How to Figure Out if You Can Afford Not to Go Back to Work after Maternity Leave

Image Gallery: Work After Maternity Leave Making the decision to return to work after maternity leave is difficult -- can you afford to stay home if that's what you want? See more pictures of work after maternity leave.

To hear my mother tell it, you would think that every woman works solely to support her dry cleaning habit. As I neared the end of my maternity leave a few years ago and began to panic at the thought of returning to work, any mention of the idea of staying home with our new baby was met with the same response: "Of course you can! Just think of what you'll save on dry cleaning!"

Never mind that my salary at the time was higher than my husband's, or that I worked in a casual office and spent less than $20 a month at the dry cleaner's -- usually on something not related to work. No, clearly my dry cleaning expenses were leading us down a path to financial ruin, and the only solution was to quit my job and stay home.

In the end, my husband and I determined that we couldn't afford for me to give up my job -- at least not right away. But when we finally sat down together to really talk about our options, we were pleasantly surprised to find that there was hope for my new stay-at-home dream. Making just a few painless sacrifices enabled me to return to work part time when my leave ended, cutting both my hours and my salary in half. With a little planning, we were able to wean ourselves gradually from my salary, and in a year, I was able to leave my job -- and those dry cleaning costs -- behind.

Are you hoping to escape the office and stay home with your little one? Read on to figure out if you can afford NOT to go back to work after maternity leave.