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Making the Choice: Staying Home or Going Back to Work after Baby

Katlyn Joy |26, June 2013


Deciding whether to work after baby is born is one of the toughest decisions a family makes. It seems there are two hardcore camps at either end of the spectrum: the stay at home moms versus the working moms. But how do you as an individual decide what's best for you, your child and your family as a whole?

For most families there is not one way for the entire parenting span. Perhaps the first few years a mom will stay home but run a small home business. Then she may begin working part time when her children begin preschool and finally goes fulltime later. Or maybe she has a quickly advancing career and job shares for the first few years, then works full time. By the time the kids are in the tween years, she has more tenure on the job and has a more flexible schedule. Every family is unique and generally evolves in work schedules or jobs over a lifetime.

Things to Consider When Deciding Whether to Go Back to Work After Baby

Find out how flexible your current employer may be with your job and scheduling. Talking in advance to other mothers to find out how they made things work for their families can give you ideas.

Go over your budget with your spouse to get a firm grasp on what your true expenses are and what ones can be shaved. Don't forget expenses that only come up on occasion, or quarterly.

Next determine whether having only your husband's income is enough to cover your expenses and hopefully have a bit of a cushion, or just in case money.

This is the reality for many families, that going back to work is not a choice as much as a necessity. How much more you need is what you next need to figure. But you need to keep in mind the expenses that come along with working away from home.

Work associated expenses:

This is the biggest outlay of cash you'll have to deal with when working, unless you have the advantage of a child care coop or a relative. Also some families may qualify for childcare assistance from the government.

Your childcare options include:

  • Daycare
  • Nanny
  • Home daycare provider
  • Relative care
  • Parents share care by splitting their work schedules

Will you need a second vehicle? That means a possible car payment, insurance, gas and maintenance. If you don't need a car, then how much will a bus pass or train cost you? Some jobs also will reimburse you at least partially for a bus pass.

Depending on the job you may have to pay for parking, so don't forget to add that to your expenses.

Staying at home doesn't take a special wardrobe, but if you are working you will need attire that is appropriate for your job.

Will you need to pack lunches or will you be going out for lunch? Don't forget that you may have dead-tired nights when you won't feel like cooking and will opt for take out food for the family.

How will your income change your taxes?
Try to find out ahead of time to eliminate any negative surprises.

The Benefits of Each

For stay at home moms:

  • A truly casual wardrobe. Just don't make a habit of wearing pj's all day. It'll depress you.
  • Not missing anything. Not a smile, a shaky step or warbled word. Not a poopy diaper. Not a tantrum. Well, there are some downsides to this, too.
  • Saving money and helping the family by couponing, home cooking and freezing meals, and other options you don't have as much time for if working outside the home.
  • A chance to spend your days with your favorite people.
  • Being your child's first teacher.

For working moms:

  • Getting out of the house. Some days it is a breath of fresh air, sometimes literally if the diaper pail is full.
  • Having the money to pay your bills and take off some family stress.
  • Continuing to build your career and pursue a path you enjoy.
  • Talking to people about things other than breastfeeding and teething.

Challenges for Both:

Mothers must find balance between their own identities, pursuits and professions and their families. They need to find their own joy without compromising their family's, a tall order indeed. But every mother is a wonder.

Katlyn Joy is a mother to 7 children, and a freelance writer. She earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Poetry, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and was previously an adviser to new mothers on breastfeeding through a maternity home program. She currently resides in Colorado with her family.

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