Many of us, as children, dreamed of being mothers when we grew up. It was so simple. We were going to find the prince and marry him, live in a big castle (or house depending on how practical you were as a child) and have as many kids as we wanted. Oh, and don’t forget, while we were at it we would be a super star and make tons of money in our own right. Easy Peasy.
Somewhere along the way though, we dropped our little girl way of thinking, one dream at a time. We grew up to be, well, whatever we studied or had talents in or maybe just whatever paid us well enough to make ends meet. We became independent, lived a little, and many of us got married. Again, we lived a little, pursued our careers and got comfortable in our living arrangements. At this point, it was probably time to add a mini me or two to round things off. Our biological clocks were ticking, tick tock, tick tock. Yes, it was time despite our loans and debt load, despite our careers not being where we wanted them. Tick tock, tick tock, time wouldn’t stand still. What the hell, there were plenty of places for childcare and lots and lots of women were working moms, let’s DO IT!
For those of us who get pregnant life changes. We go to work each day but in the back of our mind we are making lists of all the things we should do and what we should get. Our lunch breaks are peppered with thoughts of what healthy choices we should eat and hoping that we can keep it down, in the beginning, later to morph into l hope I don’t gain too much weight. At night we look through lists and lists of baby products and reviews and we think about rearranging space so “little one” will have a nursery while we check our work emails for final additions to our morning schedules or tasks and hammer out that report that should have been completed but for the little sidetrack we made to the doctor’s office. Our discussions with our partner now center on what we should name “little one” because THAT decision could haunt us or “little one” for a lifetime. Our lives and yes, our work, become entangled with ideas, thoughts, and dreams of “little one”.
A percentage of us begin to wonder and tinker with the idea of what it would be like to stay-at-home full time or at least cut our work to only part-time. If this is where you find yourself, there are some things you should consider before taking the leap into stay-at-home-mom or dad (SAHM) status or even broaching this subject with your partner. Remember, SAHM can be done but it takes some planning and you have to be ready. It will change your personal brand but only in a good way if it’s the right choice for you. I did it, you can too.
1. Consider your current budget and financial status.
Staying at home rarely results in a financial boon unless the cost of childcare outstrips what you bring in each month. Therefore, you need to look at your current money flow. If you haven’t actually set up a budget, NOW IS THE TIME TO DO SO! There are many budgeting apps, tools and books that can help you set up a system that works for your family. These apps and programs can help you keep track of your spending and costs, look at your overall financial health and help you to work towards a goal. If you are more of a paper and pencil kind of girl, there are plenty of free templates you can download or make your own. If you know excel, you can create a budget with some existing templates there as well. Track your spending, find out where you could shave off some erroneous spending, put a little to the side and voila, you will get a feel for where you are at.
2. Consider the cost of babies, toddlers, and finally school age children.
Let’s face it, babies are going to cost a bundle just in diapers or diaper services, gear, wellness appointments, and babysitters (because even if you stay at home, every once and awhile you need to do something during the day or you may want a night out with the partner and won’t want to haul around “little one” for the ride). On average, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, based on 2015 figures, on average it costs $233,610 for a middle class family of 4 to raise a child from birth to age 17. USDA Blog post by Mark Lino, Economist at the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, on January 13, 2017
Be prepared for formula costs… just in case. Perhaps you are the type of person to know that you will use reusable cloth diapers, there are still some costs associated. If you don’t hire a service to launder those little nappies, you will want to invest in a washer with an extra sanitary feature built in.
Toddlers, may or may not continue the diaper cycle but they are also the most rambunctious and inquisitive of creatures. Now is when you absolutely must have everything babyproofed. You will also consider the costs of bigger kid beds, more clothing, walking shoes, sippy cups, toddler snacks, etc. Consider, also, that all that movement and food at home creates a bigger mess than your working mother counterparts will ever encounter EVERY SINGLE DAY! Oh, and then there is preschool with costs associated there.
School age kids – hallelujah! Well, maybe. Now is the time we talk tuition if you want private schools, or a bunch of new school clothes if there is no uniform. We talk about extracurricular activities, transportation, field trips and homework.
The bottom line here is that the long term care of children lasts for many years. Depending on how you see raising your children, you need to know if you can stay at home and make it happen or if you will need to go back to work within a certain framework or if you just need to do part time work or do some stay at home work. It’s really up to you. You just have to be realistic!
3. Pay off as much debt as you can.
If you have a little time, not all of us do, pay off as much debt as you can. This isn’t possible for everyone but some of you have this luxury. If you do, target one debt at time. Perhaps you have unsecured credit card debt. Take one of those cards and start paying as much as you can each month toward erasing it. You may only be able to tackle the one, but you may be saving yourself $200 payment each month. This can be huge when you eliminate your paycheck.
4. Consider a two-month trial living off one income.
To do this, don’t quit your job, just don’t spend one paycheck. The first month will give you an idea, the second month will be a second chance based on what you learn from the first month. At this point, you will get a good idea if staying at home is feasible or if you will need some type of income to make it work. Is it going to be too hard without drastic lifestyle changes? Are there some things you just can’t live without? Do you need to move? Whatever the case, this is where you will know whether you should reconsider or not. At the very least, when you’re done you will have saved two months worth of one income!
5. THE NUMBER 1 MOST IMPORTANT THING is to go through a self-examination process.
Examine who you are, how you identify yourself, and how you feel about yourself. Yes, you heard that right. How you feel about yourself will be very important in order to withstand inevitable feelings of doubt. You may feel you are ready to do this, but are others ready to see you this way? Chances are, they will say good for you but will slip unknowingly into some type of condescending behavior. Think about when you will hear others describe you as “a stay at home mom but she USED to be….” in order to validate you in some way. How will you introduce yourself – as this will be your personal brand. You get my drift.
Unfortunately, despite how forward thinking we have become, there is this terrible notion that being a SAHM is something to apologize for. We give the title SAHM a negative connotation and I’m frustrated that we do so but this still happens. You need to be firm about your decision to stay home and not feel diminished. Because you deciding to stay at home doesn’t change WHO YOU ARE so you need to be very clear on who you are in your own mind so you can weather any judgements and still feel good about yourself. You know, as an attorney, this was extremely difficult for me.
In the end, I knew staying at home didn’t change who I was. I simply was wearing a different hat. So, the way I did it was to introduce myself as “an attorney who was staying at home to take care of kids”. I headed off the inevitable question and made them aware of the fact that I identified as both. If you don’t think you can withstand outdated perceptions, or you feel like being a stay at home mom makes you somehow less, you may not be ready. That’s OKAY! The important thing to remember is DON’T feel bad about your decision either way. As each child is different, each mom or dad is different. Not all of us are ready to take this leap and knowing so beforehand makes you an even better mother.
Kristine Pierce is an experienced attorney turned certified personal branding strategist and certified social branding analyst. With a decade in government regulatory law, including as the Governor’s appointed State Extradition Coordinator and the Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety’s Chief Legal Counsel, she has also been a speaker, author and instructor. She’s passionate about sharing her vision that people should do what they love, never give up on their big dreams and never fear change. Rebranding is possible if it’s done well. As Founder of KHPierce Consulting, she focuses her expertise on helping professionals, solo business owners, and people in transition achieve their goals by finding methods and strategies to showcase their uniqueness. You can find her on Twitter @kristine_pierce; Instagram @kristine.pierce; LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/kristinepierce and at http://www.khpierce.com