A baby changes a lot about your life. The decision to go back to work or stay home with your kids can be tough for many families. Even if you always planned to stay home once you had kids, making the transition could be harder than you think on several levels. There are three important elements to preparing to be a stay at home mom: the first is financial, the second is family dynamics and the third is your personal adjustment.
Budgeting to be a Stay-at-Home Mom
Reducing your family’s income could cause some major changes in your household. One way to adjust to the change is to begin living on one income before you leave your job. It may take a lot of discipline, but put aside your income for six months before your baby is born to get a real feel for being a one-income family. At this point you can create a new family budget to see what expenses can be cut and where you can begin to save more money. Sometimes entire luxuries may have to go for a few years, such as travel, morning lattes and trips to the spa.
Make sure that becoming a stay-at-home mom won’t put your family in debt. Be smart about using credit cards and accumulating major bills. Having a new baby can be expensive so budget accordingly. Also, account for changes in your insurance and contributions to your retirement due to leaving your job.
Shifting Family Dynamics
You and your partner may agree that staying-at-home is the best choice for raising your children, but not about the new roles you will each play in your new situation. Whereas you may have eaten out, had a cleaning service and paid for lawn care in the past, your partner may expect you to take on these responsibilities now that you’re staying at home. And while your husband typically works long hours, you may assume he’ll be home more now that you have a baby. Discuss these changes on a specific level to set expectations that satisfy both of you. Your marriage is an essential part of raising a happy family and the tone you set forth will be reflected on your children. Keep an open dialogue so you can readdress issues and challenges as they arise. The truth is, even if this is a mutual decision, neither of you know exactly how it will turn out so be open to adjustments as necessary.
Not Losing Yourself in Stay-at-Home Motherhood
Happy mothers are better at being mothers. Making the decision to stay at home with your kids does not mean you have to change who you are completely. Make it a priority to stay in touch with old friends and co-workers to keep a pulse on your old life. You’ll also want to make new friends whose lifestyle is similar to yours – people with kids around the same age and who share your values. And be sure to do some things for yourself away from your kids. You need an occasional break from motherhood. This can be in the form of a book club, mom’s night out or simply going to a movie by yourself when your partner can be home to watch your children.
If you are worried about becoming irrelevant in your career field, consider keeping a foot in the door by working part-time or picking up contract work. This may alleviate some of your budget issues while also eliminating the gap in your resume should you want to return to work in the future. Many stay-at-home moms put their skills to use in ways that support and benefit their families, such as chairing committees at your children’s school, doing volunteer work in the community or sitting on the board of your home owner’s association. These productive roles will keep you involved in adult activities that improve your life on many levels and give you a sense of accomplishment.
Preparing to be a stay-at-home mom is a multi-dimensional task. Be aware of the changes that lie ahead so you can navigate the road smoothly.