I never knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom until I became a mom. My daughter was 2 when I graduated from college and was offered what might have been considered a dream job, but for so many reasons, I turned it down and made the move to become a full-time stay-at-home mother. I was young, had no friends who stayed home with their children, and we were not yet financially fruitful in our young marriage. Life as a stay-at-home mom was full of challenges and changes, but as the moths grew into years and we welcomed 3 more children into our family, I clearly saw that this was the best choice for us.
As amazing and wonderful as being a stay-at-home mom can be, if you don’t plan for the realities of it the stress and responsibilities can be daunting. Over the years I made my fumbles, but thankfully was, and still am, able to stay home with all of my children and be a part of their everyday lives in ways I just don’t think I could if I had taken that dream job.
- If at all possible practice with a single-income budget before you make the move to become a stay-at-home mom. Stash your current paycheck into savings and only use the income provided by your spouse. This will give you a real-world sampling of what it will be like to live on one paycheck.
- Consider which things you can comfortably live without in order to reach your goal of living on a single income. Look for things you can remove the expense of and still find similar benefits elsewhere.
- Cable – check out DVDs from your library instead
- Dinner out once week – go for dinner out once a month or take a picnic somewhere so you still feel like you are getting out
- Winter vacations – consider travelling in off seasons for reduced rates
- Gym membership – get together with moms from the neighborhood to work out together (set days/times for meeting to walk) or look for used equipment for the home
- Wine of the month club – treats like this have the price tag of convenience, so make a trip yourself once month to choose your own treat
- Be ready to clip corners and coupons. I became an expert at searching ads and sale prices and knowing when a bargain is truly a bargain.
- Buy in bulk only when there is not a “best buy” date (unless you have a large family). Things like toilet paper and soap have great shelf lives so stock up when you find rock-bottom prices.
- Buy generic, especially when it comes to your staple items. Stores like Aldi’s carry many household basics at fractions of the cost (and the items often come from the same manufacturers, with different labels thrown on them).
- Find ways to be your own service-person. As the mother of 3 sons (one who grows hair like Sasquatch), I quickly realized that haircuts are one area where I can be the salon manager. I invested $24 in a quality “buzz kit” and found a friend who used to work in a salon to give me some quick lessons. Even if I only cut their hair once each year myself, I had paid for the buzz kit the first time I used it. Other ways you can do the job yourself include:
- Car washing
- Dog grooming
- Yard maintenance
- Simple home repairs (before we ever consider calling in a repair man we check online – someone somewhere else has always had the same problem and posted their solutions)
- Taxes (it can be intimidating the first year, but you can calm your fears by trying it yourself and then taking it in for review)
- Vehicle maintenance (even my 16 year old daughter has changed the oil in the car)
- Use online resources like Freecycle, Vegsource, FatWallet, and Ebates to make the most of your stay-at-home dollar.
Yes – the finances are an obvious obstacle for parents who want to stay home with their children. However, there are other factors that can become hurdles as well, especially if we don’t go into the situation with both eyes wide open. Staying home with the kids has wonderful benefits, but there can be some hidden dangers along the way. If both partners are not on board with the decision you are setting yourself up for resentment and frustration, and much larger problems down the road.
- Make the budget together so there are no surprises.
- Set aside time to be a couple. You will need this even more once you start spending the majority of your time home with the demands of young children, but your partner will also need to know that you still have time and energy for him.
- Clearly set up the expectations of the household. Your partner might think that you staying home means you take on all of the household responsibilities, 7 days a week. If this is not your intention – be up front with it. Tell him you need him to help with dishes on the weekends or vacuuming on Saturday morning.
- Stay-at-home moms have large workloads that just sometimes go unrealized by partners, but approaching the situation calmly and respectfully is better than just wishing he would help more at bath-time but resenting him because he doesn’t.
Find others who are stay-at-home parents for companionship and compassion (you will give and receive both!). Friends who also stay home with their kids are great resources for budget hints, time-saving strategies, and the latest free concerts for the toddlers on weekday morning. You can also take turns babysitting so each of you get that much needed sanity break (even if it is just to run to the grocery store).
The life of a stay-at-home mom is not very glamorous or sadly, highly respected, in many circles. You need to choose this path because it is your passion and because you truly feel it is right for your family. If you do, maybe in the end you will find that it is your dream job, just like I did.
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