The Real Value of Stay At Home Parenting

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Until recently, I viewed the choice of being a stay at home parent solely as a loss of income in a couple’s life. If both adults are working and one chooses not to pursue professional employment, then the incime at that house is going to go down.

Over time, though, I began to realize that being a stay at home parent has a lot of significant value on its own. Not only does it produce inherent savings through the lifestyle change, but a committed stay at home parent can significantly alter the household budget in a profound number of ways – some obvious, some not.

If you’re considering making the stay at home parenting move but are afraid of a financial apocalypse from making that move, consider the following.

You’ll save on child care costs. If you’re considering the stay at home parent route, this is usually the first financial benefit you think of. In our case, one of us becoming a stay at home parent would save almost $300 a week.

You’ll save on taxes. When one of you leaves the workforce, your tax bill will go way down, perhaps even more than you think, because that lost salary was effectively paying taxes in your highest bracket. Let’s say you were making $30,000 a year and that $30,000 pushed you into the 28% bracket by about $20,000. That means your total tax bill from just that one salary was $8,100, or $156 a week.

You’ll save on food expenses. At work, I often go out to eat with my office mates. Let’s say, hypothetically, that I do this three times a week and it costs $10 a pop. With that expense gone, $25 a week would be saved just by eliminating the cost of eating out for lunch.

You’ll save on automobile expenses. My commute eats roughly a gallon and a half of gasoline each day and triggers an oil change every three months. That adds up to a cost of about $4.80 each day just for these items – toss on another $0.20 a day for other auto maintenance items like tires, belts, filters, etc. and you’ve got a $25 a week savings just due to the automobile – and I’m not even including breakdowns, major repairs, tolls, or other emergencies.

You’ll save on extra work expenses. My job has a lot of small, hidden expenses. We all are expected to contribute to a coffee fund. We all are expected to participate in gift exchanges. We all are expected to contribute to donation drives. We all are (basically) expected to buy tchotchkes from the children of most immediate coworkers. These expenses are real and they build up over time, averaging as much as $15 a week over the year.

You’ll save on routine work habits. My wife routinely stops for coffee in the morning and also gets a scone most mornings. This averages out to $25 a week more than just making a pot at home and having a simple breakfast there.

You’ll save on stress relief. I personally find ways to cope with stress by meditation, but I am the only person in my office who doesn’t either get expensive massages or engage in a very expensive stress-reducing activity. One could argue that playing with my Wii is a stress reducing activity. I will be conservative and value this at just $10 a week, though it could be much higher.

You’ll save by discovering new avenues of frugality. If one of us became a stay at home parent, lots of other avenues of frugality would open up. For example, my wife has often talked about wanting to take our kids to story time at the library, getting her in the door there on a routine basis and thus encouraging her to check out books – that’s something I’d probably do, too, as a stay at home parent. I could easily believe that $10 a week would be trimmed from our budget just from frugal discoveries.

The truth is that quite often, we use the excuse of things being “too expensive” without really thinking too much about it to argue against stay at home parenting, but when you really start adding up the factors, there’s much more value there than you think. In the above example, the stay at home parent is effectively saving the household $560 a week. That’s the equivalent of a $29,000 a year job, not much less than my wife’s current salary, and I feel the numbers used in the calculation are conservative.

Is this a financial argument for one of us to become a stay at home parent? When I first started writing this, I did it merely as a mental exercise, but when I showed this argument to my wife, she was actually stunned. Her response was to try to poke holes in it, but she actually wound up convincing herself that my numbers were low.

If stay at home parenting is something you’re considering, but you’re worried about the financial impact, give this article a careful reading alongside your spouse. You just might come to a different conclusion than you expected.

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114 thoughts on “The Real Value of Stay At Home Parenting

  1. But what about money that could be contributed to retirement? And the loss of future earning potential? It is very hard to get back into the working world after being out of it for 5+ years, and earn what your peers, who stayed working the entire time, are earning. There is also the security of having two working people, just in case the unforeseen happens(accident, divorce, death)where the nonworking person isn’t left totally out in the cold.

  2. This is the same thought process we went through before my wife became a stay-at-home mom with our baby daughter. In her case, she was making less than the threshold so it meant we would be losing money if she continued to work. On top of that, my daughter gets to be raised by her mother instead of a paid stranger – a win-win in my book!

    Now that my daughter’s a year old, Mom’s looking to do a little side work at home for a friend to bring in a little saving money. When you have that kind of freedom, it really opens you up to new ways to live and be happy.

  3. No wonder a lot of people end up feeling like they work all their lives and are unable to get ahead – the cost of just having a job can end up nearly matching your salary if you’re working for an average-to-low wage!

  4. One point you do not bring up, but is important in the long run is how hard it is for a stay at home parent to re-enter the workforce. I have two friends trying to do this right now and while one has found a job, it’s at a significantly lower rate than she hoped for. The other is not having any luck, as employers seem to not like the gap in her resume.

  5. You can further reduce the cost of stay-at-home parent by going to one car. We did this 30 years ago when my first child was born and we still have only one. I realize not everyone can do this but my DH was a teacher and was home by 3:30 most days. We scheduled doctor appointments and shopping for late afternoons and evenings.

  6. I practice most of those frugal tips, and need to work F/T, as does my husband. I need to do this for reasons of retirement, insurance and b/c we cannot pay our bills and mortgage on one income alone. We split all costs, so childcare is only $82.50/week off my income. I bring my own coffee and food from home. I don’t buy anything else for my job, and if I need to get clothes I go to Goodwill. We say on heating/AC and water, not being at home during the day 5 days a week. There is free coffee and often free snacks and food at my work additionally too.

    Also, I work at a university which allows staff to take a class one class per semester for free. I am acquiring my second masters degree this way. I might take out some student loans to take a second class per semester so that I can consolidate some credit card debt – tax deductible interest!

  7. There are some hidden costs that I don’t see in your calculation, though–according to the Center for Work-Life Policy (via the NYT), women who leave the workforce for a time lose an average of 18% of their earning potential. You don’t re-enter the workforce at the same point that you left it, and you don’t ever catch up to that, either. That said, there’s no reason not to stay home with your kids (nasty digs at working parents about “letting someone else raise their kids” aside) if that’s what you want–and having read the Simple Dollar for a while, it sounds like you do, which I think is really cool. But the purely monetary argument should take into account lost future earnings if you want it to be entirely accurate.

  8. In addition to the lower tax bracket is the EIC and Child Tax Credit if your income becomes low enough. The less you earn, the more EIC you qualify for.

    I have chosen to stay home because my DH has medical issues and surviving on his SSDI payments means we can qualify for Medicaid and save a TON of money for his dialysis treatments because of the way our screwed up health care system works here in the US. If the other working parent has great insurance, then staying home may make a ton of sense.

    In addition, staying home means being able to spend time doing all the frugal things you never had time for before. In our case, it is a bit forced because supporting a family of 4 on 20K in California, wilth a $500 gas to get to dialysis bill each month, is quite a challenge.

  9. Yup, that pretty much sums it up. One suggestion, find a play group of kids that are your children’s age. You will find a ton of cost saving and entertainment benefits to this type of activity.

    Another potential hidden cost is that if an employers knows that you have two incomes at home they are less willing to hand out bigger annual raises or initial salary. This is one of those its hard to prove but you better believe it happens.

  10. There are *multiple* ways to save and live more frugally if mama stays home. These are just a few:

    1) No work clothes to buy.
    2) Meals are extensively planned, so no fast food and less convenience foods (ie: money suckers).
    3) Less doctor bills from kids being sick less – lots of kids pick up colds consistently from daycare

    But all of these reasons are really so unimportant compared to the best reason to stay at home: to raise your own children!

    I know you aren’t looking for any other reasons besides financial ones in this post…but you can’t talk about staying home with children without descibing what a JOY it is! Who cares about re-entering the workforce and gaps in resumes?! You are able to spend each day with your child. And truly, that is a priceless gift.

  11. If you stay at home it is also unneccessary to send your kids to pre-school. They can attend kindergarten at age 5, but you have them all to yourselves until then! Lou you are quite right, it is a priceless gift, I’ve never regretted a single day spent with my children. :)

  12. I just wanted to add a few other thoughts about being home. I am a SAHM and although it is by far the best decision I ever made there are also big drawbacks. First, yes, I am able to work hard at being frugal, preparing meals, etc. But that also doesn’t mean it is easy. I really liked eating out all the time when I worked. Also, I actually don’t save on gas because I take my daughter to play groups, the zoo, the park, I do much more shopping (to get the best deals), etc. So, my point is the bottom line question isn’t IF you can save money, but (honestly) WILL you?

  13. @Writers Coin: I was going to add that the emotional aspects can be good as well. On top of this, the one-on-one time with your kids can actually help you teach them about personal finance, too. I can’t think of a better choice that my wife and I made together than for her to be a stay at home mother.

  14. When your kids are young, you’ll also run up larger medical bills with daycare as they’ll get sick far more often if they’re in that sort of germ incubator day in and day out. It’s not a huge amount, but those $20 copays and periodic prescriptions add up over time. Of course, once the kids hit school age, they’ll be bringing all kids of nasty germs from school, so at that point the advantage falls away.

  15. I cannot stress the health benefits for the children not attending daycare enough! My son just recently came down with his first illness, an ear infection, and he’s 8 months old. If a child is sick at daycare they cannot go back until they are no longer contagious, so one of the parents has to stay home. For people that don’t get PTO for sick children this can be VERY expensive.

  16. Thank you! As a SAHM, I get so tired of people telling me they “can’t afford” to stay home. Granted, we don’t live in a house with a walk-in pantry or anything like that, but we live comfortably and have many lifestyle benefits that working parents don’t have. For instance, I can run errands during the day when the crowds are thin and get much more done in the same amount of time as I would on evenings or weekends, even with two small children in tow.

    Granted, if your main goal in life is to climb the career path as high as you can go, taking off a few years and then re-entering the work force will set you back. But, ironically, I have found ways to make extra cash from home that suit me better than any “job” I ever had and will provide opportunities for me once my children are older, if I am interested.

  17. @TheFrugalPlace,

    It sounds like you’re already a whiz at getting some extra money back from the IRS, hopefully you also know you can use the money spend on medical transportation as a deduction. I don’t know how much more it’ll help you get back, but with $500 a month gas bills, it has to be at least a little something to make life a little more comfortable.

  18. As far as resumes go, managing a home can be every bit as challenging as managing an office. It requires effective communication skills, the ability to build people up and shape character. It requires integrity and good financial skills and the hours literally are never ending. The difference is that you can’t fire the people at home! The best resume of a stay-home parent is living and breathing, it’s the family that they have raised.

    There are definite cost advantages to the “mushy” side of this topic, which is that strong relationship created between stay-home parent and child. I can’t cite them exactly, but I know there are studies that have shown kids with a healthy family life are less likely to get involved with costly bad habits that could require the parents to pay for things like bail or counseling.

    @Lou – My wife stays home all but one day per week. While I think she looks great in jeans and a hat, you had better believe she is going to have some nice, trendy clothes. :)

  19. Right on about the daycare epizootics!!!!! My son was sick every minute he was in daycare. When I took him out and hired a wonderful, grandmotherly neighbor to watch him, he got well and stayed well.

    By the time children are ready for elementary school, their immune systems have matured to the point that they are not quite so vulnerable. Of course they still get colds, and, if their parents don’t have them immunized, flu. (You now can get flu vaccinations in nasal spray form, so you don’t even have to jab the little folks.) But a few colds a year is a far cry from sick every living, breathing moment.

  20. Megan -

    Yeah, I know about the deduction for medical expenses but generally the standard deduction ends up being more that itemizing because we have a very low house payment at nearly 0% interest. So, it’s only the medical that is an issue. However, this year I will be looking at that and have saved EVERY single recipt for things we have paid out-of-pocket.

    The huge gas bill is because the nearest dialysis center is 80 miles from our home and it would cost us more to try and move than stay here and pay for the gas/car expenses. Insane as that sounds.

    I also wanted to comment on the posts about time with your kids. I know when I was working full-time I was much less inclined to want to spend the hour or so in the evening going over homework assignments, etc.. Since I have been home both of my kids, now 13 and 15 have drastically improved their grades. Both because I am here to help and because I obviously take a more active interest because I am not wiped out from a long day in Corporate America.

    In addition, the kids are understanding things like mom home = smaller Christmas, less money, less choices, less eating out, etc… and they actually say they do prefer me being home.

  21. Obviously my name gives me away as someone slightly biased to having a stay at home parent, so I won’t repeat what I write about or what other people have already said.

    I really just wanted to comment on the comments, I get so many ideas from reading them along with the articles. There are many different viewpoints which is nice, I don’t just hear one side of the story. So keep it up everyone!

  22. Coming from a young 20-something, this post is good info not only for people who have kids, but people who know they want to one day and are debating staying home when they do finally procreate.

    I, personally, would love to stay home for at least the first year of my kids lives, however many kids I have. I’d be likely looking to supplement my income by teaching part-time at a local community college or university, but would be leaving “corporate america” alone until my kids are 1+.

    Even though I’m not planning on having kids for MANY years, this type of post is insightful as it helps quantify the true value of staying at home, even in a fairly conservative manner.

    Good food for thought!

  23. FrugalPlace–ok, I admit I am naive about the whole IRS/tax advantage issue, but how is what you are doing not cheating the system? Choosing poverty so that you qualify for entitlement programs is sort of disingenuous… did I completely miss the point of your post?

    If you are in good health, you could be working, and thus be contributing to the tax base which gives your husband his much-needed benefits. Additionally, if he never returns to work, you are reducing your ability to re-enter the workforce, or, as another reader contributed, you may be coming back in at a serious disadvantage.

    As a mom with a disabled child (nonverbal, autism), who is a larger-than-average burden on the taxpayer, and will likely continue to be one, after our deaths, I feel morally obligated to work and contribute to the system.

    On an aside, though, you should be able to deduct the costs of transportation to prescribed therapies from your taxes; check the irs.gov site and type in “disability”, and there is a whole page of qualifying expenses.

  24. To my mind, an important correlation to this post would be to find out what the cutoff income is for one of the parents. Basically, at above what dollar amount is it no longer feasible for someone to consider not working? For example, in my case it made no sense whatsoever for my wife or I to stop working since we both make over six figures a year, and losing one of our incomes would have significantly reduced our standard of living.

  25. Has anyone considered the social down side to keeping kids at home? I love my son (19 months)but he needs his peer group. And I am not just talking about a three hour play date twice a week. Even if we could afford it (and we are working at being able to) our little bit would still go to a half day pre-school.

  26. @TheFrugalPlace

    Is your husband a candidate for home dialysis? My husband’s grandfather does that and he can’t stop raving about it. It is done while he sleeps every night. So it keeps him steady, rather than feeling bad before every dialysis appointment. The dialysis meds are delivered to his door, so his wife doesn’t have to drive anywhere to get it.

  27. If there is a social down side to keeping a young child at home I think it pales in comparison to the social problems that are avoided by doing so. I have several friends who have daughters with young kids in daycare. They talk about the bad behavior their grandkids witness there. Spitting, biting, hair-pulling, foul language, as well as bullying can also be found along with the obvious social goodies. It is easy enough to find playmates outside of daycare. I think that parents who work deserve to have great daycare and maybe more should be done to weed out the habitual problem child.

  28. we both work, our son is 2.5, we have a daughter on the way.

    Since our son was born, my income has effectively doubled (changed jobs, was promoted, also negotiated an extra raise this year). So it doesn’t always make sense to compare what you make now to your overall earning potential. Just wanted to give a data point on the other end of the spectrum.

    Maybe this is because I generally *like* my job, but I feel that I am a better mom for working – the time I do spend with my son I am focused on him, and he absolutely loves the small daycare he attends (it is a family daycare with only 4-5 kids, a situation I highly recommend, he does not get sick terribly often). In my ideal world I would be able to work only 3-4 days per week at the same job, but at least I work at a job that is somewhat flexible (I do work from home a few days a month; not with my son at home but it does allow me to pick him up earlier or drop him off a little later).

  29. Some very good points. I do want to point out some financial affects of a parent staying home that you did not mention. I understand that there are other more intangible benefits to staying home but people should take these into account too.

    -Your electric and home heating bills or air conditioning will go up somewhat because people are home all day using electricity and heat or a/c when normally the house would be empty.
    -401K match: if your company gives a 401k match you should be adding that into the value of the salary you would be losing my staying home.
    -401k contribution: how much will you lose in retirement contributions if a parent stays home?
    -Social security: you will no longer be contributing to social security during the time you are not working. Will that affect the amount of your social security benefits when you retire?
    -Stock options, employee stock purchase plan: Do you get these at your job? I do. If so, you need to add these into the value of the salary you will be losing by not working.
    -Health insurance, dental, etc. If the family is enrolled in insurance through the parent who would stay home, what is the cost difference of switching to the other parent’s insurance? Include the monthly employee contribution, and difference in co-payments.
    -Life insurance. Many employers provide life insurance and disability insurance free or at very low cost. How much would buying a policy to make sure you are fully insured cost?
    -Lost salary over lifetime. Assuming that many parents would want to eventually go back to work when their children are older, even if you can go back in the same field you will likely be making a lower salary than you would have if you had stayed in the workforce. You should include that in your calculations.
    -Will you be able to get back in the workforce in a professional position at all if you are forced to by divorce or death of your spouse? My mother went back to work after 10 years out of the workforce. Computers came into the workplace while she stayed home and her skills were very out of date. I watched her work in a series of menial, low-paying jobs that she hated for several years. After about 7 years she was able to get back into a professional, decent-paying job.
    -What if your spouse gets laid off? Even if the economy is great, I’ve known people to get laid off when their company was acquired by another one. Will you be able to build up a sufficient emergency fund on one income to allow for such an event? With 2 people working you have a bit more of a cushion against layoffs.

    Many people would still look at these numbers and decide to stay home, but these considerations should be calculated as well.

  30. BigRed-

    When I am working my DH’s Medicare becomes secondary insurance. We were having $5000+ in medical bills, out of pocket, PER MONTH, because of our 20% co-payment. This with already paying over $600 in premium costs per month and my take-home pay being only about 2K per month. So, $3K per month in debt for me to have the privledge of working…

    However, with my not working, and Medicare then being primary, they pay all of DH’s dialysis costs. Once DH has been on dialysis for 33 months this issue resolves itself because medicare is then primary for the remainder of DH’s life, and I can write more and earn more of a full-time income.

    Yes, we are milking the system because the alternative is over $36K in debt for me to work, plus all the costs of my working… Add to that the almost $100K in medical bills that wonderful Aetna said they will not pay with NO reason. The dispute resolution is that they will not pay and we can sue them…

    I hope no one ever has to make the choices we have to make, but I really don’t see how people can ever understand our situation without living in it.

  31. Something important to consider: not all spouses are frugally equal. Make sure the more frugal parent stays home, or all the financial benefits listed won’t exist. Trust me, I know. My wife won’t even clip coupons. She is constantly buying arts and crafts kits because they “have to have something to do during the day”, or meeting friends for a playdate at Mcdonalds.

  32. I quit my job in the fall of 04 when my son was born. I agree with so much in these comments, cost savings, child rearing, and illness. But, I have experienced an added benefit not yet mentioned. Since I have been home I have been able to really hone in on what my true passions are. Without the demands of a 9-5 job I have just enjoyed life and really found my niche – something I could not have done if I had continued working. In these last three years I have done an increasing amount of work in my “free” (non-mommy) time and now get paid a very reasonable salary only working in the evenings and nap-time. Not only does the extra money help but I now LOVE what I am doing AND I get to keep full time parenting at the center of what is important. I would have never had the time if I had to work all day and then be a parent in the evenings.

  33. I’d agree with Erin that if you’re going to include all the hidden savings you need to include all the hidden costs as well – it’s only fair.

    @TheFrugalPlace:
    It sounds like you are making the best decisions that you can under the circumstances. Like it or not that is how the system works at the moment, and there seems no reason at all why you should go into debt if you don’t have to. Over your whole lifetime, you may well turn out to be a net contributor financially, it doesn’t matter whether you are or not over the short-term.

    @wayne:
    That’s certainly something to consider. Everything in life is only frugal if you actively make it so.

  34. These are our children we’re talking about! All the corporate america addicts shouldn’t procreate if all your stock options & life insurance stuff is more important. Children raised by parents coherent in their daily lives & active in their schools will be more emotionally attached to their own world, friends & family. “Group homes” (daycare) & video games & text messaging is creating cold hearted American citizens. Stay home if you possibly can (without being on public aid or having to declare bankruptcy) & don’t worry if you’re doing the right thing. These little people are the future of America!

  35. I have occasionally posted comments regarding my difficult marriage, and this topic is a case in point.

    My wife is very territorial about money and property, and has the principal income (three times what I make, now that I’m working full-time). Even though in California our assets and income are technically “community property”, she keeps her money separate and resents any attempt on my part to make mutual decisions about “her” money or at least to advocate some kind of real frugality in our house. If I spend money (say, on the house), I’m unlikely to be reimbursed (at least without hostility or derision). I’ve gone into credit card debt because of that (basically mostly my own fault – I simply preferred the debt to the hostility).

    Childcare is no different. I’ve always been the primary caretaker (it was easy for me to get up at 3AM to care for a crying baby), and since my wife was unwilling to cut back her work hours I did all the hauling-to-childcare and staying-at-home with a sick child or daycare vacation. As a result my job suffered and I was eventually laid off (my warnings about this were ignored). For several years after I was only marginally employed (this was a huge hit on my career options btw).

    During that time I suggested several times that we would save significant money if I simply stayed home and did childcare and household care. My wife adamantly refused. She saw this as my “taking a vacation” at her expense, and “if anyone was going to stay at home” it would be her. I spent my days sending off resumes, but since I couldn’t honestly commit to working full time plus that went nowhere.

    This was VERY expensive for us. I wasn’t working much, yet we spent huge amounts of money on daycare, plus expenses hauling my daughter back and forth. Since our income wasn’t shared I wasn’t able to shop for groceries or supplies rationally. Neither was I able to pay bills, and so bills tended to be paid late. There was no control or clarity about our financial status, and my wife’s only “plan” was that somehow I would get a job and then we’d make enough money for everything.

    I’ve pretty much given up on all this. My first, my only priority is to make sure our daughter is cared for properly. Now that I’m working full-time again, I’m trying to establish some savings (my wife has almost nothing saved, in spite of her almost $120K/year income. She didn’t even contribute to a *matching* 401K at work!). At some point, I’ll be able to make choices concerning my own future and then will have leverage to make real change.

    My point of all this (hopefully without too much venting!) is that the ability to make mutual decisions really REALLY matters. In a sense, it’s the ONLY thing that matters. Even in tough situations (unemployment, challenging childcare etc), there has to be flexibility in thinking about alternatives. For instance, I could have worked as a grocery clerk (my wife ridiculed that idea).

    If one person makes decisions without including the other, then there is a greater chance of failure – either of the finances or of the relationship. Whether or not one decides to “look at the numbers”, or just “fly by the seat of one’s pants”, if the decisions are MUTUAL then there is a much greater chance of success.

  36. A great article.. my wife is due in a few weeks, and while we’re excited that she can take the first couple of months off for maternity leave, it’ll be unpaid maternity leave, so our income will drop in half. It wasn’t all that much to start with, so that hurts some. When she goes back to work in a few months, our daycare bill will double, which isn’t going to help things, either. I’m already working my main job, side jobs and recently opened a cafepress shop to see if some of my graphical skills can supplement in any way, as well as blogging about the whole “opening a cafepress shop” adventure… It’s an adventure, but we know where our Provision comes from, and it’s not my boss or her boss. :)

    I haven’t done it yet (I’m almost afraid to do it) but I’m going to have to sit down and see how far the money will go over the next few months, and how far it’ll go when our daycare bill doubles (and we’re trying to catch up on whatever we’re behind on)… so, we’ll see. But thanks for a great (and for me, timely) article.

  37. Yeah, I have worked until recently and paid into the system… The only “entitlement” we accept is medical coverage and not food stamps or anything else. (Though our neighbors with food stamps eat better than we do… But, that’s another rant for another day! :) )

    I also agree that you have to take into account someone staying home equals higher electric bills and the issues of shopping more if that person is out bargain hunting a lot. For instance, you go to the store for milk on sale and come home with $20 in groceries.

  38. FrugalPlace–thanks for the response. I looked back at what I wrote, and realized I sounded like a complete jackass, so your very fair response was way more than I deserved–I didn’t mean it to sound as pompous and judgemental as it did. It can’t be easy to deal with jerks who don’t comprehend how huge medical bills can be–myself included. I do apologize, and am so sorry if I caused you more pain.

    While we haven’t ever been in a life-threatening situation, we’ve known the incredible frustration of dealing with insurance. Our major concerns were that our insurance did not cover speech and occupational therapy for our daughter, because they covered only rehabilitative therapies, not for habilitative therapies; so, frustrating, but not life-threatening. It makes you bananas, and having folks question your decisions must be that much harder.

    It is really not a stretch to see how anyone can be in this situation. I too have Aetna, so I am revisiting my policy now. We were stupid in 2005, and didn’t sign up for the voluntary short-term disability insurance, so instead of coverage for the full 3 months, we got it for 2 weeks, and then nothing until he returned to work. We’ve made sure to enroll in it since then, but it wouldn’t have taken much beyond that to push us over the edge. And, our company is rare in that we have any short-term coverage at all.

    I’m hoping you are not too far from the 33-month deadline. But I do urge you to investigate the possibility of recouping some of that cost for your own outlay–you can also submit past deductions to the IRS in case you missed these in earlier years. Good luck, and your family is in our prayers.

  39. Don’t forget about:
    1) lost pension savings (especially when taking compound interest into account – and in whose name is the family pension fund in a divorce…)
    2) the career setback.

    By not being on the job market for a prolonged period the stay-at-home parent will not receive the company-funded education to stay up to date with the industry. Thus there’s a signifacant loss of potential wages when returning to the job market.

    I would also imagine that staying at home would give more time to spend money since I would not expect child-caring to take up all day. In the city I live in it’s not uncommon to see moms under paternity leave spending significant time in the expensive cafes with their girlfriends.

    I myself had the wonderful pleasure of having a stay-at-home mom, however, and I wouldn’t trade it at all. My mom did a lot for the community to stay active and the active parents up into middle schools did a lot to create a safe and including environment for us kids. My mom does not have an education and she did not give up a career to raise my brothers and me so her career setback was minimal if any. I on the other hand expect to marry a girl with a career as active as mine so my situation will most likely be completely different.

  40. Erin raises some very good points about lost income that’s well over and above the salary. I’ll also note that it’s possible to cut out or cut down on food, automobile, “extra work expenses”, and “routine work habits” without giving up your job: bring leftovers for lunch instead of eating out (my food’s better than most chefs anyways), commute by public transportation or cycle or walk, say “no” to crap work expenses you don’t use – there’s no way a coffee fund can be mandatory if you don’t take from it, bring your breakfast to work instead of buying pre-made scones from the bakery. What I’m coming to is this: a lot of the “expenses of having a job” you list are not in fact expenses of having a job. They are expenses of making poor financial choices.

    Similarly, having a job is by no means a barrier to discover avenues of frugality. Just go discover them by searching online, reading your community newsletters and being involved in your surroundings.

  41. I really enjoyed this article and glad I stumbled upon this blog. Lot’s of insights here. I just recently reentered the workforce after taking a year and half hiatus where I had absolutely NO income outside of my life savings. Honestly, I made the decision because I asked myself – what’s in the box? What’s the most important thing in my life? What does my lifestyle say about what’s really the most important thing in my life? – these answers were extremely conflicting.

    See, I was making more than the average 2 income household, living in a large beautiful house, and admired by many for being so “successful” – all the while I felt like a sell-out. I lived in the DC area where traffic caused my 25 mile commute to be 2 hours one-way on the average day. That time only went up when the weather was bad or if someone decided to have an accident on the road. My sons were at the critical transitory point in their life from Elementary to Middle school.

    My childhood dream was to be a mother. I hadn’t planned for anything else – no career – no marriage – just how good of a mother I’d be. Then I woke up one day and found my sons raising themselves while I fought traffic and tried to buy their love since I was never home. God convicted me and I was forced to face my reality.

    I quit a 6-figure, high profile job and relocated to a more rural area with a much lower cost of living. I spent the remainder of the school year home-schooling my son and working on myself. We learned to live without a lot of things during this time – but we also learned so much about each other. My sons now know without a doubt where they stand in my life and what I’m willing to sacrifice for them. My family has never been closer than we are now. We went through this together and they had to give up as much as I did. They like me being home when they are. They enjoy our movie and game nights and even bible study. We cook together, play together, eat together and pray together. It wasn’t as financially difficult as it felt. I had to go through my stages of resistance and change. Howeer, being aware of what it would take and keeping my eyes on the prize got us through. The simple life is so precious. I’m working again – again in my career field and even making close to what I was making before but still living in a much more rural area. I see my kids off to school in the morning and I’m home a few minutes before they get home. I trusted God to see us through a time of reviving my family in him and guiding my path as he trusted me with 2 angels he charged me with mothering.

  42. I have to agree with Wayne posting above. You need to have a frugal parent at home to make it work.

    When my partner first quit her job to become the stay at home mom, it was a learning curve. I had to remind her that just because a kid places the value of *fun* higher at McDonalds- does not make it so. Add to that her everyday use of the van (when school is 5 blocks away to walk)- it wasn’t pretty.

    Fast forward almost 2 years to now- she gets on me about frugal means. She is the one who reminds me to pack my lunch, to get a home cooked meal going- even on weekends, etc. She has taken coupon clipping to a higher level than I ever did.

  43. After leaving the corporate world to become a SAHM here are a few more observations:

    - Unless you are extremely wealthy, frugal living should become the SAHP’s new part-time job. I consider it an intellectual and mechanical exercise. There is a wealth of material on the Internet and in the library.

    - Plans should be made in the event the working parent becomes deceased or disabled. We continue to fund my IRA even though we sometimes must scrape to do this. Reading Trent’s column has also encouraged me to explore other savings vehicles.

    - Be aware that your relationships may change. We have forged and deepened relationships w/those whose feelings about $ are more like our own.

  44. Yep. like others, there are definitely hidden costs of one parent staying home- some of the ones I came up with are:
    *preschool- we would want my kid in some kind of peer environment to prepare him for school, and these cost money, even though they are only a few hours a few times a week
    *entertainment/activities- I think I would spend a similar amount of money on gas just because we would need to get out of the house every day- even if we did free activities. It is really not easy being home with young kids all day, even if they are wonderful and you enjoy it. And I would occaisionally get a coffee, maybe get some mcdonalds if we were out bargain shopping, catching storytime or whatever.
    *It can be very hard to go back into the work force- I was a busy freelancer with good recommendations but it took me a year to get a full-time position again.

  45. Quote by EP:
    “I would also imagine that staying at home would give more time to spend money since I would not expect child-caring to take up all day.”

    Please take no offense, but you obviously have no concept of what is involved in a SAHM situation. Child rearing is a *constant* activity that takes up the entire day. Literally. The moms in your city unfortunately lead you to misunderstand what SAHM’s do. I can promise you that going to the cafe several times a week while you have a babysitter or daycare is not frugal by any means!! And I would venture to say that is definitely not the norm for most of us.

    For myself, I spend my entire day from 6am until 10 or 11 pm constantly on the go with raising babies. When I get a break of any type (naps, etc.) I am thinking of/researching ways to save my family money. And I do this on a daily basis. Great blogs like this cause me to *think*! They’re great!

    For the 19mo that needs a “peer group” (and I promise, promise, promise you they don’t at that age!), there are lots of frugal ways to get that:

    1) organize a play group with your mama friends. One morning at your house, one at Sam’s house, one at Liz’s house, etc. It takes work on your part, but definitely do-able.
    2) The library’s story time. Love it.
    3) The park. It’s free and there will be tons of other kids there he can interact with.
    4) Get involved in your church. Children’s programing in churches is usually excellent. Tons of opportunities in a fantastic setting.

  46. I wasn’t going to reply until I read the comment about how child caring doesn’t take all day.

    I cannot speak for other families, but I can say without reservation that raising my child takes all day. There are no vacation days or sick time or anything like that. I am Mama 24/7. Yes, my son takes naps, but that’s time I use to take care of other things around the house. Since we don’t send my son elsewhere, it is up to me to teach my son.

    Before my son was born I did sit down and do the math and found that, factoring in childcare and all the other things mentioned in Trent’s post I would basically be working full time for about $2/hour. It just wasn’t worth it. I have worked part time since then but it was a job that I could work when my husband was home in the evening so we’ve never needed childcare.

    It is true that staying home can cost money too, but it’s not much more then the lunches out, the latte trips or the cost of work clothes or dry cleaning, etc. There are incidental costs with both options.

    Our second child is due in March and I feel better about our financial situation now then I did 2 years ago. In my case, our family is better off on one income then we ever were on two. It’s forced us to be less wasteful and make smarter decisions. Before my son we had no retirement accounts and our savings was little and we still had some debt. Since then our savings has grown, we’ve started retirement accounts and the only remaining debt we have is my husband’s student loans. I know it doesn’t work that way for everyone, but staying home definitely forced me to look at our family finances differently and it turned out to be a good thing.

  47. If you’ve never been a SAHP, you can’t know what it involves. I have two kids, and when they are awake, I am playing with them, or taking care of them, and when they are napping, I am probably doing housework (I would do it while they are awake, but they follow me around and undo everything I do!). We also walk to the park, and to the library quite frequently. I know I’ve gone a week without driving the car anywhere! A PP made a good point about having the more frugal parent stay home, both my husband and I are pretty frugal so for us it didn’t matter, but if the SAHP is going out to lunch and coffee, and driving all over, then you probably won’t be saving as much money.

    However, I stay home for more than money, and I think most SAHPs do the same. For us, it’s about having a parent at home to always be there for our kids. Both my parents worked and I hated it. I could never do anything after school because I had to catch the bus. Not until I was old enough to drive, but by then I was already spending way to much time with my boyfriend and Jack Daniels. I honestly think that if I had a parent at home, I could have avoided many of the bad decisions I made. For me, it means that I will be a SAHP until my kids are in college. I know that’s not the right choice for everyone, but for me and my husband, it is.

  48. Does the person who thinks childcare doesn’t take all day have kids? Or have they ever babysat? I’ve been a babysitter for working parents and I’ll tell you it’s a full-time job. There are stretches where you can put on Thomas, but that’s no guarantee of peace and quiet either.

    The goal is to get writing and such done during nap time (as many mom bloggers seem to do).

    Back to the original point of this post–I think the value sounds about right. It depends, of course, on the parent and whether he or she is frugal (or at least mindful of expenses).

    Even babysitting expenses for free time can be handled by joining a babysitting coop, where you swap sitting hours and whatnot.

  49. My wife and I are considering this if I can get a raise (via new employer) to cover her income. For us, this isn’t about an equal income trade. It’s about sanity. We have five children and our parents are deceased and our siblings live far away. We are time-stressed. My wife grocery shops on Friday nights and I make phone calls while commuting and cooking. Because we have more kids than anyone else, it’s difficult to “co-op babysit” and a babysitter for all five is $10/hour (even though three are old enough to almost take care of themselves). And my kids are very active; no quiet introspective kids in my house. We are both very, very frugal; very disciplined and strong-willed about it (there’s very, very little that I’ve read here that we aren’t already doing or have done).

    Nonetheless, Trent’s math doesn’t work for us as it does for he and others. Subtracting my wife’s income doesn’t drop me into a lower tax bracket, and we already don’t do the wasteful extras like buying out for lunch. Plus my wife gets some very nice additional benefits like a $300/month medical care account if she opts out of her employer insurance, which she does. Plus Social Security and her pension and on and on (when I worked for an HR consulting firm that calculated the street-cost of employer benefit replacement, it came out to about 25% of an employee’s salary).

    So, long story short, I think the economics are definitely more complicated and vary per circumstance, but surely life is simpler with a SAHP.

    But the “daycare is bad; staying at home is good” argument is also very flawed. We did both when our kids were little. The one who was in daycare the most is the best adjusted of all, and the one we parented at home the most is the most difficult. You’ll find arguments and research that cut both ways….

  50. BigRed,

    I took absolutely no offense to your post. Believe me, we get a lot of the “so you stay home, watch Oprah all day, and milk the system?” type of judgments in our life.

    I just ususally point out that while I am not trying to be a victim, we are doing the best we can with the current state of healthcare in the US.

    And, that while I don’t wish ill on anyone, I do wish more people could see what happens when you are “middle class” and have health insurance, and a major illness in your immediate family. It ain’t pretty.

    We are on month #18 now, with 12 months of “transitional medicaid” coverage, I have the ability to return to work in about 3-4 months and this issue will resolve itself.

    The really sick thing is that Medicare pays $155 per dialysis treatment – private insurnace pays almost 2K. The difference is that with our insurance we were told we had to pay 30% of the 2K each treatment plus a 15K “out of network max” even though the clinic was already paid way more than Medicare pays for anyone else.

    And, since the nearest clinic is 75 miles from our home, Aetna denied them as “in network” because they would have had to pay more. They said there was no “in network” clinic we could use and if we didn’t like it – oh well….

  51. Some of these comments regard a parent staying at home as the best thing for the children and society. Having had an emotional abuser be the stay at home parent in my life, it isn’t always in the best interest of the child or society for that matter, to have a parent stay at home. Lucky for society, myself and my sibling turned out to be productive memembers of society, if only to never ever have to return home and live in those conditions again. But a lot of children are not so lucky or so determined to make something of themselves.

  52. I’ve read through these other comments with such interest. And I must admit that I am really disturbed that it comes down to money. Kudos to Raebeth for addressing the ‘real’ topic: that these children are the future of our nation. They will make the decisions about *our* healthcare, retirement plans, government, etc. Do we really want these children to be raised in daycare simply because we are unwilling to alter our lifestyles and live with less? Are we unwilling to rely on the One who will provide our true needs?

    I challenge you to think outside of the financial box. It truly is not ONLY about money. I think this cannot be looked at from only a financial perspective.

    Please re-read the comments and note their content: loss of money in 401Ks, “having” to spend money on daytime entertainment and daycare (you’ve got to be kidding), unable to go straight back into your career at the same salary. All of these responses are about “me.” The question should be: How is sitting in daycare all day going to affect my child?

    Don’t get me wrong, concerns about money and how one is going to “make it” on one income are completely understandable and something I think about a lot. A LOT. However, my priority is my family and being available for them…not my career or if I can regain my old job in corporate America. You can easily be replaced in corporate America at a moment’s notice. There is no replacement for a parent at home.

    SingleMom, I am humbled at your convictions and follow through. Impressive. Thanks for sharing your story.

  53. I am currently a stay at home dad. The advantage of me raising my kids,my way and not some stranger I am paying far outweigh the little burden it is. I spent damn near 11 years in the beer business as a rep for the world’s largest brewer and I was making DAMN good money. But a decision had to be made as to who was going to stay home and rear our kids and I bit the bullet and sacrificed my career so my wife could finish school and so she could work. I am 30 now and by the time my youngest is in school I will be 35. The way I see it is, that is still young enough (albeit a bit late, but hey people are living longer and 35 is really 30) to start a career as a police officer. That way my kids are taken care of and I will not have the added worry of sending them of everyday whilst they are still way young. Also, my wife will be well on her way in her new career as she finishes school next year. So in the end she will be making very nice money in a field she loves and I will be making ok money doing something I want to. All the while we save money and frustration now by raising our kids ourselves.

    Nice article btw. Very good points.

  54. I immediately knew that I would be a stay at home mom when I had my first child, I did not want someone else raising my child(ren) for me, I wanted to be there to watch them grow, and I did, once they entered into school, I went back to work, which in my case, wasn’t as hard to enter the working world again, as one may think (or some may know for that matter. It did how ever take a bit of getting use to again, I was on my children’s schedule and not a working schedule, but it didn’t take me long to get back into the swing of things. As for the income, it seems as though, “The older the children get, the more expensive things get”, so I decided that the extra income was much needed in our case.

  55. @Lou: Parents do need to take care of themselves to be the best for their children. When parents are unhappy, the children know, and it’s very distressing. Many of the commenters here enjoyed being SAHPs, but that’s not true of everybody. My mom was a SAHM because my brother had special needs and benefited from the full-time enrichment and rehabilitation she provided. I know she was really unhappy about it, though; she found it terribly isolating and was always afraid that one day, she would need to financially support herself or my brother and wouldn’t be able to do so due to the gap in her resume. I understand why she made her choice and think it was the right one. I am also terrified of having my own children, because it’s a choice I really, really don’t ever want to make.
    Also, if the parents divorce, the SAHP is really at a disadvantage. The children will probably go to her, because she’s been their primary caretaker all along; but now she’ll need to work and probably won’t be able to command her previous salary. Even if you’re committing to never divorcing, you have to figure out if your spouse feels the same way, and you have to figure out if “never” really means “never.”

  56. Here is one more benefit to think about. If you are used to living on one income, you are in a far less volatile position if that one parent loses their job. The laid off spouse can collect unemployment while searching for another really good job and the stay home parent can work temporarily to help fill the gap. If you are used to a two income household, most people spend at that earning level. A loss of one of those two incomes can be far more devastating because it is much harder to fill that income gap.

  57. Outstanding point of view! I think you forget to mention one very important benefit – Quality of life. Having a stay at home mom produces happy, healthy, and eventually SUCCESSFUL children who do not fail to launch and won’t have to live with mom and dad until age 30. I won’t even begin to calculate the savings involved in that.

  58. Lou — I don’t know what kind of daycare that you have experience with, but my kids go to a progressive daycare run by the local school system. There’s no “sitting around” or “watching TV” all day. There’s a staff of loving, elderly women who have worked there for years, supplemented by teenagers from the high school across the street, and run by a degreed professional. They have a 5:1 ratio and a defined curriculum focused on play and learning, and no TV. And they’re not “raised” at the daycare. We raise them, all five of them. The daycare helps us out while we’re at work, and only when school is in session.

    As for Mom staying home vs. daycare, yes, often it is about “the money” b/c its “the money” that buys the groceries and pays the utility bill and keeps the roof over everyone’s heads. And its been about that since time began. Before the Industrial Revolution, mom didn’t stay home and raise the kids — elderly family did until the kids were old enough to join the rest of the family working on the farm, which included Mom. The “Mom stays at home and watches over the kids and takes care of the house” is a 20th Century phenomenon that paralleled the rise of Industrialism and the decline of the agricultural economy.

  59. Here’s my two cents:

    If there are two people working I seriously recommend living off of one income and saving/investing the other, when possible. It can be super tough, but it will give your family the ability to survive during tough times, or when there is a new baby or child with special needs in the house and one partner stays home.

    Yes, being a SAHP can take all day. Please. These are human beings, not dogs.

    Both partners absolutely have to be on the same page.

    Being a SAHP IS a job. You need resources like transportation, communication, entertainment, etc. Most people wouldn’t go to a job that didn’t have a desk, chair, and computer. For me the resources I benefit most from as a SAHM are: a car, the internet, a cell-phone, and a gym membership. I can still do it without those, but they make my life much easier.

    Yes, children who are in FT preschool or daycare ARE generally more socialized and mature than other kids. Guess what? After first or second grade there is no benefit to those early years in pre-school. It all evens out. (My DH’s PhD is in education and I hear about these statistics non-stop).

    Basically, all you experienced parents know the scoop…you do your research and together with your partner make the decision that is best for your family.

    So why did I do it and leave a job to stay home? Well, I like sleeping in and eating bon-bons all day while I watch soap operas. J/K. Basically it all came down to this question…get up early every day and work for ‘the man,’ or be the boss of my own day and life?

    I like being the boss.

  60. To the extent that I can get my wife to work — she is on-call as a substitute teacher — her available time for shopping is reduced. We don’t need the money but we do need to limit the compulsive spending.

  61. Have lived through many of the proposed scenarios. Did all the figuring out of how much it would cost me to work and found out that the breakeven point, the money I would have to make to pay all the expenses of working and daycare, would be well above anything I could make at that time. So I stayed home with my sons and I do not regret having done so, I am quite proud of them.

    However, I also was visted with a surprise divorce after 27 years of marriage. What I do regret is all of the years I could not contribute to a retirement plan at a workplace. For those of you not old enough to know it, the original allowable contribution to an IRA for a nonworking spouse was $250. You cannot make up for that lost power of compounding in your later years.

    The thing that is precious to me beyond all else is that each of my sons has thanked me for what I did.

  62. I’m really surprised no one has mentioned the benefits in many fields to the working parent’s career when the other parent is a SAHP.

    Twenty years ago, at a well-known private university, one of my married friends insisted that they couldn’t possibly afford for his wife to stay at home, although she wanted to, and another had a wife who did leave her job to be a SAHM. Because the SAHM did most of the household chores, the second man did research and wrote in the evenings and on weekends — while our friend with the working wife was doing laundry, cleaning, and shopping. Although the first couple made more money then, guess which man got tenure? And he is now earning about four times as much as the first man, who is still in academia but at a far less prestigious school.

    In our case, because I was at home, my husband was freed to accept last-minute travel assignments, work late or work weekends in response to a client’s urgent need, and so on. And – fairly or not – he was rewarded for his value to the company with much larger raises than co-workers who unpredictably missed days of work to be at home with ill children, or who always had to leave on time so they wouldn’t be late to pick up their children from daycare. After the first few years, we started salting away most of every pay raise, and now we are contemplating an earlier (and cushier) retirement than most two-income couples we know.

    Not every working parent will benefit in this way from having a SAHP “holding the fort” but many will.

  63. I totally agree, I’m a stay at home mum, we are definitely coming out financially on top by me forfeiting the paid work, as an added bonus I’m working towards a degree whilst at home meaning that when it comes to rejoining the workforce I can do so at a much higher level. Now that’s win-win-win :)

  64. @Sophie:
    Undoubtedly that’s a true story – but I don’t think it’s something that we should like. I’m single and have to do all my own shopping, cooking, cleaning, pay all the bills, etc. I don’t have the luxury of even the option of having someone do it for me.

    Not only am I a failure just for not getting married, this is compounded because I can’t compete on a level playing field with those people who have stay at home spouses. Great. This, I think, is something we want to change not perpetuate.

  65. Despite Plonkee’s opinion, I agree with Sophie. I was thinking that it was odd no one mentioned this. As a stay at home parent, I enable my husband to advance his career for lack of a good word “better”. I am not saying better than his coworkers, I am saying better than if as his spouse, I worked. If I was working, he would have to miss more work days to take the kids to the doctor, stay home with them while they are sick, and miss days that they have early release or no school or vacation time. Granted he wouldn’t have to stay home for all of those days, but he would need to cover his fair share. If I was working he would not be able to go in the hour or two early to work that he often does or stay late. He also probably wouldn’t have the same flexibility to go in at any time when something comes up. Anyhow, the list can go on but really, I do feel my husband benefits career wise because I stay home. However, I think people have to be very secure in their marriage to put themselves in this position. And of course every situation is different and this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I bet it does apply to many.

    The other thing, the commenting on re-entry to the work force. If you plan ahead, you can definitely take steps to avoid problems in this area as far as taking on part time work or volunteering or keeping your education up to date. But it definitely is a consideration.

    As a stay at home spouse I don’t have access to a 401K but I do max out my Roth IRA every year. We haven’t had an employer (my spouse or myself) in about 6 years offer any sort of 401K match.

  66. Ditto Sophie…my husband (by me staying home) has never had to rearrange his schedule because of the children, and career has soared. He always knows that the kids’ needs will be met and doesn’t have to sit down with a calendar every month to see when he can travel based on my career travel schedule, like friend’s of ours. They rarely see each other, and it’s rare when they can go together as a family to any of the kid’s activities. Not our situation.
    As it is, I re’entered the work force, but part time (mommy hours…10-2)and while I’ll never bring in what he does (I deliver meals to Seniors in their homes…so social services)and so doesn’t interfere with being there after school and getting them off to school. and I still have time to do all those frugal things I’ve always done (hanging out laundry to dry, gardening, preserving,etc…), and it suits me at this stage of my kid’s lives…I have every intention of going back to work full time when I feel the time is right, but am very glad that I made the choice to be a SAHP.

  67. After reading your article and reviewing your numbers, I am stunned as well. I’m curious as to if this would convince my fiance to let me be a stay at home dad once we’ve finally climbed out of the hole that is our debt?

  68. I agree that all aspects of working versus staying at home should be looked at before making the decision. What’s missing from your analysis is the drawbacks and additional expenses of staying home. A one sided analysis does not benefit anybody. As others’ have said, consider the long term effect on your household salary, retirement, benefits, social security decrease, etc.. Also since you included all the minor work related expenses in your calculation, also include the minor staying at home related expenses in the calculation. And also don’t forget FSA tax benefits for using child care services. Number of kids is a factor as well, for one kid around here, it costs $100 per week, for 2 kids $175, for 3 kids $225. Another thing in your analysis is very few people are in a 28% tax bracket, I’m in a 9% tax bracket myself. And going out to eat 3 times per week for lunch at $10 a pop is not frugal anyways, whether you work or not. And don’t forget to mention the bored at home wife will need to go shopping duirng the day (car expenses go into this as well). Your wife would also have the option to stop the scone and coffee trip whether she works or not. I don’t mean to criticize your analysis, but let’s just be honest here.

  69. When people speak of a dismal retirement, I’m often wondering how frugal the SAHP is. As a SAHM, we’ve put more into savings and the like than ever. We intend on doing more. There’s this thing called compound interest. It’s magic.

  70. First of all, I do not have children yet, but we are seriously planning how we will financial manage an arrival of a child.

    The savings only work for me in the sense of childcare… which leaves me in a continued state of ambiguity regarding becoming a SAHP.
    **My husband and I will not drop a tax bracket if I leave my current employment. No savings there.
    **We live in a rural area, and I live work nearby. I can guarantee trips to child-friendly outings will equal or surpass my current state (since we would need to travel into the city for those); therefore, no gas/vehicle savings.
    **I never participate in those extra work expenses. I always say “no” and never feel reprimanded for it. I am a speech pathologist, which means I purchase toys occasionally, but I can assure you I will spend way more on educational toys for my own children, than the $5 per month for my clients.
    **I have a very rewarding career, which I recognize is unusual. I am very fulfilled by helping children develop communication skills. It is also very family-friendly and flexible once our bundle of joy finally arrives. I can do private therapy, part-time, or full-time, as speech therapy services are in high demand.
    **My husband and I are already very frugal. We eat out once a month WITH COUPONS as a reward to ourselves and a chance to relax. We eat very frugal meals (he lost a ton of weight when we got married because steak was limited!).

    On a side note, professionally, I feel obligated to share that I notice a significant difference between children who stayed at home and children who attended day care and children who experienced both (To save myself from attacks, I absolutely 100% agree that a home daycare situation is best if necessary, but is not possible for everyone.) Yes, differences tend to pan out by the second grade, but social development is still affected longterm for many children (not all). A couple of play dates a week does not serve the child justice, especially when the primary agenda is for the mothers to socialize while the children are entertained by each other (I am not saying that everyone does this, but honestly, it is very common). When I discuss social delays, I do not mean “socialization” in a political sense… yes, your children may get ideas that you do not agree with/approve of, but it is our job as parents to instill in them a deep understanding of what IS morally correct. If our children know these principles, the “socialization” will not permanently affect them. Children with peer social experiences develop more quickly because they learn from each other. I provide therapy for many students who are “delayed” because a SAHP did not realize that the child needs to know colors, numbers, letters, and beginning reading skills BEFORE even entering school these days. Knowing basic concepts and nursery rhymes are no longer acceptable in the educational setting. I also see children with social delays because they do not understand the “rules” of the community and have difficulty with other children.

    I would love to devote my career to children who genuinely need me, such as the mother who posted previously about her child with autism (God bless you!). Unfortunately, a lot of my time is spent with children who are delayed because a SAHP did not expose them to social situations (yes, that does become a delay) or teach them high-level concepts (yes, those children are also delayed). Good parents will recognize those delays (and not deny them) and seek help from qualified professionals in either the clinic/private setting or school setting. These delays are ENVIRONMENTAL and could have been prevented if the parents realized that school is an entirely different world than it used to be. Kindergarten is the new first and second grade… 4- and 5-year-old children are doing what we did as 7-year-olds. It’s sad, but is true. Let us not create an injustice for our children because we are opposed to the new standards of education… it is not fair to the child. Too many parents console themselves by saying, “No, that’s not me. I teach my child”; however, unless that parent truly has a grasp on educational and social expectations (former teachers, childcare workers, therapists, etc.), generally, they are underestimating the characteristics and lessons that are age-appropriate. Even for children with excellent stay-at-home experiences, I recommend at least 1 or 2 days a week of structured, peer interactions (home daycare with 4-5 kids max is the better option) without mommy present or in view (closed-circuit television is a wonderful invention) because— guess what— little Jimmy does a whole lot more without mom around… I see it every single day with children from infancy to upper grade levels. I know this sounds preachy, but I just want to help those children who are delayed as a result of a preventable lack of experiences.

    I am not for or against either method of parenting (SAHP vs. full-time career); however, I have noticed some comments that seem to degrade the opposing position. That saddens me, since ever family is in a different situation. No one can quantify whether they love their child more than another parent. I had a SAHM until I was 4-years-old, after which she was forced to work full-time for financial reasons. I think I turned out okay and I love my mother because I know she did what was necessary.

  71. I’ve been a stay at home Dad since June. I love being home with my infant son (he’ll turn on in January). For us it’s worth it to not leave him in the care of strangers. My wife has a Master’s and received a job offer making $10K more than my salary. We were able to move out of state and buy a house just on the strength of her offer. Our budget is currently tight, but it’s a matter of priorities. Eventually I’ll go back to work, but I’m not worried about a gap in my resume hurting me. I’ve benefited so much already from this experience.

  72. I am a teacher and this career is a great compromise for people who want to work AND stay at home. I work on days that my kids are in school with a few exceptions. I have the same vacations that the kids do. Teaching is a family-oriented industry, so if you must take time off for a sick child, people are compassionate.

    I think taking time off from work will set you back financially for better or worse if you have a professional job with good pay. It will affect your retirement plans as well. Many women get divorced and must work. If you have always worked, you will be in a better financial position when it happens. My own mother was a SAHM and after the divorce, she had no formal training nor many marketable skills in her mid-30s. Poverty was a way of life then.

    Being a working parent isn’t right for everyone; more power to those who opt out, but for me and many other parents, working makes sense personally and professionally. I like my job! I like the social aspects of working just as much as the money! PLUS our kids who stayed in day care still turned out to have pleasant personalities, success in school, and solid relationships within and beyond the family unit.

  73. Sophie, Emma, Sandy – Thank goodness you three are completely happy to spend your lives cooking, cleaning, and changing diapers so that your husbands can rest, work, and earn money as the please!

    When one parent stays home and the other works, both parents are often unduely burdoned. The SAHP loses all the benefits of the intellectual stimulation, financial autonomy, and social interaction that working can provide. That parent also takes on ALL the financial and emotional risk in the relationship. What if the working spouse a) leaves you b) dies, or c) loses his/her job, or d) becomes disabled? Having earning power can be the very best thing you can give your kids. Your presence at home won’t do much for them if you can’t buy them groceries or pay the rent.

    The working parent suffers too. He/she has the pressure of financially supporting an entire family! They may be “free” to work overtime, weekends, and 12 hrs each day–but what if they don’t want to? And how does having one parent worked to death and barely ever interacting with the kids in a meaningful way good for the family?

    Wouldn’t it be great if BOTH parents contributed to the parenting and household management and BOTH parents got to spend time interacting and being productive outside the family unit as well?

    When both parents work, each can be more flexible in their jobs and careers, which can make BOTH parents happier and better connected. Men who spend all day in the working world flat out don’t connect as well with wives who spend all day in the childcare world. And vice versa. The two have trouble respecting and appreciating each other and caring about what the other does all day. Combine that with the financial disconnect (one feels disempowered, one feels used/pressured) and that strains many marriages. Not necessarily good for the kids either.

  74. Most of the families I know with a SAHP have two cars so no savings there.

    Had an interesting conversation with another teacher and she mentioned that she feels that her generation got lied to. Told that she could have it all, advanced degree great career travel etc she found once she had a baby that her whole life view changed and since then she’s changed careers to a more family friendly one (sort of) she said that she’s made it very clear to her nieces the trade offs she has to make and they will have to as well.

    Cheryl, I have noticed the holier than thou attitude of SAHMs and even though we don’t have kids it does bug me as not everyone can survive on one pay. Also in some situations a child is much better off in day care simply to get away from the mother. Usually in cases where the girl friend got “pregnant” in order to keep the guy and then resented how the new baby ruined her life.

    One alternative no ones discusses is what alot of my friend did. Work shifts, a friend was a nurse and worked days and weekends while the husband worked afternoons, kids never needed daycare.

  75. @Kat

    The other side of the same coin here.

    I must say that I am SO GLAD my mother didn’t stay home with me and my brother. Instead we were raised by a very loving babysitter who did a lot of hard work to blot out the insanity we experienced every weekend. Some people just shouldn’t be mothers, much less SAHMs.

  76. Wow I find it amazing how much of a Hot Topic this always seems to be. Basically do what is best for you and your kids. Some parents are not mean’t to stay home. My Sil works full time and has her son 9 mos old in daycare. On weekends when she is home with him she goes crazy. She can’t stand being in the house with a baby, even her own. She is definately not mean’t to be a SAHM. I am a SAHM and it is a full time job which I love. I did not think I could stay at home at first but, once we began looking into daycare it did not make sense for me to work. Here daycare for an infant is $272.00 to $300.00 a week. This is the norm here. For someone who was making $350 a week this was a no brainer. We now have more money and less debt than we did when I was working. As for the electric bill and heat both bills have barely gone up. Maybe $5.00 a month. We don’t need many lights on during the day and we never turned the heat way down anyway. For the summer instead of using AC all the time we use the blowup pool in the front yard unless it is scorching.

  77. I agree with a lot of the stuff in this article, though I admit I’m going to start working part time on evenings and weekends while staying at home with my twin daughters and 4 year old in preschool.

    I’m just thankful enough I’m in a company that can’t pay me a lower hourly rate for going part time, and with my wife’s benefits completly paid for, it was almost a no brainer.

  78. The bottom line isn’t always the bottom line.

    Finacially it made sense for my wife to become a SAHM. It was also something she wanted to do. In general it’s worked for us.

    One of our son’s best friends has both parents working. He and his brother are turning out to be a great kids.

    When I grew up the working mother was the exception. I can say from what I’ve seen of those in my old neighborhood, it didn’t matter for some of them if the mother was home or not, a number still became alcoholics or drug addicts or less than model citizens.

    What struck me is the families that seemed to give a crap about their kids, were most likely to have kids who turned out okay, regardless of working parents or not.

    So I think it matters less for the child if you are a SAHP or not, what matters is that you parent when you are home. How that works for you and yours, may be different than how it works for others.

  79. I like what Meg says about having two working spouses. I agree that it takes pressure off both people to be the sole wage earner or the sole homemaker. My husband and I make equitable monitary contributions and despite the fact that we’re teachers not making a killing salary-wise, we really don’t have money worries. We are equal on the homefront as well. We both raise the kids and spend time with the kids. We both do home chores. The ones we don’t want to spend time doing, we contract out to the cleaning professional–because we can afford to. I think this is a modern way. I think men enjoy having the time and energy to bond with their kids thanks to working wives. In the past, men would rise early and stay gone late working. How many Hollywood examples of the disconnected father can you cite–this was pretty common. I think life is better than ever for families now that either or both spouses can work. If you have ever read the earliest feminist literature (The Feminine Mystique), you would know that SAHMs aren’t all happy and fulfilled and that’s why women started pursuing education and careers (thanks to reliable birth control). Is that good for the next generation? I am not knocking SAHMs that ARE happy, but there are a lot of women and men who flourish in a professional setting. Having happy parents is better for kids no matter what lifestyle choice makes it so, as long as the role of parent doesn’t receive short shrift.

    And Peter makes an important observation. I grew up when working mothers were not the norm, and a lot of kids I knew were weren’t under the tender care of these SAHMs and ended up with serious substance and personal problems. Moms had their own substance problems in some cases, as well as an addiction to soap operas and such. Even though my mom stayed home when I was young, she hired an ironing lady to help out and at times a cleaning lady (domestic help was inexpensive because we lived overseas). My parents had a lot of arguments about money–my mom liked to buy frivolous things in my dad’s eyes. If my mother had worked, even part-time, she could have had her little luxuries with less flack from my dad.

    Staying at home in the context of The Simple Dollar can be an exercise in frugality, but the participants must be committed to that lifestyle choice–and a lot of people aren’t. It’s like dieting and exercising. We all know it’s a good thing; we dabble in it, but we don’t all have a commitment to it.

  80. “Group homes” (daycare) & video games & text messaging is creating cold hearted American citizens.”

    I’m a working mom and I guess by putting them in daycare I am raising sociopaths. Sorry America!

  81. My apologies if this has already been said, but counting the nickles and dimes of at-home parenting is pretty ridiculous. The real question is this, “Who is raising your kids?” In many households where both parents work, child-rearing is simply another task to be outsourced. So if you want the two options to balance, and they don’t, then perhaps it’s time to consider the REAL point behind one parent staying home. How much is it worth to you to raise your own children?

  82. I think what I am gaining from this ‘conversation’ is that sometimes financial reasons are not the strongest reason to do, or not do, something.

    I’ll say it again, do what is best for you, your partner, and your children. It is not ‘best’ to put your child in daycare, nor is it ‘best’ to stay home with them, IF those conditions are not right for you in your own circumstances.

  83. As I read through your list of expenses that could be eliminated, the only thing I could think was, “Wow, this is somebody who’s never made a budget.”

    If you had a budget, you would already *know* how much you were spending on all of these things.

  84. To Cheryl,

    It is very obvious that you do not have children and only deal with them in a very compartmentalized way. Someday when you have children, please reread your post. I’m sure that you will find it as amusing as I do. You make kids sound like little robots waiting to be programmed. You completely devalue the role of parents in the life of a child. From your post, you’d think that kids would be better off if they were confiscated by the state at birth and parents taken right out of the mix completely. I think it’s so funny when people without kids think they have enough knowledge about parenting to lecture us about it. It reminds me of a teenager in that “I know everything and my parents are idiots” stage. A few years from now, when you actually have children, you will realize how complex parenting is and, at that point, I hope you look back at your post and see how dismissive you were to the value of parenting.
    P.S. Have you noticed how many parents are withholding their kids from kindergarten for one or more years? Perhaps the problem is not with the parents, but the expectations of the educational system. They’re small children not little robots. Give them a break!

  85. Well in reply to Meg, thank you for your lame and inaccurate judgement. I totally agree with you, in a perfect world, we would all be working less and staying home more. In fact, during the first 5 years as parents, this is exactly what we did and it was great. Then second baby came and more importantly a job opportunity of a lifetime. So, after a long discussion on what was best for all of us, I agreed to stay home and my husband got to take his dream job. For now. And it works for us.

    What if the working spouse a) leaves you (I have my own savings and I take on part time jobs, volunteer and take continuing classes to keep myself current and employable) b) dies (life insurance, you should have that too), or c) loses his/her job (savings), or d) becomes disabled (disability insurance)?

    There have been times in our marriage I have made more income, times my husband has made more income, and times we are about tied. We didn’t sit down and assign gender roles of the woman stays home and the man works. We looked at our current opportunities at the time and decided on what was best. And as I said, for 5 years, we both did work, but there came a point where that wasn’t the best choice for us and we had the guts to take the opportunity given to us. I think often people don’t realize how cyclical life really is. Sometimes staying home might be best and sometimes it isn’t. It really is okay to do what is best for you and as things changes, you can always re-evaluate.

    And thank you for pointing out what a difficult job it is to stay home. It truly is and I wish people got more credit for doing it.

  86. I have been a stay-at-home mother for quite a few years now. The most important thing you didn’t mention was being there every day, every moment with your children. I wouldn’t give that up for the world. Everything in todays society is based on money and things/possessions. As my one friend says when you die a u-haul truck does not follow you to heaven. I do have to admit that it is not easy getting by on one not so big salary but it is doable when you really think about what is important in your life. Instead of going to a movie rent one out (they come out 3 months after the movie is shown in theatres) cuddle up on the couch pop your own popcorn and relax just as much fun and alot cheaper. Find things like you mentioned I go to tons of libraries with my children, free days at the museum, after free hours at the zoo. Don’t say you can’t make it unless you try it. It’s what is more important to you having fancy cars, clothes or being able to be class mother and doing other activities at school with your children when they see you there face lights up the room and your own heart smiles.

  87. I am a stay at home mom and have been for the past five years. I am also a teacher. I taught for 13 years. I know for a fact that my family is better off with me being at home rather than working five days a week. All of the previous comments are true. I’m living through each obstacle every day. The savings from being at home are just that a savings. The time I spend with my family however has no monetary price tag on it. It’s priceless! Our society has become so hung up on the value of the almighty dollar and what it can do for us, that little thought is put into the people within our society. My children I know will grow up to be better people in this society because they see me and my husband work together to make our lifestyle work for us. It is a sacrifice but in order for this society to improve our children must be taught by us, not a 19 year old working for $8.50 an hour. I tell my children that I want for them more than what we have now and the way to achieve this goal is through education. Lets face it the reason why most of us are on this web site is because we are looking for ways to save money. By being at home I not only SAVE but I am also teaching my children a life long lessons that they must pass on to their children in order for our society to improve.

  88. After raising one beautiful DD as a single parent utilizing daycare/preschool and having her attend public school I can attest that childen can and do grow into well adjusted adults in “the system”. That being said I made a POINT to be her girl scout leader, youth in gov’t advisor, chaperone to any and everything that was sent home, so that I could KNOW my kid and her peers. I spent my time away from work being a FULL time mom counting each day with her as a blessing. Was is hard -sometimes – was I tired – often, but each time I was faced with a decision of whether or not to participate I reminded myself “you only get one shot” – as in my DD will only be 6 ONCE on Dec. 22 – and I will never get that day back – it made the choice a non issue for me. As a single working mom money was ALWAYS tight but the money was never what I considered to be the priority. My DD never knew that we were “poor” and has grown into a beautiful, practical, FRUGAL, loving young woman that is greatly loved and admired by her family, friends and community.

    Flash forward to now I am married to a wonderful man (we met and married when DD was 6 and he deserves kudos for his part in her upbringing) as she was already in school I continued working until our DS was born – went back after the birth b/c I had a situation that would alow him to come with me but at 9 mos we made the decision for me to beome a SAHM. DS is now 5 and DD2 is 4 and both are well adjusted outgoing kids. As for the idea that kids “need” socialization I just have one word – HAH! Kids NEED MOMMAS. To love, comfort, teach, discipline and guide them. As for the idea that “child care” doesn’t take all day – it takes that and then some – okay not if you just pop in a video or hand them a video game but if you are ACTUALLY RAISING your children it takes every minute as a child can get “off track” in a heartbeat. DH works extremely hard to support us – working full time and drawing plans as sidework in the evenings and weekends after the kids are in bed to supplement. Sometimes living off one income doesn’t allow us some of the “luxuries” others in our community have but we have everything we NEED and then some. We have a lovely home, have one car but he is provided with a company vehicle – our health insurance is paid for by employer and we take advantage of the 401K and match. We have made the decision that I will continue to as SAHM and that our kids will be homeschooled. I know that my kids are socially much more advanced that kids placed in the “system” and are certainly NOT ENVIRONMENTLLY CHALLENGED. I researched alot before we decided to homeschool and was convinced after reading the books by John Holt (a teacher) on the ideas of Unschooling that there are SERIOUS flaws in our public education system. While we don’t completely unschool – we certainly don’t traditional school either. While I could take advantage of the Gov’t's offer of having my kids in “free” school to work so we could have “more”, I’d rather take advantage of the opportunity God has provided to raise MY kids. They may not know Hannah Montana (or thank goodness Zoey 101) – they DO know their elderly neighbor (they helped her rake her yard) and all the dogs (and owners) in our neighborhood and EVERY playground AND library in a 20 mile radius (including the librarians by name) and their pastor and thankfully their MOM & DAD. When deciding whether or not to stay at home – I don’t think evaluating a monetary exchange is a fair assessement (although I understand your position Trent. and for Steve, as far the idea that mothers raising children is a “20th century phenomenon” I can only speculate that you receieved your “history” at public school.

  89. TO KIM–
    I’m sorry you feel that way about my post. However, I feel sure that I mentioned that I had posted it from a professional standpoint. I’ve encountered several people who have issues with professionals (the-doctor-is-always-wrong mentality). Unfortunately, many seem to be reading these posts purely to attack, which causes one to wonder what they can possibly be teaching their children, and do their children feel that negativity, even in passing? I suppose I should enter into the equation that my dilemma over finances with my own future children, excludes the fact that I raised two of my nieces until their parents were able to care for them again– I may actually know something about raising children after all (the financial factor was not an issue there because we had assistance from family). I have reread my post and I am not laughing. So– I guess my professional perspective should have been supplemented by my personal child-rearing experience. I apologize for not being clear enough. Children are certainly NOT robots, and I believe many of us have forgotten that we were once children… please try to remember your former perspective as a child as well, and consider what mattered most during childhood.

    BACK TO TRENT AND OTHERS (the original topic)–
    What should one do about raising children/finances when he/she already lives a very frugal lifestyle? Many of the suggestions are things that we already avoid. We don’t even rent videos (good suggestion though)– we borrow from the neighbors! I guess I would like a synopsis of ways to cut costs with actual baby expenses so it is not quite so expensive once the baby arrives (I believe Trent has posted in the past about cost-efficiency with diapers). I, personally, have a lot of respect for DADDYMAN who stays with children all day and works part-time at night. That must be very difficult and tiring… kudos to you!

    THE MORAL OF THE STORY—
    Each family needs to do what is best for them. Regardless of how much one may want to stay home with his/her children, finances ARE an issue… I think we all agree that our children are worth it, but it does not change that we need money to exchange for food, clothing, and shelter. Some people can NOT make it work, and they should receive just as much respect. I encourage you all to PLEASE be respectful of each person’s situation and limit judgment.

  90. Interesting discussion, though to me it seems rather obvious that every situation is different and thus staying at home can be the better or worse decision, depending on the details. I just thought I’d point out to those dismissing the tax benefits because you wont drop into a lower bracket: you will still save thousands off your tax bill. It doesn’t matter whether you drop a bracket. The point is that you will pay less in taxes when one parent doesn’t work. In fact, those who do not drop a bracket will be saving more (percentage wise) than those who do, because all of the taxes saved will be from the highest bracket, rather than from a split between a higher one and a lower one.

  91. you forgot the most valuable thing… the personal and loving attention your child will receive from Mom. The leaps in learning and language skills in children where one parent stays at home are alone reason to have a stay at home parent.
    no day care will kiss a boo-boo or make sure she’s eaten like mom will.

  92. Pingback: Parents.com Stay-at-Home Calculator ∞ Get Rich Slowly

  93. I think that one parent choosing not to work is a risky decision – something that this calculator fails to consider. That is, what if something happens to the partner who chooses to work (i.e., they become disabled or die)? Then the parent who has chosen NOT to work for many years will have to build a career or re-enter the workforce after many years away. This issue will be made even more complicated if there is no disability pay or life insurance. Of course, too, what if the couple becomes divorced? I suggest reading the Feminine Mistake for more discussion on this topic.

    The other thing to consider is whether the person derives satisfaction out of working. Personally, I wouldn’t want to stop working even if I had kids because I enjoy my work (and because I get paid $80-90K plus)

  94. following up to my comment.

    my personal experience was that my mother stayed at home my entire life. however, personally for me (and I think this differs child to child) I would have rather she return to work when I was old (i.e., ~12). For me personally, as a woman I think I would have benefitted from having a mother who had a professional career. I have female friends whose mothers were CxO’s, and they are much more professionally successful because of it.

  95. I just came across this, but rings so true.

    One thing not mentioned was payroll taxes. You pay a good 7% payroll taxes on that second income as well.

    My husband has stayed home for 5 years with our children. We always planned it to be that way. But for us, his $40k or so wage would go about $10k-$20k/year childcare (1 kids & 2 kids). About $10k income taxes and $3k payroll taxes.

    That left us with, oh, around $7k per year. Take out commuting and clothing and all the basic work expenses and tops, we’d have $5k/year.

    I have to tell you we EASILY save $5k year with my spouse not working. We don’t pay a lot for convenience, and have more time to cook all our meals, etc.

    Which means between reduction of childcare, taxes, and all those expenses mentioned, we didn’t lose any income. We would be no better off with a 2nd income.

    But people are always in awe that we can “live without that $40k.” I always wonder how many people who rely on a second income only see a few hundred dollars benefit at the end of the year.

    My husband does some work here and there to fund his retirement. It’s not that hard to come up with $5k/year doing side jobs. It sure as hell beats working FULL-TIME to come up with $5k.

    When childcare is no longer an issue, he may work part-time to bring in some more income. For now, working is just SO cost prohibitive with the wee little kids.

  96. P.S. The reason my husband stays home is because he did not enjoy his job and is working on his own business from home. I LOVE the 9-5 grind, and that is where I stay. I can see if both parents want to work outside the home, well, obviously in the long run 2 careers will make up for some big expenses early on. It’s all relative. The thing for us is it also makes us happy. & my spouse was going to start over in a new career anyway. It’s so much more than just the money.

    I always tell my friends I have a personal chef and assistant. :D Which is exactly what it is like. So it’s not a bad lifestyle. Works for us.

  97. Many parents enjoy being home with their children. Many also have found you can work from home. So you get rid of the cost of daycare, traveling, ect and do your work when the kids are resting or in th evenings.

    I have been a wahm or work at home mom for 10 years and will be able to retire, with the help of residual income and I am here with my 4 kids all day.

  98. Just ran across this, months later. My husband was interested in staying home, but felt like he had a responsibility to help provide for the family financially as the man. The economic argument was the nail in the coffin for his career: He earned around $29,000 a year (I earned around $72,000 and had better benefits). $20,800 went to childcare ($400 / week, 52 weeks). Taxes, transportation, and convenience luxeries – the overhead of a second job – took up the rest, easily. Our financial situation improved dramatically once he started staying home, as we began to reap savings on things we didn’t even realize we were spending on. Plus with the added flexibility of just one income, our car breaking down months later didn’t really faze us. We went without a car for 9 months, saving a good $300 to $400 in insurance, maintenance, and gas – something we could have never done on two income.

    Our plans for the future? Pay off our mortgage with all that money we’re saving and have me cut back to part-time in 10 years (at age 35) and retire at age 55. Yup, that’s just how much we’re saving on one income – and we live a life of relative luxery, both materially and in terms of free time. My husband provides much more to our family as a SAHD than as a second income.

  99. I just did our own calculation of how much DH earns . . . It comes out to a before-tax salary of $35K. He gives us a higher quality of life in dollars (not calculating the priceless parts of having a SAHP) than he did as a WOHP. And he could easily give us far more – this is his first year as a SAHP, and he had a lot less “training” than I did (I helped out with newborn nieces and nephews as a child, plus did more chores, and managed the household work pre-kids). I figure this is the equivelent of earning a entry level BA-required salary, but with only a single year of “training” – the year he spent as a WOHD before quitting his job to stay home. He had many more years of training to earn his job salary – and earned less.

    Pretty neat.

  100. I’ve done both – worked (with kids in daycare), and stayed at home. Both are tough! But I think staying at home is definately the hardest. There isn’t a university in the world that prepares you for the unique challenges your child will bring to your life. With that said, I made my decision based on my situation. I have a husband that works full time (and overtime if necessary – thank God!). I am educated and believe me, I need every bit of that education to manage the household, maintain positive & healthy family, help with homework, and provide the spiritual counseling and leadership my children will need to deal with society. (I take this responsiblity very seriously) I am able to focus on these areas daily, without the burden of additional work-related responsibilities. My husband is responsible for financially providing for the family, and I am responsible for maintaining the household. We both know our role and respect each others. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes I want to break free and go back to being a mover and shaker in corporate america. However, I know raising my children at home is a once in a lifetime opportunity. They will never be children again, and I don’t want to look back over my life and wish I had spent more time with them.

    For anyone contemplating staying at home, all I can say is to pray about it, God will make a way no matter what your choice.

    Remember, yesterday is gone, and tomorrow isn’t promised, so make it a memorable day today with your children.

    How does a child spell love…T-I-M-E!

    Be blessed!

  101. After a 25 year hiatur to be a stay at home mom, I now need ajob and feel totally unmarketable. I have MBA Accounting/Finance CPA and BA English Writing and Speech Communications. Any ideas how I can make myself more marketable?

  102. I am SO sick of people saying that anyone can afford to be a SAHM. I was a WAHM for 20 months and my family’s debt got out of control. I practiced every money saving trick imaginable, but we just could not make it on one income.

    IT HAPPENS! Not everyone is lucky enough to have a husband that makes a high salary, especially in this economy. Mine took a VERY large pay cut just to stay employed.

    I HATE leaving my child everyday. It breaks my heart, but it has to be done for my family to financially survive.

  103. The best situation, unfortunately rare, is if both parents can work part time, then one parent is always home to look after the kids and both stay in the job market, keep their skills up to date and get out of the house. Moreover this works with any number of kids. One friend works and with two children in daycare she brings home £100 and literally couldn’t afford a third child. Another friend has a musician husband who works weekends and gets Mon and Tues off in lieu. She works 50% (20h) on Mon/Tues/Weds morning, but can do a lot of paper work at home, thus her job really gets its money’s worth, they pay for 20h and she probably puts in 30h/week, esp as she can work as late as she wants on Mon/Tues.

  104. Ethel (#102) said that her family is getting by just fine on her income of $72k. I support her argument–we net approximately $39k a year (husband’s military) and have two children. I stay at home with both of them b/c my husband does not have that option and we both knew before we had kids that one of us would do so. It was very hard those first two years, when my husband made substantially less. Only in the past year or so we’ve really started to make enough to feel comfortable. We’re putting 20% in retirement and another 20% in savings. We each get a $200 monthly allowance and have plenty left over for necessities (keep in mind that medical is taken care of). Here’s how we do it: we drive two clunkers, have megacheap auto insurance, have good friends that we trade child care and children’s clothes and baby gear w/, and we utilize craigslist for furniture and any baby gear our friends don’t have. (I’m very picky about furniture, so it’s not like we’re getting crap stuff. We live 2 hours away from Seattle, and have many options when I’m looking for, oh, a “new” sofa for the living room, or a wicker blanket chest for the guest room.)

    And let’s just ramble on a bit more before closing: do not buy your children toys!!! Take them to the library for their fill of books every week, and to the local playground for fun and exercise. If they’re anything like my kids, they get TONS of toys every birthday and Christmas from their doting grandparents and aunts and uncles. My son and I just went through all his toys and he gladly and easily parted with half of them. It is ridiculous how much we buy our kids when all they really want is to explore the environment around them and engage with their parents, siblings, and other people.

    Good luck to those considering staying at home! As others have said, it’s demanding (albeit rewarding) and most definitely not for all personalities or income levels, but the “sacrifice” has worked well for us. Oh, and for the spouse who stays at home, it is very easy to set up an IRA and make regular contributions from your spouse’s pay (if your spouse grudges you this, remind him/her how much it would cost for others to do your job(s)!!)

  105. Just wanted to put in my advice as a 3-month pregnant future mom planning on staying at home. Make the decision in advance, plan for it in advance, and make the decision based on your personal feelings. Whether you want or don’t want to be a stay at home mom or dad should not be decided by other people’s choices.

    Having worked with children babysitting and volunteering since I was 12, I know that being a stay at home mom is a HARD job. I also know that I do not like corporate America (I have had 4 jobs in 5 years, and taken pay cuts multiple times to try to find a good fit). I know 100% that my favorite (and most difficult) job will be stay at home parenting. My husband and I have been planning this for the past year, paying off his student loans early, driving older vehicles, and staying in our 1-bedroom apartment. I do believe everyone has the OPTION to become a stay at home parent (my parents were single income on a retail shoe salesman’s salary). It just comes down to proper planning and making the decision that you want. If both parents love their jobs, then by all means – KEEP WORKING.

    Don’t feel pressured to be a stay at home parent by social or even financial reasons. If your skill set is more suited to corporate America, then by all means continue and enjoy! Just be sure to raise your kids in the evenings and weekends and not count on daycare and the school system.

  106. I have been a sahm for most of thelast 20 years. As one poster said it is not always possible no matter how frugal you are. I do believe there is a general base income coupled with ones own level of frugalness they are willing to aspire to that needs to be considered. I won’t make our own clothes but someone else may find that a breeze. I clip coupons and have our grocery bill down to about $70per week for five people and four pets plus I have a huge stockpile. Some people aren’t willing to go to the lengths I go to.

  107. IM a sahd and its very hard, the economy totally sucks and most jobs nowadays are taken by Mexicans willing to work for peanuts…There goes my kids chance at a first job…..Im on ssdi after working 28 years and bring in enough for us to survive, I have lost my house though because of it, in the process of it….Its ok though as I contracted Aids and had menegitis so my quality of life is questionable…..to all the people who think it cant get tougher think about this, try surviving with cognitive damage physical problems from having HIV yet still trying to survive, I dont think people would complain as much if they knew what some people go through, complaining about the way your hair came out from the hair saloon is not a legitimate complaint….people need to count their blessings

  108. I think the arguement of lost income and job experience is invalid. I had no trouble finding a job after 14 years. I was just up front and told them I took time off to raise my kids and they were priority one. If you have this option be honest let them know that’s why the gap in work. List any small odd jobs you may have done to earn a extra buck. (such as cleaning houses, babysitting, writting a blog) Loosing ground in the work force is not a reason to not be there for your kids if you can. If you can’t don’t worry make it work the best way you can, and cherish the time you get. But please don’t put your employment above their best interest.

  109. if your worried more about your work advancement than the needs of your children then don’t have any! they aren’t a burden everyone else should raise so you can have it all! they are little people that you brought into this world who need nurtured and taught and loved! get a grip people this can be done wheither working or not. Many good parents are working parents and many are not. It’s all in the situation, how devoted are you to your children and their welfare. If they are not going to be priority one then please don’t have any! they are not for decoration!!!

  110. From the standpoint of a 25 year stay-at-home mother, the benefits to the children is NOT monatary! Both our boys were in the upper 10% of their school. They have gone on to earn their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. I was able to go back to college and earn a degree after the youngest went to Mid High. I completely support my daughter-in-law in becoming a stay-at-home. Her daughter is already mentally equivalent to a child 3 years her senior.

    The money we’ve saved due to expenses saved (home-made meals, savings on gas and clothing, etc.) has more than paid for any loss of income. And, I was able to do some work at home (baby sitting, ironing, work on the pc, etc.).

    More parents need to consider this article!

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