Does Planning for Stay-At-Home Motherhood Begin… In College?


I recently read the book, 7 Myths of Working Mothers by Suzanne Venker, and I thought it was a thought-provoking read. She contends that most careers are just not accommodating to mothers who really want to spend time with their children.

But the idea that struck me most is the reason why many women — who want to be stay-at-home-mothers — end up working is because they didn’t plan for motherhood. Women who know they want to stay at home with their children need to be encouraged to actually plan for motherhood soon after college.

This made me think about my own choices, and those of many of my friends. A lot of times we have children that we have not particularly planned for or, at least, didn’t plan wisely for. So if we want to stay home, we either struggle financially or end up working outside the home.

I think it’s a good idea for young women with homemaking ambitions to think about and actively plan for the time they will be out of the workforce or working from home with young children.  Nothing is guaranteed, of course.  But imagine if a young woman spent the first five years or so post college working and saving and investing money precisely for the time when she will be a stay-at-home mother?

A woman could also focus on growing a home business that, in the future, could support her family while she stays home with the children. What better time to devote the endless hours needed to get a side business going than when you are single and/or childless? 

I only have one friend who followed Suzanne Venker’s advice.  She married right after college and worked for about five or six years in a successful job while actively saving money towards her future life as a stay-at-home mom. That is not the norm.

I often think about the time before I had children, and all the free time I had that I wish I’d devoted to developing a home business.  Of course, it’s never too late to do anything, but a woman’s single years allow her the most freedom to do what she wants.

Women who are single and/or childless, and desire to be stay-at-home mothers, should be encouraged to use this time now, while they have it, to pursue whatever dreams they have, and save and invest their money for the future.  It seems like common sense, but quite a few women don’t actually do this.  They’re living in the now, which is easy to do.

This advice also applies to women who want to stay in the work force and pursue careers after having children.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a nest egg already in place, and a life that is set up to support any decision she makes regarding work and kids. Planning can make all the difference between having the choice to do what you want to do versus doing what you have to do.

Here are 3 points from Venker’s book that are worth considering;

 1.  Choose a career that works well with motherhood
This includes careers that offer flexible schedules, options to work from home, don’t require a lot of traveling, and don’t require working long, demanding hours.

2. Plan to live near your parents or siblings.
Venker asserts that many women find that they do not want to raise a family with no family of their own nearby.  Having family support helps mothers combat feelings of isolation, provides respite so they can refresh and recharge, and provides overall support in undertaking the huge responsibility of motherhood.

3. Be responsible with your finances before motherhood
Financial mistakes made prior to having children can determine whether you will be able to stay home with your children or not.  Women should save and invest money, decline buying a house that requires two incomes, refuse to acquire a lot of debt, and possibly delay motherhood until finances are truly in order.

Ladies, what are your thoughts? Did you plan for motherhood? Why or why not? Do you wish you had? Share your experiences!

  • Baby and Blog

    This is a *very* thought provoking piece! I have 3 reflections on it:

    1. I became self-employed when I was 24 — 3 years before I would have my son and 1 year before I married. At the time I was just relieved to be out of a crappy job (even though I was making terrible money working for myself, lol) But my mom kept telling me, “You’ll be so grateful for this when you have kids.” Of course, kids were the farthest thing from my mind back then, but now that I have a child, I see why she was so insistent. She’s right, I am grateful that I work from home.

    2. I never had any desire — as a girl, in college, or afterwards — to be a stay-at-home mother. I’m kind of one by default because I work from home, but I spend more time working on my business than homemaking. But I do think that the lesson I can gather from this piece is that *general life planning* is so important — and no one really tells you that! My husband and I just bought our first home in Chicago — *before* we did extensive research on the school system here. Now we are realizing that getting into the good public schools is difficult, and the private schools are expensive. The more research we do, the more it’s looking like we might have to move out of Chicago.

    It might sound crazy to a young married couple to choose where they buy a home based on school district — but unless you have a ton of money to buy a new house somewhere else once you have kids. It is something to consider.

    A close friend of mine moved from Oklahoma to Chicago after college and purchased a home in a good neighborhood with a good school district with her husband. They were in the house for just two years before realizing that they had to move back to OK because, while the cost of the home was reasonable, they hadn’t factored in property taxes and could not afford them. Plus she had a child, and realized that relying on friends to baby sit is nothing like having family nearby.

    3. I think this advice can and should apply to men also. I don’t believe that it’s only a woman’s responsibility to plan for what her future life should be. I think men should too! My husband is currently working part-time while he completes his graduate studies. Being at home during the week, and having the flexibility to do homework during the day (instead of after a long day of work, when his brain is tired) has really opened his eyes to the possibilities that CAN exist for men who want flexible lives — but aren’t presented to them. Interestingly, it was my savings discipline in my early 20s, combined with my income, that have allowed us to stay afloat while getting less income from my husband. But my husband has expressed regret that he didn’t get his graduate studies out of the way in his early 20s, when he had time to kill. Although we are managing fine, his decision to do graduate school now at 30, when he is married with a child, does put a burden on me, my son and our finances.

    I’m sure most men want the traditional 9-5 and to be the primary breadwinner. But we can’t/shouldn’t assume that all men want that. Some will want the flexibility to attend graduate school, or work on entrepreneurial ventures, or even be more involved in raising their children. So they, too, should plan their lives in such a way that this is possible, without negatively affecting their loved ones.

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  • Sherri

    I think these are great points to consider. It seems we are instructed to plan for nearly everything before they happen – earn good grades to go to college, save to buy your first car, network in college to get a good job, etc. – with the exception of having children and a family. I suppose it is assumed that the children with just fit in “somewhere.” And that is just not how it works! With each child comes a whole new person to consider when doing this or that. I didn’t do any of the above prior to having children and I feel the repercussions of it. With God’s grace, we are constantly improving our lives but I surely wish I had done some things differently. Thank you Sundi for this piece!

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    • Sundi

      Your welcome, Sherri! I thought it was important to write, because it’s important for mothers to share things they wish they had done differently, so they can possibly help someone else avoid making the same mistakes.

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