Is Choosing To Be A Stay-at-Home Mom Risky?

For many women, staying at home with their children is the ultimate blessing. I’ve felt the warmth of those blessings but I’ve also been a little chilled by the challenges and risks of being a stay-at-home mom.

I’d like to share some very personal experiences with you, many of which I’ve never blogged about. I hope that by talking about some of these difficult issues, we can help each other through similar and even vastly different situations.

First let me tell you that this post is the first in a series that we and several of our fellow bloggers are writing as part of a compensated campaign with Genworth Financial to raise awareness amongst moms about the importance of taking an active role in planning for our financial futures.

I love my mom.

Summer 74 - Janice clinging to our momI’ve learned so very much from her. She taught me everything from how to write and edit an essay to how to ensure my laundry is washed, folded and organized to perfection. Some of these lessons I learned well and others I didn’t. (Hint… I fail on all counts with my laundry.)

But as all children do, mostly I learned from watching her move through life — making mistakes and learning along the way.

I’ve made some of the same decisions as my mom and many different ones. And as I’m living my own life as a mother, I’m making my own mistakes and learning along the way.

Just like my mother, I succeeded well in school and work but then gave up my career once I had children. My children meant everything to me, and I chose to be a stay-at-home mom.

And like my mother, my life of being a stay-at-home mom and a wife supported by a husband, didn’t stay that way.

We both were impacted by 2/3 of what I see as…

Three Risks of Being A Stay-at-Home Mom

  1. No-Resume… Need To Make Money
  2. It-Won’t-Happen-To-Me… Divorce
  3. Unthinkable… Death of Your Husband


No Resume… Need To Make Money

When we become mothers, our instinct to guard, love and teach our children becomes paramount. Some women choose — and are able — to leave behind their jobs and careers to focus as much of their time as possible on being at home raising their children.

But what so many women discover part way down that road is that their family needs more money and they have to bring in additional income.

woman-laptop-officeAfter years out of the work force, my mother lost her license to practice pharmacy and went to work as a secretary for my father.

I gave up my career as a software developer and business consultant to be at home. But when we needed extra money, I fortunately had also been working-at-home while staying-at-home and built up an income online.

As stay-at-home moms we need to remember that we might need to return to work in one way or another.

We need to constantly be learning and growing our skills even if it is in areas different than the careers we left.

Because as we all know, raising kids tends to cost more money than we think it will.
And unfortunately there is a second risk…


It-Won’t-Happen-To-Me… Divorce

When you start out, divorce seems like it could never happen to you. And I truly hope you stay in the group that was right and you never experience divorce.

Well, it happened to me.

I won’t go into details. The point is I never thought it would happen and I wasn’t financially prepared.

So many of us women leave the financial “stuff” to our husbands. As Laura and Susan, founders of Golden Girl Finance say, “too many smart women let their financial situation be ignored, swept under the rug, or dictated by others.”

As women and mothers we need to understand and play an active part in the financial decisions and planning for our families.

Whether you are left without a partner through divorce or the third — and worst case — scenario…


Unthinkable… Death of a Husband

Thankfully most young mothers don’t have to feel the ultimate blow of the death of a husband. But whether you’re a young mom with an infant, or part way down the path with kids heading to college, or helping with your grandchildren, you need to be financially prepared in case your husband dies.

My father died at only 56 years old.

His grandchildren weren’t even born yet. His wife had years ahead of her and without him had no income at all. (She did work, but FOR him and without him, she had no paycheck.)

Thankfully he had life insurance. My father wasn’t a perfect man, but he was always a good provider. He knew that if something happened to him, his family would need to be financially looked after.

My mom had (and still has) years ahead to look after herself and as it turns out… six grandchildren and her own four children who unfortunately also need help time and time again.

Even now at age 70, she works with us in our online businesses as she continues to build for her own financial future, but I can’t even let myself think what would have happened had she been left at 58 with no source of income, a mortgage to pay and the never-ending costs of life as a mother of four.

Sadly, so many families face the ultimate tragedy and then have to deal with financial devastation as well.

My friend Jennifer shared with me how she was recently reminded of the importance of life insurance when her friend who had been a stay-at-home mom for years suddenly lost her husband and did not have any life insurance.

Jennifer said…

Here was my friend, with no job, a recently deceased husband, and a family to care for — with no money or means of an income whatsoever!

I asked her, “What are you gonna do?” to which she replied, “I don’t have the faintest idea. My husband always took care of all this stuff. How am I gonna be able to live?”

We all have such different stories to tell, and unfortunately some are more tragic than others.

Yes, I’ve learned many lessons from my beloved mother and I hope to pass many of them on to my own daughters. As for these lessons of watching for the risks of life as a stay-at-home mom, I hope I can also pass them on to you.

What About You?

Do you have any experiences you can share? I believe we can learn so much from each other and we’d be honored to hear your stories. Please leave us a comment…

Disclosure: This post is part of a compensated campaign with Genworth Financial. Together we hope to educate and empower women to take an active role in planning their families’ financial futures.

Written by Susan Carraretto, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom.
Wanna chat? Find me at: @5minutesformom, @susancarraretto and


  1. says

    I don’t have any particular stories to share, but I will say that I am constantly aware of the risks that I’m assuming by choosing to leave the traditional workforce behind. I make it a point to be on top of my family’s financial situation, and to participate in financial decisions. My husband and I are working together to raise our family, and being co-financial managers is part of that for us. We both need to be aware of what’s happening, and have a plan about what would happen in the even that we were somehow left on our own.

  2. says

    you know what? I have been thinking about this very topic. My husband had good insurance with his job but now that he has been laid off we have nothing. Perhaps we should reconsider that.

    Thanks for sharing your story Susan. xox

    • says

      Tara it is tough when your spouse has medical and life insurance through work and then gets laid off… it’s a double hit financially for the family. But yes, it would be good for you to look into the insurance now.

      I hope he finds a great job soon.

      Thank you so much for sharing and all the best to you and your family!

  3. says

    GREAT blog. As a husband of a SAHM I can tell you we guys worry, too. While I’m certainly never going to divorce my wife, what if something happened to me – serious illness or death, God forbid? At least in the past guys tended to die earlier than their wives. I’ve taken a number of measures to try to ensure my wife and daughter are provided for, but the economy is so unsure, it’s still nerve-wracking. Thanks for positing this.

  4. says

    Great post and great reminder, Susan. It’s so easy to think that hardships will never happen to us, but life is unpredictable and we do need to be prepared as women and mothers. Thanks for the encouragement.

  5. says

    I’m so sorry, Susan. I didn’t know! I am glad you had 5 Minutes for Mom to help you stay on your feet.

    As an accountant before I became a stay-at-home Mom, I handle all of our family’s finances, as well as my husband’s company’s finances. It’s nice to be in the know and in the decision making process for all of that, but on the other hand, it’s a burden TO know and be responsible for it all. If I were just a stay-at-home Mom with no idea what was going on, I wouldn’t have to bear some of the burdens and responsibilities that I do. However, I do think it is better this way, and I am able to adjust my family spending and saving based on what we have.

    • says

      Thank you Rachel.

      That is wonderful that you have an accounting background and handle all the finances. What a fantastic advantage you’ve got!

  6. says

    I would like to say that I applaud all women and am unendingly grateful for women who choose not to neglect their God-given responsibility to be primarily responsible for the nurture and care of their children. Society today repulses me when women think that having a career and dropping off the kids at day care. That my friends is the source of all moral decline in our nation. Children without a guiding hand in the home have limited chance to turn out with strong moral character.

    Mothers have the most difficult job by far in raising children. They are ALWAYS confronting the unknown every day as their children grow. Fathers also have great responsibility to nurture children, but it is not their primary responsibility. Women should get a great education and should never stop learning and gaining skills at home as a mother as you stated in the article. I know there can be fear of these 3 awful situations that can occur making it impossible for the mother to stay home all time. In those cases women need to be prepared, but we need not fear.

    If your reasoning to work or have a career is to finance nice clothes, house, trips, or anything else for your kids you are NOT doing the best thing you could for them. You’re actually doing two bad things that compound each other. Nice things, trips etc are not bad, but if you live for them, are not there in your children’s lives you will fail to uphold the responsibility placed in you as a parent.

    Never before has it been easier to start a business which can supplement your income, and even take over a primary income for your family FROM HOME! It is possible to create a business working part time from home that makes just as much money as you could working full time out of the home. That’s right. I’ve done it.

    Always I agree there are situations like those mentioned in the article that necessitate women working outside the home. I applaud those women and seek to help them in their individual situations when they are in my proximity.

  7. says

    The unexpected…….oh it can be scary! When I lost my mom (way too young at age 55), thankfully my Dad was financially secure. But, it got my husband and I to thinking…..and planning. We talked and planned about everything – wills, life insurance, financial, etc. God willing, nothing unexpected will happen, but I’ve learned the hard way that life is short and you need to be prepared.

    Hugs to you!

    • says

      Debra, I’m so sorry to hear that you lost your mom at such a young age. Yes, personal experience with loss certainly does make you think and plan ahead.

      Thank you for sharing your story with us!

  8. says

    This was a great article. now i have some homework to do, and I got to get me some insurance on my husband because he is the bigger bread maker in the house.

  9. says

    I am a stay at home mom and thankfully only 1 of the 3 risks have affected me…no resume/need to make money.

    It was difficult going from 2 incomes to 1 when I decided to stay at home with the kids. My husband is self-employed so his income fluctuates. I tried a few different things to make a little extra money like selling on Ebay, writing online etc. I did not particularly enjoy any of those things so they did not last long.

    I have now found a work at home job that I like so that makes it easier to do.

    I am also going to school full time majoring in accounting so I hope to do accounting for small businesses from home someday.

    One thing is that I never regret becoming a stay at home mom. The sacrifices are worth it!

    • says

      Thank you Virginia for sharing your story.

      Yes, we never can regret staying at home… the blessings are immeasurable.

      How great that you’re getting an accounting education, that is the perfect at-home business that pays well. Our bookkeeper is a neighbor who works from home.

  10. says

    You hit the nail on the head. As a SAHM, I think about your list of risks way more often than I would like. I think this is a reason so many of us are entrepreneurs “on the side”. It helps us to develop new skills and have something to fall back on, just in case. Thanks for shedding light on an issue that every SAHM should be thinking about and preparing to address.

    • says

      Yes, you’re right… I think those are key reasons many of us work so hard “on the side”. I know for me it was a key reason and I’m very thankful that I did. I can’t even imagine if I hadn’t been building my business and my skills.

  11. says

    Such a good post… well thought out and definitely makes me think. Something all women should do. I’m blessed to be able to work for myself, so in essence I work at home. At times (many times) I wish I could just be at home with my kids and not have to think about anything else, but I think that is just a fantasy… moms would always be thinking about and doing something, whether it’s a job or not. Thanks for being so open and honest!!


    • says

      Great point Tabitha… we moms are always multi-tasking and thinking about something anyway. I think that’s how schools survive these days b/c of all the stay-at-home moms volunteering and using their skills to help their children’s schools.

  12. says

    Thanks posting ..i like ”i love my mom” part that’s really nice.Also, I thought you mom’s may be interested in the newest kids craze in my town, Patch Hats! Check out a hat you have never seen before here at www patchhats com

  13. says

    My mom also went through financial (and emotional) upheaval after major unexpected changes hit her when she was a stay-at-home mom and she was rather unexpectedly left to almost solely provide for us.

    I do view being a stay-at-home mom as risky, but I don’t believe you can eliminate all risk or should make decisions out of fear or what-ifs. That said, we can and should prepare for the possibility of needing to provide for our families.

    • says

      You’re exactly right Audrey.

      We can’t make our decisions out of fear and worrying about “what-if”… but at the same time, we need to be aware and prepare for unforeseen obstacles.

  14. says

    Seven years ago my oldest daughter was suffering from severe Asthma. We had been dealing with it since she was two weeks old and was diagnosed with RSV. She was sick constantly and it seemed that with me and my husband working, we were both out of sick time. Finally our doctor told us that either I or my husband needed to quit and stay home.

    It was a shock but deep down we already knew. I guess we just needed to be told. We figured it out on paper and I quit. Now my Daughter is 11 and completely healthy. We never looked back and in fact quitting helped us decide to have another child.

    Once both our kids were in school though I did find myself looking for more to do. I ended up opening a business at home. I’m still here for my kids, I have a lot to do when they are gone, and my husband has tons of sick time.

  15. says

    From the author of “A Dog’s Purpose” comes the next new novel “Emory’s Gift”

    Check out the video!

    Want to read the book. Check out and order now!!

  16. says

    I applaud you for having the guts to write about this topic, and it’s something I’ve felt in my bones for years. I’m sorry to hear of your divorce – I was in a similar boat a few years ago. I found myself a mother of 4, single, and with “when I feel like it” child support. It was scary but I made it work – thanks to the income I had been working on bringing in for years previous, online.

    I wrote about this issue on an old blog of mine that’s now “retired”:

    I heard Leslie Bennetts speak at a conference once, and I don’t agree with some of the things she says (I could never have worked a full time job while my babies were young), but it was very paradigm-shifting for sure.

    No matter what you believe about religion, marriage, love and all that – you can find yourself in a divorce situation. Sometimes it’s something that happens to you despite all you did to try to save your marriage. You can’t control other people. And not having an income or at least skills to earn income – SCARY. My thought is that if you have children, you must be prepared to care for them financially! Being female doesn’t excuse you from that.

  17. says

    Hi Susan,

    I just came across this post and wanted to ensure that I commented because it was so informative for me. We are currently in the process of trying to decide if being a SAHM is the right thing for us. Financially, it is scary for sure and for my husband, the biggest thing is the pressure he thinks he will feel being the sole provider. Our family is run by both of us as a team and that includes the finances, so I know that with just a few sacrifices we will be just fine. For me, the scariest part is, what if I can’t find a job once I am ready to work again. Or, what if I never want to work outside the home again, how can I find something that I can do from home? There are certainly a lot of things to think about so I thank you for your insight.

  18. Melanie says

    I am a SAHM and homeschooling parent. I have a 6yr old and a 3 yr old. My partner is dying of cancer, and my head is spinning so fast I’m dizzy. I DO NOT want to put my kids in the public school system, and the thought of going to work outside the home and missing so much of their days makes me sick. BUT what can I do? What are my options? We do not have extended family near us and I need to provide for my children. Life insurance takes a year to come in, and will not provide long term. With a heavy heart I am starting to job search now…If there was a way to work from home and make enough money to actually pay for everything that would be amazing..but I’m out of ideas.
    All this to say, it does happen..even to you who may think it won’t. It’s a risk..a scary one.
    Just wanted to share!


  1. […] Is Choosing To Be a Stay-at-Home Mom Risky?  In short, perhaps.  This article from 5 Minutes for Mom echoes the sentiments of The Feminine Mistake, albeit more gently.  Thought-provoking reading, for all ages. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *