Want to be a stay-at-home parent?
What should you take into account before deciding?
PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images

Raising a child isn’t easy.

Children’s early development, homework and extramural activities can keep their parents busy for hours every day – and that’s not to mention finding time to just chat and play.

Naturally you don’t want to miss any of your child’s milestone events – the first tooth, steps or words. That’s why many parents would like to put their careers on hold for a while to stay at home with their kids.

But what are the implications of this for your family, your career and yourself? Moms in our SuperMom community share their experiences.

Hard on the budget?

After the birth of her second child, Karen Comyn of Johannesburg decided to quit her job and become a full-time mother.

“We couldn’t really afford it and some months it’s been difficult to make ends meet,” she says.

The family is now dependent on her husband’s salary.

“We realised things would be difficult financially and trimmed our budget where we could. Not being able to spoil the children with gifts sometimes was very hard.

“The family budget is an important factor when one parent is considering giving up their job," says Annie Jollivet de Oliveira, a social worker and counsellor of Cape Town. “It’s not wise to become a stay-at-home parent if it means your family will suffer financially,” she warns.

Before you quit your job, you should make sure your family is prepared to get by on just one salary. Will you be able to maintain your standard of living? If not, are you ready to do without certain luxuries?

Make sure you can continue to save for retirement. If you can’t afford to live on only one salary you might like to work part time or run a small business from home, says Jollivet de Oliveira.

Will I get another job?

Moms often choose to stay at home while their kids are small and then return to work when they start school.

Alida Erasmus and her husband moved to Merweville in the Karoo after their daughter was born.

She gave up her job in the tourism industry in Cape Town but would like to work again in future.

“As soon as our daughter goes to nursery school, I’ll resume my career. I’m keeping informed about tourism in South Africa and will definitely work in the industry again,” she says.

“You must plan for the future before becoming a stay-at-home parent,” Jollivet de Oliveira says. “Consider the effect of your decision in the short-, medium- and long term and plan accordingly.”

Being out of the labour market for a few years can have an adverse effect on your chances of getting another job.

But parenthood teaches you other inter-relational skills, such as being a good listener and multi-tasking. This can be an asset when you want to work again, Jollivet de Oliveira says.

Ensure you don’t become rusty; try to use your qualifications and skills part-time. Alida, for example, is a part-time photographer and hopes in time to earn money with this hobby.

Alone at home

When her husband took a job in another town, Sadeya Pillay of Port Elizabeth stayed home.

“I couldn’t manage my career and our three children’s extra-mural activities. Besides, I had a six-month-old baby to care for,” she says.

Now she can attend school functions to her heart’s content and her discussions with her children in the car while she’s driving them to activities give her plenty of insight into their lives.

But staying at home can be lonely. “I miss adult company a lot,” Sadeya says. “We used to have wonderful conversations at work. You become attached to your colleagues.”

Set aside time to spend with other adults, Jollivet de Oliveira advises. “Join an art class or take up a new form of exercising, such as cycling or Pilates.”

Ask your partner to keep an eye on the children when they get home so you can have time to yourself, she suggests.

“Give yourself permission to do things you enjoy.”

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