4 Things to Consider Before Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

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Sometimes you just can’t put a price on things – and the intangible benefits of being a stay-at-home parent is certainly one of them. At least it is to me.

According to the most recent Census Bureau report, there are approximately 5.1 million stay-at-home moms in America. That equates to a little more than one of every five married-couple family groups.

Being a stay-at-home mom isn’t for everyone. After all, not only is it one of the most difficult jobs in the world, but it doesn’t come with a paycheck, either.

According to a Salary.com study, if the average stay-at-home mom did get paid, her annual compensation in 2012 would be $112,962.

By the way, a similar study by Salary.com in 2011 found that stay-at-home dads put in roughly half the time their female counterparts do. As a result, their compensation – assuming they actually got a paycheck – would only be $60,128 annually. Take that, fellas.

But I digress.

My mom was a stay-at-home parent, and I still marvel at all the things she used to do: cooking, cleaning, shopping, paying bills, yard work, running errands, and shuttling me and my sister all over town – even when she wasn’t feeling well.

Mom was responsible for a lot of our home maintenance too. For example, when the walls needed a fresh coat of paint, she was on it. I even remember one year she spent the entire summer painstakingly stripping and restaining all the woodwork in our house (and there was a lot of it).

As a child growing up, I can’t tell you how comforting it was for me knowing that my mom was going to be home when I finished my day at school. It was an even bigger treat on the days I’d come home to find fresh-baked cookies or pie on the counter. After all these years, those memories are still fresh in my mind and, let me tell you, they are truly special.

Needless to say, after debating the pros and cons of one income versus two, my wife and I decided to go the stay-at-home-mom route about 14 years ago. Yes, we’ve since forfeited well over a quarter-million dollars in lost salary over that time – but it’s a decision neither of us regrets. Not for one minute.

If you’re thinking about being a stay-at-home mom, here are a few financial tips and considerations you’ll need to keep in mind…

1. Determine your expenses

Ironically, for some families, the benefits of having an extra paycheck are often almost completely offset by additional taxes, childcare, and other work-related expenses. Even so, before making the jump from two incomes to one, you’ll first need to evaluate whether you can live within the confines of a reduced income.

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to determine all of your non-discretionary expenses – like your mortgage, utilities, insurance, groceries, and retirement contributions. Be sure to set aside money to handle unexpected expenses like car repairs or pop-up medical issues. Once you’ve done that, you’ll know how much you have left for the discretionary spending like vacations and entertainment.

2. Don’t forget to subtract your work-related expenses

Remember, by staying home, you’ll end up saving money by eliminating work-related costs like childcare, commuting expenses, clothing, and lunches. And because you’ll have the time to cook more meals at home, the odds are you’ll be eating out less too for even more savings.

3. Consider your alternatives

If you’ve cut your expenses to the bone and still can’t seem to make the bottom line work, don’t despair. If you’re truly committed to having a stay-at-home parent, there are alternatives to make it work even while both parents are still working. For example, perhaps one parent can take advantage of 4-day/10-hour shifts or work only part-time.

4. Don’t stop networking

Because job loss is always a concern in a one-income family, it’s important that stay-at-home moms (and dads) continue networking after leaving their old jobs. Stay in touch with your old co-workers and business partners and, if you haven’t already done so, create a profile on a Web-based networking site like LinkedIn.

Being a stay-at-home mom can be extremely rewarding, but sometimes it’s just not possible. However, if you are fortunate enough to be in a position to make it work, I urge you to give it a shot.

I promise that it’s one of the greatest gifts you can ever give your kids.

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