The decision to become a stay-at-home-mom is not one to be taken lightly, much as it is wonderful for a mother to raise her own babies. A couple needs to set long term goals for the family before taking the step to rely on a single income.
1. Goal setting for couples
Marriage is a long term commitment. Two adults meet and decide that they want to spend the rest of their lives together. Before they reached that decision, each of them had individual goals and aspirations. Before any major decisions about the couple's future are made, they need to discuss their individual goals and harmonize them. A man can be convinced that he is taking good care of his family while the wife is totally frustrated at the quality of their lives. This can be a major cause of conflicts as the wife accuses the man of not doing enough to provide.
* Do they plan to have children? If so, how many? When?
* What sort of lifestyle do they want for the family; what neighborhood will they live in; what schools/colleges/universities do they want for their children?
* How will they afford that lifestyle?
* Will both of them work or one will stay at home to bring up the children?
* If only one of them will work, will the family be able to stay afloat over the years on a single income?
* Does any of them have liabilities and/or responsibilities beyond the immediate family's needs such as meeting the needs of the extended family or loans such as student loans?
* At what age do they plan to retire and what kind of life do they plan to have after retirement?
Do not get excited about the arrival of a beautiful angel in your home and in an effort to bring her up the best way possible you decide that the mother needs to give up on her career to give full attention to the angel, unless you have planned long term and put the right measures in place.
2. Decision making in marriage
This is one area that can make or break a marriage. If the husband will be earning all the income while the wife stays at home looking after the young ones, how will decision-making be handled? Will the couple plan and budget together or will the husband make all the decisions since he is the one bringing money home?
How will the couple handle the money since it will be coming from one source and will be most likely tied to one individual's payslip?
How will investments be handled, both in terms of decision making and ownership? Should the marriage come to an end one day, how will the matrimonial property be shared out? How will the role of the wife be determined?
I am a strong proponent of couples maintaining 3 bank accounts; the wife's account, the husband's account, and a joint account. Everyone needs a track record with a bank, which comes in handy should one suddenly hit some rough waters and require credit urgently. Will the wife have a bank account and where will the money for that account come from? Learn more about financial management tips for couples here.
When a marriage breaks, it is usually the woman who ends up with the children. Women also outlive men in most cases. What happens if the woman has had no source of income over the years? What if she has no track record with any financial institution because she has not had a bank account for decades? How will she access credit should she find herself in financial difficulties?
3. Roles and responsibilities of marriage partners
Building a marriage long term takes hard work. Providing and bringing up children are just but a few of the roles and responsibilities that come with marriage. What will the roles and responsibilities of the stay-at-home-mom be? How will she and the husband complement each other? Every human being needs to live a full life. Raising babies and taking care of domestic chores is not equal to living a full life. How will she continue to enjoy hobbies that make her come alive? What about keeping her passions alive?
Dependence levels in Africa are very high and most adults have responsibilities beyond their immediate families. How will the wife who is minus a source of income take care of responsibilities such as supporting her parents and/or siblings should that become necessary? Will the husband take care of his wife's side of the family?
What are the wife's skills and expertise and how will she continue to utilize and nurture them while she is a full-time stay-at-home mom? How will she remain intelligent, sharp and relevant?
Will she oversee certain family projects if she is good at it? What about if her strength is in financial management; will she be actively involved in setting priorities and overseeing budgets? How will she continue to feel good about herself, to maintain a healthy self-esteem and self-confidence?
Mature conversations are important for the wellbeing of a relationship. How will a woman whose life revolves around domestic chores and taking care of babies remain relevant and up to date with current affairs and the trends in the world? How will she continue to engage her husband in intelligent and challenging conversations? How will she remain interesting and great company?
4. What next for stay-at-home-mom after the babies grow?
Many times we forget that children grow up very fast and that we can live another 30 or 40 years after we are done with raising them. Those are many years especially if they were not well planned for. When a couple decides that the wife will be a stay-at-home-mom, it is important to think of the transition from being a stay-at-home mom back to gainful employment.
How will the wife keep her skills and expertise alive and up to date? How will she maintain her social and professional circles such that transition back to gainful employment will be easy when the time comes? Will she continue to participate in activities in the community? Will she continue to be active in activities that keep her relevant such as writing a blog in her niche, shooting some educative videos and sharing in a channel such as YouTube, writing some Ebooks, being a member of professional organizations, giving talks, coaching and mentoring certain communities of people probably college students or professional women?
5. Personal development for stay-at-home-moms
Five or ten years outside one's professional field can see one get really left behind. Going back to gainful employment can become an uphill task for someone who has lost touch with the profession. Technology has made working from home even on part time basis easy and practical. It is important for a woman who takes a break in her career to remain actively engaged in a relevant field, even if she works part time from home probably 2 or 3 hours a day or 3 afternoons a week.
A stay-at-home mom can devote some time every day to her personal development. It might be 30 to 45 minutes every day devoted to reading relevant material, participating in relevant forums online, watching videos or listening to audio books. She can volunteer too, probably one or two afternoons a week.
I see women who opt to become full-time stay-at-home moms suffer tremendously when circumstances suddenly change such as in case of divorce, widowhood or loss of job of the spouse or collapse of the family business. In some cases, the woman has been so out of touch with her profession she has no idea how to make her way back. It is painful to see a woman who once enjoyed a successful career result to some small business or manual jobs because she suddenly finds herself in desperate circumstances and is unable to resume her career.