Authors: (Rachel Morgan Cautero)

Source: Business Insider


  • I never planned to be a stay-at-home parent, but I became one after I was laid off.
  • I freelance now, but I don't earn a full-time salary.
  • I'm more involved in our family's finances than ever, and I have a backup plan for my future. 

Growing up, I had a stay-at-home mom who did it all — joined the PTA, ferried me to and from soccer practices, spent afternoons at the park and lazy summer days at the pool. She never worked outside the home, at least until I was older.

But I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom myself. My plans were to be a full-time writer, to live in New York and maybe have one kid in my late 30s, then hire a really good nanny. Two kids, four moves, and a house in suburbia later, that's not quite how things panned out.

When I was pregnant with my oldest, the media startup I worked for folded, and since I was a contractor I was laid off, seven months pregnant, with no severance or other options on the horizon. That's when I went full-time freelance, writing and editing for a bevy of clients for the past five years. Though I've been steadily working since then, I'm not making a full-time salary.

Here's how I came to terms with being a stay-at-home mom (or, technically, a work-at-home mom, or a WAHM), how I managed to keep earning on the side, and why the latter was so desperately important to me.

I'm more involved in our family's finances than ever

Just because you aren't earning a salary doesn't mean you shouldn't worry about your finances. In fact, it's all the more reason to keep a close eye on things.

When I became a stay-at-home mom, I made it a point to be even more involved with my family's finances, even though I am not a numbers person. I made sure my husband and I were on the same page with our monthly budget, contributions to our retirement accounts, and saving for our kids' educations. I also made sure we were equal owners of all bank accounts, our mortgage, our cars, and our investment portfolio.

One of my biggest concerns when I went full-time freelance was what would happen to my retirement savings. While my husband has a hefty, employer-matched RRSP, I was left with a small amount in my TFSA, basically fending for myself.

It's worth noting that any discussions between my husband and me about who makes the bulk of the money are off-limits. He knows that my having an unpaid full-time gig doesn't mean anything in regard to who has the right to spend what.

I always have a backup plan

While our marriage is a happy one, you never know what the future holds. Divorce happens. Partners die unexpectedly. Familial situations change. That's why I stay relevant in my field, maintain steady earnings, and keep my old journalism and grad-school contacts fresh. Because one day I may have to return to the workforce full time to support my children — and I don't want to be caught flat-footed.

From a financial perspective, I make sure I know every bank account, every password, the names and contact information of our lawyer and financial advisors, even that we both have a valid last will and testament. I've witnessed enough death to know it's never pretty when a husband dies and a wife is left not knowing where the money is or who to call for the husband's will. It's also wise to know who is entitled to or is the beneficiary of all accounts, especially retirement accounts.


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