the myth of the parent that NEEDS to work

My wife is an extremely intelligent woman who decided to quit her professional career as a management-tracked analyst with a huge investment bank in order to be a stay-at-home parent when our son arrived. I would have willingly stayed home in her place but being older and further along in my career I was making twice as much as she so it would not have made sense. She has now been at home for almost two years and I have noticed that there is a subtle campaign against her choice, and it makes me angry. Despite all of the talk about mothers making the ‘tough choice’ to go back to work, I think the tough choice is staying home.

First of all, I know there are single mothers and poorer families who have no choice! I would maintain this is a very small proportion of the population, though. Single mothers definitely have no choice as the primary breadwinner, of course. Some families may have special circumstances that require both parents to work – health care costs spring to mind. I wonder, though, how many times the choice to work is the choice to support owning a second television, or keeping the premium movie channels, owning the house with the extra two rooms, or leasing a nice car – versus staying home with a child.

My family took a big hit to our finances when my wife quit work. We went from two people living in a two-bedroom apartment on two salaries to three people living in a three-bedroom house on one salary. We did it by making huge changes in our spending, and after a couple of years those changes have – surprise – become fairly routine. We understood that we could not afford as many luxury vacations or idle purchases of gadgets and jewelry and so on. The reward was that our son has been able to stay at home with his mother and be in a safe, healthy, fun environment.

This setup has not come without cost.
My wife misses adult companionship and the sense of validation that you get from a professional position. We miss having the second salary, which for a while was all being plowed into savings and made for a relatively large down payment on our home. And of course my wife worries about her future job prospects once Little Buddy starts school and doesn’t need a stay-at-home mom. But the worst thing, recently, has been the assault on her decision by other women.

Bubelah relays conversations to me from her friends and ex-colleagues and so on where the subject is inevitably "when are you going to get back to work?" Aside from the obvious insult that caring for a child is not "work", this has a very negative effect on her state of mind. She usually laughs it off, but the simple fact is that she doesn’t really interact on a daily basis with anyone but me who supports her decision to make child care a full-time job. We don’t feel that the trade-off of getting another salary is worth having our son in day-care 10 hours a day before he’s even 2 years old, but that’s what we’re being told we need to do.

However, we don’t need the money, frankly. We may not be able to spend freely like our friends do (particularly since we also don’t take on any debt) but we really don’t NEED any more money to meet our current expenses. If Bubelah got a second job a lot of her salary would go to paying for day care, nannies and babysitters. I understand that sometimes both parents want to work. That is fine, but just be honest about that choice. Many people claim to be "forced" to work two jobs to make ends meet, but is it really "making ends meet" when you drive a new car and have premium movie channels and take a vacation to Aruba every year?

  • Deetso

    I must say that I agree with the premise of this article very much. In addition, my wife and I have been unable to have children yet. When we “decided” to have kids… oh five years ago… she started toning down on the job and didnt go back when the new contracts went out. So now it has been 5 years without a steady job outside of our house but I must say we both feel very spoiled and happy with out situation and life. I have breakfast lunch and dinner every day! She gets to stay home and be with her friends and do things she enjoys- seeing family and paiting and “making the house cute.”

    Many times we can both sense a great deal of bitterness about our situation and a lot of the underlying hostitlity you sense but I think it might be worse for us i the sense that we “dont even have kids.”

    It is easy for us to convince ourselves we are right when we see those people who just “have” to work and are always stressed out. We live a smaller scale life and seem much happier than those around us who think we are the crazy ones. Ill take both of us being spoiled and happy as opposed to DINKs who are unhappy and dont see each other.

    The funniest part of it all is that we live of so much less than others that we are also probably in better financial shape than those people who have been forcing themselves to work so much.

    So there you have it- it seems quite easy for us to live cheaply and save money and be happy all at once, despite what the naysayers want us to believe.

    Kinda long and rambling but I was inspired!

  • Kyle

    Great post! Bravo to you and your wife for making this decision. And it is just that, a decision. I have a hard time believing any married couple that says they both have to work. Sure there are exceptions like you mentioned, but for the most part it is a lifestyle choice where I think priorities are backwards. My wife is a stay-at-home mom to our three kids and she often gets the same treatment as your wife. This topic really gets my blood flowing! We have friends where both parents work and they have the big house and expensive cars and they pick up their kids from daycare at 6pm everynight. Not sure why they even had kids to begin with, essentially, they are not raising their own children.

  • Mike-TWA

    I have to agree that, for many, it is an available choice. It certainly involves some self-sacrifice. But so does both parents choosing to work. The difference is that the sacrifice is imposed upon the kids.

    My sister manages the stay-at-home choice with her husband making a very middle class salary. They’re managing to raise four kids in the process. I admire the parents who make the choice that your wife and you have made.

  • Lynnae @ Being Frugal

    I just posted about being a stay-at-home mom this morning. The first year I stayed home, my husband and I made $19,000. That’s it. If we can make it work, almost everybody can. It’s all about priorities.

  • The Dividend Guy

    My wife has also decided to stay at home and we wouldn’t have it any other way. It is amazing to me that we are able to do it. Society is set up now for a dual-income household, if you beleive the advertising and marketing. The more money you make the more money you will spend. It all comes down to living within your means and not getting sucked into the “joneses” trap.

  • David

    In my eyes, there is no more important work than raising a child. Kudos to you guys for making that choice, we plan on doing the same.

  • jw

    If it’s any consolation, there’s equal pressure and judgement upon women who choose to work after having children. In fact, I think there’s more judgement made upon women who are highly educated and don’t work. It’s not right either way.
    However, I do think that if you are a women who went to college and accumulated a ton of debt, then work 5-10 years before quitting, then college definitely wasn’t worth it.

  • JvW

    I read a book on this topic, The Feminine Mistake. It discusses exactly what your wife is hearing – how bad it is to stay at home, and how not working affects the mother and child. Kind of one-sided, but it touches upon some valid points.

    This is such a touchy subject, probably because raising your kids is such a personal issue and nobody wants to hear they’re doing it the “wrong” way. It’s not really a one-size-fits-all scenario, and finances aren’t the only thing to take into consideration.

    That being said, I think the “we need two incomes” defense you hear from friends is a load of bull. They should man up and acknowledge that they want the lifestyle two incomes provide. To judge others because they made a choice and others made a different choice is pretty lousy, and I’m sorry your wife has to hear it all the time.

    As for myself, I have NO IDEA what I’ll do when we decide to have kids. Probably try and find some kind of part-time working balance.

  • plonkee

    From my point of view its complicated. I don’t have any children and I’m not particularly likely to, yet thanks in no small part to people like your wife, there’s still an expectation that I’m likely to give my job up in a few years cos ‘thats what you [women] do when you have kids’.

  • Ruth

    To the contrary, plonkee, I think the expectation for educated, talented women these days is that they will NOT give up their jobs. The young women at my workplace have all come back to work and spend much of their spare time talking about childcare issues. It is still the exception for women to stay home with children, especially if those women have a career.

  • pelf

    This is so aptly written but unfortunately, not many people see the points behind it. Like you said, many people say that they “have” to work to “make ends meet” but their definition of “making ends meet” is quite actually to “living in a huge house, drive a few huge cars and visit Europe every year”.

    I don’t normally chat for long with people who don’t know what they’re saying..

    • Alice

      My husband and I both work, we drive a small, old car, we live in a tiny house, and we don't travel unless someone else offers to pay for the tickets. I have no freaking clue who these people are who are only working for luxuries, but they're not us.

      BTW, I stayed home until my daughter was two and a half, then went back to work, and I got roundly criticized for both choices. Motherhood amounts to people telling you you're doing it wrong either way.

  • plonkee

    I guess expectations differ in different places.

    There is a general thought here that after 2 kids, someone will drop to working at most part-time and essentially give up their career (if not their actual job), and its never expected that the man will do it.

    Anyone who thinks through the decision and knows, understands and accepts the choice that they are making, is almost certainly doing the right thing. There certainly isn’t a perfect solution to the question.

  • FourPillars

    Cute kid!


  • bjreardon

    I agree with your post. I decided to give up my career 11 years ago when my first child was born, and have been a stay-at-home Mom ever since. (We now have 3 kids.) I would encourage your wife to find a social network of other women who have also made the choice be a stay-at-home Mom. You can check out, which is a great group for stay-at-home moms with chapters all across the country. :)

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  • Mrs. Micah

    Kudos to your wife. I think it’s great for a parent (whichever makes the most sense in the couple) to stay home with kids. I had a great childhood with a stay at home mom. She was 40 when I (the oldest) was born, so she saw herself as having had a good career already.

    I think it likely that I’ll be the one to stay at home if/when we have kids. Mostly because Mr. Micah is so passionate about his work and I haven’t found that kind of passion yet. But I do get passionate about things like writing and quilting and other sewing…things which it’s hard to do for a living.

    So I hope to get into freelance writing and sewing g on the side even before kids come along. Then I can keep those up and find fulfillment in them. :-) Since we have debt, it makes sense for me to keep working outside the home until we have kids.

    I’ll probably network over the internet and with other moms. It could get quite lonely. Fortunately, with Mr. Micah being a professor, he probably won’t be on campus 9-5 every day so he’ll be around to take care of the kids a bit or at least provide intellectually stimulating discussion. (sorry so long…your post got me thinking)

  • paidtwice

    As a woman with a PhD who chooses to stay home – well, I’ll just say our family’s choice is not looked upon favorably by the majority of people who know of it, either irl or online :)

    But so it goes ;)

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  • Debbie M

    Try calling it a “sabattical” or “early retirement.”

    In one couple I know, the two people (with no kids) take turns taking a year or two off. This started when they paid off their house and will continue until both can stop doing paid work and still have their party house.

    I’ve never heard anyone give them any flack. We’re all jealous and calculating how we can do the same.

    Seriously, she’s on sabbatical, focussin on her dream of raising children.

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  • KTHunter

    I definitely respect your wife’s decision. My husband and I both work, but we don’t have children. I think if we did, I’d stay at home with them. I respect anyone with the courage to do what they feel is right for their child, even in the face of such comments.

    I think the whole issue boils down to something even deeper and broader than “working or stay at home mom”. It has to do with a lack of respect for other people’s choices. This lack of respect makes motherhood a two-edged sword: if you choose to stay home, other professionals will jump your case, but if you choose to work, other stay-at-homes might jump your case. It sounds like, from the comments I’ve read here and elsewhere, that there is no way to make a choice that someone won’t give you a hard time over. Why can’t we as a culture just respect the choice that someone made and leave it at that? Everyone has a difference situation and a different personality with which to respond to that situation, so everyone will end up making slightly different choices. As a society, we need to respect the fact that not everyone will follow the same path.

  • Joanne

    Great point about people who say they “need” two incomes. Why do people have to be so insecure about the choices they make that they can’t say honestly, “I choose to work” or “I choose to stay home.”

    KTHunter stated it well: It’s about lack of respect for others. I can’t imagine being so rude as to tell someone else they should stay home with their children or that they should be working instead. Nor can I imagine having a “friend” who would say such things to me.

    People seem to be overly concerned with what rude people are saying to them. If someone told you that you really should take your child to a plastic surgeon because making the child less ugly would help him or her to grow up happier and more well-adjusted, would you take that person’s comments seriously? I’d look for better quality people to hang out with.

  • Brooke

    I think its important that people respect each others decisions in this very hot topic. It’s easy to point fingers and judge others for their decisions. In making the decision of whether to work or not, I believe following your intuition regarding the needs of your family is the most important factor. Each family is different and there is not a one size fits all solution to the dilemma of whether to stay home or not. I myself wanted to stay home when my first child was born but was not able due to the fact that my husband was in school and I was the one with health care coverage. My son is now 5 and we also have a 20 month old. I work part time and it works for us. I am able to work while my 5 year old is at kindergarten. My daughter is in good daycare for a few hours each morning, and is also able to be home with me in the afternoons and evenings.
    I think we should give parents the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the best they can and that whether they work or not, they love their children and are trying to do the best by them.
    Sorry, this is getting a little long. So now I’m done.

  • Renee

    I enjoyed this article, and as a stay-at-home mom myself I believe there is value to raising your own kids and providing for their needs, rather than letting others fulfil what is ultimately the parents’ responsibility. My one point of disagreement is that mother still need to stay at home when their children enter school. When a child gets sick at school, it is better for that child to be picked up by mom and taken home to recover than by a neighbor or to have a stressed parent take work off to stay home with a sick child. When children come home from school, it is good for them to have a parent already home, rather than arrive at an empty house. Stay-at-home moms can volunteer at their child’s school and have more interaction and knowledge of what is going on at school and their child’s life. From personal experience I know that these are important things to the social and emotional development of children.

  • Super Saver

    Brip Brap,

    Great post. We started living on a single income nearly 8 years ago. Overall, our quality of life is better because of that choice. I am glad we made the decision we did.

  • bripblap

    Again, a lot of great comments and I really appreciate them all. I think Brooke made a point that I’d like to address. I did admit that there are certain parents who need to work – single mothers, etc. Now, if there are two parents and both feel a need to continue working for their careers or just for fulfilment, that’s a valid choice – although one I disagree with, personally.

    I respect a PERSON’S right to choose what is best for them but I would still argue that putting the child’s needs first – and that means being there for them moreso than earning money for them – is a PARENT’S first responsibility. If you can make it work with one parent working full-time and one part-time, then that’s fine – but I think it means that you want the work for your sake, not for your child’s sake. That’s your choice to make, certainly. But I still think that any time you choose two incomes over one you are making a choice for money over staying home. We lost 40% of our income when my wife quit her job. We made a choice, and it has been hard from time to time. But our choice was to sacrifice income, and frankly some of both of OUR happiness (her career, our money, my freedom to change jobs now that I’m the sole wage earner). I agree that it’s your choice and I am sure you are motivated by what you think is best; but my personal opinion is that it’s still choosing one thing over another.

  • Jen

    I think having a parent stay at home is wonderful and doable for many dual income families. I don’t know anyone who would give these people a hard time.

    On the other hand, most of the comments are saying that people who have two parents working are selfish. Not so, perhaps they are trying to find a life balance. There are different ways to be positive role models in this world. Being there for your child AND working is attainable and shouldn’t be disregarded.

    It is very difficult to stay at home all day and miss out on interaction at work or otherwise. It takes a toll on many. This is rarely discussed in the blogs I’ve read. Things happen, life changes. Entering the working world after being away for many years is brutal. It is a lot of stress for the remaining working parent to know they are the sole breadwinner. There are many things to consider before making such a drastic decision. I don’t think judgement should be passed on the crowd that continues to work so easily.

    I went to college, and plan to go to graduate school. I would not be pursuing higher education if I planned to be a stay at home Mom. People can work and be good parents, it may take more planning but is also an option. There are probably as many wonderful stay at home families as neglectful ones, having a parent stay at home doesn’t guarantee anything. Families with two parents working don’t necessarily care about their children less than a family with a stay at home parent.

    FYI – My mother was a stay at home parent. And it was wonderful. And I always wish I had the opportunity to have had a strong female working parent role model in my youth, to have helped prepare me for the world today. I always wonder if things could have been wonderful another way too.

  • Bubelah

    Someone here said that because of women like me (who stay home) there’s certain expectation for women in general when they have kids. I disagree. We live in a modern society, it could be a man who chooses to stay home and some do.
    But the point of the article is “need” vs. “must” work instead of staying home with kids.
    Unfortunately, this is not because of women like me who decide to stay home and temporarily give up their careers. This is because of the structure of our society, decisions of our government.
    I see 2 main reasons why most women and men feel pressured to return to work shortly after their babies arrive:
    1. Medical Insurance for the whole family. Enough said here.
    2. Maternity leaves are a joke in this country – 12 weeks paid maximum. Some European countries have 1 whole year of paid maternity leave and plus 2 more unpaid AND your job is still waiting for you. I bet women would LOVE this kind of maternity leave and take advantage of it.

    For others it is just a choice to return to work and put their 3 months old baby in day care. This is wrong, in my opinion. A parent who doesn’t want to stay home and raise his/her own child?
    Ok, Why do people have children? It’s not an obligation.

  • Ann

    If I may…
    First, I agree, no one is obligated to have children. If you believe you “must” have children then it would be a really healthy exercise to evaluate your beliefs/value system in regards to becoming a parent. (Not how you feel about having a baby, those ideas are worlds apart.)

    It’s funny how comments regarding a post about “need” vs “must” work essentially boil down to whether a parent (or mom) should work after kids come into the picture. I think you could post this article on any website of any nature and the comments would still center on moms working outside the home. Why is this?

    An article like this one forces a person (couple) to re-evaluate their own value system…either they are comfortable with their value system and decision (to work or not) or maybe they are not so comfortable and are forced to revisit the issue and re-evaluate.

    I work as an RN in Women’s and Children’s Services as a labor nurse and mother/baby nurse in addition to teaching childbirth classes. I am on “the frontlines” of all these “hot button issues” of parenting/childbirth: epidural/no epidural, breast/bottle feeding, cloth/paper diapers circumcise/don’t circumcise, immunize/don’t immunize…the list goes on. I can’t really think of any set of decisions we make that can cause such a ruckus among normally well mannered adults. Everyone is afraid to be wrong and everyone wants to be right.

    For our family, what have we learned as parents of 3 lovely girls aged 15-5?
    1.) Both my husband and I cannot be fully devoted to developing our own full time careers and fully devoted to developing physically/mentally/spiritually healthy adults. I haven’t worked full time in a paid RN position since 1998. It was obvious then and is actually more obvious now that one of us has to make the children and home the priority.
    2.) I cannot begin to speak to the corporate woman in Chicago about her decision to work or not work. I have no idea what I am talking about. I live in the Midwest and my chosen vocation is a nurse. I can work when I want, wherever I want and do what I want. It would be arrogant and insensitive of me to even remotely second guess your decision to continue in your career fulltime or to quit altogether. That said, I would presume we all understand that when it comes to parenting we get no “mulligans” or “do overs” and that this is no dress rehearsal…our decision to work or not is for keeps. The clock started ticking at conception and ages 0-18 is only the first quarter…it just happens to be the most intense and if you screw it up, the last three quarters can be very, very rough.
    3.) I basically live in a sorority. Even with everyone in school now, I will not be going back to work full time. I actually tried that in August and that plan was shot down in 1.5 months. It wasn’t for lack of organization or communication or even desire on my part. But for our situation, it didn’t work and may never work b/c girls are so relational…my husband just didn’t know what to do with 3 girls coming home from volleyball practice, Brownies and kindergarten wanting to talk about their day while I am still at work helping women have babies. He is not me and I am not him. My role is defined (with respect to being a mother of girls) and no matter how hard my dh tries he cannot be me. Likewise, I cannot be him. For us, it truly does make a difference that we have three girls…I couldn’t begin to speculate what our lives would look like if we would have had three boys…and frankly, I don’t have the energy to.

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  • anon

    As a woman who sits next to women like your wife, but in another field, I am annoyed. I have a 200K education, and I was hired into a elite, high-paying job. Women like your wife think they can just leave, and it doesn’t affect other women. It does. People wonder if I am going to leave any minute.

    The reason there is a “subtle campaign” against this choice is two-fold. First, it is inefficient, if not downright wasteful, to have the kind of education and training I have and then sit at home with your kid. Second, it AFFECTS OTHER WOMEN. Women who think they can make this decision in a vacuum are wrong. It makes women like me look flaky, even though we are not.

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  • Erica

    Great points, all of which NEED to be said. Staying at home is hard work mentally and emotionally, your self worth is diminished if not be yourself then by others (sometimes without them realising it!). It’s tough doing the right thing and cutting back in order to afford to live off one wage and be primary caregiver, however, I strongly believe where at all possible it is the RIGHT thing.

  • Another SAHM

    Anon, I’m not worried about you.

    If you have a 200k education and people think you are flaky, perhaps that’s not because of women like me.

    Do you really think that women should sacrifice staying home to raise their children so other women, especially those in elite, high-paying jobs, won’t look bad? Really? Really?

    It seems to me that the time and care I’m giving my son is worth far more than any $200k education, and by focusing on him and my husband I’m getting back so very much more.

    So please, Anon, continue succeeding in your very elite, high paying position. You’re obviously not ready to become a parent yet. Focus out.

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  • JW

    I just stumbled upon your blog and am pleasantly surprised by all the support you have received.

    My husband and myself decided that I would quit my job when we had our first son, nine years ago. We made a decision and commitment to it.

    We didn’t make very much money to begin with and when I quit, we lost about 1/3 of our income at that time.

    We made sacrifices by not driving new cars, living in an older house, living very frugally. The funny thing is, my husband in the following years received raises and promotions that caused him to make more than we did together before.

    People would always say to us, “It’s nice you can afford to be at home.”

    The fact was, we couldn’t “afford” it, we made a commitment and did it. We didn’t do it because we could “afford” it, we did it because that where our values were.

    The person is right about either the children will make the sacrifice (by the parents’ working) or the parents will sacrifice.

    Good for you.

  • Margaret

    I am appalled by the suggestion that education only has value if it is used to earn a wage. While it may be impractical financially for a woman to pay college tutition and not use her education in the workplace, learning for its own sake is certainly valid.

    • Lisa

      More than valid. If it is used to raise responsible, civic-minded, kind hearted children I believe that it is the BEST use. It was always our family plan, even when my husband and I were engaged in college, for me to stay home when we decided to have kids. I worked in a demanding job for 7 years before we had kids and I still have a demanding job as a SAHM. Instead of the salary I used to earn and the taxes I paid on that, society get two other members that have a love for learning and are centered on family…..and will likely not be a drain on society in social services such as unemployment, prison, etc. I'm not saying that if a parent doesn't stay home their kids will become a drain on society, but for my part, as a homeschooling mom, other children get a net benefit because our family taxes go to schooling children that are not my own.

  • Steve (Brip Blap)

    @Margaret: I agree, although it helps that my wife managed to complete her college education without taking out any loans thanks to New York’s excellent public university system, which is very, very inexpensive. Learning for its own sake is certainly valid, and probably one of the two or three most important things that make one’s life richer (and not in the money sense)!

  • Alison

    If others are worried about a woman with a 200K education leaving her job, it is their own fault for stereotyping and generalizing. Overlook those flaws and do your job well.

    My situation is a little different. I am a SAHM mom who also works from home after working very hard to make sure I could make money while also being at home for my children. I also thought I might go back to work (outside the home) after my children started school, but realized this would still leave 2-1/2 hours in the afternoons (and sick days… and holidays…) that I would be needing childcare.

    The reason I “need” to work? My husband tried his hand at owning his own business and racked up loads of debt, which he is currently working to pay off. I pay for all of the household, work full-time from home, and am the primary caregiver for our two children. Nothing takes the place of hard work, not even a 200K education.

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  • Chris

    Harsh thought, but if you are a professional man or woman, and you drop out of the work force semi-permanently (try getting you old job back after 18 years) you area burden on society. Think about it, especially if you went to a professional school or a state school your education was subsidized because you looked like you were going to be a productive member of society. So if you drop out you were a bad investment.

    And since this is a financial blog and not a political one, you are a bad investment to yourself too. Any investment you spent on your own education is now getting a 0% return. For you that sounds fine, you are investing in your child’s first years which is very valuable. But how long will that be worth it? 5 years old? 10? 17? I have heard of people not working so they could pick up their 13 year old from school. That is not worth it. They don’t even really want you around any more!

  • Work from home Mom

    I am really annoyed with all of the messages blasting people who do need two incomes to “make ends meet”. Sometimes one income is just not enough. You need to pay the mortgage and put food on the table, oil in the furnace, etc. Not to mention somehow save enough for college and retirement. These are not extravagances! They are not trips to Europe or luxury cars, they are real life neccessities. Not every family is lucky enough to have one high paying spouse so that the other can “choose” to quit. Sometimes, the realty is that you really DO need two incomes. Please show some empathy for some very real families that are in this squeeze!

  • Amber

    This is a great post. It definitely sums up some of our reasons for making the same priority choice. Except my husband is the one staying home.

    Expectations are a little different for Stay at Home Dads… my husband gets really annoyed with well-wishing acquaintances who applaud him for choosing to stay home with our son. He always asks, would you applaud my wife for choosing to stay home with our son? No… you would probably wonder if she was forced into it by gender stereotypes… however, its the same choice, regardless of what gender chooses to stay home. And equally laudable.

    Thanks for talking about it.

  • Kristina

    The best answer to this question whenever anybody asks is:
    “I choose to because it works for me/our family.” No further explanations required.

    That being said, I dislike the pressure women have to stay at home, and conversly the pressure educated women have to return to work. I dislike that when people comment about whether children miss their working moms, and it’s never considered that they miss their working dads. I dislike the wholly economical decision to give up the lesser paying career – this will almost always average out to be the women’s, we do typically choose men who are older, and more advanced in their careers… this choice is so much more then just black & white economics.

    I wish their was more opportunity to split the career hit, both people working a .75 or a .8 – with flexible hours and/or days. Doing 3-5 years of that shouldn’t hurt an overall career path too much. If your really lucky companies could allow a .5

    So choosing to stay at home full time doesn’t work for me, and choosing to work full time doesn’t either.

  • KO

    Chris, in so many ways, your logic is flawed.

    Would you consider someone who trained as a lawyer a “burden on society” if they later choose to operate a small gift shop, or someone who trained as a research chemist decides to teach school instead? After all, they aren’t “maximizing” their expensive educations, since they could have done what they are presently doing with far less schooling.

    You also make the false assumption that a person who stays out of the workforce is forever unemployable. Did you ever consider that possibly that person could switch careers and do just fine in their new vocation?

    What it basically boils down to is this. My child did not ask to be born. I helped create him and he is my responsibility. I have the choice as to which parts of my life I decide to outsource to others. I do not believe that outsourcing my son’s care is an intelligent decision for our family at this time. If for some reason he does not do well in the one-size-fits-all, don’t-bother-me-kid school system that passes for an “education” in too many parts of this country, I will dedicate my time to educating him myself.

    Believe me, it would be a far better “return on investment” than if I spent yet another afternoon in another meeting discussing some topic for the fifth time, all the while wondering if my kid will ever find a teacher who will take the time to explain something to him that he is having difficulty understanding, and hoping that it doesn’t crush a love of learning forever.

  • Moneymonk

    I don't see anything wrong with driving a new car and have premium movie channels and take a vacation to Aruba every year? That can also be done on one salary, depending on your overhead expenses.

    If I have a side business that brings in enough monthly to pay for the mortgage and live off of one salary for day to day expenses. We can still have a few wants.

    You make it seem like if one parent stay home, vacations and little luxuries must be eliminated.

    There is always a way around things

  • Abigail Sawyer

    I support your wife and you! She is doing the toughest and most rewarding (yet, ironically, often thankless) job ever. I know…I've been in the same line of work for 5.5 years. (I still have a 3-year-old at home, but don't expect to feel like it's time to go back to the office the minute Junior enters kindergarten!) You are both teaching your son that you value his well-being over a new car or second TV. This decision will pay enormous, unquantifiable dividends. Hold your heads high and remind other folks that you're doing the most important job in the world.

  • Monica Swanson

    If Bubelah needs support, please tell her to check out a local chapter of the International MOMS Club. Ours has Doctors, Lawyers, etc., and is all about supporting a woman's decision to stay at home with her children. It's purpose is about giving mom that intelligent stimulation she needs during the day in a family friendly environment! The kids have great socialization as well. No real agenda, just what each club wants to make of it. Mostly all my relationships I have had since my kids have been born are somehow related to the club!

    • bripblap

      Thanks Monica – I passed that on to Bubelah and she's looking into it. I'll say that from my perspective it seems like a great idea!

    • bubelah

      Do you have their contact info? The email address provided on the site is not valid.
      thank you

  • jami

    You are absolutely right . It is a choice in the majority of 2 parent households for one parent ( frequently the mother) to go back to work . I choose not to , but I do work from home which made the transition a bit easier . I don't HAVE to work and I don't have to leave my home when it is not convenient for my son and myself . We have had to make some sacrifices and took a big income hit , but the “benefits” are priceless. I have 1 job and that's being a parent , best job I ever had . When anyone asks me when I'm going back to work I tell them “when they figure out a way to clone me” !

  • tom

    Great article.

    This all goes back to people not actually asking the why, instead they assume what everyone else does and they go around like sheep just saying it for the sake of saying. It is usually nothing meaningful, or just a way for your to conform to their reality.

  • Jessica

    As a person with no children, can I comment on this?

    I had two working parents. I am so thankful that I did. I would quite honestly recommend to any of my friends that they stay in the work force, and here's why:

    1. My caretaker for the first two years was my grandmother, an incredible woman who worked while she had children though it was frowned upon in her time. She was an excellent role model, and great person who helped shape my values.
    2. I went to preschool at age three, which developed my love of learning and helped me learn to make friends. I am a firm believer that children need socialization, so even if parents stay home, a play group of some kind is necessary.
    3. When my sisters were born, my parents hired an in home care taker, and she and her family have become part of ours. It was also nice to be able to build relationships with adults other than my parents.
    4. By the time I was a teenager, I would occasionally come home to an empty house. I learned to fend for myself, become independent, and be responsible when left alone.
    5. My mothers ability to do it all convinced me that I can too someday, and despite the fact that I absolutely will work full time until I retire, it is possible to have a family, and no, I'm not a bad person for wanting both.
    6. My parents used the extra income to do things that enriched us; Girl Scouts, dance lessons, educational trips and family vacations. Were they necessary? No. Were they memorable and awesome? Yes.
    7. If either of my parents were home all day, as a teenager, I would probably have died of smothering.
    8. Being away all day reminded my parents to take an active interest in what I was up to. I still tell them everything. And family dinner together was important as well.

    So there, from a “latchkey” kid you have a convincing argument to work. My point is, don't fall prey to any pressure. Don't let anyone say you are hurting your child by working if you want to, and don't let anyone say you should be if you don't. We kids are resilient and elastic creatures. A good dose of values over the dinner table will be plenty to turn us into good people.

  • janette

    Next age to stay at home? High school! It is worth every missed paycheck.

  • janette

    Next age to stay at home? High school! It is worth every missed paycheck.

  • Mrs. White

    This is an excellent post. I have been a stay at home wife/ mother ever since I got married 21 years ago. It is a lot of work taking care of children and a home. I don't understand why people think it is a problem.
    If your wife wanted to go back to work after your son starts school, perhaps she could find something to do from home. Even when a child is in school, there is still so much to do and they often get sick and need to stay at home.
    Mrs. White

  • Erin

    We both work in my family but I would much rather take on the more important job of staying home with my toddler. We don't have cable tv or eat out or even buy magazines. if it were not for my husbands child support payments (for a child we keep three days a week) we would be able to get buy on one salary.

    Tell your wife that I think it is honorable that she would give her time to her son. There could be nothing better.

  • molly

    My mother stayed home with my older siblings, but when my sister and I came along, she went back to school for a nursing degree and then worked nights until we were in middle school or so. This enabled my family to have a comfortable middle class lifestyle growing up.

    But what does she regret? Not being home with all of us. I don't know if, financially, my parents could have swung a single income, but I know they would have tried if possible.

    • Lisa Fargo

      Great topic. I was just thinking many of these same things on my girls' night out last night. I go out with two ladies who have younger children than mine, a dentist and a pediatrician, who can not fathom how or why I stay home with my kids. They are not rude about it, and we are very open and honest, so there is no resentment, nastiness, blame, etc., but it is there, them not understanding my lifestyle choice and me utterly confused by theirs.

  • Dana Booth

    “But I still think that any time you choose two incomes over one you are making a choice for money over staying home. ” bripblap

    There are two different issues being discussed here. One is both spouses working, the other is whether it's truly necessary or not.

    Regarding women working, I have a Master's in Statistics and have been a stay at home Mom for almost four years and have three young children. I have heard both praise and criticism for my choice then to stay home, and my need now to return to work.

    Regarding necessity, I am only one case, but I'm sure there are many more. I am looking for work, trying to find something that will help while not hurting Mom/Family time too much. We barely squeak by on one salary, but have to be late on a bill to do so sometimes. We have no emergency fund, a 10-year old truck (no other vehicle), don't eat out, and rent our home. We have cut back as far as we can. We _do_ need a second income and it's not because of excess spending, or any other luxury. Please try not to make global statements and judgements against people for whom you may or may not know all of their circumstances.

  • Laurie

    I am a sahm also and I have heard it all. I have been told that I am so lucky to be home with my kids- it is not luck it is hard work making that one income stretch and we don't have brand new cars or take really expensive vacations. We have older cars in good condition and take family vacations that we save for and can afford. I have also been asked when I am going to finally go back to school so my dh can stop working so hard to support me. My dh works his regular job, which he would still do even if I went back to work. If I did go back to work then we would both have to work harder to pay for daycare costs!! All of these comments have been made by people who have huge houses, very expensive suv's, boats, campers and take at least 3 vacations a year and spend a total of 2 hrs with their kids each day. They also say they have to work!! No they want to work and if that is their decision then go for it but, don't put down my decision to stay at home. I try to respect everyones choices, I may not agree with them but, I don't have to live with their choices.

  • Mandi

    I only skimmed some of the comments, so maybe I missed it, but is there anyone else out there who actually comes out financially *ahead* by one parent staying home? I have a Master of Library Science, which does not pay off like a master's in another area–say, an MBA. I am planning to work very part time after our third child is born (sometime in the next month!), and we will come out a little bit ahead. Child care for three would sap literally half of my take-home pay, so we found it pointless for me to continue working full time. I don't see it as any more “wasteful” to stay home with an education than to work just to pay for childcare and student loans.

  • Becky R

    Even school age kids need a stay at home parent.

    I am a single mom, but it has been my goal to be with my two boys as much as possible, so I have always worked with them, as a nanny and then running an in home daycare. I work hard and long hours, but I am with my boys.

    We live very frugally, but even if I worked full time and had them in school (we homeschool) and aftercare I would not make much more money than I do now.

    I attribute all this to God, but I think since He also desires me to be with my boys He makes it work.

    We do not have any debt or car payment. We do rent, but I have some money saved so we can buy a house one day. I also have an emergency fund of about 1-2 years worth of living expenses.

    God is so good.

    I have many friends who work and they complain, but they drive new cars and go to disney once a year plus other mini vacations. So yes it can be about priorities.

    It works for us.

  • Steve @ bripblap

    Thanks for all the new comments! One quick point: I did say “First of all, I know there are single mothers and poorer families who have no choice!” I know that there are people who have medical hardships, lower paying jobs, etc. who need two incomes. And I know many people reading this post think I'm being judgmental, and I am. Not every family NEEDS two incomes to survive. Many do, and I'm not talking about them.

    But thanks for the comments! And I do know that many stay-at-home-parents do feel “damned if they do, damned if they don't” go back to the workplace. As I said, my wife feels the same way. It's tough!

  • Michelle H.

    Hang in there – it's all worth it! I felt the same as your wife many times, but I'm so glad I could stay home with our children.Those years pass so quickly and can never be replaced. It helps if you can find even one like-minded friend.

  • Kathy Kramer

    I know this is an old post, but I had to comment…

    The women's movement was supposed to give us the ability to choose what we wanted to do with our lives, but it really has not. My generation is expected to work and have careers. The only choice I get is either I work or I don't have a place to live. How is that empowering?

    My generation was raised with the mixed messages of “you can grow up to be whatever you want to be as long as you don't act like a girl and do traditional female things”. How is that empowering?

    I applaud you and your wife's decision to live on one income. I know that it requires sacrifice. Whatever doubts that your wife may have now will pale knowing that she was able to spend time with her child when they were young. No career and no six figure salary can compare to that reward.

    If a family can make one income work, then they should go for it if that's what they want to do.

  • jesirhodes

    I really enjoyed this post, thanks so much!

  • Shakela87

    Thank you! It's so nice to see a personal finance article on the advantages of being a stay at home mom. Now I'm definitely a feminist and think if a mom wants to work than she should however, your wife wants to stay home. That's a perfectly valid choice! Anybody who's bitter about it is being silly. Old colleagues probably just keep bringing up work because they want her to come back. It sounds like she was a good employee, but now she's doing something much more important :) Also major kudos to you for being willing to do the stay at home thing. Obviously in this case it didn't make financial sense, but not insisting that she be the one to do it makes me have a lot of respect for you.

  • Shakela87

    Thank you! It's so nice to see a personal finance article on the advantages of being a stay at home mom. Now I'm definitely a feminist and think if a mom wants to work than she should however, your wife wants to stay home. That's a perfectly valid choice! Anybody who's bitter about it is being silly. Old colleagues probably just keep bringing up work because they want her to come back. It sounds like she was a good employee, but now she's doing something much more important :) Also major kudos to you for being willing to do the stay at home thing. Obviously in this case it didn't make financial sense, but not insisting that she be the one to do it makes me have a lot of respect for you.