Upon finding out that we were expecting a baby, one of the first things we considered was whether or not I should become a Stay At Home Mum (such a big thing that it deserves capital letters!). At the time it didn’t seem like a difficult question – we had a standard of living on two incomes that we wanted to keep up and a baby would only add financial pressures, so obviously I would continue to work and our baby would would go to a nursery. Simple.
However… when we actually got down into it and visited some nurseries, it was clear that most of my salary would be gobbled up by nursery fees, meaning I would be working full-time for around £150 per month – unattractive, I think you’ll agree. Plus the fact that when our baby was actually born the thought of giving him to strangers to look after when my maternity leave ended gave me chills (a feeling which still hadn’t quite gone away when we sent him to preschool last year, aged two and a half!).
So there you have it, I was suddenly a Stay At Home Mum and worrying about how we would keep our standard of living. At first it was very easy – I was still receiving maternity pay and we also started receiving some tax credits so very little was changed for us, but still at the back of my mind I knew it was going to end and the concern was there.
I’d always been poor at managing a budget, but found some really great advice on how to cutback some non-essentials without really feeling the pinch at The Moneysaving Expert Website. The main site was excellent for advice on saving on big things like energy bills and grocery shopping, but it was the ‘real’ advice from forum contributors that I found the most useful. These were things like how to create meal plans and shop to them, how to clean your home with white vinegar and newspaper instead of expensive cleaners – really basic, basic stuff, but invaluable when you have no school Home Economics lessons to fall back on!
I also became the coupons and cashback Queen, using sites like Vouchercodes.co.uk and Quidco.com to save on my groceries and internet purchases and get money back when buying things like insurance – I must confess I actually got about £50 back on my Christmas shopping one year, so it really was the gift that gave back!
Being a Stay At Home Mum was also a big factor in our having another baby – if I had returned to work after my maternity leave, I doubt I would have felt in a position to have another baby when our first was two.
Aside from the monetary implications of becoming a Stay At Home Mum, I don’t think I was prepared for the difficulties of being quite bored some of the time – baby books and websites etc can make it seem like mums should be skipping through the tulips with happiness 24/7 – it wasn’t the case for me and I was desperate for things to occupy my brain. When first baby was strill quite young, I enrolled on an Open University course and it did keep me sane to a certain extent.
So – here we are now, three years after giving up work and the big question is did we make the right decision? I think, on the whole yes, staying at home has been positive for us. I have enjoyed looking after our kids, as hard as it has sometimes been, and I don’t think I would have enjoyed having them looked after by other people when they were young.
I’m certainly not saying that this is the right decision for every family as there are so many factors to take into account. Perhaps our decision would have been different had I been a higher earner, or (dare I say it?) enjoyed my job a bit more!
Now the children are getting older and soon (sooner than I’d like!) they’ll be off at school and won’t need me so much anymore, so then there is the next big question – to return to work or work from home? I think that’s one for another day!