Has anyone given up their career to be a SAHM? Advice needed - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 08-04-2012, 03:13 PM - Thread Starter
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This has been eating away at me for some time now and I'm hoping there are other Moms going through the same thing...


A little background - I have my Bachelors in Criminal Justice and work for the state. DH is a supervisor at a factory. My salary is 38K a year and DH brings in around 30K. We have 3 children ages 3, 9 & 10, a mortgage of $600, student loan of $275, and then the normal monthly expenses. No credit cards, car payments, etc.


The issue is that we'd really like to have another child and be able for me to stay at home. Right now all of our bills are getting paid but not a lot is getting saved. It seems like something comes up every month (septic dug up, car tires, a/c unit repairs, etc), On the plus side, we do raise chickens & garden so that saves us a little on groceries.


A bigger issue than money is me not wanting to leave my family everyday. I work 3pm-11pm so I miss bedtimes, homework, cooking dinner and a lot of family time. DH works midnights so he sleeps during the day and spends time with them in the evenings. Since we work different shifts the boys don't have to have a babysitter, which is good, but I want it to be ME doing the Mom things with them when they come home from school. Plus with another baby in the plan I'm really wanting things to change.


Any other Moms work outside the home but wanting to be a SAHM? Anyone been through this & found a way to make it work? We don't live frugally by any means, but I don't see how to make it work without my income greensad.gif

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#2 of 14 Old 08-04-2012, 07:40 PM
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I did it involuntarily when I lost my job and 2/3 of our household income about 8 months after closing on our house.  redface.gif  It was pre-kids, but man--WHAT an adjustment.  We weren't living frugally but we also weren't living fully to our means--which made the cut a huge problem and REALLY hard but not insurmountable... kwim?  We had to wait out the end of a car lease and then buy an old, used car and we found ways to be pretty creative.  We ate at the inlaws more often than I was comfortable with for that first year...


We subsequently had kids.  It is now 11 years later and dh is only now making what my base pay was back then, but we are finally in a position to be somewhat comfortable and I am shockingly a SAHM (although I now work from home part-time).


If I could do it over again, I would have more money in the bank.  I honestly don't recall us having any savings back then because we had just bought the house (which needed a butt-load of work, but could be lived in as it was).


Since you said you're not living frugally, why not sit down and really go through everything with a fine tooth comb and see what you could come up with living frugally...?  You'd be losing a significant amount of income and at the moment, you haven't got much left over every month.  What can you change?  And how much of what you spend would change if you were home?  Track every receipt and purchase for a few months and see where you could do it differently.  Come up with a TRUE budget that accounts for all those stupid little things like printer ink. upsidedown.gif

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#3 of 14 Old 08-05-2012, 09:25 AM
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Yes, we did this. I made the same as DH. What we did was to sit down with budget, cut everything back to living on a bit less than just his income, and mine was direct deposited into savings/and used to pay everything off (he came into the marriage with toys- boat, motorcycle). We tried not to facto in how things might change with me staying at home -more home-cooked meals, less eating out/convenience foods, less clothes to buy, etc, because we didn't want to count on that. We looked at every single expense and determined if we wanted to spend that money for that service (digital antennae instead of cable, cut our home phone lines, etc. We also put a sinking funds system in place so that nothing can just come up. Home repair, car repair, medical, etc. Overall, me staying home is the best decision we ever made. We also worked around each other's schedules so we had no childcare costs, but it has given us so much more family time. Good luck with your decision.

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#4 of 14 Old 08-06-2012, 07:48 AM
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I was working (but from home, though the primary breadwinner, plus providing our health insurance etc.) and I am currently trying to be 'just' a SAHM. I got laid off a few months ago so I didn't have quite as much time to prepare for this transition as I planned on; maybe it would go better if *I* had been able to choose the timing! It is crazy hard. I am so stressed out about our finances that I am trying to figure out if there's a way I can go back to work after all, although that doesn't seem possible right now.

Things that have affected how tough this is for us:

- Benefits... DH's company does offer health insurance but we have to pay more than twice as much for it, plus we still have copays etc. His company doesn't offer anything else so we no longer have a 401K or dental or life insurance or anything.

- Our previous lifestyle was already incredibly frugal. This might be easier for you since you said you don't live frugally -- if things get tight you have somewhere you can cut back, even if it's a sacrifice. We really don't have anywhere to cut back.

- On a similar note, all of our expenses are relatively fixed. We have an underwater mortgage, so we can't sell & move somewhere cheaper to save a few bucks. We already had the cheapest phone/internet/etc. We don't have any bills with any flexibility or negotiability.

- We are living off savings... which, incidentally, makes us ineligible for food stamps and other aid, and makes it impossible to reach any other financial goals! I thought it would feel OK to live off savings (a pretty substantial amount) but all I can think about is what will happen if we run out, or if we have an emergency repair or something that eats through the money more quickly. It doesn't feel OK to not be able to make ends meet just with monthly income. It doesn't feel OK to not be able to make less-critical but necessary repairs to our home because we need to save every last cent to pay the electric/food bills. It's way more restricting than I expected.

- I need to be out of the house every day. Being a SAHM doesn't involve much 'staying at home' for me. We do find lots of free things to do but there's always the cost of gas, plus it's tough not being able to join in $$ activities DS's/my friends are doing or being able to afford convenience foods or an ice cream cone when we're out & about.

So emotionally it's great being home with DS but it would be nice to be able to afford a kid's class or a baby-sitter to get short breaks from him. I do miss working sometimes and really miss being able to contribute to our income. DH has to work second shift and overtime when he can, so we hardly ever see each other (somehow less than when I was working, not sure why). Our monthly budget showed we could *almost* make it work on one income, barely need to dip into savings, but I didn't totally account for unexpected/annual things like an increase in insurance premiums or the yearly car tax bill or pumping the septic system or a necessary change in my diet (for health reasons) that increased our grocery costs. If we could more easily make our budget each month I think I'd love being a SAHM but right now it's just stressful and exhausting and I am losing lots of sleep.

Not saying any of that to discourage you, just so you can hopefully learn from my mistakes & shortfalls! Write up a super detailed budget, if possible looking at your expenses for the past 2-3 years so you can account for EVERY annual/bi-annual/unexpected thing that is likely to come up. I'd make sure to have a bit of a cushion, because no matter how precise the budget, there's probably something else that will come up anyway, especially in this economy. Consider whether it would be possible for you to take on a part-time or temporary job here & there should you need a few extra bucks (this would be almost impossible for me due to DH's schedule, if I took a minimum-wage part-time job I wouldn't be able to afford daycare and I can't make even close to my former income without working 20+ hours a week). I would try living on your proposed 'new' income for several months or longer while you're still working... put all the extra in savings. It will help you gauge how realistic it would be to live on one income, but be aware that it's not fool-proof!

Co-sleeping is really wonderful when your child actually SLEEPS!! familybed1.gif
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#5 of 14 Old 08-06-2012, 08:47 AM
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After having my first DD I knew I wanted to be home instead of working.  I worked basically because we needed the money, but most of my check was going to day care.  I switched jobs lat August and had to take a pay cut.  We cut a lot of stuff out to make it work.  We got rid of a car since I was using public transportation, got rid of cable, downgraded my phone to a regular phone, make most of our food from scatch, so our grocery bill has gone down.  I just got laid off from my job so the decision to stay at home was made for me, but it was what i wanted all along.  We are fine with unemployment, but I'm trying to figure out how to make the extra money up when it runs out.  There are zero teaching jobs in Pittsburgh right now, so it looks like I will be staying home.  I love it right now.  I was so stressed out with work and feeling like nothing got done at home and I wasn't spending any time with my kids.  I was exhausted all the time.  I felt that I was doing everything mediocraly, my job, being a mom, being a wife.  I'm really enjoying it righ tnow and hope we can make it work.


What we did for finances is put everything in a spreadsheet and looked at what we had to buy.  We had to be rally honest about extra spending.  So much money was being wasted on going out to eat for lunch, picking up chips and a drink, etc.  Also with staying at home, we are saving on gas.  Look at how much  money you spend working and you may be able to save money.  You can also find some things to do while at home to make up the missing income.

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#6 of 14 Old 08-06-2012, 01:13 PM
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I can speak to this from the other side, having been a sah mom for 10 years, then moving into a part-time work mostly from home type job for a year, then a part-time office job and now I am looking for a full-time job after I finished my master's work.  I am glad I did it.  In most ways, our financial bottom line was better as a family because I practiced many cost saving techniques and very successfully managed investments, etc.  The stress is less in some ways at home because you aren't always rushing around.  This probably saves money too, because you aren't spending money to offset stress. 


I do have some caveats that I think should be considered by any woman contemplating this.  First, while financially as a family we did better, as an individual I did worse. I had no retirement/investment funds in my own name.  This became an issue when we divorced.  In the end it worked out, sort of, but I lost a great deal of financial security.  You might think it could never happen, but it could and it does.  Second, I firmly believe that a stay at mom should work seriously and steadily at creating some kind of career for herself.   This attempt must be taken seriously by her and by the family.  It could include taking night classes towards a degree or starting an on-line business, or free-lance writing, maybe a house cleaning or babysitting business.  Something that is just hers.  It makes the eventual transition to out of the home work so much better and easier.  And, third, a SAHM needs to value her own time and not be running around trying to do things for everybody - family, school or church volunteering, whatever.  And she really, really needs to take care of herself and demand respect for what she does in the home.  I see a lot of door mat sahm  -- don't be one.  Last point is really run the numbers and try to live on one salary and bank the other for a while.  Get rid of debt, etc. 

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#7 of 14 Old 08-06-2012, 09:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone. We sat down this weekend and crunched all the numbers. It's possible but it'll be tight. We've decided, like some of you have suggested, for me to keep working and put my salary into savings like it's nonexistent. At the end of the year if we haven't had to dip into it then we'll probably be comfortable enough to say that we can do it. It'll take some changes on my part like not ordering lunch out with my coworkers, stopping for snacks when we take the kids somewhere, buying food that doesn't fit into our meal plan, etc. I will have to change my mentality to need vs. want. Dh is already a tightwad so it's me that needs to make the adjustments. My 3 year old cries and clings to me whenever I leave for work so that's what I need to focus on. Their happiness means so much more to me than making money for frivolous material things.
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#8 of 14 Old 08-07-2012, 07:58 AM
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Originally Posted by jaysma View Post
. My 3 year old cries and clings to me whenever I leave for work so that's what I need to focus on. Their happiness means so much more to me than making money for frivolous material things.


It may be helpful to realize that the clingy-crying is really a 2 to 3- year old stage.  It's not for the rest of their lives.  My kids are 10 and 15 now, and at this point in their lives, I'm very glad I've always kept my job.  I can pay for vacations, braces, extra-curricular activities, perhaps help with college---things that would be much more difficult if we were living on just one income.  So, regardless of your personal choice, please realize that  WOHMs aren't necessarily "making money for frivolous things."  I make money FOR my kids.  Would it be possible to work part time?  Then you'd see your kids more but still be less tight financially.  

"Our task is not to see the future, but to enable it."
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#9 of 14 Old 08-07-2012, 01:17 PM
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Just a quick thought to consider - you may find it helpful to make saving 80% of your salary, or thereabouts, your benchmark for being able to leave, rather than 100%. Just a bit of a forgiveness margin for stress-affected spending, as you're currently feeling the pressure of wanting to stay home and being unable to. I know we all talk about how we have more time to cook from scratch, find deals, repair or make things at home, etc. when we stay home, but I've found there's a HUGE difference in my creativity staying home, vs. just time. I learned that when I quit my "real" job and started freelancing from home, even before I got pregnant and made the decision to SAHP early. I can save way more money in the same, say, 4-hour afternoon when I'm in the stay-home mindset than I ever could during an afternoon off when I was working. Being relaxed and where I want to be helps me have ideas, research options, and be open to inspiration when financial needs come up. And we don't have kids yet, so I can only imagine that emotional stress you're going through now with having to leave your littlest one is also draining even more of your energy, and affecting your spending choices in ways you might not even be aware of yet. Even if you aren't a stress-induced pizza orderer like I am! lol.gif

Proud Marine Corps wife, SAHM. Living happily ever after with my Beast, Ginny (3/1/13), Rowan (12/20/14), and one very unique catbaby.
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#10 of 14 Old 09-14-2012, 10:41 PM
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I gave up my career for a little over a year to stay home with my daughter and I absolutely loved being a SAHM. Then I decided to get divorced & so I had to go back to work to support living costs. But i'd do it all over again and would totally just be a SAHM. I don't like my career at all & it has absolutely no meaning for me & i don't believe in it either. I think what my career does is harmful to everyone, which I hate that I think my career harms people (not physically harms, but harms in other ways). I wish I was a SAHM.

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#11 of 14 Old 09-16-2012, 07:03 PM
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i just want to encourage you that it CAN be done.  i have a similar background to you....I made about what you make....my dh makes about what yours does.....our bills are similar.  i quit my good job and had another baby (#4).  somehow, it just all works out.  we live more frugally than ever before, but its worth it.  our income tax return helps us get caught up with larger purchases every year.  i am loving being home with my kids, and its worth it!

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#12 of 14 Old 09-19-2012, 10:37 AM
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MarieP- I am a teacher whose dh has been in and out of work for the past three years (AKA knows as hell). Anyway, I make extra money by tutoring in the evenings and on the weekends. Right now I am up to 10 hours a week total, and at $30 an hour cash, makes a nice dent in the bills for us. I do most of it on Sundays, which really sucks, but at least it doesn't take all the time away from my kids. I do some evenings, it just depends. My kids are older, so it is a little easier as they understand why I am doing it. There are always working moms looking for after school/get off the bus care- combine that with homework help, and you may be able to make a nice little side business from 3:30-5:30 on school days.

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#13 of 14 Old 09-19-2012, 11:20 AM
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someone already suggested this, but I'd agree....cut back as far as you can go now and put any extra into savings. hopefully you can buildup a nest egg that will cushion a few years of staying home with the reduced income, plus you'll already be used to living on less.


I tried crunching numbers every which way when each of my kids was born so I could stay home with them, but ex made too little and there was just no way apart from living with one of our families.


Sadly I now make more than double our joint income on my own before child support. The last 3 years or so anytime money becomes "excess" or I got a raise or tax refund, or when my youngest started kindy and daycare went down 80/wk i immediately put into savings. I have a bi weekly savings transfer setup so the money goes missing and i'm living off FAR FAR less right now than I really make.

I don't ever want to become used to the extra income and then have a hard time saving!


it's like weight...once you put it on it's far harder to take it off!

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#14 of 14 Old 09-23-2012, 12:34 PM
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Hi Jaysma.  I'm in the same boat, trying to make the same decision.  I also work in criminal justice, and I was on seconds while DH worked midnights.  We needed a sitter, though it was family so we got a super discount!  Since we've added #2, I've taken a leave-of-absence for 6 months in addition to my FMLA so that we can try to decide if I will SAH or not.  During this time, we're living off DH's salary and savings.  Before the LOA, we cut our expenses just about to the bone.  We have no car payment, and our only debt is $3000 we owe to my mom for an emergency bathroom repair (which turned into a remodel because the damage was so extensive).  We now have StraightTalk cell phones with unlimited service, so we cut the landline (and are still saving money over contract cell phones).  No cable, though we have Netflix.  I cook almost entirely from scratch, but our budget allows for a few restaurant meals per month.


We're about 4 months in, and it's been a bit of a rough transition.  Like you said, something always comes up.  Our dishwasher broke, and our lawn tractor needed new belts.  DS had a massive growth spurt and grew out of all his clothes.  There are also a few minor repairs to our garage that need to be done before winter.  I love being home, and I don't really miss work.  But I'm still considering going back after my leave.  I'm only 3 years away from being vested in our retirement program.  Our car has over 180K miles and will need to be replaced within a few years.  And while we have a new bathroom, our house is 100 years old, so there are always things to be done; we'll need a new roof within 5 years, and our kitchen ceiling is still AWOL from the bathroom repairs.  I absolutely hate being in debt, and I don't think we could afford payments on all the upcoming expenses anyways.  Plus, with another income, we could afford to save for college, go on vacations, etc.  I know money isn't everything, but these are the things that keep me up at night... 

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