Being a stay-at-home mom is hard work, but the job title is not for everyone – including me. The work load of a stay-at-home mom is arguably at its peak when the children are young (say, 0-10 years old), and obviously that work load increases with the number of children, but conceivably the work load also decreases as the children age and become more independent. Of course, the level of independence a child has as they age has so much to do with the responsibility a parent gives to a child, and from what the child sees around them. My independence analysis does not include chronic illnesses, diseases or any number of other reasons that would keep a child dependent on their parents for much longer or for life. During my childhood, by way of example, I learned how to take the bus to school while I was in elementary school (around 10 years old or so) eliminating my mother’s need to drive me back and forth (my mom worked full-time); and as soon as I started driving (16) and started working a part-time job earning my own money (16) my independence sky-rocketed. My parents also trusted me a great deal. By the time I made it to college (18) I knew how to pay bills, balance my earnings with bills that were coming due, save the money that was left over after bills, and work while juggling full-time course work. With the help of scholarships, grants and my part-time job I never needed financial help from my parents except for the two-three times my car just totally fell apart on me. I was entirely self-sufficient at 18 years old, which is where the government pretty much assumes all kids should be at that age. But, there are the late bloomers and a host of other reasons why a child may still be pretty well-connected to the nest beyond 18 years old. For example, when the economy tanked in 2008, I struggled to find a full-time job. If it had not been for my fiancé (now husband) I most likely would have had to move home for a short period of time while I figured out my job situation and next steps.
I do not think there is anything wrong with a mom wanting to stay home with her children (setting aside my own decision to never be a stay-at-home mom), but I think it is so important to really weigh all the pros and cons that come with that decision since the decision is quite drastic. The cons far outweighed the pros for me, so the idea of staying at home full-time with any future children is quite scary to me. I have no problem taking the standard 4-6 weeks of maternity leave, and I could perhaps stomach being away from the working world for a year, maybe, but even that time-frame scares me, and here’s why:
1. I spent 7 years in school earning extremely expensive degrees, and a wealth of knowledge that I am determined not to let get rusty.
I’m currently a licensed attorney working in labor relations. Specifically, in the education/school law realm. The law is ever-changing, and I’ll get better with experience. Really, the experience factor can be said for all jobs. If I leave my job to be a stay-at-home mom I immediately stop gaining experience, stop any possibility of promotions and growth in the working world, fall behind on changing law, and become dependent on my husband to live. I’ll get to that third part later, but what I’m trying to get at is that I like knowing that I am reaping the benefits of the education I paid so much for and spent so much time doing. I did not drop thousands of dollars on higher education or waste precious years of my life just to just walk away from all of it. Many stay-at-home moms do return or try to return to the work field after 10 or so years, but that length of time away from my type of work would be career suicide. There are careers that I’m sure would suffer far less than a law-related career with a large gap(s) in employment, but I’m fairly certain that if I did not work for 10 or so years I would have a hell of a time finding a job again in my field, especially if I left my job with less than 5 years under my belt, or I would have to start at a much lower salary that is not comparable with my age at that time – or from scratch, so to speak.
2. I like my independence a lot.
The idea of relying on my husband entirely for financial support is the part that scares me the most. I’m going to drive into negative town for a minute and talk about things that I don’t want to talk about, but I have to in order to make my point. What if Dan suffers a life-altering injury that renders him completely incapable of working again at a fairly young age? Or what if Dan’s life is tragically cut short five years after we have our first child? Well, the financial burden rests on me again except this time there is absolutely no choice in the matter. Of course, there are things like long-term disability and other government long-term disability/death benefit programs, but the return on these benefits really depends on age at death/disability, and other factors used to calculate eligibility. Also, the earnings from government programs are never anywhere near what the husband was earning before injury/death because the payouts are usually a percentage of what the husband was making pre-injury/death. Thus, the chances of the mother having to return to work increases seven-fold. If I continue to work my full-time job after having children my ability to support myself is already there in case something horrible happens, and I continue to earn experience and credibility in my work area for future promotions, job changes, etc. This is extremely important to me.
3. I have a hard time being OK with placing all the financial burden on my husband.
Being a stay-at-home mom is certainly a difficult job, but if this is the only job then there is no earning potential. There is certainly saving potential for sure though, like virtually eliminating day care expenses. However, working at a job outside of the home is stressful on a whole other level – there’s the worry of being laid-off, the possibility of angering bosses and clients, the possibility of arduous assignments, the complexity of client relationships, or the immense stress culminating just from the natural weight of, “I’m carrying the financial security of my entire family on my shoulders so if I screw up or lose my job or die or injure myself irreversibly, then my whole family suffers.” That’s a lot of stress. I’m not trying to minimize the stress of stay at home moms, but the stress between the two is quite different. Sure, stay-at-home moms will worry about money, but there’s something different about the stress a sole working parent carries, especially if the working parents works at an incredibly demanding job. At least that’s how I feel. With that said, I just am not OK with giving all of that stress to my husband. He’s a parent too, and he will have to be a parent 24/7 on top of working in his other full-time job – I feel as though I should share and carry double the weight with him – we are a team, and this is how I define team in my mind. If he must work and be a parent, then I should too.
4. I want to set an example for my children that it is totally OK to have children AND maintain a career.
Just because I want to continue working after children come into the picture does not mean I love them any less or that I did not want children in the first place. Millions of woman keep their careers and raise perfectly healthy and bright children. My mom is one them. In fact, I learned so much watching her work a full-time job while raising my brother and I (she raised us alone for awhile before my step-dad came into the picture) – things that I would not have learned if she had been a stay at home mom. Working and raising children made my mom a much stronger and independent woman, and that’s exactly the image I want to portray to my children.
5. I simply just do not think I can do it.
I know how this sounds – being a parent is a 24/7 job every waking moment, but that’s not what I mean. I just really will miss having a career. I’ll miss the benefits of working like earning potential, promotions, legal intellectual stimulation, raises, career growth and change; and the social aspect of mingling with co-workers, hashing out complex problems at meetings, and advising others; and just gaining experience most of all.
Will my mind change when kids enter the picture? I highly doubt it. I’ve been analyzing and re-analyzing my thoughts on parent-hood, and I also know my personality well enough to know being a stay-at-home mom just isn’t for me.