Question: Hi Rose, I just got married and we’re now expecting our first child. My husband and I both work but we’re open to the idea of me becoming a stay-at-home mom after I give birth. Before the coming of our baby, what can we do to find out if we will be okay with a single income? – E Mom (as in Expectant Mom) via email
Answer: Hi E-Mom, congratulations to you and E-Dad on the coming of your bundle of joy. Exciting times await you and it’s good that this early you’re already planning on how you would like to raise your child. Now to help you make that decision whether you should quit your job after you give birth, I’ve outlined five key points for you and your husband to ponder upon and practice as early as now.
1. Discuss all possible implications of quitting your job.
I always say that the decision to be a full-time housewife should be “owned” by the wife and not dictated upon by the husband (no matter how able he is in providing for the family), the mother-in-law or society. However, you can only come up with a wise decision after in-depth discussions with your husband.
Lay down all your fears and feelings about quitting your job. With double income families being the norm and as we see more and more women break the glass ceiling, will you be okay giving up your career? When I decided to bid my promising investment banking career goodbye, one client said, “You will give up your career to be a housewife lang?” That’s one question that you will have to figure out but I tell you being a housewife is by no means a lang job!
Discuss your expectations with your Honey. Whether the wife is a working mom or stay-at-home mom, the father has a big role to play in child rearing and should not be exempt from attending Parent-Teacher Conferences, Awarding of Honors, Guidance matters, parent and child camp, one-on-one conversations with children, etc. This is what I noticed. It was when I became a full-time homemaker that I became more conscious of making sure that my husband performed his fatherly duties as well. You see, when both mom and dad work, it’s a simple see-saw (my turn, your turn) but when one parent is focused, he or she can see more clearly when the role of the other parent is needed.
2. The money aspect. This could probably be the most convenient reason/excuse for not leaving a job to care for children. I hear this all the time from mothers who say that they want to be stay-at-home moms but they don’t have a choice and that they’re doing it for their children. They need the double income for their children. Although this may be true for some families who are hardly making both ends meet just to feed their children, there are a lot of cases when it’s not.
And I don’t say that not giving up your job to care for your children is being a bad parent. I just want to shift the paradigm of reasoning used. It’s not your children who dictate the standard of living that you should have, it’s you. And it’s not a bad idea to say, “I still want to earn my own income and I need my own career to feel good about myself.” This way you don’t fool yourself and your family about having no choice. Bear in mind that just as the decision to become a stay-at-home mom should be “owned” by the mother, so should the decision to be a working mom.
In your case, since you both want to have you as a stay-at-home mom, you should be clear on money issues. Openly discuss how you will go about handling money. I suggest you two read the Family Code and understand the Absolute Community Property so both of you are aware of property and income ownership that you got into when you signed your marriage contract in the Philippines. There are a lot of cases when wives (or husbands) hesitate to give up their jobs just because they don’t want zero income or they cringe at the thought of being at the mercy of the earning spouse. The reality is your spouse’s income is yours too. (Read Are you and your partner financially compatible?)
Monitor your expenses now. Record every single expense that you make and make Monthly Statements so you have a clearer grasp. See where you can cut back on. Then list down all the expenses that you will regularly have when the baby comes. May I suggest that you keep a monthly savings and treat it as a utility expense (i.e. consider it as something that should always be paid; otherwise, the line will be cut).
Of course, it’s good for you to know your other goals that involve money like building a house, travel, etc. But I will not overburden you because I don’t want to unnecessarily scare you this early. One at a time might be the best way.
3. Observe your interests and passion now. I ask you to do this because you may be able to put up something that is home-based which will not only add to the family income but will also help you keep your sanity while you take care of your child at home. I must warn you that despite all the heroism and romanticism we attach to being a full-time mom, there are mundane aspects about it that could drive a normal person nuts! Watch out for that. I suggest you always have a project, be it a source of extra income, a family affair, a self-development activity so you will not regret your decision later on. Continue to reinvent yourself. Read. Read. Read and avoid too much teleseryes! Remember that being a stay-at-home mom is not an excuse to be losyang. It should be taken as an opportunity to look younger and better because you’ve taken out the big source of stress that takes away your focus from your main goal at hand – i.e. to raise your child well. If you start feeling ugly and inadequate just because you’re always at home, then you might end up being a worse parent to your child and lover to your husband. You may want to read Chapter 9: A Mother’s Dilemma: To Work or Not To Work of Raising Pinoy Boys to find out how I went through my own journey.
4. Go back to work after you give birth. This is just my personal take on it. It’s better for you to see and feel again what excites you in your job, what makes you feel alive and great and capable. Immerse yourself in it so you know what you’re giving up. Maybe I also want you to miss your baby while in the office before you decide so that you will feel it more in your gut how it is to be away from your child. What is it that you can’t do if you continue with your job? Why do you really want to be with your child now that he’s helpless? Remember all these so that when you’re by your lonesome taking care of your baby and starting to be doubtful about your decision, you can recall all these feelings and remember why you made that decision.
5. Pray and take that leap of faith! No matter how well you prepare for this, you can never be 100% sure where you will be better off until you take the action. Pray together as husband and wife and commit to support each other, then just do it!
Again congratulations to the two of you on your first bundle of joy (and sorrow and pride and challenges). I believe that raising your child well is your greatest contribution to society so give it your best shot!
Cheers to happy and purposeful parenting!