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Should One Parent Stay Home To Raise Kids?

Many families in their 20s and 30s are opting to have one parent stay home to raise their children. While this can be great for some people, there are others where this wouldn't work. We should also acknowledge that there may be some things that families with stay-at-home parents might be overlooking when they make their decision to keep one of them at home.


This decision, as with everything in life, comes down to trade-offs that go far beyond, "can we afford to?"


Staying Home


There are so many reasons to have one parent stay home. These are the reasons we've all read about. Many parents want to know that they are the ones raising their children and not a babysitter or nanny. Some feel that if they both work and their child has to go off to daycare, or even if a nanny is hired, they will have a non-parent raising their kid.


A related second reason to stay home with your children is that you get to be there for all the "firsts" - the first step, the first word, the first time they stand up or roll over. These are important moments for many people to experience first-hand.


There are some financial reasons one parent will stay home. Daycare is expensive, in-home nannies are even more expensive. These costs multiply when you start having multiple children. Many couples feel that it doesn't make sense to send both parents off to work only to spend all that money on paying someone to take care of your child.


These, along with many personal reasons to stay home, are great reasons to have one parent stay home. Many people value time with their child, especially in those  young years and there is nothing wrong with spending your money on things you highly value ("spending your money" refers to the income you are not making by staying home).


Working


Before making the decision to have one parent stay home, I think it's very important to look at both sides of the coin. I don't get the sense that enough people talk about the downsides of having one parent stay home to raise children. Many of these reasons are rooted in money, and we don't like to talk about money in our society.


First, there is a lack of financial autonomy on the stay-at-home parent. They don't "earn their own money" and this can often lead to anxiety around spending money. Money is often a topic many couples fight about, and having a one-income household can lead to either 1) "I make the money," said by the employed parent, or 2) "I can't spend this money, I didn't earn it," said by the stay-at-home parent. Don't underestimate this.


Similarly, studies show that having a one-income family can create a financial burden on the spouse who works. There is a certain stress that comes with knowing your entire family relies on your one income. Traditionally it's the dad who goes to work and men aren't known for voicing concerns or talking about feelings, so this stress tends to compound.


At some point the stay-at-home parent might want to go back to work once the child is old enough to stay home alone or moves out. Some people have concerns about not just a gap on the resume, but a gap in skills and technology. There is also a certain anxiety that comes from having to go back to work for the first time in 20 years.