Should Moms Go Back to Work When Kids Start School?

10 Questions to Ask Before Going Back to Work

A picture of a family getting into a car
Going back to work is a big step for a stay-at-home mom. Know what to expect before you make the leap. Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

Deciding whether you should return to work after the kids start school is as big of a choice as it was to quit working to become a stay-at-home mom. It's another milestone in motherhood because you may feel like your kids don't need you as much, and you'd like to get back into the workforce. On the other hand, making the switch to working mom gives your family extra income, but now you're faced with new challenges you didn't have before you had children.

Ask yourself these 10 questions before you make a final decision.

How is Your Financial Situation?

Your family budget took some adjusting to when you went from two incomes to one, but you made it work. Your kids may now be involved in dance, sports and other activities, plus school expenses you didn't have before, and your budget is taking a hit. Evaluate your finances and add in those new expenses you're facing to help you make your decision about going back to work. Sometimes your finances make the decision for you, unfortunately. But you should give your budget an honest and thorough evaluation, making adjustments to see if you can take the budget factor out of the equation.

How Much Will it Cost for You to Return to Work?

An additional income heading to your family's bank account after all this time living off of one paycheck makes it sound like your decision should be easy. However, you have to consider the amount of money you'll be bringing in versus the cost.

You'll have to factor in clothes and gas, of course, but now you'll also have to consider the cost of child care.

Who's Going to Take Care of the Kids When They're Not at School?

Kids get sick. School is out for holidays, parent-teacher conferences and fall and spring breaks. Make a plan now for who is going to watch your children when they're out for a day or even a couple of weeks during Christmas break while you're working every day.

If you're planning on a family member to do these things, talk with them now to make sure they agree to it before you start the job hunt.

Could You Seek Other Alternatives to Full-time Work?

There are plenty of options now that you don't have to go all in or not at all when it comes to working. There are part-time jobs perfect for moms that allow you to get off of work in time to pick up the kids. Thanks to today's technology, you can easily work from home and make money online without having to decide between a job or staying home.

Can You Find a Flexible Work Arrangement?

You may need to pick the kids up at school at 3 p.m., but your typical full-time 9 to 5 doesn't give you that option. A flexible work arrangement may work for you. These alternatives to your nine-hour day with a one-hour lunch break instead offer flexible work schedules, such as scheduling your own hours or compressing your schedule so you're working hours you can actually manage. Look for a flexible work arrangement or, if you find a job you're interested in that doesn't advertise a flex schedule, don't be afraid to ask if there's something you could work out. You'll never know if you don't try.

Will You Return to the Same Career?

Think back to the days when you were working and didn't have kids at home.

Were you spending 12-hour days at the office, traveling for days or even weeks at a time out of state? Life is different for you now, and that's something you have to consider before returning to your former career. There might be other options within your career path that would work, but there may also be new opportunities in a different career path that you might not have considered before you had kids. Now's the time to explore those options as you toy with the idea of going back to work.

Have You Considered the Benefits of Staying Home?

You may be past diaper changing, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop being a stay-at-home mom.

Research shows there are many benefits to kids whose mom remains home, even for teenagers with a SAHM. Just because the kids are in school full time, doesn't mean the importance of your role as a stay-at-home mom has stopped.

Do You Really Want to Go Back to Work?

Are you simply bored with your days now that the kids are back in school or do you truly want to get back to work? If you're unsure, take a step back before you commit yourself to returning to the workforce. Look for volunteer work in an area you're passionate about, get more involved at your children's school, think about going back to school or even take on a new hobby. Who knows? That hobby could turn into a money-making venture that brings in just as much money as a full-time position.

Are You Prepared to Go Back to Work?

Making the transition back to work is a big adjustment for your whole family but especially for you. Are you ready to go back to work? You've probably made a list of the pros and cons of going back to work, but now make a list of pros and cons for yourself. List everything from how your daily routine will change to how you'll handle your work/life balance.

Are You Doing What's Right for Your Family?

Should all stay-at-home moms return to work when their kids go back to school? No. Should all stay-at-home moms continue to stay home even though their kids are in school? No. There is no blanket answer for everyone. Don't let the pressure from your in-laws or friends sway you in either direction. The decision you make should include your spouse and your kids, of course. In the end, you're the only one who truly knows what you want to do and if it's right for your family.