This question becomes a huge struggle for some people. Should I stay at home with my new baby or go back to work? For me, my heart knew what I wanted to do, but my brain and logistics held me back from making the decision right away. I personally couldn’t imagine leaving my precious baby boy and going back to sit in an office at a job I wasn’t very passionate about. On the other hand, finances were a huge factor, and we still struggle with this balance.
I decided to stay home with my baby, at least for the first year. As his first birthday recently passed, I’ve been reflecting a lot about this choice. Here are some things for you to consider when making this big decision. I’m writing this in hopes that maybe hearing my thought process will reveal to you what is best for you and your family.
Do you like being around your peers every day? Do you love dressing for work and having chats with your coworkers? Are you a social butterfly?
I am a homebody and, although I love meeting new people and being with my close friends, I get social anxiety and can be extremely shy, especially in work atmospheres. For that reason, I rarely let down my guard at work and haven’t gotten close to many co-workers. I’ve always loved my alone time, so I didn’t feel the social need for a daily workplace retreat. But there are many people who feel a loss when they don’t have opportunities to be around others. It makes a lot of sense that getting up, having a purpose and goals for the day, getting dressed, and interacting with other adults would make you feel alive and useful.
This is a big one. Unless you or your partner brings home mondo bacon, finances are going to be a major consideration when deciding whether to go back to work after having your baby. Unfortunately, not all workplaces even give paid maternity leave. Mine sure didn’t. They didn’t even cover my health care, so I had to pay their portion of my monthly dues along with what I already paid when I stayed home for 6 weeks after giving birth. Obviously, if you are the main bread winner or a single parent, it will be prudent to go back to work. But if that is not the case, you may have more options to think over.
I found this calculator that really helped me wrap my head around staying at home. It is the “Stay at Home Calculator” that lets you know how much you’ll be saving or spending by staying home. With the cost of childcare, eating out at lunch, and gas prices, I realized that I wouldn’t be bringing home much money for working my 9 to 5. Of course, having a child costs more money, so you should also factor in what your expenses will be. You can use this calculator to help you with that. Research how much childcare will cost in your city or town. Or, if you have free childcare, such as a generous grandparent who wants to babysit, then you might have a great situation for going back to work.
This is a very personal area. If you don’t think you could be present and happy staying at home all day with a baby, then you don’t have to. It is definitely draining and you don’t get any “me time” whatsoever when you’re home alone with a young child. It is easy to go stir crazy and run out of things to do that occupy your baby while teaching them new skills. Many daycare centers have sensory learning, art, music, and many other activities that will challenge your baby as he or she grows. Plus, it’s great social interaction for your baby. A lot of babies develop faster, walking and talking earlier because they see other kids around them every day and want to emulate what they can do.
Will having extra income help with your parenting? Maybe it’s the only way you can afford a better school or signing up for activities like science class or ballet for your child once they are old enough.
While I considered all of the above, my thought process led me to stay at home. I am hoping our family will move out of New Orleans before school age so that we won’t have to pay a crazy amount for private school and can have a quality public school education system. I also have always loved children and enjoy playing and interacting with them, so I am cool with hanging out with babies and toddlers. Not everyone has that quality and that is okay! I do research and check Pinterest all the time to come up with inexpensive places to take my child and activities that will help him learn and grow in his toddler skills. So staying at home works for me as a parent.
Can You Get Creative?
Maybe a mixture of working and staying at home is the solution. While it’s a challenge to figure out logistically, this is possible. While I haven’t totally worked out this hybrid, I am working hard to be a work-at-home mom. I have a business doing web and graphic design, Hippie Island Media, and I currently have a part-time remote job making websites for a larger company. I’m not making as much money as I would like, but I am working hard at getting to a more comfortable place. And I always put parenting first. I do my work during nap times and after Auggie goes to sleep for the night. On days that my husband is home, he’ll take the baby out for a while so I can fit in some work. I really enjoy this balance and feel fulfilled to be helping our finances while also being a mom first. I hope and pray that I can hustle and keep this going for a long time.
You can try part time work and a babysitter or part-time daycare, or freelancing/consulting with your skillset. There are many options nowadays for how to work, live, and parent.
So do what is best for you. Listen to your heart, and figure out the logistics as best you can. And remember, after the baby comes and you’ve gone to work or stayed home, your mind might change and it’s okay to make a new plan.