A girl I know that just had kiddo #2 brought up the idea of staying at home with them. That got me thinking and talking about this topic. I thought an update might interest some of you.
In case you didn’t know Wifey has been at home with the kid since he was born. It has worked pretty well for us and while he drives her crazy occasionally she likes it. We know what he eats for meals, because she feeds it to him. We know if he hit his head, because she was there. No worries about him being abused or neglected or whatever else happens in daycare. There is lots of one on one time to play and try to teach him words and all that stuff. Studies consistently show that a stay at home mother is the best situation for a kid’s development and all that stuff. I don’t think anybody will seriously argue against that point.
So far it has turned out to be a very good decision for her to stay at home with him and I don’t see a reason that would change. Mothers staying at home and raising their kids has been, as of the last few decades, going the way of the Dodo bird. I don’t know why exactly.
There are two fundamental questions when it comes to momma staying at home with the kids. The first question is does momma want to stay at home with the kids and where dad is with the whole thing. A simple enough question really. The best part is that there is not a right or wrong answer. Some women have interests and goals outside of the home and that is fine too. While the women’s lib fantasy that a woman can have a big important career and balance a marriage and children could be debated it doesn’t matter. If she wants to work then that is just fine, I’m not the Taliban.
The second question is whether the family can make the numbers work to afford for momma to stay at home. This is a more complicated one and will be addressed at more length. For momma to stay at home the family needs to live off what dad makes. To back up a second this means dad needs to be in the picture and that there is a cohesive family unit which today is sadly not a given. This is one of those things that is simple but not easy, sort of like how the way to lose weight is to eat less. This is really where the hypothetical meets real life.
To paraphrase Ronnie Coleman, a champion body builder, “Everybody wants to be strong, but they don’t want to lift the weight.” Lots of folks talk about staying at home with kids but it doesn’t happen. The reason is that with only one income you will not be able to do what you could if both partners were working, especially if both are capable of more than menial labor. To say it another way; living on one income means a more modest lifestyle than you could otherwise have. For a lot of people that is a hard pill to swallow.
Personally I don’t really mind it. I have run the numbers on what we would be able to save and invest and otherwise do if Wifey worked and they were pretty attention grabbing. However it is not worth it to me. I certainly wouldn’t mind a nicer vehicle or whatever but at the end of the day it is just stuff. How much do some bigger numbers in some electronic accounts really matter?
For other folks the math simply doesn’t work. That is a more complicated discussion. Sometimes it just doesn’t, especially if Dad is a part time non union janitor or works for minimum wage. Unless you are willing to live REAL CHEAP that won’t work. However I would say if he is making more than 30-40k or so a year (or course cost of living is a factor, 30k in Manhattan, Kansas is a lot different from Manhattan, New York) income probably isn’t the whole issue. What gets a lot of folks stuck is that they have a debt load which can’t be covered by one income. It could vary from rent/ mortgage to credit cards and vehicles or whatever which just can’t work with one wage earner. This is yet another reason to stay out of debt. You can radically change spending habits tomorrow should the need arise, it sucks to go from steak and lobster to spaghetti or rice and beans but it can be done. However money that has been promised is baring default, not an expense you can change. This is, more than most folks will admit, the reason the numbers just don’t work. Either they can’t drop their living expenses due to it being locked in obligations or they choose not to for whatever reason.
When I hear folks say it is impossible to have a parent stay home with the kids I want to ask what their cars are, what sort of toys they have and where they went on vacation last. The answer is that yes, it may well be impossible to buy a nice new car or two every couple years, have their toys and vacations on just one of their salaries. However all that stuff is a choice, not a given. I am not sure if they are unwilling or don’t even consider it but usually the answer is that yes, they could afford for her to stay home if they changed their lifestyle.
On the plus side having a wife at home helps with expenses or at least it can. Home cooked meals instead of eating out all the time, stuff like that. The possibility of having one car or an older one that will just go to the grocery store, etc is legitimate. She doesn’t need professional clothes or have those types of expenses. One of the biggest places a second income goes is daycare. Daycare for two or more kids adds up in a hurry. The bitter irony is many wives are working for a tiny salary once daycare is considered. Their real take home is just a few hundred dollars. I would submit to them that cutting that amount from their budget is pretty doable should they be so inclined.
I don’t want to get anybody down or poke at however you choose to live your life. You are free to make whatever choices you want. All I want is for folks to know that having mom stay at home with the kids is quite possible if they are willing to make a few sacrifices. It is quite worth it to us and Wifey will stay at home until the kids (planning on getting Walker a battle buddy) are in school then she will likely start some sort of job.
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