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May 10, 2021

Stay-at-Home Mom vs Working Mom: Deciding the Right Path – w/ Catherine Alford

Cat Alford

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Today, we’re talking with Catherine Alford about being a stay-at-home mom vs a working mom. This can be an incredibly difficult decision for mothers after they have children. Do I stay at home or do I continue working?

Our guest today is here to shed some light on why it doesn’t always need to be such a black or white decision. Catherine Alford is a nationally recognized financial educator and the author of the new book Moms Got Money: A Millennial Mom's Guide to Managing Money Like a Boss.

Episode Overview – Stay-at-Home Mom vs Working Mom

Catherine Alford and I review the following:

  • The pros and cons of being a stay-at-home mom
  • Why moms need to factor in more than their salary if they choose the stay-at-home mom life
  • How spouses can support their partners in this big decision

It was such an honor to chat with Cat! She's not only an inspiring entrepreneur but a good friend of mine as well. If you're deciding between the life of a stay-at-home mom vs. working mom, you need to listen to this conversation.

Why Catherine Alford is Advocating for Millennial Moms

As a millennial mom herself, Cat knows exactly how challenging motherhood can be. Not only that, but millennials are facing unique financial situations. From crushing student loan debt and graduating amid the Great Recession to soaring housing prices and stagnating wages, it's not easy managing your money as a millennial.

With a keen understanding of both the demographic and the support moms need, Cat set out to create a resource for millennial moms. Her book Moms Got Money: A Millennial Mom's Guide to Managing Money Like a Boss is the perfect starting point for any millennial mom looking to improve her financial situation.

Choosing to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom vs Working Mom

Spoiler alert: Catherine Alford's main priority is helping moms make the very best decisions for themselves, their families, and their unique situations. That means that she isn't going to say that being a stay-at-home mom is the right move to make. She's also not going to push everyone to choose to work outside the home. Instead, she encourages moms to think through the pros and cons of both roles.

How is she so well versed in this type of decision making? Not only is she a recognized personal finance expert; this very decision is something that she had to make for herself once her twins were born.

Right around the time that her babies arrived, Cat was blogging and freelance writing. She would soon make the leap to full time entrepreneurship. Though she says she wanted to show other moms what was possible, she quickly felt like she was drowning. So she enlisted a very part-time mother's helper and eventually was able to hire a part-time nanny.

As she lived this lifestyle trying to carve out the kind of motherhood she envisioned for herself, she felt like she was riding the gap between being a stay-at-home mom vs working mom. There were definitely some growing pains. At first, she often found herself feeling like she was failing at work and not giving enough time to her babies. However, once she lowered some of her unrealistically high expectations, she found her groove and began to manage her day more effectively.

Cat's Experience Living in Both Worlds

Cat sees life as a working mom as an opportunity to have something all your own. She also emphasizes the satisfaction of achieving professional goals and admits that she really does enjoy making her own money. Shared finances or not, Cat says many women value feeling like they are contributing financially and being a working mom allows them to do that. Of course, Cat points out that being a working mom in the financial education space allows her to help people beyond her family, too.

However, Cat is quick to point out the issues with working mom life. She says it is very hard to do it all yourself. That means that you likely have to be comfortable with outsourcing. Perhaps you need a nanny to help with school drop-off and pick-up. Maybe you need after school care for your kids. Whatever the case may be, it's important to get comfortable asking for help and outsourcing as needed.

Let More Than Your Salary Guide You

“Daycare costs are the same as my paycheck!” Catherine Alford says that this exclamation is all too common. Many moms make the decision to stay home based largely on the cost of daycare versus the size of their current salary. But it is important to let more than your current salary guide you.

In truth, taking one, three, or five years away from the workplace impacts much more than your current income. When women decide to stay home, they are giving up a paycheck. They may also miss out on other factors such as:

  • Retirement account investments
  • Company matching
  • Vesting for a pension
  • Networking
  • Professional development
  • Raises and bonuses

Plus, if you plan to re-enter the workforce, plenty of moms find themselves in situations where prospective employers are less-than-understanding about supposed resume gaps.

Of course, there's also an emotional side to this decision. Choosing to stay home or continue working doesn't have to be purely about crunching the numbers. There are many different considerations each mom will have to make to decide what is best for her and her family.

Financially Preparing to be a Stay-At-Home Mom

So you've weighed the pros and cons of being a stay-at-home mom vs working mom, and you've considered your personal situation. How can someone prepare financially to be a stay-at-home mom?

Cat says one of the most important things to do is to live on one income before making the transition to staying at home. That gives you time to adjust your budget and shift your money to align with your new priorities, needs, and wants.

Additionally, it is important to reconsider what staying home means. Just because “stay-at-home” is in the title doesn't mean that you'll just be at your house with your kids. There are other expenses associated with being a stay-at-home parent. You might have several one-time expenses throughout the month for things like visits to a museum or zoo. You might also have recurring expenses like a music class or swim lessons.

The only way to really get a sense of what it will be like is to start practicing beforehand. And in case you really need a budget starting point, Cat says no matter what you do, don't forget the coffee!

How Partners Can Support Stay-At-Home Mom vs Working Mom

Deciding to be a stay-at-home mom vs working mom is a difficult decision. In fact, it can become a sticking point for many couples. That's why Cat says that marriage counseling or coaching can be so helpful. Working with a therapist or coach invites an unbiased third-party opinion into the conversation. Throughout the process, you'll be guided to get out of your own head and step into your partner's shoes. It's a really great way to stave off fighting in your marriage.

As someone who personally benefited from counseling, Catherine Alford says that she would recommend it to any couple if there's any kind of sticking point in the relationship that seems like it can't be resolved.

Whether you pursue counseling or not, another way for partners to support moms making this decision is to practice giving the benefit of the doubt. Cat encourages women who are shocked by their partner's response to ask what is shaping that response. For instance, maybe they are really worried about the family finances or maybe they have a particular vision for how your kids' childhood will look like. Extending the benefit of the doubt can help you take things less personally and allow you to understand your partner's perspective more.

Closing Thoughts on Stay-At-Home Mom vs Working Mom Life

There's a lot of pressure on moms from the rest of society to make the “best choice”. Cat acknowledges that and pushes back on the idea at the same time. She encourages all moms to remember that society isn't in your home every day, and society isn't sitting down to dinner with you and your family. That's why her goal is to empower mothers–whether you're a stay-at-home mom or working mom–to make the choices that they are comfortable with.

Moms are already making choices every day that deeply affect their families. For some reason, women tend to lack confidence around certain types of decisions. Cat suspects that is at least in part because of the intense pressure moms feel and moms put on themselves. She says that the key is to make the decision that is best for you and your family.

Moms need to work with their partners and trust their own instinct that they know what's best for their kids. Cat also emphasizes that when you are happy and fulfilled, you can be a better mother. Maybe that means staying home, maybe that means working outside the home. Perhaps it's a blend of both. It's a personal decision and one that Catherine Alford hopes to empower all mothers to make intentionally and confidently.


Guest Bio – Catherine Alford

Catherine Alford is a nationally recognized financial educator who started her business with a $10 domain name and grew it into a multifaceted, six-figure digital media company. She is the creator of, the co-founder of, and the author of the book Mom's Got Money: A millennial mom's guide to managing money like a boss.

Through her work, she offers a suite of digital products and services include financial writing, public speaking, and influencer marketing all with the goal of helping women become more financially confident.

Over the years, her writing and expertise have been featured in dozens of media outlets including Good Morning America, Yahoo Finance, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Real Simple, The Huffington Post, Kiplinger, Investopedia, Business Insider, and many more. She currently lives just outside of Detroit, Michigan with her husband, their twins, and a rescue dog named Julep.

Catherine Alford Resources

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Where do you fall on the stay-at-home mom vs working mom debate?

What do you think of the advice from Catherine Alford?

Please let us know in the comments below.

Andy Hill

Andy Hill, AFC® is the award-winning family finance coach behind Marriage Kids and Money - a platform dedicated to helping families build wealth and happiness. With millions of podcast downloads and video views, Andy’s message of family financial empowerment has resonated with listeners, readers and viewers across the world. When he's not "talking money", Andy enjoys being a Soccer Dad, singing karaoke with his wife and relaxing on his hammock.

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