This week is quickly turning into babies and family week. I’m sorry but I just can’t help myself, I’ve got nothing else on my mind lately, understandably. By this time next week I’ll be changing diapers and staying up nights with our new son.
One topic that has been close to our hearts these past couple of months is the topic of being a stay at home parent, versus being a working parent that uses daycare. We’ve been thinking long and hard about which situation was best for us, and which was the best for our son.
We prayed about the situation, ran all the numbers, considered the pros and cons, and in the end it made the most sense to us for my wife to stay home with our baby boy. She ended up handing in her resignation at her job (she loved her job), and had her last full work day a couple of weeks ago. She was sad about leaving her work, but she is glad that she made the decision.
Today I thought I would do a quick discussion of what some of the factors are that may go into a decision on whether or not to stay home with a child (or children).
(Before I start, I realize that there are both mothers and fathers who stay home with their children, but I believe the majority of parents that stay home are still mothers. Because of that, and because our family is making the decision from this viewpoint – I’ll be writing this article from the point of view of a mother staying home with the children.)
Is It Financially Possible To Stay Home?
Probably one of the biggest factors helping to decide if a parent should stay home with the children is whether it is economically feasible. If you go from a dual income family to a single income family – will you be able to make your monthly payments, and keep up with any debt obligations? For many people the answer is no because they’ve leveraged themselves to the hilt, and are living in a home they can’t afford, and driving a car beyond their means. They won’t be able to get by on one income. With two they can usually squeak by.
This is one reason why I believe it’s so important for a family to do their best to be in a financially sound position, because it allows you the freedom to make decisions like these, without having to consider the monetary costs as heavily. Since we’re debt free except our mortgage, it makes it a lot easier to be able to move to a one income household.
So if a parent were to stay home, what are some of the things with monetary value that they would lose?
- Income from job
- Benefits (Health insurance, dental insurance, disability insurance, life insurance)
- Retirement income matching
That could add up to quite a bit of money!
You also have to consider the expenses you’ll be incurring if you work:
- Childcare (unless you have a family member or friend watching your child)
- Eating out more often because you’re working.
- Work clothing
- Transportation costs
- Higher taxes due to higher family income.
of course this may not be an exhaustive list, but I think some of the big ones are here – especially day care costs.
What expenses might you incur if you stay home?
- Kids activities
- More social activities for mom due to lost social aspect of working
In the end you need to figure out the two sides of the equation – financial situation with one income, and one with two incomes. What income and expenses do we have on each side of the scale, and would it even make sense to continue working if the scales balance out – or even if you make a bit more money if continuing to work?
At our house we found that once we considered all the monetary factors, we would actually be equal whether my wife stayed home or went to work, mainly because of the cost of child care. It didn’t make any financial sense for her to continue working.
- Here’s a “Can You Afford To Quit” calculator at Kiplinger.com.
- “Stay At Home Calculator” at Parents.com.
Does Mom Want To Stay Home?
Another important factor is whether or not mom actually wants to stay home with the children. Some women may not want to stay home with their children, and may prefer having a career to being at home with the child 24 hours a day. It doesn’t make you a bad mom to not want to be a stay at home mom, and you can still be a wonderful, loving parent. Not everyone is perfectly suited to being a stay at home mom.
It is a huge sacrifice to stay at home with your children, especially when the mother is losing much of the social aspect of being in the work force, and sometimes feeling like they are not using their expensive college degree by leaving their job. It can be a very under-appreciated job to be a mother! (Mothers – you are my hero!)
On the other hand, I believe many women are perfectly suited and created by God to be wonderfully nurturing parents, often much more so, or in a different way than the fathers. So while it is a sacrifice, it is also for many a privilege and an honor to stay and home, nurture and raise their child. Plus, there are many wonderful ways to get involved with local mothers groups, church groups, etc that will help you to stay social and active.
Maria felt led by God to be a stay at home mom for her child, but she struggled with enjoying her work and losing her career as well. It was a tough choice, but the kiddo won out.
How Would The Child Benefit From Having A Parent At Home?
One thing that really weighed heavily on us when we were making the decision as to whether my wife would stay home or not was what was best for our unborn son. Would he bet better served by having his mother at home to help nurture him, care for him and teach him, or would he be able to thrive as well by being care for by others?
For us we felt that we wanted to be taking a more active role in our child’s care, raising him up in the things we believe, teaching him and loving him for those precious early years.
Some of the benefits for the child of having a parent at home:
- A more stable home life and routine
- Better able to teach and educate your child
- More consistent discipline and care
- More time to love on them!
When we considered all of these benefits to our son, it just enforced our opinion that my wife should stay home. We really believed it would be best for him.
Consider The Costs And Benefits – Make The Best Decision For Your Family
Once you’ve considered all the positives and negatives of both sides of the debate, it’s time to make a decision that best fits the needs of your family. For some people it might not be feasible for a parent to stay home – debt obligations and other things just don’t make it possible. For others the decision to have a parent at home with the kids is important enough to make big sacrifices in other areas of their lives.
At our house we felt so strongly about having a parent at home, we most likely would have made the decision for Maria to stay home, even if it hadn’t been a wise decision financially. Thankfully we’re in a good position financially (no debt except the house), and we’re able to make the transition relatively smoothly. Now we’ll just need to make sure that my wife is still able to interact with other moms and others socially so she doesn’t lose touch with that aspect of her life – which is extremely important to her.
It’s a balancing act for sure, and I hope you’re able to make the right decision for your family as well.
What do you think about having the mom stay at home? What are some pros and negatives on both sides of the equation? Which decision has your family made and why? What things are we missing in this discussion of the topic? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
For us we made the decision a good bit before we had our son. When we were looking for a house we knew that if we got a house beyond a certain price we would both have to work. To complicate the decision is the fact that my wife makes the larger portion of the income, and has a much better health plan. If one of us had to stay home, financially it would have to be me. Emotionally that would be very difficult for my wife as she sometimes wants to be a stay at home mom. (This is largely due to her upbringing of a mom that was either stay at home, or part-time working, and a pair of grandparents within walking distance. The times she has been home we have realized that she would not do well stuck home for extended times.) She would likely feel jealousy if I were the one at home.
In our process the big decision was where to get childcare. Her work has childcare on site run by New Horizons. My workplace had KinderCare across the street. In the end we found a daycare center which has roots in an area church that proved lower cost (they are a registered non-profit) and provides a faith-based environment. (Love to Grow on in the North Metro, St. Paul side area if you are curious.) We are constantly amazed at the creative activites they come up with for the kids and know he is getting social and learning interactions that neither of us could have provided him when at home.
We have also worked on changing parts of our lifestyle to maximize the time we do have with him as he is in daycare all week. My wife works from home one day a week and keeps him home with her. We have friends/neighbors that can help watch him those days and even if it costs money to pay them she gets more time with him on those days due to no 1 hour each way commute. We use CoburnsDelivers for grocery shopping instead of spending 2-3 hours on the weekend dealing with it. We try to do housework/chores after he is in bed every day and during his naps. We keep a solid half-day on the weekend and at least one, sometimes 2, weeknights for family. This one was big as it took a little bit to learn to say “No.” (Pro tip, saying “yes” to one thing is, by default, saying “no” to every alternative.)
Every family is different. These are big decisions. We spent time with God and had peace with our decisions when we made them. Even though we sometimes wish it was different, we still know we are following Gods plan for the family.
Anyhow, one thing I think you need to strive for next is to find the local MOPS group for her to get involved in. Every stay at home mom I know that participates loves it to death. It is a weekly social event that mom will need. Also, community events like library story time, theaters with a 10AM low-cost movie for mom & kids, mom & me swim lessons, park trips, and whatever else you can find will help a lot as well. (I don’t know where in the metro you are so I have no specific ideas.)
Peter Anderson says
We’re located in Shakopee, near Canterbury Park. :)
Kim Do says
We made the decision for me to be a stay at home mom after much soul searching and a few (rather large) arguments. Now, after the fact, we would not change the decision for anything in the world. Mostly because it allowed us to have another baby close in age to our first (they are 27 months apart). Had I gone back to school rather than be a stay at home mom, we wouldn’t have been able to have another child feasibly for at least 5 years after our first. I decided to put my schooling/career on hold at least until the kids are older and don’t need quite as much TLC.
On the other hand, because my son was constantly around me and never in a daycare environment he had really bad separation anxiety. This is also because we do not have family in the area where we live so he never got used to other people. He would scream and cry to the point of throwing up whenever I left him. We finally remedied this problem by joining a gym with excellent child care where they helped us work through the separation anxiety issues. I also needed to be consistent and frequent about leaving him with other people. Finally, when he was almost 2 years old, he got comfortable knowing that if I left, I would always come back! So now we know for our daughter’s sake to take advantage of any child care situations that arise.
Peter Anderson says
Hey, Kim – thanks for commenting! We’ll be happy to watch Wes and Sasha anytime – we love those little ones!
Financial Samurai says
I think it’s great one person can stay at home and take care of the family. Big props!
PEte, what about you being the stay at home parent since you can make probably good money from this site and have your wife work?
Peter Anderson says
My wife actually wants to stay home with the baby, and I don’t make enough from the site quite yet to quit the day job. Plus the day job gives us good health benefits, which would be tough to replace were I to quit – especially with the health challenges my wife has had the last few years. All in good time though. :)
Beverley Smith says
I like that you looked at several aspects of this decisions -the financial and the preference of the parent. There are others too of course that take away the freedom to decide. If the family lives rurally there may be not options for the woman to earn or for 3rd party care. If the other parent works odd shifts or the only job available for the woman is odd shifts, it may not be possible to have a family life and find a daycare open when you need it, so being home is the only real workable option If the child is sickly few daycares will take him and if the child is handicapped the same applies. We often speak of women who have no ‘choice’ but to work outside the home, meaning usually they are single, divorced or in poverty. But there are others who have no choice but to be home.Children also differ. Some are very social and like to go to daycare but others are shy and really want to cling to the parent. Some kids are gifted and understimulated by mass play with kids at a one-size fits all level. Some kids are from language, religious, dietary or cultural groups whose needs are not recognized in a large childcare centre. So there are lots of reasons to not work outside the home.
We also have to look at the way the term ‘work’ is used. It is ironic and even insulting to say a mother tending a newborn is on holiday, is lazy, is selfish or not working when her days are so selfless and labor-intensive she is generally exhausted. We must include in our formal definition of work and productivity and labor force participation, the fact that women tending small children are part of it – they work. They aren’t paid but their efforts benefit someone else and are vital to the sustaining of the economy as new citizens must be generated.
So the real issue is not just personal preference about being home or not but a lot of other factors, some of which we have an obligation to assist
Australia and Singapore have a universal birth bonus.
Much of east Europe has a child benefit to age 18, and it does not depend on parental income.
Italy gives a pension to women for the years they were home with the children
SO instead of making this just an issue about personal preference or career goals, we can enlarge the discussion to what society and government can do to help parents follow their dreams. The real obstacle is not being chained to the sink after all, or being chained to the office desk but the chain.
We have to let parents be the type of parents they wish, and fund children wherever the children are.
My husband and I made the decision that I would be a stay at home mom before we even had children. We both felt very strongly that it would be the best thing for our kids.
Because of that decision, we lived our child-free years accordingly. While I was working, we never relied on my income to cover our regular expenses – instead, we used it to pay off debt to make it financially easier for me to stay home.
Building our lifestyle around one income from the beginning made it so much easier to have a choice when my daughter was born. We didn’t have to worry about losing one income AND adding the cost of a child at the same time.
Of course, the industry that I worked in, floral design, is hurting pretty badly in this economy, and with daycare charging upwards of $450/week for one child full-time, it would cost too much to justify doing it, anyway.
This is a very informative article. My wife and I sacrifice for her to stay at home, but it is worth it. We want to give our children a biblical worldview. Sometimes it isn’t all about the money! God will provide!.