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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

What To Consider When Deciding To Be a Stay-at-Home or Working Mom

Should I stay or should I go? Should I be a working mom or stay-at-home mom? It’s a difficult question and there truly is not a right or wrong answer.  Before making a decision, there are many things to consider from both an emotional and a financial standpoint.

Financial Considerations

Steve Marbert, certified financial planner and president of Richard Young Associates, LTD, says that today’s couples have limited resources and getting kids from diapers through college costs far more than people imagine. (Marbert hosts Money MD with John & Steve, Saturdays from 9-10 a.m. on 1380 AM or streaming at MoneyMD.net.)

“If you want to be able to start early and properly fund a college savings plan for your child, then having two income earners may be the only way for a couple,” he says.

In addition to future college costs, Marbert says that every child adds about $100 to $200 a month to the cost of food alone, not to mention clothes, diapers and the new puppy.

 Kimberly Blanchard, mother of two and executive director of a non-profit in Augusta, says, “In today’s economy, it really takes two incomes to make our household work.” Each of her children are involved in school and extracurricular activities and her youngest requires tuition for his preschool. With her husband working on commission, it is important that her salary be a constant added into the mix.

Marbert advises that before making a decision to go to work outside the home that a couple sit down and put on paper the pros and cons of working.  “People often overlook the cost of gas, daily lunches out, house cleaning and higher taxes, not to mention childcare,” he says.

 However, working will add to social security benefits, which can make a big difference if mom has not already qualified with 10 years of eligible work history. Another overlooked benefit to working full time is that most people will spend less when they are busy working and can’t make those side trips to the mall, according to Marbert. Full-time employment also comes with benefits such healthcare, paid vacations and sick leave.

Part-Time Employment May
Be Worth Considering

A positive of working part-time, besides being able to spend more time with the children, is the flexibility it allows to avoid childcare expenses. Depending on the vocation, some part-time employees may have more flexibility in their schedules. “Proper financial planning and prioritizing a budget is the key to being able to make ends meet on a part-time income and allow for spending more time as a caregiver,” says Marbert.

Working and Staying Home Both
Have Advantages and Disadvantages

Blanchard says there are many additional benefits of working full time that are not financial. Although she enjoyed maternity leave after the birth of her first child, she remembers the excitement she felt the first day she returned to work. “I was surrounded by other adults, had adult conversations and was able to serve others and not just my children,” she says.

Working full time also allowed her to have an identity outside of being Catherine and Russell’s mom. “Furthermore, after I have my little work break each day, when I return home, I am so ready to just be their mommy, which is a full-time job with even greater benefits,” she adds.

Jenny Wright, mother of two and a stay-at-home mom, says she and her husband discussed if she would stay home with the children before they were even married. “We decided that, if financially possible, I’d stay home with the kids until they were at least school age,” she says. The benefits of staying at home include being available if the kids are sick and have to miss school, more time for volunteering at school and the ability to get a good dinner on the table for the family, according to Wright.

The disadvantages of being a stay-at-home mom, in addition to missing the additional income, are no lunch breaks or coffee breaks and feeling as if you are not in charge of the money. “Fortunately, my husband feels as if I am contributing as much to the household as he is so there isn’t a control issue with the money,” Wright says.

The downside to working full time includes feeling as if you can’t let go of the job to fully enjoy the family. “In my line of work, the job never stops,” says Blanchard.  “Just because you have checked out of the office does not mean you have checked out until the next day.”

 When making a decision based on financial issues, the need for mom to work full-time depends on how much money the couple needs to meet current expenses while still saving for college and retirement. If basing the decision emotional issues, that is on more of a personal level and everyone is different.   “Many of my friends work, and they are great moms,” says Wright. “Many stay home and are great moms.” There is no tried and true formula to determine what is the “right” thing to do—full-time, part-time or stay-at-home—it’s a mix that is an individual choice for each family.

Stay-at-Home Dads

In her article called “Taking Time Off From Work to be at Stay-at-Home Dad”, Dawn Rosenberg McKay (about.com) says there is a list of questions you and your partner need to consider first:

1. Which parent earns more money?

2. Who has a better health insurance policy?

3. Who stands to lose more by taking time off from his or her career?

4. Can either parent switch to part time or a more flexible schedule?

5. Can either parent work from home?

After answering these questions, a couple can usually make an educated guess about which parent should stay at home—and sometimes the answer is Dad.

Cammie Jones is an Augusta freelancewriter and busy mother of three.

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