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SAHM: To be or not to be, that is the question

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This topic contains 27 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by avatar RedRoverRedRover 3 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #668300 Reply
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    for_cutie

    Hello forum readers. I love the diversity and breadth of advice of this community and I am hoping to get some perspective on a life decision I am “suddenly” facing.

    I have 2 kids, a great career and am 20 weeks along with number 3. For baby 1 and 2, I fully supported my husband’s graduate education so me working was always a given. Had a baby, took 12 weeks and back to my career/life balance. Since having baby 2 my husband has graduated and started a business. We are so fortunate that it was successful fast, leading us to feel comfortable expanding our family to baby 3.

    Last night my husband proposed I consider quitting my career to run his business and stay home with the baby, and pre-schooler. He wants to expand his business and wants me to manage that. I have an MBA and help with all of the business aspects as it is, making the website, helping ask the right questions of the lawyers, accountants, etc. He wants to expand from just himself to bring people under him and build an office. This idea is all very doable, and we had a plan in place for this before he started the business, its just that the recent demand has allowed us to move up the timelines if we so choose.

    I have always been the practical one, and not the dreamer. I have a good, unique job, that could not be replaced if I were to step away for a year or two to parent/business develop. I had never had stay at home as an option, and therefore never really thought about it, mostly because it wasn’t an option. Now it is and I feel totally blindsided.

    I told a friend today: “I am not sure I can give up the quiet of an office with a door and a window and dry-clean only clothes.” It is a unique take on the privileges afforded to me by my career. Part of me feels foolish for not taking the SAHM pass being offered to me, that so many stressful days in the office before I had longed for.

    For reference, my husband and I are both feminist liberals. This is my choice. My husband totally respects that, he just wants me to consider all of the options instead of just keep doing what I am doing, because it is comfortable. It’s also true I would be helping with the business decisions regardless, which is a lot of stress with a career and 3 kids to boot.

    Obviously it is a HUGE decision, that a lot goes into, but I would love some others perspectives on things to consider, what to think through, and if you’ve faced a similar situation and what you pursued. Thank you!

    #668301 Reply
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    Kate

    If it were me, I’d try to get flex in my current job and go part time / reduced schedule. There are women I work with who don’t work Fridays, or only work until 3pm. Actually, my parents are both doing that now, 4-day weeks, because they were surprised to find they didn’t feel like retiring.

    I started working from home several months ago. My husband does too, though he’s gone for a few hours in the morning. We don’t have kids. But look, there are a few reasons here not to give up your job and stay home while working for your husband: 1) you LIKE the sort of “me time” or “adult time” or peace or whatever of being in an office. Being out of the house. That’s important. You like your career. You don’t know what kind of dynamics it would create in your marriage to work with/for your husband. You also now have your own thing, separate from his business. That could be important personally, financially, etc.

    And WFH isn’t perfect. You really want to get the hell out of the house at the end of the day. I do go to a city that’s an hour plane ride or 4-hour train ride away on a fairly weekly basis for a night or two, which helps with the getting out of the house thing, but on normal days we really need to go out to dinner to stay sane, which isn’t great on the credit card statement.

    Anyway, it’s your choice to make!

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by avatar Kate.
    #668303 Reply
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    Kate

    Also, you’d have a nanny during the day, right? I hope he’s not suggesting you stay home to try to take care of the kids AND run the business. No one does that. When someone has a kid sick at home they don’t get shit done. Everyone who works from home that I know of has a nanny.

    #668308 Reply
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    for_cutie

    Good points @kate. I am worried about going stir crazy at home. I am trying to figure out if I can even manage that first, before making plans for a nanny, or salary from his business, or any of that. I am an extreme extrovert, and I am worried that an absence of meaningful adult conversation on the daily will be disastrous.

    #668309 Reply
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    Kate
    Keymaster

    Yeah, I can feel that’s the way you’re leaning. If you had a nanny (trust me, you’d have to) and would be on calls and go out to meetings pretty regularly, you might be able to make this work for you. But no way if it was just you, at home, interacting with mostly your husband and trying to take care of the kids while running a business. I can’t see that working at all.

    I’m not an extrovert (somewhere in the middle), but if I had a good, cheerful office environment with a manageable commute, I’d definitely do that most days instead of staying home. Sadly my office sucks these days and so does the commute, so this is the better option, and certain parts of it are good, but I’d honestly rather go to the office.

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by avatar Kate.
    #668311 Reply
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    Anonymousse

    I’m an introvert, @forcutie and I still find the lack of adult conversation really, really hard. I love being at home with my kids, though. It’s worth it to me.

    What is your husband going to do if you are SAH and running a business?
    (Also, I don’t think that is feasible. It’s nearly impossible to do anything productive at home with a child. I’m lucky if I can take care of the house while my kids are destroying it.)

    #668312 Reply
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    MissDre

    I don’t know anything about raising kids, but I do know what it’s like to step in and work for family. I took over all marketing, branding and business for my brother and his wife’s business and I’ve been doing it for the last 3 or 4 years (although I was helping out part time for years before that).

    After a while, it kind of sucks. I don’t regret it at all, it was a great experience. But right now, I feel like I’m losing my skills because I’m no longer working with other marketing professionals. I’m constantly having to take continuing education courses to make sure I’m up to date in my field. And, the money has kind of sucked and my potential growth has peaked/stagnated. Now, I’ve reached the point where I’m ready to get back into the corporate world and I’m a bit nervous, since I’ve been away for so long. Also, my family is now driving me nuts and I’m ready to get away from them.

    That being said, for the first while, the flexibility of working for family was amazing. It was wonderful, I felt so motivated to grow the business. Like I said, no regrets. I learned so much and I’ve mostly enjoyed it.

    The point of my story is… if this is something you can do for now that will give you an income, something meaningful to do outside of just running your home/kids and it’s flexible enough to give you a fantastic work/life balance, I think that’s great. But once your kids are older, you might be itching to get back to work away from your family. Make sure you do what it takes to stay relevant in your field.

    #668313 Reply
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    Ron

    Here are some things I’d consider if I was in your position.

    1. You see your career/work in the office as a pleasant break from kids and a chance to deal with other adults, and get out of the house. How will you replace these needs if you become part-time SAHM/rest of time work-from-home for spouses business? Are you going to be doing solo desk/phone work for husband’s business, or are you going to get enough adult contact to satisfy you. Will you do enough away from the house work for husband’s business to satisfy your need to get out, or is it going to be all kids and home office, working in your PJs or scruffies?

    2. As Kate suggested, you and your husband need to decide how much help you will be getting with the kids and housework. Without significant help, you can quickly be overwhelmed. Two kids plus manage a business is really taking on two competing jobs. You need an understanding of how much you will be doing for each of these jobs and how much help available. It sounds like one reason your husband is proposing this is that he wants more help with the business. How much more help can you realistically provide?

    3. It’s great that your husband’s business has started so strong, but most businesses aren’t a straight line up. What happens if business revenue/profit levels off or even declines? It sound like once you leave your current job you won’t be able to return. Do you have other alternatives if your family once again requires your outside-the-home income? It sounds like your husband is really hot to expand the business. Does he have a detailed business plan which you view as realistic. Does the expansion require a business loan? How risky is payback? Can the business grow fast enough that your family can afford to pay one or more workers to assist your husband, and at least a part-time nanny to assist you, while also losing your salary? Most small businesses do fail. You and your husband need a contingency plan if that happens.

    4. Going from running a business with yourself as the sole worker and help from your wife and running an expanded business where you have to hire and manage other workers can be very difficult. How suited is your husband for this?

    5. It’s great that you and your husband are both committed liberal feminists. However, even very compatible couples can run into problems when one becomes the employer/boss of the other and the relationship shifts away from equality because of that. Given your shared philosophies, you need to be your husband’s equal, but it’s difficult to be the equal of your boss. There will inevitably come a day when you and your husband strongly disagree about something related to the direction of the business/how you spend your time/how you perform your work/how the two of you view the business ethics of a particular decision/how the two of you deal with business risk and uncertainty going forward. When that disagreement occurs, how are you going to decide who gets to decide. This in part is related to how the business is structured? WIll the two of you be equal owners/partners of equal rank in decision making? Will decisions in some areas be fenced off as primarily his or primarily yours, prior to starting on this new collaboration?

    You almost have to set aside that the guy who now is primarily the operator of this business is your husband and look at your decision as a career/business decision and then consider how it effects your family/relationship. If you were offered the position your husband is offering by a friend, is the situation structured that you would quit your job and accept this new job? What guarantees/assurance/whatever would you require from this unrelated third party to give up your current job and manage their business from your home?

    I like Kate’s suggestion to start by trying to work part-time at your current job. At the company where I worked, half-time was a golden opportunity. Instead of working 50-60 hours a week for full pay and benefits, you worked 20 hours per week for half pay and full benefits. It you don’t need to bring home more than half pay, then that is a really great situation.

    Family businesses can be uniquely stressful and tricky. I know many people who absolutely could not work for their fathers or father-in-laws and fathers/FILs who were never willing to turn over significant authority to once young adult relative now turned middle-ager. I also have known husbands/wives who fought over the family business. Are the possible risks of business/authority conflicts bleeding into your marriage worth this change.

    #668314 Reply
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    Kate
    Keymaster

    Yeah, Ron and others did a great job of expanding on points I only touched on, like financial security and your relationship.

    Also how about health benefits?

    #668315 Reply
    freckles
    freckles

    I feel like diversification would be an issue here. Things are going well now, but if something were to happen to your husband’s business, you’re both out of work. Now, you have a separate job, which gives you some more security. Also as Kate pointed out, you like having an office, and adult clothes, and adult company. Plus, I would worry about working with your husband. That much time spent together could be too much, even for the best couples.

    I’m not saying any of these are a given, but just some food for thought!

    #668316 Reply
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    blink14
    Participant

    There’s definitely a difference between being a stay at home parent and working from home with your kids there. My mom ran her own business for about 25 years out of our house – my stepdad’s business was a main client, so they basically were working with each other in many ways. She traveled regionally a couple of times a month to meet with clients and kept her work schedule contained to Monday – Friday.

    I was already in day care when she started the business, but my brother had a nanny until he went into day care at around 3 and a half. Once her office door was closed, we knew that she was “at work” and weren’t to bother her, and the nanny – who also watched me on occasion (I was in elementary school at this point) – would totally handle my brother’s care for the work day. They went to a lot of programs and play centers and the nanny planned at least one activity each day out of the house.

    Once my brother was in school full time, my mom continued to work a fairly typical 9 to 5 schedule, but obviously as her own boss she could be flexible about picking us up from the bus, activities, trips, etc.

    Its also about your personality – are you a true entrepreneur or are you seeing this as just another job? Neither my mom or my step dad would have lasted long term in someone else’s company, they both thrive on being their own boss and making decisions for themselves. However, if your husband suggested it only because he’s basically got a free employee in you (I don’t mean this in a bad way, he’s seeing that you can stay home and help his business, without having to be a traditional employee), I’d say you need to be careful. If you could lose momentum and trajectory in your chosen field, you may want to stick with that.

    Also consider if you would want to return to your field in the future. In just 4-5 years, your youngest will be in kindergarten. It doesn’t seem like a huge gap now, but it can be depending on the industry you are in. I know someone who left a very specialized field, and has been unable to return to that field in a paid position, after trying for several years. She’s now switched to non-profit basically because she needs a job and that’s it.

    Finally, I’d say be careful that you don’t fall into the trap of working mother is more liberal than stay at home mother. If its something YOU truly want to do, than you have every right to do so, and you shouldn’t feel bad about that.

    #668324 Reply
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    for_cutie

    Wow. great advice everyone. Lots to consider.

    To answer a few questions, my husband is now a doc, but not an MD with overhead of tools and medical assistants, etc. He would be seeing patients all day – as he does now, and I would be in charge of all of the expansion, building, contracts, etc. as well as some patient scheduling/billing. In terms of staff, he has had multiple practitioners that have tons of clinical training, but not the education to get a license, want to practice under him. This is a common model in hospitals where the trainees – think residents – provide the care but you are being billed by their supervising docs who are licensed.

    He started business in July and had a wait-list by September. He is in a consortium of providers now with pooled resources, hence he sees patients, I work, kids go to day care. He is a specialist, and the only one for 3 hours drive that is in private practice. We bought our current home with space to bring the practice on-site. It was always a long term plan, if the business worked out. So I’d be business manager, plus in charge of all of the construction stuff while he sees patients.

    I’m seeing the SAHM as a 1-2 gap year thing to get my husband’s business settled with a bonus of baby time – hello no pumping in business clothes! I am just not sure if 1. all of this is feasible (thanks for the thoughtful points) or 2. if I am cut out to live this kind of lifestyle. Also a little reassurance I am not a monster for being “more than a mom” would be nice 🙂

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