Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was working a what many would consider a great corporate job.  I did work with great people, I loved going to work every day, and made a decent salary.  (I did have an atrocious boss, one of two I experienced in corporate life). I  always assumed I would want to go right back to work, and that I would be able to put my baby in daycare after my six-week maternity leave.  Most of my friends who had recently had babies went right back to work, and I assumed I would too. It never dawned on me that I would not want to return to work. The idea of being a stay at home mom had never even entered the equation when my husband and I decided to start a family.

That is, it never entered my mind until around the time we got the first ultrasound. By the time I was feeling the first kicks, the reality of having my first baby set in, and there was no way I was going to do anything but be home to enjoy every single minute of it. I could not imagine going back to work and leaving my baby. Not every woman has that choice (or wants it) but for those who do, there are definitely things you should think about when deciding whether or not you can stay home.

Going to One Income

When I first approached the idea with my husband, he wasn’t at all sure we could manage on his income.  We each made about the same salary, so we would literally be cutting our funds in half – and we had just bought a new house and the mortgage was $200 higher than our previous payment had been. Of course, by this time I was desperate to become a corporate refugee, so I was motivated to find a way.

Our first step was to write down all of the expenses we currently had.  We made a list of all of our bills: car, house, insurance, groceries, credit card payments, incidentals.  We tried to include everything possible, even date night.  We then ran two alternate scenarios: one with me working and one with me not.  With me working, we would incur about $1200 a month in daycare costs.  In addition, there were the costs of my commute, work clothes, and other work-related incidentals. With me not working, we would spend less in gas and not have daycare expenses.

We also talked a lot about the long-term impact of me not working – not building my 401(k) and not having the health insurance (mine was less expensive than his) and whether or not I would still feel like staying home three or six months down the road.  We decided that the extra cost of insurance would be an acceptable risk and that if I really didn’t want to stay home down the road, I was highly employable and we lived in a great area for starting a new career.

My husband’s income wasn’t quite enough to make us feel comfortable, but we still had a few months before the baby arrived. We took all of our extra money those last few months – when I was too big and uncomfortable to do much anyway – and paid down our credit cards and put a month’s worth of bills in savings. I then talked to my HR department, who advised me to take advantage of my maternity leave and give my notice in the last two weeks of leave.  My company’s policies allowed me that luxury, and it extended our income through the first month and a half of our son’s life, while I was home enjoying every minute of him.

If You Want to Stay Home with Baby, Start Planning Early

Depending on your situation, staying home with your baby might be possible. It’s important to realize how much of your income would be going to daycare expenses and what other expenses you could cut if you were not working. If we had been forced to, we could have sold a vehicle and lived with only one in order to make things work – we have now been a one-vehicle family for almost six years and couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.  I was also able to do a little bit of work from home to supplement our income, something that ended up translating into a full-time business when my husband made his break from the corporate world to return to school.

If staying home with your baby is your goal, the best thing you can do is start planning early, be flexible, and look for ways to save money and be thrifty along the way.  For me, it was worth every sacrifice to be able to enjoy all of my son’s many progressions through those first months.