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October 12, 2007

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I think there are two issues not mentioned.

Firstly, if you do give up work then you are giving up a lot of opportunity - as in its hard to get back on the ladder at the same place let alone where you would have been if you'd carried on working.

Secondly, don't underestimate the value of being employed. If being a stay at home parent means that you end up resenting your children then don't do it. As the pendulum has swung away from staying at home as a default, I don't think that this is as much of a problem as it used to be but you need to do what's best for you and your child(ren), even if that means putting them in daycare.

I had several part-time, temporary jobs while raising three kids to adulthood. We also had a three-year homeschooling stretch. We got married in 1977 with high school diplomas only. I had a decent career at a pharmaceutical company at the time, and my husband mowed lawns. When Baby # One came along in 1979, I stayed home. Yes, we did the math. Back then, you even figured in the cost of pantyhose, since women wore them every day, winter and summer! We made all the adjustments written about above, and it worked. I am now employed as a bookkeeper part-time by the corporation my husband and I own. I am also an aspiring novelist, with one completed book ready to shop around.

Getting behind one career really did work for us in the long term. In the short term, we may have sacrificed a bit financially, but not much. Plus, we both agreed we wanted a parent in the home during the kids' growing-up years. No regrets here!

We would always have a second car. Walking to the store isn't much of an option in the suburbs, plus you miss out on being able to go to museums and the like during the way (almost all of which have free days). It's the childcare that really hurts. It's crazy that it costs so much when you've got 8 kids to 1 worker that makes $6.50 an hour.

My wife and I are expecting our first child in January. She's a Director at a large corporation and I'm a freelance artist. Guess weho makes more? We did a rough plan of our finances and decided that I would become a stay-at-home dad. After factoring in the costs of day care or a nanny I would have been working most of the year just to break even. I've been working at home for the past 10 years already so the jump doesn't seem that drastic to me at all.

My hope is that I will drop my less-profitable clients and just keep a (very) part-time schedule do work for my favorite clients over the next 3-5 years. The other option I've been toying with is to drop my old career entirely and experiment with some small start-up ideas I've got. Luckily, my wife is very supportive of all these ideas. I think she's just mostly happy that she gets to continue on with her career without sending the child(ren) to daycare.

We just had a baby 10 weeks ago and went through the same thing. Spent a ton of time on calculations, especially with childcare and health insurance. However, my wife's employer (a Montessori pre-school) offered to let our son come twice a week for free, so that made things much easier.

Really, it came down to my wife wanting to work part-time just to get some human contact (other than our son, of course) and get outta the house. It helps our son will be right there in the next room though. The money was really secondary, but that extra will help when we likely move to a new home next year.

It really is worth it to do the comparisons though, sometimes even making a good salary doesn't add that much when you figure in all the costs associated with going back to work, not to mention losing some time with the kid(s).

I hope that I'll be able to do some part-time writing, or sewing, or other types of work from home during the first few years of my kids' lives at least. I'm trying to get into that stuff anyway.

Or, since my husband is a professor, work out a schedule so that I can work part time and he can watch the kids during my work hours. Or a bit of both.

My wife and I talked our way through this a couple of weeks ago and both agree that she will stay home, when we start having children.
My sister-in-law recently stopped working at a daycare and started staying with some kids at someone's house. She is making more now than she did at the daycare.
I asked my wife, if she would keep someone else's kids, other than our own, when we started having kids?
I thought this would be a great idea! Keep mom at home and make some money also! She wasn't thrilled but if the finances came down to either keeping other kids or finding a job, she would.
Where I live, the "most reputable" daycares are expensive and hard to get into. We had a couple friends wait 1 year for a spot to open at one of these daycares!
On another thought, if one spouse had to stay home, I would think that living very frugal may become a lifetime habit. Whereas the family, where both spouses work, may not curb their habits as much?

One of us has been a stay-at-home parent for the past 7 years. While the amount of money not coming home is way more than $50, to us it's worth it. What good is having the money to buy a bunch of stuff you never have time to appreciate? Our quality of life is FAR better. Since all the housework and shopping happens during the day, the evenings and weekends are truly free-time.

Our child is raised by us, not an after-school program or a babysitter and the overall family stress level is far less than when both of us work. The key to making it work is that the stay-at-home parent has to treat it as a job. It's easier to deal with as a couple if you both have done time staying at home so you have a true appreciation of how much work it can be.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Social Security ramifications of the two-breadwinner household. Under Social Security, benefits to married couples are based on the contributions of the spouse with the higher income, and the one with the lower income is essentially throwing-away every cent of Social Security taxes paid. And if the disparity between the two incomes is great, then that "second job" could be an absolute minus, in total aggregate terms.

Wow, quite a few responses already.

@ plonkee - There's several things I'd like to respond to in your comment.

(1) You're right, one misses out on a lot of professional opportunities when you're a stay at home parent. However, one can compensate by doing freelance work from home (it's a huge challenge though).

(2) If spending time with one's kids causes *resentment*, there are some **serious** issues that need to be addressed. Parents should never resent their kids. Having kids means making sacrifices; if someone doesn't want to make their kids their #1 priority, they shouldn't be parents because children our a huge privilege and responsibility.

(3) Life is full of tradeoffs. As parents, we have a tricky balancing act. But let's not kid ourselves, daycare is never **the best option.** Spending time with one's children is always the *best option*. It's just not always easy and in some cases (single parents) it's not possible.


@ Katy - It's great when one can look back decades later and not having any regrets! Your story is a perfect example about how financial sacrifices pay off in the long run!


@ MoneyMonk - You're going to be in for an exciting ride. I'm a stay-at-home dad as well and it's been interesting. I haven't quite mastered the art of getting "real work" done during the day, but I'm getting better at it. You should check out the Success from the Nest blog[1]. The author has been working from home for years (with kids too), so he has a lot of interesting ideas.
[1] : http://successfromthenest.com/


@ Kevin - That's a good example of weighing the tradeoffs. Congratulations on the new son!


@ BradM - Keeping one parent at home with the kids can do a lot for the family budget. It is extremely difficult to be frugal when both parents work.


@ Nivek - Great points. Not only is it hard to find time to enjoy the stuff people buy, but people also fall into the trap of trading their time for money. We all need to make money, so some time must be traded...but there comes a point where more money isn't *needed* and the equation now involves trading our family-time for money.

We did the math. It was a huge hit to our finances when one of us dropped out of the workforce to take care of our baby. In the calculations, childcare was a much bigger issue than taxes. Good childcare is very expensive.

In the end we opted for what we believe to be the best, albeit most expensive, childcare... parental childcare.

Something else needs to be said here though. I know quite a few families that used somewhat marginal childcare... including issues with biting and fighting, and less than antiseptic environs. Kids are flexible though, and all are well adjusted young adults now.

When we had our son almost 4 years ago, I thought very seriously about staying home - but in the end, I realised I'm not cut out to be a SAHM - I envy my friends who are able to happily do it, but it's just not for me.

We did do the math, and even with daycare, higher tax bracket, eating out more (too tired to cook) and a cleaning service, we come out significantly ahead with me working - which allows us to better fund our retirement and our children's college accounts.

It may be better financially for one spouse to stay home IN THE SHORT RUN, but whichever spouse stays home has to consider the long term ramifications of giving up his or her earning potential.

It is VERY DIFFICULT to get back into the workplace after staying home even for 6 months. This goes for men and women (though it's much worse for women). Employers want to hire people who already have jobs--not unemployed people. And they want to hire young people, people with high energy and who come cheap. Ageism and sexism are alive and well--ask any headhunter.

That said, consider what you will be living on if your working spouse 1) dies, 2) gets sick and can't work, or 3) leaves you. I know, I know, that'll never happen to YOU...but it's something to think about.

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