Staying Home with Baby

One of the big questions new moms and dads grappling with is whether to go back to work. Many parents find that they really want to stay home and raise their kids. Just as it makes no sense to go into pregnancy with your eyes closed, clueless as to how you’ll cope financially, the same holds true for making the decision to stay home with the kids or go back to work. It shouldn’t be a guess. It should be based on the black and red of your situation.

Here are some things you’ll need to add into the equation:

TAXES. A lot of the income you will make will be eaten up by taxes. If you’re returning to an existing job, you need only look at an old pay stub or last year’s tax return. If you’re looking for a new job, you’ll need to figure how just how much tax you’ll pay. Here is a terrific and easy-to-use calculator.

CHILD CARE. The next biggie is paying someone to do at least part of the job you’d be doing if you stayed home. You can hire a nanny, pay for out-of-home childcare or, if you’re really lucky, rope your parents into being all things to your kids while you’re off in the mines. There’s a cost to it all, and you’ve got to figure out what that cost will be for your family.

TRANSPORTATION. You’ll have to be able to get to and from work. If you live further than walking distance to where you work, it could be as inexpensive as public transportation, or as expensive as a plane-ride. If you’re driving, you’ll have to not only figure out the cost of gas, but the additional wear and tear on the car, resulting in a higher maintenance costs. Don’t forget the additional trips to and from your childcare provider.

CLOTHES. If you have to maintain a “professional” appearance at work, what’s it going to cost to keep you shod? If you’re carrying a lot of baby-weight, are you going to need a whole new work wardrobe?

DRYCLEANING. If you’re wearing a Power Suit to work, it’ll have to be cleaned once in a while.

FOOD. While it may be your (best) intention to take your lunch to work, you should also budget for the occasional lunch out, the occasional coffee with the chicks at work, the occasional birthday celebration. That stuff happens. If you pretend it doesn’t, it’ll bite you in the budget.

GIFTS. Speaking of birthdays, let’s not forget the presents you’ll be chipping in on, or the charitable donations you may be expected to make as part of belonging to that work community.

HOUSEKEEPING. If you’re both back to work full time with a new baby to look after, may you need to hire someone to do the vacuuming. Even if it’s twice a month, it’s an expense for which you need to budget.

LOST WAGES. If you’re both working, someone’s going to have to take time off if baby gets sick. Will one or the other of you get docked if you have to take the occasional day off to stay home with a sick child?

That’s the money. But there’s another equation you have to think about… the happiness equation.

If you love the work you do, that’ll go in the pro column. If you’re doing a job just for the money, your motivation to leave your baby will be very low. If you’ve worked out the money thang, and it says GO BACK but you hate your job, you hate your boss, you hate your commute, it may be time to think about making money some other way.

There are lots of people who change careers, develop new skills (while off with baby in that first year), or upgrade their skills. There are people who find ways to work a full week in three days, so they’re home four days with baby. There are couples who work off-shift, so one or the other parent is home with the kids. There are tons of ways to have the life you want. But you have to think about it. You have to plan.

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