The Stay At Home Parenting Question Hits Home – Hard

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Yesterday morning, I took my son to daycare as usual, but this morning was a bit different than other ones. As he’s near his second birthday, he has moved to a new room with a different staff and a far different setup than before. They take their naps on open-sided cots and there is a focus on potty training. They also eat their meals in small but normal chairs rather than high chairs.

We spent much of the last few weeks psychologically preparing him for this move, spending significant time introducing him to a toddler bed and encouraging him to use the potty at home. He seemed largely fine with this – his first night sleeping in the toddler bed (his first night without sides on his bed) was a bit rough, but he actually took to using the potty pretty well.

When I took him into daycare, however, he got extremely upset and didn’t want me to leave at all, something he never did before in the “under two” room. It was a scary and unfamiliar place for him and he wanted me to be there while he explored it. I stayed for a while, but whenever I would move to leave, he would run to me crying and cling to me.

I know my son – I know that if I spent a good portion of the day there until he felt comfortable, he would be completely fine after that. It works like a charm at his grandparents’ house and also at the houses of others – he’s highly uncertain at first, but he starts exploring while my wife or I are there and then begins to feel comfortable and, before long, he’s completely fine if we’re not around.

This knowledge doesn’t change the fact that my already-existing desire to be a stay at home dad has been kicked into overdrive by this experience. I spent much of the last twenty four hours puzzling over this, calculating whether it would be financially feasible, and also talking to my wife about it.

I’ve come to two painful conclusions.

We can’t afford this move right now. No matter how much I wish we could, we simply can’t. Even with The Simple Dollar helping a bit and the vast reduction in daycare costs and transportation costs, the bottom line doesn’t work out for us, even when the second child arrives.

We’re not sure if it would be the right thing for his development. We want him to be independent and social, an area that my wife and I both had weakness in when we were young. His daycare (which is quite expensive) offers very strong individualized attention and plenty of social interaction with his peers – literally the children he will be going to school with should they stay in the same area. I am very aware of the benefits of keeping a child at home and that’s a major positive for us, but there are some aspects of it that really concern us – I do not want my child to be as socially awkward as I was in grade school.

As much as a part of me cries out to be a stay at home parent, it simply isn’t in the cards for us right now. That doesn’t change the fact that my son’s shouts of “Dad! DAD!” and subsequent crying as I was leaving tore me up to the point that I stopped my truck on the way to work because I was so upset.

Sometimes I wonder if I wouldn’t be better off living in poverty back in my hometown.

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73 thoughts on “The Stay At Home Parenting Question Hits Home – Hard

  1. I’m sure you will work out what’s best for you, but it’s generally not advised to try moving a toddler/regular bed *and* potty training at the same time. Each of those causes some upheaval, and combined with a new eating/napping setup at school *and* an impending little sister, you’re piling a lot of change on your little guy.

    Just a thought.

  2. Don’t beat yourself up over it…you’re doing what you have to do. And don’t ever think your life would be better in poverty. That would mean you would NEVER be able to be a stay at home dad, and the lives of your family would be much harder.

  3. “…subsequent crying as I was leaving tore me up to the point that I stopped my truck on the way to work because I was so upset.”

    It was my senior year of college before my mom finally stopped crying every time I would leave after coming home for a visit. I think it’s a pretty normal reaction and with a little luck you’ll get over it in 18 years or so. :)

  4. I have been a SAHM since the birth of my oldest child 30 years ago.
    If you can’t stay home with the kids now, perhaps you will be able to do it 10 years from now when your son enters his preteen years. Please believe me when I tell you that it will be more important to be the one supervising him at that time of his life. A 13 year old can get into WAY more trouble than a toddler can.

  5. Well, I grew up without much money and that enabled my mother to be a stay-at-home mom. I just wonder if the tradeoff is worth it.

  6. Talk to the staff, it has been my experience that kids cry for a few minutes after the parent leaves, then is great for the rest of the day.

    It is just the comfort zone and for lack of a better term a control factor for the kids to be able to keep you there.

    After a few days, your child will expect to be dropped off and go without hesitation.

  7. With two kids, you might be able to save some money AND spend more time with them by working from home a few days per week (thus keeping them out of daycare those few days). They still get the socialization and you get to keep your job. I feel all workers should be fighting for this kind of flexibility.

  8. I am very aware of the benefits of keeping a child at home and that’s a major positive for us, but there are some aspects of it that really concern us – I do not want my child to be as socially awkward as I was in grade school.

    That is not true and is just anecdotal. I could argue that kids in daycare have trouble developing meaningful and lasting relationships because their early years of development are in a constant flux of caregivers. I could argue that kids in daycare are more likely to be influenced by their peers than parents. Its not 100% true in any case. It is true that kids and families in daycare are sicker (see your early cold) and there is a hidden cost to that.

    Nevertheless, in most cases this is not a finances first decision. Its a parenting-first decision. If you really believe raising your children is the best thing, then you will make the finances work not the other way around.

    If your family’s marginal tax bracket is really 28% you could do it fairly easily. My wife stays at home with 3 little ones and our income is probably half of your family’s.

  9. Please also be aware that your child is at the age where separation anxiety is completely normal. That coupled with all the changes is a lot for a small one to digest. As a mom to a five year old, two year old, and one on the way, the one thing I have learned is never to linger when dropping off at daycare. Both of my kids always cried when I left, but I know it was for 15 minutes max. This should help a little with the daycare situation. I would also talk with the staff about all the changes that are occuring right now in your son’s life so that they can be aware of the issues. It will allow them to be more sympathetic to your plight. Ask them to provide you with a detailed progress report for the next few weeks to ensure your sanity.

    Give it a few weeks and things will straighten out, I promise. Children are resilient and can handle more than we think. Good luck!

  10. Expect some backsliding on potty-training, sleeping-issues w/ all the changes lately. My son went through a lot of changes last month (change of daycare etc.) and he kept telling me he wanted to ‘be a baby’ again and wear diapers, etc. After 2 weeks into his new daycare he got settled and comfortable enough that this morning told me he wanted to use the potty and wear underwear to school. Let them adjust to these changes at their own speed and be willing to let them ‘be a baby’ for a little while while they get settled. ;)

  11. My advice is to be strong for your son. Don’t let him see your questioning and concerned face during drop-off time as he will likely pick up on that.

    Like Penny said, the little tyke is going through a LOT of recent changes. Just be confident, excited, and steadfast for him. He is looking for you (and his mom) to be like a rock for him at this age. And, of course, give loads of hugs and quality time (but I am sure you already do that).

    And another thought, I am surprised that the school didn’t do a transition step. When my daughter made that step up in classes, she spent about 2 weeks of spending time in both rooms (free play in the new room, naps in the old room, snack in the new room, etc.). Oh well. He is learning to be adaptable, he has dependable parents, and he will be fine.

  12. As someone who was home-schooled ’til age 10 (5th grade), I did experience some social awkwardness around my own peers upon entering school. However, the benefit of being home-schooled was that I was NEVER awkward around adults. This well outweighed any issues I had with kids my own age, and has served me well through my young adult life. I now have much more job responsibility than many of my peers despite less formal education, including college. Furthermore, my group of friends has always skewed about 5-10 years older than me (this includes my husband.) I don’t think you should worry too much about this. It depends more on the kid than on the environment.

  13. I am a mother of two. My son is five. My daughter is 3. My son went to preschool. My daughter is currently in preschool. They were both different. With my son, I had a difficult time leaving him. He was completely fine. My daughter did go through a rough patch in the beginning. She was okay though after a couple of days. I wouldn’t worry. It’s completely normal. Just be strong, and you will all get through it.

  14. Save your money and reevaluate when he goes to kindergarten. Daycare is expensive, but it goes until 5 or 6pm. School ends at 3pm, leaving 2+hrs to fill. Some places have after school care, but it’s rarely as good as a regular school or daycare. Some places it’s much much worse.

    My son is about 6mo older than yours, and I work. But I plan on cutting back or changing careers when he goes to kindergarten.

  15. Trent I don’t know if your question was directed at me or not but in case it was here goes. Yes it was worth it in spades. Our family spent many lean years as a result of the decision for me to stay at home with the kids. My husband, a teacher, worked nights and weekends for 10 years. We would have been far better off financially and my kids would have had more opportunities for activitys we could not afford. My boys played little league but there was no Ski Club, Band, or private school because there was no money for it. They are all adults and I have asked each of them if I they wished I had worked. All of them say no. While it cost us money for me to be in the home, it also saved us a great deal. We only had one car. I didn’t need anything more than some cheap t-shirts and a couple pair of jeans to wear. Besides the kids, I also cared for my precious father-in-law who was afflicted with Alzheimers. All aside, I’m not sure many parents are able to stay home these days. It is just so very expensive to live these days.

  16. I’d love to see Trent run some numbers/scenarios so we could appreciate the financial implications. How much could one save by eliminating daycare (for 2 kids) plus work-related costs (clothing, transportation)? Would the family’s tax bracket change as a result of the salary cut? How would retirement investment and family health insurance be affected? Would Trent have to pay for additional training or resources in order to re-enter his field after 5 years?

  17. I know a LOT of people who would do anything for that arrangement, blackliquorice. It’s just not possible in a lot of industries and not welcome in a lot of workplaces. The only couple of people I know who can work from home a few days a week are senior execs with small kids, and they pay for it in the business travel they do at other times. If you’re senior enough, and an attractive enough employee, you can make it a priority when dealing with headhunters.

  18. I don’t know how much any of this advice is worth to you but here are a few thoughts:

    1. Separation anxiety is quite normal. Our son would go through cycles of being ok with us leaving and crying when we left until he was a couple of months past his 2nd birthday. And this was with no change in room at his daycare.

    2. Talk with the daycare teachers. Did they ease the transition by having him spend some time in the room and getting to know his new teachers before he started spending the whole day in the new room? Can his old (familiar) teacher visit him for a minute to reassure him? (At my son’s daycare, sometimes the teacher from the former room will come in at naptime to pat the child for comfort.) If you have to bribe the teachers with cookies and treats, do it.

    3. Talk with other parents. Find out what their transition experiences were like. Maybe you can even spend time with some of the families so your son has that *friend* connection and someone he’s comfortable with at school.

    4. Talk to your son. At not-quite-two, I’m guessing he’s not that verbal yet, but he’ll get the gist of what you’re saying about understanding his fear, etc. Maybe leave a family picture in his cubby.

    5. Personally, I agree with you about the social benefits of daycare, and I would want to send my son (albeit for fewer hours) even if I wasn’t working. However, perhaps you could work at home one day a week so he only has to go 4 days a week (or you could make up the work at night, which admittedly is more likely).

    6. I’ve found that it helps to keep the family’s priorities and goals in mind when debating becoming a stay-at-home parent (especially during those traumatic departure scenes). I’ve thought about it and I *think* we could afford it, but then we would never be able to afford the very expensive private school that our kids will go to (even if I work from home).

    Whatever happens, good luck!

  19. The daycare did do a transition step of about two weeks, and they also have a complex teaching cycle where the same person stays with them for a long time, then there’s a lengthy overlap with another person, and so on. This lets one person be there for them for two or three years. He just ended his time with one of these teachers.

  20. +1 to Celeste above.

    I lived in a rural area and was homeschooled off and on throughout grade school. My mom was a stay-at-home-mom the entire time I lived at home. Though I was socially awkward at various points, what kid isn’t? I was very well-adjusted and great with adults. By the time I graduated high school, I had a rich (but healthy) social life and was involved in student council, was senior class president, academically successful, etc.

    I think you have to ask yourself whether it is more important to make sure your child has a good foundation provided by his family, or make sure he ‘fits in’ with his peers. Both are important, but I know where my priorities will lie with my children.

    I also second the request for numbers – I’d like to know what your finances look like, if you don’t mind sharing, so I can better understand why this move is impossible for you. I think maybe I’m in denial about just how expensive kids are. :) I do know situations like yours are why it is extremely important to me to make sure my husband and I are financially stable enough to ensure I can stay home when our kids are little.

    Also, have you alternatively considered your wife being a stay-at-home mom? If she makes less, wouldn’t it be better for her to stay home?

  21. My husband and I find ourselves in a similar situation – though we don’t have any kids yet, we plan to in the next 2 years, and are hashing and re-hashing the numbers to find a way for me to be able to stay home. I would definitely be interested in any advice.

  22. Why would hometown poverty be better than what you have right now? Your last line suggests there is something more than just the bottom line causing you to be so upset. Pinpoint that cause and I bet it will give you some clarity.

    I’ll say this. I stayed at home with my children for a year and am continuing to make some serious financial sacrifices to have a work schedule that assures my kids aren’t in day care from 7a-6p. Putting aside your son’s reactions (which are common during times of transition), if you quit your job and focused on two blogs (cooking and this one) is it possible your family could make a financial sacrifice for a while for the greater good of all? It’s not realistic to avoid all risk, and it seems you’ve eliminated a ton of debt which would make this transition possible.

    If it is really important to you, I wouldn’t let a few hundred dollars difference between the bottom line be the deciding factor. You’ve proven you can make money blogging and you love it and are good at it. You say your family is the most important thing in your life. I think your difficulty right now is that some part of your life doesn’t align with those values — and I’d wager a guess it’s your “real” job. I can relate to that difficulty, as I have it myself.

    Take care of yourself, Trent.

  23. I think that the 2nd of your painful conclusions is particularly dead-on. Kids are amazingly resilient and adaptable. They may not like certain new experiences at first, but those experiences, particularly in a relatively safe, controlled environment like daycare are very important.

  24. Trent

    What do you mena by your bottom line? Does it mean that you can’t pay your basic bills, or does it mean you can’t afford wants and saving for retirement at an acceptable level? I thought we couldn’t afford for me to SAH either, but after the birth of my second I just didn’t go back.

    I agree that there are some nice aspects to daycare, but I still can’t believe that when I worked I really only saw my children 2-3 hours a day/5 days a week. And those hours were not spent just playing. I still had to make dinner, clean up, bathtime etc.

    I was never one that had a strong negative reaction to sending my child to daycare. It wasn’t until I was on maternity leave with my second that I realized just how much I missed every day. If I ever had to stop on the side of the road and compose myself like you did b/c of second thoughts about sending my child to daycare, I’d have to reeeeaaalllyyy evaluate what I was doing.

    BTW: there are planty of opportunities for social interaction. Particularly since your child is almost 2 and can attend a drop off preschool for a few hours a week.

    Anyway, it may be asking a lot, but I agree with blackliqorish that running the numbers on the blog is the best way to illustrate why this is a financially good decision for your family.

    Love the blog, I’m a daily visitor but 1st time commentpor (I think)

  25. Laurel, I don’t think it’s a good idea to assume that just because a woman makes less money she should be a stay at home mom. Stay at home parenting is hard, frequently boring, and socially isolating, and it’s a very personal decision whether those negatives are outweighed by the (admittedly many) positives. I would be pretty ticked off if someone who didn’t know me suggested that because I made less money than my husband, I ought to stay home with the kids.

    Also, it doesn’t seem to me that the homeschooling comments are relevant here. Homeschooling a school-aged child is a different hill of beans than providing at-home care for a toddler. Trent, for every rigorous study that’s found a positive effect from parent-given primary care, there’s another rigorous study that’s found the opposite. I believe there’s not a real, macro-level advantage to one over the other, and people who say there is (on either side) are invariably pushing an agenda. The only relevant question is what makes the most sense for a given family in a given situation. I’m sorry the numbers aren’t lining up to allow you to take the path you’d prefer.

  26. If I didn’t stay at home with my child, my family would need a second car. So we save on car insurance, gas, maintenance, and payments by my not working in the office. We also save on daycare and work clothes. It would take me 20 minutes to get to work each way, I have a 30 minute unpaid lunch, and it takes me probably 20 extra minutes getting ready in the morning — that’s an extra 1.5 hours each day spent for work that I don’t get paid for (so if I made $20/hour before taxes, it’s really more like $16.84/hour). Plus, working full time would put us in a higher tax bracket.

    Considering all of that, it isn’t worth it for me to work full time in an office.

  27. Finances are yours to decide on, but as far as whether it’s “better” or “worse,” I suggest you ignore what everyone else says, even set aside the tug that happens when you drop off the boy.

    To spell it out in case it’s not obvious to someone out there: if you like being the SAHP and are emotionally stable, you will find a way to create social and intellectual opportunities for your kids. If you are doing it because you “should,” because it’s what people expect (more of a problem for women), don’t do it. Kids pick up on their parents’ attitudes. If you are miserable and isolated, they will only learn how to be miserable and isolated, and even awesome friends and schooling will only slowly guide them out of it. If you are excited about ideas and connected to other people, they will learn how to be happy and hard-working adults.

  28. If it is your desire to stay home, you can make it work. Remember that it is about living life well and not about the money. I have a three year old son and have been at home with him for the past two years (my wife was home with him the first year) I changed careers and now work part time nights and weekends to be home during the day. Our total income was reduced by almost 1/2, but the decision was the right one for us. We still are saving for retirement, have a 529 plan for our son and still have money for extras. We just made a decision to change our lifestyle and I have no regrets. Being home with my son has been a wonderful experience for both of us.

    Good luck with your decision.

  29. I spent 7 years working in a daycare where kids would only spend one evening a week in our program, and even then only for 10 weeks. Many of the kids had never been in a daycare-type environment before. So, I saw a *lot* of separation anxiety! And, from this wealth of experience, I want to reinforce what’s been said above: over and over and over we would have kids in your son’s age group who would cry almost hysterically as their parent was leaving, and for a few minutes afterwards – generally, just long enough for the parent to hear the crying through the close door the entire way out of the building. But even with this population of kids, even if they’d never been in any daycare before much less in ours, 98% of kids would within 10 minutes be distracted and engaged in something and no longer upset. I always wished I could set up cameras so the parents could see from the other room and be reassured – I knew that it bothered them for much longer!

    On the issue of staying home versus money, and whether the lower paid parent should stay home: this is purely anecdotal, but in my family both of my parents longed to stay home or at least cut to part time when they had kids, but with no savings and my mother making a very low income and my father making only a moderate amount, my mother (who, honestly, was far more committed to her career than my father, even though it paid less) went back full time after I was born, then cut to part time when my brother was born 3 years later. Teenage cravings for independence aside, I was very close to both my parents growing up, and don’t remember ever moping around wishing my father was home more (or my mother); in fact, my daycare experiences those first 3 years were actually wonderful ones, and I grew up staying in touch with some of the women who cared for me during that time.

    My father, however, regrets his decision – he feels that even though we seemed to be fine the way things were done, *he* missed out on part of the best thing in life, and the money that he got in exchange wasn’t worth it. If he could it over again, he would have cut to part time and they would have found a way to make it work.

    My own views: *if* you can afford quality daycare, your kids really will be fine either way… but if you really deep down want to be home more, and this is still true even if you only consider your own wants/needs separate from those of your child… well, I might go ahead and give it a shot!

  30. Since my wife is a preschool teacher, I hear about this all the time. For us, it would be worth any sacrifice in order to stay home with our little ones when we have them, even if that meant I had to get a second job at night to support us. And if it meant putting less into retirement accounts so my wife could stay home, I would do it. It’s that important to us to have a parent stay home.

  31. I’m sure that you are a great parent and in the long run, all this will form wonderful stories to wind your son up. Eyes on the prize ;) people.

  32. My mother was a SAHM for most of my childhood. It wasn’t the path she preferred, but my brother had serious developmental difficulties (didn’t speak until he was five, broad motor skill difficulties, abstract reasoning difficulties, social problems, etc.), and she felt it was her duty to rehabilitate him. It largely worked- he’s just graduated from college- but, wow, was she unhappy being demoted from an adult to “x’s mom” (in her words). Also, she grew up in extremely poverty and values financial independence. She’s very, very intelligent, and there’s very little a SAHM working with a retarded child can do to exercise that. On top of that, she felt extremely socially isolated. It didn’t help that my parent’s marriage was rocky, with my father living overseas and cheating on her several times, but my mother didn’t feel like she could leave. Even though my brother has grown up now, she still feels she can’t leave the marriage- she’s working three part-time jobs (because she has a 10+ yr hole in her resume!) and just scraping by, without any retirement savings, because my dad was in control of the money and siphoned off all the money in their joint account into his accounts.

    I knew from when I was 9 or so that my mom was deeply unhappy and that a large part of it was her staying home. It pained me to think that I (and my brother) caused her unhappiness. Now, I have a greater understanding of her situation, and I agree that she made the right choice in her situation. But I never want to have children and have to make this choice.

  33. @k – perhaps I should have been more clear. I’m not assuming his wife makes less – I’m saying if she DOES, maybe the sacrifice his family needs to make in order to have a stay-at-home parent is to give up her job, the less-paying one. If Trent makes less, it makes more FINANCIAL sense for him to give up his job. Obviously I’m not taking into account the myriad other factors involved. Since Trent is saying the finances are the stumbling block, I’m addressing that factor in isolation.

    As for homeschooling, I was merely pointing out the fact that I “survived” a fairly socially isolating period in my life and turned out just fine. Not to mention the fact that just because kids stay at home with a parent, they do not have to be socially isolated. I went to preschool as a toddler – not so my mom could work, but so I could get some social interaction time. There are all kinds of playgroups out there – if Trent or his wife decides to stay home with their children, it’s not like their children won’t get a chance to see any of their peers for years on end.

    I’ll freely admit I’m strongly biased in favor of a stay-at-home parent. I believe the level of interaction I had at a young age with my parents, and the one-on-one attention I received, set me up for a good chunk of my academic success, as well as other success in life. When I have children, I want to have them so I can raise them, not so a daycare can.

  34. If you believe it’s the right thing to put them in daycare, then don’t worry about it. They’ll get over it.

    However, I believe those tears of his and yours are trying to tell you something. You ignore it at your peril.

    If you believe it’s not the right thing, then no amount of talk about how financially difficult it would be makes much of a difference. You can make it happen if you really want to.

    My wife & I decided we wanted to have our kids home with a loving parent. At the time we had them in the most expensive childcare we could possibly afford and even at that, we knew that nobody there could or should be expected to love them like us. So it was a no-brainer.

    The only thing that we did wrong was waiting so long. Once we decided it was the right thing to do, we turned right around and decided that we would have my wife at home with the kids within one year. 10 months later, we looked and saw that our financial situation was not really where we had hoped it would be to make that goal. So…we just did it anyway and picked up the pieces after that. We have never regretted that decision.

    Good luck.

  35. Hi Trent,
    I love your blog and am a faithful reader.

    Having put two kids through the daycare system (they are now teenagers), I wanted to add my two cents. It is truly heartwrenching to see your child upset over changes in his routine, but as others have stated, I’m sure he was fine after a short time. I felt it necessary to call my children’s daycare a couple of times just to ease my own mind, and I was assured each time that they were ok. Having said that, while stay-at-home versus not is a very personal decision, I agree with the commenter that stated it is more important when they are teenagers. There is really so much more they can get in to! My girls are well-adjusted people that relate well to both kids and adults, and they are both respectful of others. My oldest is very outgoing (she was the queen of the day care center!) and my youngest adapts well to changes in situations, traits I believe are due to their daycare experiences.

    Also, usually once they get to sixth grade or so, child care will not be an option, and you will need a back up plan. Maybe then is when you will most want one of you to be at home.

    I hope you reach the decision that is best for you and your family; it is truly a difficult one!

  36. As an elementary school teacher and parent, I’ve been witness to both sides of this situation. My wife (also a teacher) stayed at home or worked part-time until our children entered kindergarten. Even though she was home, we still enrolled our children in daycare/preschools at least half the day. This was difficult because of our reduced income, but we made it a priority. We believed it was good for their social development and better to resolve separation anxiety issues before entering Kindergarten.
    Obviously, each child is unique. Since your son was OK in the under two room. He’s already shown he can handle you leaving. I would guess there will be a short adjustment period; and he might go through something similar during future major changes–my son does and my daughter doesn’t. The best thing he has going for him are parents who think and plan for his well being. On behalf of future teachers, I thank you.

  37. Trent, a few thoughts of encouragement for you.

    I have no real clue as to what’s possible. But what here’s a what if. If you can’t quit and be full time at home, would your job allow you trying part time? I did this for a while before deciding to stay at home full time. A friend of mine wasn’t able to stay at home full time but for a year decided to try part time to be with her daughter more before the daughter went to school. Worked out well for that year.

    I will always be biased toward staying home if you’re willing to make the sacrifice. But it is a sacrifice – I’m sure you know. (We more than halved our income when I quit and it’s been a struggle to be able to stay home. I keep finding more ways to be frugal to keep at home and be able to have a bit in savings.) But I know it’s not always possible for everyone. It wasn’t for my parents for long. We turned out fine.

    If it’s truly a goal for you to stay at home, make a plan for it. My hubby and I planned for 2 years before making the jump. We learned to live on his income in that planning period and tried to stuff money into savings.

    It’s hard to leave kiddos at daycare or anywhere for that matter. (Sunday school was the hardest for my son and I.) But it’s important for the child not to learn to manipulate you with guilt. Guilt is an easy thing for a parent to have – but shouldn’t. Guilt for not being at home. Guilt for not giving them everything they want. Guilt for not socializing them as much as everyone says they “need”. Guilt for them acting up in the store. etc etc. You have to make choices and go with it. All you can do is your best. You son might be having a hard time and showing it this way. I know you take time out for your son – just keeping this up will make a BIG difference for him. Believe it or not it’s just as hard to find time for a kiddo when you’re at home. (I’ve been trying to let my kiddos help me with freezing produce and reading to them so we have time together.) There’s too much to do for every parent.

    Hope this is encouragement for you more than just ramblings.

  38. You aren’t just paying to get the kid out of your hair for the day – you’re paying for him to be taught and guided and to learn how to be part of a community. We don’t have big extended families like we used to, where our kids would play with other kids in our families and be taken care of by family members. The social development that a good day care center can offer can’t be matched by a stay-at-home parent who doesn’t have a strong social circle around them. And there’s a lot to be said for peer pressure when it comes to learning new skills like toilet training or throwing a ball. There’s also a lot to be said for learning to cope, learning to be part of a community, and learning to self-soothe when things aren’t going exactly your way.

  39. Hi Trent,

    First of all – I want to thank you for listening to your son. He is the expert on how he is doing.

    Second – Does staying at home have to be an either/or situation? Is it possible for your to take a leave or work 4 days a week? If your job doesn’t permit this – how about taking a day of vacation for a few weeks running until life settles down a bit for your family?

    You are a great father – trust what you know is best for your family.

  40. I read your blog regularly and you seem like an intelligent person and loving father. The only thing I disagree with you about is the fact that you put your child in daycare.

    I stayed home with my two boys; the youngest is now starting kindergarten. They are both confident, outgoing kids who make friends easily. Developing a strong bond with a parent is what gives young children the confidence and sense of security to later branch out and explore the world. The kind of socialization young children need can be achieved through joining SAHM (or Dad) & Kids groups, supplemented with two or three mornings at a good preschool once they’re three. (BTW, boys often do better being potty trained around three, not before two!)

    I am very fortunate to have a husband who can support us financially so that we could buy a house on one income and also allow me to stay home, but we both agreed from the day we got married that even if we had to live in an apartment until all our kids were school-aged, that’t what we would do to ensure the optimal environment for them.

    LISTEN to that daddy’s voice inside you. It knows that your son needs to spend more time with you and his mommy than with paid employees of a daycare center, who may be kind and loving, but do not love your son the way you and your wife do.

  41. There is not perfect answer for whether someone should stay at home with kids. However, I was sent to daycare within weeks of birth, and remained in daycare a little past the point of going to school all day. I was socially awkward then, now, and at every point in between. Being open and comfortable to new people and situations is an inherent personality trait.

    Also, I have a friend who tried to take off work when her kids were 8-11, and by then, they had an entire schedule and routine that didn’t involve her. She gave it a year, but eventually went back to work because by then, her family wasn’t going to benefit from it in the same way.

  42. how can seperation anxiety possible be normal?

    Is that like saying to a war-amputee: “Oh, yeah, it’s normal for a leg to come off after you get hit by a hand grenade. What about it?”

  43. K:

    I find it impossible to believe that any study, anywhere, ever, has suggested that it’s more healthy and more beneficial for a 4 month baby to be at the daytime orphanage 50 hours a week rather than with a full-time mother or father figure.

    That’s just not possible.

    —-

    @ mitch: how can a kid possibly pick up on their parent’s attitude to life when they don’t see them for 5 day’s straight?

    —-

    @Trent:

    I only have two things to say: firstly, maintain financial stability. No matter what emotional pain you go through, it simply is not worth living on the street. You literally have to keep your head above water. If there are economic realities, then there are economic realities. We send our kids to daycare when my wife has to go to uni, because it’s far more important that she get an education (part time, one day a week) so that we can support the kids to a better level in the years to come.

    Secondly: You will not get a second chance at this. This is your one and only opportunity to be the parent to kids under the age of X. They get older every day, and you can’t get the time back. Despite the fact that you might HAVE to, daycare is certainly the worst choice as far as your kids’ development, health and happiness are concerned.

    I’m glad to hear that you actually realise this. I think most parents don’t even know what’s going on.

    My kids: they don’t have ANY seperation anxiety, because they know that mum is ALWAYS there, and if she has to go somewhere I’ll take time off work to do it myself rather than take them to BehaveYourself-factory… she’s doing 3 weeks teaching rounds, and we’re lucky enough to have help from two grandparents and an auntie, so we’ve only taken the kids to the baby-sitter once a week.

    _lucky_

    I feel for you. You’re doing it tough. Your kids will be grateful that you’re getting yourself onto good financial footing. Don’t discount that. Tell yourself that you’re doing the right thing. I mean it. But, on the flip side: there might be a better way, if you CAN do it, then you’ll be glad that you did. It’s only for a few more years.

  44. Trent,

    Daycare and school are just not necessary for healthy socializing. There is nothing “natural” about either situation – what IS natural is for a child to be surrounded by family, neighbors, people at work/play/life in the community, etc. It’s healthy for a child to wake up when well rested, sleep when tired, eat when hungry, and play most of the time. A parent should be there to share and explain life AS life happens, not just evenings and weekends. Kids are not a hobby. If they won’t be the most important thing in a parent’s life (more than retirement savings, careers and buying nice things), then people should not have children.

    My 4 kids have all been homeschooled (we unschool, not following a curriculum, with lots of freedom). They and their homeschooled friends are some of the most well-behaved, creative, confident and interesting people I know. They all come from different economic backgrounds, lots of them quite modest, but all have parents who have been willing to give up other things to give their kids a quality childhood.

    You will surely find a lot of support for working parents and children in daycare, especially on a financial blog. But what does your own heart say? Even if it seems illogical, impractical and impossible, listening to your heart is vital. Life won’t be happy any other way. You are obviously intelligent and resourceful – if it’s really what you want, you can not only make staying home with your kids work, you can make it an art!

  45. Brent, I’m not talking about not coming home at night. That’s insane corporate America and you should get out now before you kill yourself. I’m talking about having work outside the home, being home five hours every night (5:30-10:30) and an hour every morning (6:30-7:30), plus whatever screaming keeps them awake in bed at night (I hope that that does not apply to anyone here). Think about it: many fathers work full time, and yet they are formative in childhood. I know mine had an impact on me (good and bad). And there is much less total time difference once one starts school, when the bus arrives at 8 and drops off at 3, so you’re adding back, what, 50%. As for Trent, he seems to have much more maternal instinct than I do; I think I spent all of mine helping with three younger siblings! So I think he’d be okay as a SAHP. But I don’t know him personally, only from reading the blog for a while.

    All I’m saying is that if you are happiest when with your children full time, then stay at home (assuming you can afford it) and plan for the day you can re-enter the work force (if you want to do that or want the safety net). If your personality is such that you are happier when doing both outside work and childrearing, that is what you should be doing, not staying home because so many people tell you you’re evil for keeping your own soul alive.

    In either case, if you are unhappy, you destroy your own efforts because if you’re lucky, your children will take you as an example of what not to do, and if you’re not, they’ll repeat the cycle. If you are happy, well, the odds are better. There’s a continuum here as to what your needs are (some people only need to socialize a little, others need to get back to industrial chemistry and those nine months away from the lab due to pregnancy risk are driving them nuts), but basically it’s the old saw (supported by research) “children learn what they live.”

    And if your personality is such that you don’t want to take care of kids at all, even if you think they’re cute in “small” doses, don’t have kids. I think this “taking care of kids” part is sorely lacking in a lot in the thinking of e.g. teen mothers.

  46. I am a teacher and boy am I glad! It’s great to be home nights and weekends, have long holidays and vacation time. There are times that I wish I could be a SAHM, but mostly, I really enjoy my career and it’s part of who I am. My husband is a teacher too. He’s slightly more into housekeeping than I am (though I am chief cook and bottle washer) and does all the yard work, so if one of us stayed home it would make sense if it were he.

    I had both of my kids in daycare and they are both socially adept and very active in a number of extra-curricular activites: sports, music, church, scouts. I think the most important factor beyond cleanliness and safety is the level of love and compassion the employees show the children. Fortunately, I felt the caregivers treated my kids like family. I do not think daycare is a bad thing.

    I don’t think parents should feel guilty for wanting to work or enjoying their work. Children do grow up and leave home. If you wish to work or NEED to work, a 20-year absence from the workforce can be a difficult hurdle to overcome, and the pay could be a lot less. We have to think of our lives after the children are grown. This is going to be potentially a longer period of time than the child-raising years and retirement funds need to be built up. Not to mention health care and college expenses, etc.

    I know Trent is not in this situation, because his career is not traditional. He’s not completely sacrificing his earning power if he stays home, just possibly reducing it in the short term. I might advise his getting a PhD and teaching classes online, from home, to supplement his blog income. That’s my next big career plan when I get too worn out to face middle schoolers anymore!

  47. I am a stay home mom and former preschool/daycare teacher. I worked at the most expensive daycare in the suburbs of a major city. It was a good school. That being said, I wouldn’t want that for my kids for a minute. Changing age rooms means breaking attachments with caregivers at an age when children can not comprehend the “why”. This also happens with staff turn over. Depending on the age ratios in your state, the ratio in a two year old room can be eight to one. Your child gets 1/12 of the attention, so most attention is given group style rather than one on one. I have been home with all three of my kids. My oldest two are in school now. I attend playgroups with the little one. She goes to a 1 1/2 hour preschool program three days a week to achieve the same benefits you want for your children. The program is at the vocational center. I pay $4 per session. The program is excellent. You can socialize a stay home child with little to no expense. Children who stay home are not socially inept. If you feel like you are missing out by not being with your child, it’s because you are. No one can have it all, you just have to decide what is most important – the money or the time with your child.

  48. …all this careful planning purchasing the house–the dream of purchasing your dream home in 15 years etc. and now you are having regrets. Just wait until that second one arrives it will only get worse. Ditch the dream house idea–why is buying the exact house in the perfect location more important than someone staying home with your kids if that is the way you feel–you are wrecking your health for what a dream home that may be possible in 15 years when your kids don’t want to spend anytime with you anyway? You can always stay home–milions of people do it and they make far less money than you.

  49. I appreciate you blogging about this Trent. We’re going through the same decision-making process. I’ve got nine months of maternity leave left, so still time to decide. The most financially smart decision is to return to work. I make a very good salary, and if I went back to work we could pay off the remainder of our debt within a year I think, and probably also make some big strides in savings and/or mortgage payoff. BUT, separation anxiety apparently starts around 9-12 months and lasts until 2-3 years (so the books say). I can’t imagine how hard it would be to leave a child screaming for his momma every day, even if I ‘knew’ he’d be fine afterwards.

    At the moment I’m leaning towards going back to work and seeing how Wes takes it. If it’s too hard for him, I’ll see if I can cut back to part-time, or possibly quit. That’ll at least give me a few paycheques to allocate to debt or build up the emergency fund.

    If we have #2, on the other hand, I am not sure I will return. Daycare will eat up an ever-larger part of my pay …

  50. Our son’s preschool had a one-way mirror in a closet that backed onto a big room where the kids spent a lot of time. Parents could tip-toe into the closet and watch their children…and what an eye-opener THAT is! When Mom & Dad aren’t around, Junior is a whole ‘nother person. When we said to his teacher that we couldn’t believe that was our son (separation anxiety: 0; self-confidence with other kids: 10), she said that was what most parents observed. So…when the little one carries on when you leave, be brave! As soon as you’re out of earshot, the world changes.

    But…I will say that when our son was even younger, I did have a terrible experience with day care that caused me to take him out of institutional settings until he was around 5 years old.

    Have you looked around your new neighborhood for mature, trustworthy women who do daycare in their homes? This was the solution for our son: I had two women helping out (one had raised a daughter who grew up to be a nuclear engineer and a son who became a stage director; the other’s children also were well adjusted adults). They both lived on the street south of us. One lady would take him two days a week and the other three. Each had one to three other children in the house on any given day. They were surrogate grandmothers for him; he had plenty of interaction with other kids, but he wasn’t exposed to every disease that came along (and consequently Mom & Dad weren’t sick all the time, either). And he was never again at risk from unsafe equipment and unsanitary conditions.

    Later when he was in grade school he stayed after-school with a woman who had 10 kids of her own and so felt having another few kids around didn’t add any special burden.

    Ask your neighbors for references. And check local churches. Many women let their pastor or priest know they’re interested in taking in kids for daycare. Ask her other client parents and keep an eye on what’s going on (show up early to pick up the kid, unannounced).

    Back in the hippy-dippy days, too, we used to have day-care and babysitting co-ops: you watched someone else’s kids X days a week, and they watched yours Y days. Recruit five adults each of whom can take one day off or work at home a day each week, and you’ve got free daycare. If these still exist, you’d find them through progressive groups and left-leaning churches such as some Unitarian-Universalists.

    Either way, you get the best of both worlds: Keep your job, but have your children in a home environment.

  51. I can tell you as a former teacher that the previous comment is correct. Young kids do not wish to separated from their parents…until they are separate. Most kids calm down within the first two minutes of the parent leaving and then begin paying with friends. I try to have my daughter visit schoolat least for a few hours every weekday if only to spend a few hours with peers. She is never happy to go but she is always in a better mood in the afternoon when she has spent a few hours away from home. Good luck.

  52. The first time I visited a North American daycare, it reminded me of Romanian and Haitian orphanages I have volunteered in – more toys, but the institutionalized setting creeped me out and I swore to do everything in my power to avoid placing my kids in daycare.

  53. Very interesting!

    I have to say that if anyone could do it would be you, Mr Frugal. Perhaps you’re a bit too analytical about this, most Most SAHM that I’ve read about all said they all just gave up the job and made it work.

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned this but in the early years of our marriage (23 and counting and no kids) almost all our friends were two income households (usually blue-collar) and they solved the daycare issue by working different shifts. One worked the day shift, the other nights and weekends. Is there any reason why your wife can’t have her job and you take a job in retail working evenings and weekends (or something similar). Solves the daycare issue and still allows you to run your businesses while still bringing in an income.

    While on the subject I’ve known kids that have grown up both on both sides of the divide (SAHM and WM) and it makes no difference. It seems kids turn out they way they want to be. My sister was a SAHM to her 5 kids and pretty much all of them have had social problems in their adult years. At my Moms funeral recently I asked my one nephew (whom I haven’t seen of heard from in years) what he was doing “nothing productive” was his answer. Pretty much sums her kids. On the other hands I have friends who grew up with WMs who themselves worked and yet the kids turned out fine. Even in situations where the father was far from ideal, one weirdly religious (Christmas and church were out this inspite of being a Christian) the other very hot tempered (wife and kids hated him with a capital H) yet they’re still married (he changed) and the kids have all turned out ok. What makes one kid walk the straight and narrow and another veer off, who knows but I don’t think working or not makes much of a difference

    For those interested the mommy wars (SAHM vs WM) the WSJ has an excellent blog on that very thing.

    http://blogs.wsj.com/juggle/

  54. Eeks! I read through all of the comments above- dang, some people are judgemental!

    You need to focus on what works for your family. If daycare is the way to go, so be it. But if you want to think about a SAHparent, you’ll need to plan to get there.

    My partner & I each had our own home when we met. After we married, we lived in her house for the first few years & tried to sell mine. In the meantime, we fostered and adopted our kids. We HAD to rely on daycare because neither of our jobs would insure domestic partners- and we couldn’t afford buying the SAHM health insurance if one of us stayed home. We knew ultimately we wanted a working mom and a stay at home mom for our kids, but it just couldn’t happen. We saved as best we could and had everything ready for the circumstances to align. We sold both houses and moved into the neighborhood where we both grew up, and grandparents could do afterschool care for our oldest- allowing us to save more money. Fast forward a few years and my work moved into the 21st century and added domestic partner health benefits. We knew we needed to just get a few more things ready- chiefly buying a vehicle big enough for growing family. Once we got the van, she quit her job (last July) and became the SAHM while I’m the working mom (my job pays more than hers with way more room for advancement).

    A few years from now, things may be different. Our kids are now 8, 5, 2, and 3 mos- but we will likely have to consider her going back to work for college money within the next five years or so. That will mean afterschool programs and maybe daycare for the littlest one. We will have to weigh the pros and cons and decide from there if it would be worth it. It might just make more sense to continue to economize, stay in our 3 bedroom ranch, and just put up the adoption stipend money from the state for their college funds as we do now. (Two of the 4 kids warranted stipend money- we take this and divide it by 4 into their college accounts; RARELY, we use it for things like karate classes, summer camp, etc). Obviously, other families would not have this backup as we do, but we see it as their money, not ours, and therefore only feel comfortable using for them.

  55. Well, all of your concerns largely depend on a few things. First, do you feel you were socially awkward BECAUSE you were in day care or because you had a stay-at-home parent? It sounds like you’re projecting your own insecurities onto your child, either way. Just because you were socially awkward, it doesn’t mean that changing things around will make him more or less so. That’s more of a personality issue than a day care one. If he feels secure, he’ll be fine in any environment.
    Secondly, the stay at home parent issue is one you REALLY need to be honest about. Will you lose your home if you don’t work? Will your utilities be cut off? Will your family starve? Or will your investment and retirement nest egg be a bit smaller if you’re out of the workforce for a few years? If it’s for the financial goals, then maybe you need to rethink things. It’s about priorities.
    I was a stay at home parent for 26 years while my 4 children were growing up. My oldest son is a secure, confident, outgoing person. My second son was not. He was always shy, and less secure in social situations as a child, although now, as an adult, he is the one people gravitate to because of his sense of humor and easy way with people. Would putting him in daycare have made a difference? I highly doubt it.
    As for the financial impact, well, we ate a lot of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese during those years. We became VERY creative with our entertainment choices. We spent a lot of time at the parks or free local events, went to potluck suppers and lived in a small house where we couldn’t clutter it up with stuff. We are older now, my husband’s business is established, we are both working and while I will always worry about the future, I feel comfortable with my choices. I have a family member who made a different choice and stayed in the workforce, putting her children into daycare. When you see our children together, you can’t tell who was in daycare and who wasn’t. Her choice worked for her. She kept up with the 401k and the job supplied health insurance, and it was a good thing, because they were hit with a catastrophic illness in their mid 40s that kept her husband out of work for quite some time. She had been working long enough to have a salary that could support her family easily on one income, and her 401k was depleted to pay whatever medical bills her insurance didn’t cover. At this point in time, we’re both in the same place financially. We’re doing OK, and trying to make up the retirement investments now that the kids don’t need us as much financially. What I’m trying to say is, make sure your decisions are for the right reasons. Don’t make sacrifices now that you might regret later. If it’s a matter of survival, or a cushion for an emergency, don’t quit. If it’s for a few extra dollars in the bank to get rich quicker, then think really carefully about it.

  56. As a current nanny and a former child-care center worker, I can understand the depth and implications of making this decision for both financial and personal reasons. To be honest, after my experience working (at a very upscale Atlanta center), I would never put my children in a childcare center. Despite the socialization added benefits (we did baby sign lang, Spanish with older kids, ect.), I think one-on-one or one on two :) is best. I currently nanny for twins who are 14 months old. My husband and I have both bonded with the family. Soon after I started this job (which I took just to get my husband through school), I decided I didn’t want to leave. I love the job, but also my husand I and I had a heart-to-heart about when our own kids come along. I WILL stay home. Unless we are going to go without food on the table, I will be home. We are beginning to plan for this already. I would love to hear what Trent has to say about specific numbers as to the cost.

    On a side: My mom watched other kids in our home when I was little to help off-set the cost of staying home. You would still get quality time at home with your children, they could socialize with other kids, you would see other adults, and if you set it up as a “true” business (you would need to check state regulations), you can right off baby toys, food, ect.

  57. My kids were adopted at 5 and 8, and needed socialization and we sent them to day care and school. When we thought they were old enough to stay home for the two hours after school until I came home from work we did that. A few weeks into this, I came home to a sink that was stopped up and while I was trying to figure out what happened, my daughter told me that my son had melted a pound of butter in the microwave to see what would happen to it and then put it in the sink to get rid of it. Then a couple of days latter came home to ashes in the house. Seems that they were making paper airplanes and setting them on fire and flying them. Needless to say, this cause my DH and me to make a different decision and I became a stay at home mom for a few years and then when I needed to go to work in a few years because of money issues did temp work in the winter and stayed home in the summers. Sure I was bored some of the time but feel it was worth it.

  58. Since my wife’s company built a new office, I’ve been doing the daycare run for about a year now, and on occasion my son pulls at my strings to get me to hang out at daycare when I drop him off, but he’s established such good friends there (in home daycare), and he’s a big fan of breakfast, that I rarely get choked up/frustrated.

    But, come Mid-October, that’s going to change for me. My wife is pregnant with twin identical girls, and we couldn’t afford $1,100 a month two have 2 in daycare and 1 in a peer-mentor program at preschool, so I’ll be Daddy Daycare.

    And I’m pumped about it. I’ll do the preschool run with my son, and watch our two girls and my best friend’s daughter who will be 3 months by the time we’re ready for it all.

    It helps that my parents raised me to be a good wife (/joke), so I’m cozy in the kitchen, laundry, and being in drumline for 6 years in high school and college, I can deal with loud noises for VERY long periods of time.

    Most of all, I’m looking forward to laughing a lot more. A LOT more.

  59. Hopefully you can work it out to be a stay at home Dad, Trent.

    For years I’ve studied the effects of day care in comparison to children with a SAHP and it’s amazing to see the differences first hand. It’s actually… scary.

  60. Trent:

    I have a friend whose husband has been the stay-at-home dad for years, just taking the occasional part-time job to help out financially. It has been good for the kids, and he seems to manage okay, but lately he’s had struggles as he is less and less able to feel “manly” in a society that looks at you with some distrust if you chose this route. Now that both kids are in school, he is wanting to go back to work but finding that path extremely difficult.

    I am not discouraging you from this path. I was a stay at home mom for years. I just want you to understand the pitfalls. Explaining the gap between employers is one of them. Even for a woman (and let’s not pretend that things are the same for both) I am looked at with some disdain, as if I am less reliable and less career focused.

    You should have an easier time of it because you are essentially self-employed and will, I trust, be able to show that. Keep up your resume, and do track your self-emplyment as a “real” job. You won’t be nearly so far behind as I or my friend’s husband if the time should come that you want or need to take a regular job again.

    There are many who will counsel you to choose the poverty, that your financial goals for yourself and your family are a compromise. I don’t believe that is true. Financial sacrifice is one thing, financial ruin is another. Only you and your wife can decide what is acceptable and it sounds as if you have. Keep working toward that goal. Perhaps being a full-time stay-at-home writer/dad is in your future. I’m sure you can pull it off if anyone can!

  61. @ Laurel: Trent wasn’t saying that he wants his son to have a SAHP, he was saying that he wants to be a SAHD. They are two different things.

    @ brent: psst, your socio-political agenda is showing.

  62. I love this blog! Just wanted to get that out…
    You have a wonderful post about clutter and not being attached to anyTHING~so I wonder, what are people working FOR? I stay at home w/ our 4 kids, while my DH works at the GROCERY STORE for less than 40K a year. He’s well educated and could probably earn more, but why work yourself to death to buy STUFF and still not be able to stay home with your babies? We have a nice house in a lovely neighborhood, furniture, food, clothes, the occasional dinner out and a few vacations. Bills are covered, we tithe and save about 10% in our 401k. I couldn’t care less if people stay at home with their kids or not, but what are you working FOR? We’re quite happy w/o a cell phone, cable, a new car (or new anything for that matter!) And we sure as heck aren’t taking a few weeks off for a trip to Hawaii or anything!
    I
    never wanted to be a stay at home mom, and sometime it is a struggle, but it’s such an honor to spend my days with my cutie pies. I’m over the moon in love with them. Good luck in whatever decision you make for your family!

  63. As a stay-at-home-dad for five years now, since the birth of our 2d son, I would say take a good look at the finances. We both worked outside the home the first five years of our first son’s life, and our income was about cut in half when i stopped working to be at home with the kids, but the actual impact on our life was not as great as we thought it would be. One of the big differences was in the amount of going out to eat we used to do, and how it became unnecessary with one at home able to plan and cook meals. For us this was a pretty major expense. Daycare, clothing, commuting, difference in tax rate, child tax credit, all these things added up.

  64. Kim & others who advise careful thought about the long-term financial effect of jumping off the career treadmill for a few years have got something. As an old bat, I’m now trying to decide whether to retire now (at 62), wait until I’m 65, or work until I’m over 70. While my job itself is OK, I’m tired of working and loathe the nasty commute over ugly roads to an unattractive university campus in a gritty, drab suburb.

    This is a community property state. For married people, though, the Social Security Administration does not look at community income: it looks at YOUR income.

    During the 25 years my ex- and I were married, he was among the top 3 percent of earners in this country; only in the earliest years of the marriage did he earn less than six figures. Because I stayed home to raise our son and be a corporate wife, we used my freelance writing and editing business as a tax write-off. Though during the marriage I held jobs as a university instructor, as a business editor and as associate editor of what was then the largest regional magazine in the country, little of what I earned showed up on our tax records–again, because we deducted so much that my earnings were essentially reduced to naught.

    As a result, my Social Security income, if I retired today, would be a little over $800 a month. This would barely cover the utilities and taxes on my house. It would not cover, in addition, homeowner’s insurance, car insurance, and state taxes on my seven-year-old car–let alone provide enough for me to eat.

    When I went over to the Social Security offices and asked about the rule saying a person who divorces after a long marriage can base SS payments on the high-earning ex-spouse’s income, first the man I spoke to was rude to me, and then he told me to forget it.

    If I work until I’m 65, the amount will go up to something like $1,200…but remember, as a single person I use most of my $2,800 take-home pay to support myself and my house, and I can’t be accused of living extravagantly.

    Meanwhile, my semi-demi-significant other quit work in his late 40s and supported himself largely through freelance writing, extreme frugality, and the active-duty Air Force Reserve (which hired him for what the civilian world would call temp work about six to twelve weeks a year). As a journalist and freelance P.R. writer, he never grossed more than about $35,000 or $40,000. He walked into the Social Security offices the instant he turned 62 and was handed more than $1,250 a month. Because he was seen to be earning during the years he was married–and I was not, despite de facto community earnings of more than three times what he earned–he is now seen as eligible for lots more retirement income.

    The government does not encourage stay-at-home parenting, no more than does the corporate world. If it’s true that the pay disparity between men and women results from women stepping out of their careers a few years to care for small children, then you may find that you can’t command a decent wage when you are ready to go back to work. The consequence of that may be signficant impoverishment in old age.

    The Census Bureau has reported that elderly women make up 58 percent of the elderly population…but 74 percent of the poor elderly. There’s a reason for that.

  65. I just want to encourage you to listen to your heart. The LORD made families – moms and dads to take care of children, not institutions. You can find a way to be home with your babies. They are far more important than money.

  66. Trent,
    Someone put it bluntly to me before:
    “You sell your wife off to the highest bidder, and your kids off to the lowest bidder, the typical American man.” It isn’t the American dream, but it’s the grand American plan that most people do.
    It reveals your current priorities in life.

    I know the first reaction is denial and indignance. I couldn’t stand it when I first heard it. It meant I HAD to change.

    The truth is, you shouldn’t entrust hirelings (daycare workers) with so much influence over your greatest “family assets” because they “intrinsically” cannot care as much as you about the future of your family. Financial responsibility is definitely a high priority responsibility as a parent, and it permeates many other areas of life, but it is not the highest priority responsibility as a parent. I agree with Melissa directly above here and many people who have posted. You love your kids and you would die for them. A father needs to ask himself, do I love them enough to die daily for them; truly make daily sacrifices? You know the correct answer is yes, but it’s not always easy to take the plunge. However, you should never take the counsel of Fear, there is always a better counselor available.

    Man, I never post, but you totally got me sucked in with the kid scenario. =)

    Seriously though, we all make emotional decisions, and then we pile logic on top of those decisions. So look your boy in the eyes and write down your priorities in life. Then immediately start forging a path to live totally by your principles.
    At the end of the day/month/year, it’s a greater peace, even if temporarily at the expense of financial peace. (And when you have a handle on personal finance like you already do, you know it’s only temporary adjustment).

    I’ve got 2 kids, I think I’m about the same age as you, and my wife and I have always arranged to have her at home w/ the kids, regardless of financial circumstances or pressures. I find a lot of your articles helpful. Thanks.

  67. Not a parent and haven’t read all the posts
    … but I don’t think intense socialising before your are potty trained makes sense: you are then vulnerable and need care from your social group. And this group should not be renewed very often, if I understand things right.

  68. Not a parent and haven’t read all the comments,

    … but I don’t think intense socialising before your are potty trained makes sense:

    you are then vulnerable and need care from your social group; and this group should be limited and not renewed very often, if I understand things right.

  69. Hey Trent,
    I didn’t read all of the responses but sounds like my husband and I are a lot like you and your wife. Truth is- school is a social heirarchy. We are homeschooling and I love every second I get with my kids– they do very well socially. What I have seen is that the cult like class system that inevitably develops in classroom settings where the dominators rule is NOT they way any of us were designed to learn social skills.

  70. Hi Trent,

    I did not read through all of the many responses to this post. I have read items on your site before, but do not know enough to know what you and your wife do for a living. That being said, I wonder how much flexibility either of you has at work … while staying home fully may not be an option, flexing your hours forward or backward, working a compressed schedule, or downing to part-time if that is a possibility might help you to spend some more time with your kids.

    I currently work three 8-hour days and my husband (a teacher) works a full schedule. Our kids are in daycare for 24 hours a week and I have the ability to be home with them two days. It’s been a financial stretch – I must thank you as some of your articles have helped! – but it is definitely worth it.

    As a final note, I found books like How to Avoid the Mommy Trap and the Working Mom’s Guide to Life helpful for learning to think outside the box when creating flexible work arrangements.

    Hope this helps!

    K

  71. Do you read recent comments to old posts? I hope so. I am a very new reader on this website. I did not read all of the comments above but I’m going to give you mine, and not spare your feelings; because I guess you want them or you would not have posted it. Let me quote someone you know and quoted yourself, your grandfather: “If things get uncomfortable, get out as best you can – don’t keep staying in, no matter how good the arrangement treated you in the past.” You feel guilty because you are. Seperation Anxiety is natural because it IS natural… an un-natural seperation from the one the child loves and wants. Of course they calm down after you leave because they have no choice and they are children. You are leaving a child with people you don’t know, with values you don’t know, and who are usually very low paid and maybe don’t feel like being at work that day. (I know there are some very dedicated daycare workers who love their children. But so do their parents.)Would you like to spend all day there, day in, day out with no break except on the weekend? Neither does your child. You said, “His daycare (which is quite expensive) offers very strong individualized attention and plenty of social interaction with his peers.” This is a bunch of bunk. Kids that age don’t care about their peers, they care about themselves and their parents. They can be very “socialized” from playing with others, in other places, with your supervision. And have better manners too, because they will learn them from you. What about “very expensive”? Who is the one saying you ought to “Make memories instead of spending money”? Why do you have to stay home? What about the mom? Please take another cold, hard look and don’t buy into the “modern way” of leaving others to raise your children. Unless it’s a very unforgiving situation where there is absolutely no choice. God bless you and your family whatever your decision.

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