Friday, January 20, 2012

Stay At Home Mothers

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.


Anonymous said...

I think a lot of the reason why 2 income family's exist is the uncertainty of having a steady job. If the single income job holder loses it, a very quick replacement is necessary, especially if young children are around.

I do agree that it is strictly for the money. Kids would likely be happier if a parent was home for them full time.

Anonymous said...

Really nice post!!! Have been in both spots and really like being now a stay at home wife as our kids are all grown. We are blessed that my sweetheart has a good job and over the years of raising our kids with me at home "most" of the time has been a true gift to me. Our house is clean, our bills are paid we eat well (many good ways to eat rice and beans) I can foods and can stretch old george washington so far you couldnt recognize him!! We are happy! Our marriage is strong (over 35 years together) and most importantly we have been afforded the ability to watch our kids grow up healthy strong and with capabilitys to take care of their families!! Blessings to you and yours!!

Florida Mom

Heather said...

Or Dad can stay home, too! :)

Although I've heard through the grapevine that families with stay at home dads still have the mother doing more of the housework. Go figure.

Lila said...

Sometimes when I see other kids in a ton of costly activities and wearing all the great clothes I worry she feels cheated because we can't afford stuff like that. Then we have a simple party of pizza and Ice Cream cake and she tells me it is the best day of her life and I know I am right where I need to be. Home to shower her and Monkey with love. Sure I hope the books publish but I am happy taking care of my family.

irontomflint said...

The best thing my wife and I ever did was to have my wife as a stay at home parent.
Sure the money got tight,but nothing,NOTHING could ever be bought that could replace the time my wife spent with our son.
My wife was constantly questioned about why she gave up her career "just to sit around the house all day and do nothing." Can you believe that? Raising a child 24/7/365 was viewed as doing nothing by women that had their children raised by strangers in day care!
If you have to send your child to daycare, fine. But it would be better for everyone if you lost all the designer googaws and gave up the country club and spent your time raising your children.
They will surprise you in amazing ways.

tpals said...

My college friend and her husband made the choice for him to stay home with the kids. It was logical because he would never match her salary and he loves doing it.

Anonymous said...

ALL, I don't mean to say that dad staying at home is not equally plausible or is somehow wrong. It is just not the way things work for most folks.

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