I perfectly understand those moms who choose to give up their careers to take care of their babies and stay home with their children to watch them grow. It’s their choice that has to be respected. However, when making a decision to abandon her career, a mom should not let emotions of the moment cloud her vision. She should consider the bigger picture and make sure that her choice is responsible and sustainable for her and her family in the long term. It helps to ask these five questions:
Is My Family Prepared for the “Black Swan”?
It seems to make sense that when a husband is the main earner then the wife doesn’t need to work. However, life is never certain, and no one can guarantee the future. If a sudden, unpredictable event occurs at her husband’s employer, such as a loss of a key contract, a bankruptcy, a merger, or something else that can bring about big changes in the company’s well-being, then layoffs may follow. If you want to learn more about the subject of randomness, probability, uncertainty, and unpredictable events called the “Black Swans”, I strongly recommend reading some books by one of my most favorite authors, Nassim Taleb; for starters, try “The Black Swan”. In “The Black Swan”, Taleb describes his famous “turkey” effect: “Consider a turkey that is fed every day. Every single feeding will firm up the bird’s belief that it is the general rule of life to be fed every day by friendly members of the human race ‘looking out for its best interests,’ as a politician would say. On the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, something unexpected will happen to the turkey. It will incur a revision of belief.”
Even though at the moment the husband’s job seems secure and the company predicts that things will stay that way, something may change unexpectedly. It’s best to prepare for uncertainty and to insure against unforeseen risks by trying to achieve what Taleb calls “robustness via redundancy”: to diversify the family’s sources of income, thereby increasing the family’s resilience and providing financial stability should one of the income sources disappear. One way to achieve such redundancy is by having both spouses generate income, rather than depend on a single income.
Is It Fair to Put All the Stress on the Husband?
If I didn’t work, my husband would have had to carry all the pressure and stress of supporting the family on his shoulders. He would have had to abandon his dream of starting his own business, because starting a business always entails uncertainty and instability which a family cannot afford if the husband is the only breadwinner. He would have had to take on a corporate job and to work long hours, and our children would have barely had a chance to spend time with him.
I feel that if both husband and wife contribute financially (even if one earns more than the other), there is less pressure and stress on each one of them, and other family responsibilities can be distributed more evenly. My husband helps me with cooking, chores, and child care, and we divide the time with the children to help each other: I take the kids when he works, and he does the same for me. We are both equal partners and participants in all aspects of our family and business life.
Is Children the Only Thing I Can Talk About?
As a mom of three, I have my share of feedings, diaper changes, and other exciting things that fill a mom’s life. Yes, it is mentally and emotionally rewarding to be able to take care of the children and to watch them grow. However, I don’t think that a woman should be immersed in child rearing exclusively. Having useful, productive work widens your horizons, contributes to your intellectual development, and makes you a more interesting and well-rounded person. It benefits not just the woman’s social life, but, first and foremost, the woman’s relationship with her working husband. It seems to me that if husband and wife don’t share each other’s lifestyles, if the husband spends all day at work and the wife spends all day at home, then chances are that they may develop different interests and gradually grow apart. If I didn’t work myself, I would not have been able to give my husband helpful advice about his business, I would not have been sharing his career ambitions and interests. My work provides useful perspective and practical experience that plays a major role in shaping my views on life. Reading books doesn’t develop intellect as much as hands-on working, producing, and innovating does.
What Kind of Example Do I Set for My Kids?
I feel that in case of a stay-at-home mom, the children may think that mommy is all about spending time with them and having fun, while daddy is all about being absent the entire day and bringing home the paycheck. They don’t observe the sweat, effort, and hard work with which money is earned. How would they learn about working hard if they see mom having a good time with them?
I think that when a mom works she sets a good example for her children. They will get the message that working and earning money is an honorable thing. As productive and hard-working adults, both mommy and daddy will be their role models. Watching me work from home gives my kids the actual demonstration of how the money is earned, they see it right in front of their eyes. They learn that mommy is not just having fun, that life is not only about leisure and pleasures. We want our kids to be productive adults and entrepreneurs, we want them to learn to earn money, and the best way to teach is by own example.
What Will I Do When I Get Older?
I once had a friend whose mom stayed at home her entire life and took care of her children. My friend told me that her mom liked to always point out to her children that she dedicated her life to them. My friend shrugged and commented, “We tell her, why did you do it? We didn’t ask you to.” It got me thinking, how many other grown-up children tell the same to their moms?
Baby milestones, breastfeeding, child rearing – this is all temporary. But what would a stay-at-home mom do when her children get into their teenage and young adult years, when she would no longer need to be present at home for them and take care of them full-time? If she decides to go back to work, she may find that her skills are no longer up to date, and it may be more difficult for her to catch up. A big lapse in her career will be an issue if she wants to be accepted back into the workforce. Once the children are older and have their own lives, would they even acknowledge her sacrifice and thank her for dedicating her life to them full-time? Wouldn’t the grown-up kids benefit if their mom had her own rewarding and productive life too?
So, What are the Suggestions?
I am not necessarily advocating that a mom works outside of home full time. I myself don’t do that, because staying at home with my children is extremely important for our parenting and unschooling efforts. I support the idea that having at least one parent present at home and involved in child care is immensely beneficial to the children. However, I also believe that moms should still find a way to work at least part time.
No one says that it has to be either/or, or that a mom must either abandon her children or give up her professional ambitions. I decided to combine working and staying with my kids by running my own business from home. It’s a path not devoid of occasional difficulties and stress, but I believe it’s worth the challenge because it serves my vision of being both an unschooling parent and an entrepreneur.
If a mom homeschools, working from home may be a valid option. In fact, homeschooling can be beneficial to the family finances and can help the family save money, which allows homeschooling parents some flexibility in terms of working schedule and workplace choice. If a mom doesn’t homeschool, then she may be able to work a part-time job while her kids are in school. Each mom can evaluate her skills and decide how she can monetize them, or she may find that she needs to learn some new skills to be able to find work that accommodates her schedule. If her situation does not allow her to work at the moment, she can at least stay updated on her skills and industry news or learn something new so she can work later as her situation allows. Although I’m am not an expert on career advice, if you’d like to discuss your situation, you are welcome to drop me a line. I respect each mother’s choice, but I believe that working at least a little and trying to do what one can is better than not working at all.
- Nobody is putting pressure on moms who primarily take care of their children to work full-time or to make the same amount of money as their husbands. Even if it’s a few hours a week and even if the mom makes barely enough to cover babysitter expenses for a few hours a week – anything would do, as long as the mom has a vision, tries to do something, and stays on her toes in terms of skills.
- Even if at the moment the mom can only work a few hours a week and make barely enough to cover babysitter expenses for a few hours, it’s still worth the effort. Yes, she doesn’t generate enough income to fight the “Black Swan”, but she still develops herself personally and professionally, shows a good example to her kids, and sets herself up for a more successful career and a higher-earning potential in the future when she gets older and can work more, because she stays on top of her skills and maintains her experience.
- I would like to emphasize again that things are not black and white, that it doesn’t have to be either leaving home or staying at home and abandoning career. A mom can possibly work from home on her own venture, or work for her employer remotely part-time, or leave home for a few hours if grandparents or babysitters are available. She may even be able to take the kids along to her place of work for a few hours. Each mom can figure out what to do, depending on her situation. When there is a will, there is a way.
- You don’t have to have any superior skills to be able to work from home. Nowadays there are many remote opportunities, and skills can be picked up. For example, Craigslist, oDesk, and other freelance sites offer opportunities such as data entry, secretarial duties, and other things where you don’t even need a college degree. Again, it may not pay well, but something is still better than nothing.