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Some women know they want to stay at home with their future children even before they have kids. My friend Katrina wrote beautifully about her desire to be a stay-at-home mom when she was a college student at Notre Dame.
Other women plan to work full-time after they have children, but something changes when the baby is actually here. They’re surprised to find that they want to stay home with their babies after all.
It’s hard to decide what to do. What’s the best choice for you and your family?
Whether or not to quit work and stay home with your children is such a personal decision. The right answer is different for everyone. But as you decide, here are a few things to consider.
Thinking differently about success
On the surface, quitting your paying job to do the unpaid work of raising children doesn’t make financial sense. But in the wise words of the great Wendell Berry, “Every day do something that won’t compute.”
Our society thinks about success in such a distorted way. Is financial attainment really the best measure of success? What about satisfaction and contentment with your life? What about happiness, not to mention holiness, and contributing to the next generation? Those things can’t be measured, so they’re often totally forgotten.
Contributing to the next generation is especially undervalued. Along with not valuing children, childcare and parenting are often dismissed as less important work.
Productivity, output and money are often the gauge of value. But children don’t make money and parents don’t make money for nurturing their own children. So these things aren’t valued … even though children and their care should be one of the most important things for all of us.
A different metric
There is a small but interesting movement to pay parents for staying at home with their children, but I doubt it will take off, for various reasons. (You can read more about it at Business Insider.) So instead of measuring success by salary, I dream of a world where we measure our success by metrics such as …
- Does this decision make me and my family happy?
- Is this choice best for me and those I love?
- Am I living out the vocation God has called me to as well as I can?
- Will I look back on my life when I’m elderly and feel satisfied with the choices I made?
- When I reach heaven, can I stand before God and say honestly, “I did the best I could with what you gave me”?
My own discernment of these questions led me to quit my job and stay home with my kids. Your own discernment may lead you to continue pursuing your career. Either way, there’s more to this choice than merely crunching the numbers.
There are also logistical questions to consider …
1How practical is it for your family for you to quit your job?
Crunching the numbers isn’t everything, but it is still part of the decision. Can you make it work on one income? Taking a careful look at your expenses, is there somewhere you can cut back to make up the difference? Will you be able to get healthcare benefits through your spouse’s employer?
And sometimes the numbers don’t add up, but you find a way to make it work. When I quit my job, I was making half our family’s income; it was a huge leap of faith to walk away from that. But I was able to find a very part-time remote job and cut back on several major expenses to make the numbers add up (just barely!).
2Is this career something you want to come back to later?
Do you need to stay up to date with professional training? Can you “ramp down” to work part-time or remotely for now to keep a foot in the door? Can you “on ramp” easily later?
3What is your gut feeling?
What do you hear in prayer? Ultimately, the most important thing isn’t something rational: “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” (And there’s a helpful little book by that name with many practical tips for how to make things work on one income!)
When I was a new mom, I felt physically ill at the thought of leaving my newborn at all, much less for hours every day. The job I had at the time felt meaningless and pointless compared to taking care of my baby, and it’s not unusual to feel this way.
But perhaps you feel differently. You may feel a lot of peace about continuing in your profession, or you may feel that working outside the home makes you a better mother. It comes down to a gut feeling of what you want to do and what will be most fulfilling for you, as well as best for your family.
And after all, dreams can change. Maybe your career dreams have turned into dreams of babies, homemaking, and enjoying your kids in this season of life. Maybe a dream of staying home with your kids will change to a professional dream when your kids are a little older.
Right now, in this season, it’s OK if babies and homemaking are your dream. And it’s also OK if they’re not. What matters is figuring out which option brings you real peace, and then giving it your best shot.