Why I'm a Stay-at-Home Mom (and the financial implications)

Why I’m a Stay-at-Home Mom (and the financial implications)

One of the things that makes our journey to early retirement unique is that I’m a stay at home mom. Though I do have some income (I’ll get to that), I am not a major financial contributer to this journey. Yet I’m the one that manages all the finances and makes all the plans for Mr. T to retire early. Here’s a bit more of the story behind that.

How I chose to be a Stay-at-Home mom

Penny, our oldest, was born while I was in graduate school. Because of the timing, I had the opportunity to decide what I wanted to do before ever starting a corporate life. Because Mr. T and I were both in school, we balanced parenting duties equally and made sure our class schedules worked around each other so we could pass off the stroller on campus between our respective classes. After Mr. T graduated, we moved to the Northwest so he could find a job and I could finish my masters thesis. We didn’t count on our long stint with unemployment at the same time. I graduated just before Penny was 18 months old and the next month, Mr. T got a job in Alaska.

Moving to Alaska was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Not because it was Alaska. We loved Alaska right away. It was hard because I’d never been just a mom and I had never had the parenting duties fall so heavily on me (now that Mr. T was off at work every day). Though that transition was hard for me, I made the choice to stay home. I knew how hard it would be to leave Penny every day and I wasn’t sure what career path I wanted anyway (just like now, I wanted to do so many things!).

The idea was not new to me. My mom was home with us (and worked part-time in the schools teaching Shakespeare to elementary students when I was in elementary school and directing musicals in the middle school starting when my sister was in middle school). Mr. T’s mom was home with them (and worked part-time as a nurse). I assumed at some point when I had children, I would spend some time home with them. I hadn’t planned to get married so young or have kids before graduating. That timing, however, made the decision easier for me. It was a natural transition.

The Financial Implications of Being a Stay-at Home Mom

Financially, the choice was simple as well. We had just spent 10 months unemployed and paying graduate school tuition. We knew we could live on very little. Now Mr. T had a consistent income and health insurance. Sure we had a mortgage payment now, but we were still thrilled with having a consistent income and we knew we could make it work.

The big sacrifice in becoming a stay-at-home mom is that you are willingly giving up your high-incoming earning years to earn no money as a mom. This sacrifice needs to be acknowledged more widely. When I come across stories of stay at home moms feeling guilty spending money because they are not earning it or having an “allowance” as a stay at home mom, I feel ill. Just because you are not the income earner in your family does not mean you contribute less. I sacrifice my income-earning years and Mr. T sacrifices by being the only income we rely on as a family. That has its stresses as well, but that does not entitle him to all the money. This is an important conversation to have before making the leap into becoming a stay at home mom. Both spouses need to be on board with this sacrifice.

Our family is like a business. Mr. T is in sales for our business (he doesn’t actually work in sales and would make a terrible salesman, as would I) because he brings in the most revenue for the business. I am the CFO of the family. The CFO is not responsible for income-generation, but rather income-management. It would be silly for someone to get mad at the CFO for not bringing enough money into the company: “Get down to that sales floor and makes some sales or you won’t be allowed to make any more financial decisions!”

I have been tremendously lucky that I am able to generate some income for the family as well. I did not seek to do so, but 9 months after moving to Alaska, a job fell in my lap. My old professor’s husband called me out of nowhere and asked if I wanted to work for him part time, from home, entirely around my schedule doing research (which is my passion) 10-15 hours a week. That was 7.5 years ago. Not all stay-at-home moms are as lucky. They are no less valuable than I am.

There is No Right Choice

As always, I want to emphasize that there is no “right” choice here. Just because I am a stay at home mom doesn’t mean I think you should be. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I don’t regret my decision at all, but it certainly seems easier before actually doing it. Every family is different. There are benefits to staying home and there are benefits to daycare–both for the kids and for the parents. As long as you are having the discussion about what is best for you and your family, you are making the right choice.

Parenting is hard enough without the added mom guilt. I, for one, am in solidarity with all parents everywhere. During the first week of school after I dropped my kids off, I saw a dad in his construction uniform and hard hat running his son into school before the bell rang. Solidarity, dad. For every mom pumping in the broom closet to feed her baby when she gets home from work: Solidarity, mom. For every parent wondering if they’re doing the right thing: Solidarity, parents.

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11 Comments

  1. fiwaysandbyways

    Very nice post! DW and I made the decision for her to stay home when our first child was born and continue with our second. This was quite a few years ago. The sacrifice was mostly financial and did have it’s moments of stress. We quickly made adjustments and she started to do some part time work. As soon as the kids started school, she was able to do some substitute teaching in the school district we live in. That move ultimately led to her returning to a full time teaching position with a 3 minute commute. Although we both agree this was a challenge at the time and delayed our financial goals, we have no regrets. As you mentioned, I agree that there is no “right” choice. There are bad stay at home parents and there are great parents that choose to work and utilize daycare. Be the best parent you can, regardless of your work schedule. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • MaggieBanks

      Amen! Everyone has to find the best way for them to parent. Once Lui is in school, it will be interesting to see which of my projects I throw myself into more. Even a few years out is hard to predict.

  2. I hear you. Being a stay at home dad While also being responsible for the “sales” is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. After feeding the little one and 9:30 PM last night, my shift was over and I had to go write a newsletter until about 11 PM. Now it’s starting all over at 7 AM today.

    I’m thankful my wife is a stay-at-home mom who is responsible now for the night shift. At least there is some good division of labor so we’re both not dying during the day!

    At what age does it start getting easier? One mother told me after two years old.

    Sam

    • MaggieBanks

      The terrible threes were more a thing in our house than the terrible twos, but once they start being able to build things by themselves… that’s a helpful transition. 🙂

  3. When I was dropping off the kids every morning, I saw the same cast of characters doing the same thing as me. Dropping their kids off at 6:30am to get to work, and it ranged from suits, to scrubs, to jumpsuits for engineers that work in the nearby refineries. I think being a SAH parent is definitely going to be WAY harder than my current job and applaud anyone that can do it. I don’t think I’d be able to handle it if the kids weren’t in school full time by the time I’ll make that transition. Maybe, but I think I could go crazy at some point, lol.

    Mrs. SSC was about at wits end just being a SAHM over the summer. I said, “This is why you see so many psts on the first day of school with mom’s and wine/margarita’s, just relaxing or napping or whatever way they’re celebrating their “freedom” again”. 🙂

    It’s a tough job for sure.

    • MaggieBanks

      Oh I definitely go crazy… but that’s part of the fun of it. 🙂 Summer is a love/hate relationship. Knock on wood, my kids get along pretty well, so I get to sleep in and don’t have to make lunches in the morning or get them anywhere, but they are always here. We watch movies in the afternoons. 🙂

  4. I stayed at home just 1.5 years and I noticed I am not good to tasks managements, switch between home boring tasks to job tasks, avoid what I hated (cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen, I still hate, but I am not at home to extra use it 😀 😀 ) etc. That’s I admire the mothers working home!! – there are some qualities that I don’t have.

    • MaggieBanks

      Oh I’m terrible at task management. My house is never clean. But that’s alright with me. 🙂

  5. Solidarity, sister!

    Being a SAHP is ten times harder than most jobs I’ve had and I didn’t do it that long. I see our friends doing it and they work ever so hard without ever getting a real break and that’s so tough. But we all do the thing that’s right for our families and that’s different for everyone.

    And one of these days, I’ll even figure out what I want to do when I grow out of this particular stage 😉

    • MaggieBanks

      I always appreciate the solidarity. And yes, it is a tough gig. Seriously. The management is completely unreasonable! 🙂

  6. Chris @ Keep Thrifty

    My wife has stayed home with the kids since our oldest was born. She did have a part-time job early on (when we just had one child) but hasn’t been bringing in regular income for the last 5 years.

    With our mini-retirement, I’m getting a taste of what it’s like to be a stay at home parent and it’s given me an even higher respect than I already had for people doing the work. When people ask what my wife does, I always tell them that I may be the only income, but she’s got the tougher job.

    I like the analogy of your husband being in sales and you being the CFO. It takes covering all the roles to make a house’s finances work and it seems like you two have a really great system worked out!

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