So you are ready to quit your day job and embrace the stay at home mom lifestyle? Great, congratulations! There is no other job as fulfilling and rewarding as this, but are you really, really ready to throw in the towel on your good old career? Are you privy to insider information on your new vocation and what your life will be like? Well, here’s a curtain raiser to your SAHM life and 10 questions that you must ask yourself before becoming a stay at home mom or parent (as the case may be). Read on and choose wisely 🙂
1. Have you done your budget calculations?
Let’s get the most obvious question out of the way, shall we? If you want to quit, you will need to calculate your income versus expenditure and know for sure that you can survive on a single income from your partner and that your salary is not going to be missed sorely at the end of every single month.
Of course, there are inherent benefits of staying at home like extra savings related to daycare, commuting, work attire (formal vs yoga pants 😉 ) and other such miscellaneous things, but you must be sure that the delta cushion between your family’s income and expenditure is thick enough to sustain and occasionally absorb a shock or two when it comes to the well-being of your family (For example – unforeseen medical bills, sudden travel costs etc.).
2. Have you factored in your personality and support system into the equation?
Getting the financial equation correct is important, but it would be meaningless if your personality does not suit the stay at home lifestyle. Are you outgoing and need constant adult interactions? Do you have a support system (a group of friends/family) who will be there to encourage and motivate you in your SAHM journey? Are you prepared for the alienation and occasional loneliness that is the hallmark of SAHM life?
For me, being at home all by myself came easy, because as an introvert, I live part of my life inside my head and don’t necessarily need too many adult interactions per day. Even then, I do have grown-ups I talk to regularly and online mom groups I hang out at because without those adult interactions I will lose my mind. Some of my more outgoing friends are part of mommy-groups they interact with at the playground or have kitty-parties with.
So yeah, you must figure out where you stand personality-wise and in terms of a support system before you take the plunge if you are to retain your sanity as a SAHM.
3. What does your self-worth depend on?
Does your self-worth equal the paycheck you bring home or your designation at work? If you are stripped of your job identity, do you still have confidence in the person you are or does your self-esteem take a beating? Do you know who are you over and above your job description? You must answer these questions honestly if you are to do justice to this new role you are vying for.
Depression does not announce its arrival. Unless you see and appreciate your value past your career identity, you may quite easily spiral into an abyss of self-doubt and sadness which will not only chip away at the remnants of your identity and confidence bit by bit but will also be extremely detrimental to your family life.
4. Are you disciplined and self-motivated?
SAHM life is fraught with temptations 😉 – One more TV series, one more hour of sleep, one more tub of ice cream – the list is endless. So, the question that you need to ask yourself is – Are you disciplined enough? Are you self-motivated or do you need a boss threatening you with a deadline or a bad performance review to get off your couch and be productive?
Since you are your own boss (if we ignore the children for the time being that is!), you need truck-loads of self-drive to stick to a schedule and not get sucked into laziness and the many attractions of SAHM life. This is something I struggled with most in the beginning before realizing that it doesn’t matter whether you are working or not, you have to have a routine.
5. Do you enjoy being around your children 24X7?
This is a biggie. You may love your children to pieces, but are you comfortable sharing every second of your 24X7 life with little followers, who will refuse to leave you alone even for things which you thought were basic human rights like bathroom breaks? Is the lack of privacy and “me time” a deal breaker?
Children are known for being lousy, finicky, whimsical bosses (worse than your worst ex-boss), especially if they are the spirited, hyperactive kind. Are you okay with having almost non-existent downtime? More importantly, are you comfortable living with your child’s temperament 24X7 without losing patience often?
I am lucky in this regard because I get on very well with most children (sometimes better than adults, I have to admit!) and share many common interests with sonny (Pixar movies being an example in point) which makes our days interesting and well balanced despite the occasional battle of wills.
So yeah, you have to remember that loving your children and liking being with them the whole day are not one and the same thing and you have to be honest if the latter is something you are comfortable with.
6. Do you have spousal support?
I am not talking financial support here because that is something which is a given if you are to become a SAHM. By spousal support I mean – does your better half really understand and appreciate the job that you are about to embark upon? Or are you going to have to answer “What do you even do all day?” kind of questions day in and out?
When I discussed quitting my job with my husband, he made it very clear that if I wanted to be a SAHM, it would be for being there for sonny and not for turning myself into some glorified, over-qualified housekeeper.
Agreed, housework is part and parcel of every family’s life irrespective of whether both parents are working or not. But never having to explain messy rooms, sky-high loads of unwashed laundry and uncooked dinner despite staying home all day long just because playing with the child took precedence that day, is something that can never be taken for granted. An understanding between you and your spouse in this regard is of utmost importance because this is one major area through which resentment can creep in very easily if both of you are not on the same page.
7. Do you have some means of self-fulfillment other than being “just a mom”?
What makes you happy? Is it reading a good book, watching a heartwarming movie, doing social work, being involved in creative writing, doing arts and crafts, cooking, gardening, dancing, exercising? Well, whatever, it is, do you have something? Something that defines your identity other than being “just a mom” – something that you love doing and can continue doing even after you quit your day job? If not, then you need to find a means for self-fulfillment over and above your full-time job of parenting because, without it, your zest for life may fade away and over time boredom and depression may seep in.
8. Are you quitting under pressure or is being a SAHM something you really, really want to do?
Who are you quitting your job for? Is it because you want to or because you are under pressure from your family and/or society to do it? This is especially important in the Indian context where doing a job post-childbirth is seen as derogatory for the child’s development and society almost expects women to quit after giving birth.
Here, I’ll have to admit that “society” was a teeny-tiny factor when I quit my job (After all daycares are unregulated and don’t have strict laws guiding their functioning) but under no circumstance was it “THE FACTOR”. Yes, I loved my job; but at the same time I am a control freak 😉 I could not imagine missing any of our son’s “Firsts” and wanted to be the person who taught him how to eat, dress, brush his teeth, go potty and so on and so forth. It had to be ME and ME ALONE (not even hubby, who had very graciously offered to quit too in case I wanted to continue)!
Anyway, to cut the long story short, whatever is your reason for quitting, just remember that it had to be something that you want and choose and not something forced on you. Because “sacrificing for your family” can keep you going only for so long after which it is bound to turn to bitterness.
9. Do you have a thick skin?
Becoming a parent inherently needs you to develop a thicker skin, but if you are to quit your job to stay home, make sure to grow an additional layer. From “you don’t work?” questions, hinting that you are wasting your time all day long, to questions like “What happened to you? How come you left your job?” hinting that you are wasting your education, be prepared to be the target of such pointless jabs every now and then from well-meaning friends/family. Don’t get me wrong, being a working mom is difficult too with a different set of questions (I was there once too!) but being a SAHM means you will not be given the respect that a paycheck brings. So yeah, develop a thicker skin, keep calm and ignore the criticism.
10. Do you have an exit strategy?
You may be quitting for all the right reasons, but time is fleeting and treacherous. What if halfway down the road, you no longer want to remain a SAHM? More likely, what will happen when your children grow up in the blink of an eye and start school full-time? What will your exit strategy be then? Do you even have one?
If you are an Anagata Vidhata like me, you would like to have a plan in place to curb the uncertainty. First, you’d need to know, how long you are going to be a SAHM (more or less) and what would you do once you are ready to get back to the workforce. Secondly, you need to ask yourself what are you doing today to be prepared for the transition once your time as SAHM runs out? It may look like all these questions are far, far away but time really flies especially when you are taking care of little ones and before you know it, you will need to have the right answers. So, yes, do think these through right now.
So there you have it – 10 questions you must ask yourself before becoming a stay at home mom. My intention for writing this post is not to scare the hell out of you but to show you a preview of what’s in store. Being a SAHM is an amazing roller coaster of sky-high moments of joy interspersed by abysmal depths of worry and hurt, but just like any great movie, the ending makes it all worth it…I am guessing ;)!
PS: Don’t forget to share your views in the comments section below.