To Stay Home or Keep Working... Keep Reading, I'm All Sorts of Confused.

Updated on July 27, 2018
L.S. asks from Omaha, NE
14 answers

This is really long, but please read if you can. I'm really conflicted. I have been a full-time, working mother since my first child was born 11 years ago. I have from time to time felt guilty about that decision, but until now we have never been in the financial situation to afford for me to quit my job. About 5 months ago, I switched companies. It was an unexpected move as I was not entirely ready to leave my job of 5 1/2 years. But I had been approached by a better company with slightly more pay, better benefits that were going to save us money and help boost our retirement savings, as well as better financial and career growth. As hard a decision as it was to leave, I ultimately took the job and here I am. Problem is that while I don't necessarily regret leaving the previous job, I don't really love the job I have now. Aside from the pay and benefits (which goes beyond the retirement and healthcare), the day to day job is not what I expected, nor what I feel aligns with my skill level. I'm in marketing, which can vary greatly from job to job, but with this one, I am surprised at how little, TRUE marketing I feel I'm doing. It feels more like an assistant position, which is not what I thought I was signing up for. So here's the dilemma. And I think I know the answer, but I like to talk it out and hear from others, both stay at home moms and working moms. By September/October, we should be in the financial position for us to comfortably cut my income and live on my husband's alone - at least that's what it looks like on paper. I have enough experience in life to know that what's on paper isn't always reality. So 1) I'm a little apprehensive to take the plunge in case the money doesn't work out like I hope. However, I do plan to do some freelance work from home and potentially start my own mini business. I already have a couple potential clients to reach out to. So after all that, I think we can make the finances work. But then there's 2) My husband's benefits are good, but mine right now are so much better, as far as healthcare cost and coverage. Do we go back to that and make the benefits a non-issue? Or do I weight that in my decision. It was a deciding factor when I initially chose to take this current job. 3) Staying home would significantly decrease our level of stress at home. My oldest is starting middle school (uncharted territory for us) and she has ADD, so I feel like she'll need the extra help. We have three kids, and we both work full time or more (especially my husband). I find we eat out more often than we should out of convenience, not only costing us more money but it's not entirely healthy of course. Being able to have dinner prepped and ready most nights would cut down on cost for sure! Our house is constantly unorganized and messy - I don't time nor energy to keep up on it and we devote our weekends to cleaning (not fun). And while I know SAHMs don't sit and clean all day, I do think it would be helpful for our family and open up some additional time for me to keep up on chores. Then there's 4) - the biggest factor of all - getting that extra time with my kids. In the past I have always dodged the guilt factor of not staying home by saying we can't afford it, but really, I just don't know if I can do it emotionally. On one hand, I would LOVE more time with my kids - to watch them grow, to see my toddler become even more independent, etc. But on the other hand, would that additional time be quality time? I don't know. Would I go out of my mind at home all day? I used to think so. But then the freelance opportunity made its way into my mind, and now I think I can (maybe??) get the best of both worlds... Here's what I know - I don't love my job, and now since I've explored the option of quitting, I find it hard to focus and be motivated. I fantasize about being home with my two school-aged kids during breaks and not fretting about who HAS to stay home from work when one of them is sick or there is a snow day, etc. But I do worry a little about finances, and if I'm throwing away the opportunity to work for this great company I'm a part of now. My day to day might not be great, but the company is. Any advice would be great. I really appreciate you reading all of this! I just need some help sorting it out. Thank you!

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answers from Erie on

I can tell you that they do not need you less when they enter middle and high school. And now that mine are all in high school or beyond, I don't regret for one minute the time I stayed at home instead of working a full time job. I was a latch key kid of the 70s and 80s, and I swore to myself that if I could help it I wouldn't make my kids come home to an empty house, nor would they ever have to be home sick alone. I wanted to be available to attend their activities, I didn't want to be calling off work to take them to the doctor. Money, a career, both were way less important to me until later in life. Decide what's important to you, and then run with that.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

It appears that you are thinking in the right direction as far as consideration of costs.

My priority would be health benefits, retirement and college funds.

I have been fortunate to have the best of both worlds. My late husband was in sales and I was SAHM with a business degree that I had been using at a major label snack food company in marketing.

For us, my hubby's employer was usually in another state which meant his CSR was there as well. His customers started calling me early on vs the CSR because they knew I would know what mile marker or where on a plane he was. I got in the habit of taking the orders, getting details and pretty much was my husband's CSR. I did all of his flights, hotels, expense reports, etc.

Move forward, we had an opportunity about 10 yrs ago to start our own business in his field. The experience I got working along with him... ( living on his salary alone, saving for retirement and funding daughter's college) was a vital part of where I am today. The major factor in having our own business was to secure health benefits through our company which we did.

There is NO way I could have done this and work full time with another company and raise our daughter, attend all of her events etc. I treasure my time I had with my daughter throughout her school years. True.. they don't "need" you as much for some things middle school and up but those years are hard on the teens emotionally and it was good to be around to be the sounding board my daughter needed. I was there for schedule planning for high school, college visits, college planning etc.

As much as I am home, my house if far from perfect. It s neat and orderly but no model home for a white glove test. Priority is my family.

In 2015 when hubby died, I was able to take on the company on my own which I could not have done if I had not been working alongside him all these years.

I have continued to substitute teach on a regular basis because I love the children. the $ comes in handy for fun money. I will begin year #18 this August.

All that said... the trick is to live beneath your means. Even though my hubby was brilliant and we were good planners, we still enlisted the services of our financial planner who really helps lay it all on the line as far as what we needed to earn, save, allocate for college, etc. We triggered health care to be a big issue for later on in life as we got older.

Your freelance idea is a good one and if you have the niche market for it, you might get your company set up.... make a business plan, use legal and tax counsel so you can be successful.. not just a fly by nighter. There is a lot of legal things to be aware of when owning your own business.

Bottom line, you have to decide what you want and what is right for you. Some moms prefer to be working moms and they are great moms. You do what is best for your family when you have the choice. Some moms have no choice in a situation like yours.

I wish you the best.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

How about a happy medium? If the company is great, is there another position you could move into, or could you reduce your position to something that is still benefits-eligible but offers you more flexibilty, such as working 30 hours per week instead of 40? I know that something like that doesn't always work out dollar-for-dollar with childcare savings as you would still need childcare, but maybe that could work? That might get you the best of both worlds - still getting pay and benefits, still working for a good company, but a little more breathing room at home. That's what I would explore first...unemployment is lower than it has been in ages and good companies are fighting to keep talent. Give them a chance to fight for you. If you truly don't need the job, the worst they can say is no and then you can stay or move on.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Do you and your husband "think" you can make it on one income, or are you working with a good financial adviser who has analyzed it all and planned out your retirement income based on what you have put away right now? Are you kids' 529 plans fully funded? This isn't about whether or not you can cover your currently monthly bills on 1 income. This is about your family's future for the next 20+ years. So before you go a single step further, you need to get a definite "yes, this is feasible" from an objective professional.

Then yes, you absolutely have the factor in benefits. You'll have less income. If the healthcare is going to cost more out of pocket, where is that going to come from since there is less income? If the retirement benefits are less, how are you going to make up for that if your retirement isn't 100% funded already? Again, a good financial planner can help you map all of this out.

Since you don't dislike your job, I personally completely ignore your starting part about how you like but don't love what you do every day. There is a reason work is called work (and not play). You get paid well with great benefits in a a good environment. You are lucky!

If you get through all of that, the financial plan for your family's future needs is mapped out and you, your husband, and your financial planner are all comfortable with you staying home THEN, and only then, do you start to seriously consider it.

I'm not trying to be a downer. If you're working with a financially planner and have his/her OK, then I say go for it!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

While the kids need you to run them around to their activities, they need you less and less through middle and high school.
They'll need your income for college and you'll need it for retirement.
We have one son - his in state tuition is $27,000 per year.
That is more than my mom paid for her house in 1972.

Stay in the new job for awhile, get some more experience under your belt and then see if it will be a stepping stone to an even better position.
As for chores - have a house keeper come in and clean every couple weeks or monthly.
It will take some pressure off you and you can enjoy some leisure time.
With the extra income you can plan some nice family vacations.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

If I were you, I would work through the end of the year. That way you will actually know after September if the numbers work like you expected them to.

I would also immediately start putting your paycheck, after paying whatever daycare you are paying, in a savings account and not touch it. Let yourself be a bit "strapped" so you know what it feels like.

You have been working for a long time now with a child with ADD. Yes, she's going to middle school, but I would not make this a reason to immediately quit your job. Instead, you need to really "live" making less money. Do it now before Sept/Oct.

This will help you see your job in a different light. You can "not enjoy" your job, but when you realize that you can't afford necessities, the job will mean something different to you. If you CAN afford necessities, then you can feel better about letting go of it.

As far as health insurance is concerned, you'll have to figure this out. It's a scary time for all of us regarding losing benefits, so make sure you know the difference in the two policies.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

What you need to do it take your paycheck - 100% of it - for SIX MONTHS - and drop it in a savings account. if you can go that full six months without touching ANY of your paycheck? You are ready to be a single family household.


Take this six months - or hell - longer - to focus on getting your family where you want to be and THEN and ONLY then - do you make the change to a single income family.

The household things about being unorganized? They won't change when you stop working either - they can get worse as you choose to do other things instead. You take the weekends over the next six months and you declutter your home. Garage sales and/or donate what you don't need anymore.

You are looking at this as you'll be able to prep, etc. Sorry - but you will get distracted. It happens. The first six months to a year you are at home? You will be all over the map. You'll have to learn scheduling for the 'new' routine. and so much more. being at home is not a walk in the park - it's still a full time job that you don't get paid for.

I have been a SAHM, work in an office mom and work from home mom. Being a SAHM was the hardest job I have.

Your kids are in school full time - being there now - is going to change WHAT? that you can volunteer? What I would do? I would find a part time job that keeps your skills fresh and allows you the flexibility to be there for field trips, sick and snow days.

You also need to change your attitude. YOU CAN change the job to make it more to your liking - if this company is so great? They will relish that you want to change it up.

Your concern is finances - make sure you can live at least six months without touching your paycheck.

take the weekends to declutter and get organized. see what is out there in way of consulting jobs.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

As a mom who has worked from home, stayed at home, and worked outside the home? You have unrealistic expectations.

1. Just because you will be home doesn't mean the clutter won't stop. You will find yourself busy with the kids school or something else.

2. If you don't have a plan in place right now? It won't change when you quit your job. YOU MUST have a routine. That is the ONLY way things will change and get done. Doesn't matter if you work outside the home or are a full time mom.

3. I love the idea of banking your paycheck and not touching it. I would say for a full twelve months, not just six. Why 12? Because in one full year, you will have experienced holidays, birthdays, vacations, etc. if you can go and live on one paycheck for one year? You have things under control. Then you would have a nice savings. Keep in mind things break. if you don't have a warranty plan in place? You might be hurting should your AC break down or the washing machine break. Ensure you have your house insured properly as well as your appliances. I love having the Sears Home Services warranty. Our AC broke 2 weeks ago. They were here in 24 hours, I had a $100 co-pay and the AC was FIXED. WHEW! Had we not had the plan? We were looking at over $1K in repair costs.

4. Work your company to change your position. Tell them what you want to do.

5. You're worried about finances and skill set, right? Well, start looking to see what you can do as a free-lance worker NOW. Ensure your current employer doesn't have you in a contract that keeps you from free lance work.

6. Doing free-lance work involves a LOT of planning and tax knowledge. You will need to set up a business account and business objectives, not to mention taxes, expense reports and all the stuff that goes into owning your own business. You're worried about money NOW?? Being a business owner is NOT easy and it's TIME CONSUMING keeping up with the jobs, revenue, taxes, etc.

7. You don't have a plan in place. You're working off an assumption on paper. I would not quit my job with an assumption. I would ensure that my family is secure and that we can live off one paycheck for a full year prior to my quitting. If we had to dip into that money for ANY REASON? My family is not ready to live on one paycheck.

8. Understand what YOU expect to do as a stay at home mom. Find out what your husband will expect from you as a stay at home mom. The stress of being a stay at home mom can be immense. NO KIDDING. Sometimes working outside the home is easier! LOL!!

If you can't take weekends to clear the clutter NOW? You aren't going to magically do it when you are home full time. Do NOT kid yourself. If you make a plan to get it done over the weekend and "something comes up"?? NOTHING will change while you are at home full time. You MUST get organized NOW. NOT LATER. Excuses don't work. Actions do.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

My kids are 20 and 15 yo. I’ve been home for 15 years and love it! I think It is critical though that you have (or find) a hobby.

I also think the older my kids got the more they needed me home. So glad I was/am available at the drop of a hat for them.

You’ll have to answer the finance question. Kids only get more expensive and now we are paying out of pocket for college. It’s brutal.

I certainly don’t regret leaving my corporate job. I think our home was a lot less stressful and calm since I was able to handle all household chores and maintenance items. Seeing many of my friends though buy their beach houses does make me wonder what it would be like though if I had kept my job. Fortunately, my husband has no regrets and is happy I made the decision to stay home.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

I was a SAHM for 6 years until my youngest was 4 and oldest 6. Then, I thankfully got a job that is part time, my hours and from home. We mostly rely on hubs income. I personally wouldn't trade the wonderful time with my kiddos growing up for any job or money in the world. It's been tight at times but SO more than worth it. They are now 14 and 16. Also, my staying at home and taking care of stuff made it possible for my hubs to even further excel at his job. He's travels and it would've been impossible if I worked full time outside the house also.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

sounds like leaving that job and doing some freelance will make you happier (which translates to a happier family) and give you more family time and freedom, plus the excitement of being self-employed.

since your concerns about leaving your current job are sensible, why not compromise? plan to stay where you are until the end of the year. it's less than 6 months at this point. that will give you a chance to test drive the single income for a bit, start scaling back on your mad money, run the entire family through all the health insurance-based issues you may have, and get ready.

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answers from Washington DC on

One of the ways I tend to answer questions of this magnitude is to ask myself how will I feel 10, 20, 30 yrs from now, etc. Will I wish I would have worked more during the childhood yrs or spent more time with the kids? If you can afford it, to me, it's a no brainer. But only you can answer these questions. I also tend to think that as kids get older and seem to need mom less, it is really important to be around. The teen years are so complicated and I want to be a post in the wind that he can hang onto, when needed.

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answers from Chicago on

Only you know the answer to this question. I've known SAHM that couldn't stand it, and I know SAHM (like myself) that are so grateful that I get to stay home and play with the kids. I do have weeks when I find myself avoiding them and reading books. But most of the time, I'm really grateful that I have the time to make them a warm breakfast and to take them hiking. For us, giving them a slow life is important. It's so important we don't do many extracurriculars either. No matter the income, you can make either work. It costs big bucks to work (clothing, hiring help for cleaning, eating out more). It costs big bucks to only have one income, but you can save by freezer cooker, do your own cleaning, lawn mowing, etc.

At the end of the day, it is about the sort of life your family wants to live. I stay home. I do all the housecleaning, landscape, etc. Our expenses aren't much, as we don't hire out for things. I don't mind doing these jobs. Hell, I even do all the painting, drywall repair, etc.

Since my youngest has reached 5, I am finding I'm wanting a bit more, but it will be a more that fits around the life style we've decided to give our children.

So really, it's about what you value and what kind of life you want to give them. Only you and your hubby get to pick your values.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi. Speaking only from my own experience, I worked full-time until my girls were 8, 6, and 3. Then I got the opportunity to become a stay-at-home mom. It was a very hard adjustment. Sure my house was organized and really clean, I started cooking dinner every night, spent time helping with homework and was a girl-scout leader, but in the end I was lonely. I missed the day-to-day contact with adults and the challenge of my job. But I loved the time with my girls too. So I got a part-time job in a new field. This worked really well until due to injury I could no longer work. Then I started babysitting for friends, another new adventure! Now my girls are 26, 24 and 21 and two have moved out...and I am in my senior year at a local University pursuing a degree that is fulfilling a dream of mine and I LOVE it!! My point is there are tons of options, you don't have to limit yourself to one or the other. You can do whatever works for you and your family it doesn't matter what works for other people. The bottom line is balance and happiness for you and your family. Good luck!

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