
CAN YOU RETURN TO YOUR CAREER LATER?
Do you hope to go back to work when your children are older? If so, how easy will it be for you to return to your field? Are there certifications you need to maintain or contacts you need to keep in touch with? Staying at home may not have to be an all-or-nothing decision. If you work in a field that offers some flexibility and you would like to return in a few years, consider working part time or contracting so that you can care for your family and not leave your career entirely.
HOW WILL YOU MEET OTHER ADULTS?
Spending your days with your child will be wonderful, but it may also leave you yearning for adult conversation. Where will you find that when you’re at home? Rather than striking up a conversation with the mail carrier or grocery store cashier (although that’s nice, too!), find ways to meet other stay-at-home parents, as well as other adults who share similar interests. Join local parenting groups, go to storytime at the library, work out at the gym or volunteer for a cause that’s near and dear to you.
CAN YOU MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF?
Being a parent is a full-time job, but everyone needs a little time to him- or herself. You and your spouse both deserve time each week to unwind and do things that you love, whether that’s going to lunch with friends, working out or simply reading a book. If your spouse’s schedule is demanding, it may mean hiring a sitter for a couple of hours so you can take a breather.
There’s a lot to consider before you decide to stay home. But when you have thought through how to make it work for you, you can take this step with confidence.