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Should I Stay Home or Go Back to Work?

Photography by Oslo In The Summertime [1]

I’m scheduled to return to work in a couple weeks after a 5 month maternity leave. As the date draws closer, I find myself questioning whether I want to stay home or go back to work. It’s a dilemma that many moms face, and I had the same questions when I went back to work part-time after my first son was born.

I’ve decided to calculate it financially and go from there. Because I’m sure I could make the excel spreadsheet come to any conclusion that I want, I’m going to put together a list of the inputs before I put the numbers in!

Financial Aspects

Income that I would give up

  • Salary
  • Benefits – Health & Dental (none because we use my husband’s plan)
  • Benefits – Life Insurance
  • Benefits – Disability Insurance
  • Pension
  • Profit Sharing Bonus
  • 401k Bonus
  • Holiday Bonus
  • Corporate Lunches
  • Other company perks (Discounted/free events)

Expenses that could be eliminated

  • Nanny (less amount saved using dependent care account)
  • Taxes – Federal, State, Social Security and Medicare
  • Commuting (including depreciation on the car)
  • Lunches out
  • Work clothing
  • More dinners out due to not being home as much

Additional Expenses

  • Social Events – Mom’s clubs, etc.
  • Money spent to do stuff with kids – playgroups, sports, etc.

Can the following categories cover the difference?

  • Changes in budget (and the impact to our standard of living).
  • Changes in savings (and the impact to our long term dollar plan [2]).
  • Earning additional money.

Other Financial Considerations

  • There’s a possibility that by putting us in a lower tax bracket, we might be able to qualify for other tax benefits that we weren’t eligible for before. I’ll have to research those.
  • Less credit card arbitrage [3] (my income would be lower, so it’s likely we wouldn’t qualify for as high of limits.)
  • Changes in our mortgage, currently in an ARM. Refinancing without my income may change our options.
  • Our kids will likely get more expensive as they get involved in sports and activities.

Non Financial Considerations

Because I realize it’s not completely a financial decision, I’ve been brainstorming all the other things that I have to consider.

  1. Impact on my career in the long run. I’m only 28, so it’s likely I might go back to work [4] once my kids are older. What would I have to do to maintain my marketability? Would I need to renew my professional designations (at my own cost)? Would I need to keep networking?
  2. Do I have enough credits to be eligible for Social Security? I’ve never factored Social Security into our long term plans. However, if it is available, it would be a shame to find out I was one quarter short.
  3. What is our plan for additional children? How is it impacted if I stay at home?
  4. Can I work part-time? I already know the answer to this one. It’s actually what I did when I went back after my first son. I am also planning on working only 4 days a week until my baby is 1 year old. After that though, it will be back to full time.
  5. If I didn’t go back, would I resign, or would I take a leave of absence (which preserves my start date)? How does it affect my pension calculation?
  6. I like my job. I have lots of friends there. While I don’t believe that you need a job for the social aspects and an identity, it is currently what I’m used to, so I’ll have to consider embarking on some new social adventures.
  7. Over the holidays we had the luxury of extending our vacation to 3 weeks. It was really nice! It’s something I might enjoy doing all the time.
  8. I would have time to volunteer for VITA [5] which is something that I really enjoy, but don’t have time for right now.
  9. I might have time to devote to our new business that we launched… then again I might have less time!
  10. I could get involved in the mom’s groups. I looked into joining one with my first son, but couldn’t get very involved because many of the activities were during the day.
  11. I would need to look into new social activities for the kids. Right now we share a nanny with our neighbors, so the kids have other kids to play with during the day and lots of socializing. I would need to explore what to do with them so my 2 year old doesn’t crawl the walls.
  12. Read more considerations [6] from readers.


I found a calculator to stay at home [7] and another can you afford to quit? [8] In the cost of being a stay-at-home mom [9] ($1 million) there’s also a second income calculator. I’m not sure how good they are, but I’ll compare the results to my home-grown worksheet that I’m putting together.

Action Plan

Whether or not you would actually consider staying home, I think it is an important exercise to go through. You’ll have a complete picture of the true value of your job. I’m planning to run the calculations for both myself and my husband. See our results [10].

What am I overlooking? Any monetary categories I missed or other considerations?