You attended parenting classes and packed your hospital bag weeks in advance. Planning to bring your new baby home is easy, but what about planning for the end of your maternity leave? There are lots of options on how to manage your working life/mom life. Setting aside the ongoing debate about whether to work or stay home, there are several things to consider when making your decision.
The true cost of work
What does your job outside the home truly cost you each month? Buried in your monthly expenses are the hidden costs of your job — think dry cleaning for business clothes or uniforms, daycare for your children, lunches out during your work day and commute costs. Your job may also push you into a higher tax bracket, meaning that each dollar you earn is taxed at a higher rate. Until you add these expenses up, you can't get a realistic picture of your financial situation without your income.
What are you spending?
As painful as it may sound, you need to know where your money is going each month. You know the fixed expenses — rent or mortgage payment, insurance premiums, car payments — but what about categories that fluctuate like groceries or clothing? The best way to figure out your spending is to write down everything you spend for at least one month. Include even the smallest of expenses, like the frozen yogurt shop or parking fees.
Do the math
The total of your household take-home pay less fixed monthly expenses and work-related costs will give you an idea of what your flexible spending is each month. You need to be able to include a cushion for unexpected and fluctuating expenses too. Family vacations, gifts, car repairs, home improvements and doctor's expenses are hard to estimate, but you can count on having them.
Weigh your options
Does your job offer flexible employment opportunities like job-sharing or telecommuting? Many women find that keeping one foot in their career and one foot at home offers the best of both worlds. Being able to stay current in your field on a part-time basis may be something to consider if the finances will work for your family. Your decision is not permanent. Do what works best for your family now, then reconsider every so often.
Making a decision about working after your maternity leave ends is easier when you know your options. Only you and your partner can make the best choice for your family — whether you stay home, work part-time or return to a full-time position.