The Financial Price Of Being A Stay At Home Mom

by Vered DeLeeuw · 189 comments


I stayed home with my young children, putting my career on the back burner, for five years.  Financially speaking, it was a bad move. Economists say that the stay-at-home parent who gives up a career may lose about $1 million over the years. While I didn’t lose $1 million, I have lost 5 years of wages, of 401(k) contributions (and growth) and of accumulating social security benefits.

Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I loved being there for my kids when they were little, devoting myself 100% to them and forgetting about everything else. But I was lucky: my five-year stint as a stay at home mom took place while the economy was strong; my husband was employed and earning well throughout those five years; he didn’t leave me for another woman (happens more often than you’d like to think); and I am now back to working almost full time, from home, this time for my own growing business.

Despite my successful experience dropping out of the workforce for a few years, I believe I took a risk. I know for sure that I didn’t plan it fully. I believe that many of us choose to stay home with our kids because of strong maternal instincts that make us forget other considerations. Ideally, a woman should weigh all her options and make this decision very carefully.

Slave Labor?

Patricia left an interesting comment on a previous post, Money Mistakes Women Make, that sparked the idea for this post (Thank you Patricia!) In her comment, Patricia says, “I think the biggest mistake that women make is ‘staying home to raise the children.’ The US economic system penalizes you on every front and it is very hard to get sufficient quarters of Social Security in to get medicare or any return. It is essentially SLAVE Labor, which no one in our country can truly afford to pay for. We don’t notice it because it seems like it has always been so. We need to redefine work and benefits.”

I agree with Patricia that the US economic system penalizes stay at home moms. It also penalizes working moms, by the way, as we’ll discuss later. But as long as this is the system and we need to work with what we’ve got, is there a way to stay at home and protect yourself financially, or is staying home always a mistake?

Leave The Door Open

“I quit my job and never looked back” sounds freeing, but you shouldn’t do it. When you quit, do it professionally, giving your employer plenty of time. Do everything you can to leave on good terms, and stay in touch with your former employee, coworkers and colleagues via emails, visits and taking the occasional professional seminar. As much as it would be great to just forget about work for a few years, a safer way to go about it is to keep your skills fresh and stay in touch with the people who could be your ticket back into the workforce.

Protect Yourself Financially

I used to be an attorney, and specialized in Family Law. My advice to women in general: If you can help it at all, do not sign a prenup. And if you must sign one, hire an attorney to make sure the prenup is fair. A standard prenuptial agreement typically protects the wealthier side of the relationship, but a fair agreement needs to address the possibility of you staying home with the kids. In this case, any future settlement should compensate you for loss of wages and benefits. Splitting everything in half upon divorcing may seem fair, but if you gave up $150,000 a year in salary to take care of him and the kids for 10 years, is it really fair to split everything in half when that portion might just be worth $100,000?

Consider Sequencing

Staying home doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” type decision. Many women around me, myself included, have chosen to build a career, have two kids just 1-2 years apart, enabling us to stay home with both of them for around five years, then go back to the workforce. Staying home for five years is easier, in terms of going back to the workforce, than staying home for 10, 15, or 20 years.

Start A Business

Despite attempts at changing this culture, Corporate America still expects employees to have no life outside work and punishes working mothers in the form of paying them less (20% less than women who are not mothers according to some sources) for doing the same work.

Many mothers find that being a mother in Corporate America is simply too hard, and opt instead to start their own business. I recently read about a woman who quit her job to start a cupcake baking business. While others like myself started a freelance writing business. It can be done, and you can make good money. Be prepared to work very hard, but you’ll be doing something you love, and working at your own time and on your own terms.

Ditch The Guilt

Mothers have worked throughout history. Ignore the headlines reporting studies that tell you you’re damaging your kids when you work outside the home. There are countless other studies who show your kids are just fine. The privileged upper middle class mom who stays home with her kids and takes them to the playground each day is a relatively new phenomenon. Mothers have always worked, taking their kids with them when they could, or leaving them to be cared for by the extended family when they couldn’t.

You can also think about it this way: Being a working mother is not something selfish that you do for yourself and to the detriment of your children. When you keep working, your family is stronger. If something were to happen to your husband’s job, or to your marriage, you won’t lose everything. You’ll be able to land on your feet and keep going.

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{ 189 comments… read them below or add one }

Michele Hays October 28, 2010 at 7:07 am

Wow. As a stay-at-home Mom, I have to say I have never been so offended by a blog post. Not only do I take issue with your characterization of me as a slave, I take issue with your materialistic view of the world. I value my family and my time with them more than I value money – that is NOT slavery, it is freedom.

FWIW, in case you decide to dismiss my comment because of assumptions about my personal beliefs – I am an agnostic, moderate liberal who is pro-choice and pro-women’s rights. Yes, I am making sacrifices to get what I want – but so are you.

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MoneyNing October 28, 2010 at 10:04 am

I think Vered and Patricia was referring to the money that the hours of work amounts to is equivalent to “slave labor”. I strongly believe no one would ever think that a stay at home mom is a slave. Sorry for the confusion.

It really boils down to your own unique situation that only you and your husband can decide. What’s right for you may not necessary work for someone else. It’s hard to say what’s fair, since nothing is ever fair.

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Patricia October 28, 2010 at 11:45 am

No I meant that I am being treated like slave labor – lots of folks love their slaves….and having a special needs child really pushed that button home…We worked very hard to keep going and pay the $261,000.00 in medical bills necessary to get our one child healthy and through college…She is now an asset to society. I still had to use daycare…and I worked 2 part time jobs once she entered school…

No one could ever possibly dream of paying for all the services I provided, but with out paying into the SS and Medicare funds I am sure I would be bankrupt and on the streets, and I looks like I may well still get there…

No I meant slave labor…

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MoneyNing October 28, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Patricia, you should be proud of what you did. You deserve all the love and support that anyone gives you. Some people may treat you like slave labor but there are others (like myself) who is honored to have crossed paths with you.

Keep your chin up.

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Patricia October 28, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Chin up. and I may have too much pride…now I am attempting to figure out how to pay off the credit card (and not be embarrassed that I have a credit card debt) and how to eventually retire in good health…I am sure other folks in my situation need some assistance in finding answers to our peculiar but not so uncommon circumstances…Thank you for your good words…

Susan November 11, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Patricia use a period to stop a sentence.
Don’t use 3 dots.

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D November 12, 2010 at 11:41 am

Seriously, Susan?.? I’m sure she knows that basic grammar rule. By the way, you should have a comma after Patricia.

Jamie G November 30, 2010 at 6:07 am

The use of an ellipsis is just fine. It suggests that she is not stopping the sentence, but rather leaving an unfinished thought. “Trailing off,” if you will. Though, I believe that Susan may have been making a stylistic suggestion, not misunderstanding basic punctuation, saying that Patricia’s point would have been better made with a period, with which I tend to agree.

Sarah Butler September 14, 2011 at 3:01 pm

So you’re getting all defensive and uppity over the notion of “slave labor” because you have a “special” kid? Really?
Get off your high chair and take off the bib.

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vered October 28, 2010 at 10:27 am

Offended? Why? I made the same choice. This is not an attack on stay at home moms. If it were, I would be attacking myself. This IS however a frank discussion on how the current US financial system penalizes stay at home moms – and working mothers too. Why turn this into a “mommy war” (as fun as that may be) when the real issue here is the system? Re materialism, if stating that a family needs money to survive and that having a single breadwinner is a financial risk is materialistic, then yes, I am materialistic.

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La la March 3, 2011 at 2:05 pm

So, stay-at-home moms are punished, working moms are punished. It basically sounds like you consider kids to be a punishment. I guess if you want maximum career velocity and maximum earning power, don’t have kids. Oh, that’s not fair to you either? Who told you life was fair in capitalist society?

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Lucy January 24, 2013 at 1:28 am

Men as a collective are the ones punishing women, not kids. In our society, women are punished in many ways, financially being only one of them. (Although from the tone of the comments, it’s obvious how women are hateful and petty towards one another.) Sad really. I hope my punctuation is okay.

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not given October 31, 2010 at 11:58 pm

You work from the time you wake up until you pass out at night. You have no wage. You work for bed and board, no SS contributions, probably no IRA. You lose valuable years you could have been saving for your retirement, your husband still might dump you,with little compensation. You could be separated from your kids over your financial condition. Do you have a prenup that says otherwise?

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Alternatives November 1, 2010 at 12:57 am

One thing I don’t see mentioned is that there are known costs to raising children. Everything in life is a trade-off. Having kids is the greatest thing possible in life (for many) but it’s not free. If the money is that important, not having children saves hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you chose to live in a million dollar house with servants for 20 years instead of your house, you’d derive the great benefits of comfort and leisure that come with it, but you don’t get to complain at the end that you don’t have as much money as everyone else – you spent it on something you loved.

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Man December 23, 2010 at 11:34 am

I know I’m late to the party, but I have to respond to this notion of women left financially devastated by the choice to stay home, when faced with divorce. My experience is anecdotal, but then so are the posts above. From my experience as a son of a 3-times divorced, non-working mother, and a brother to a 1-time divorced, non-working sister, the fathers/step-fathers and brother-in-law were left financially devastated, and the stay-at-home moms cleaned up. My mother gets 60% of my step-dads retirement pension, along with a settlement, and she also claims social security from my father (maybe step-dad as well) even though she never worked. My sister divorced my brother-in-law and remarried within a year. He was left with a foreclosed home, bankruptcy, and ruined credit. She is in Maui right now with the new guy. When my mother remarried, she moved (with the kids) halfway across the country. My dad paid child support for kids he rarely saw, while my mom and step-dad lived a far more luxurious lifestyle than did my father, who was stuck renting an apartment while he got back on his feet, while my mom contracted out remodeling of homes in trendy Kirkland, Washington; no doubt paid for, in part, by my fathers child support. Oh, the above advice about getting a lawyer? I agree, and have this to add: just because something is legal, doesn’t make it morally right. Once the kids are in school full-time, there is no excuse for not finding your way back into the workforce. Nobody has any job security anymore, and many people are face with having to retrain, re-educate, and re-enter the workforce, not just stay-at-home moms.

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Lucy January 24, 2013 at 1:29 am

That is all very true. It’s scary huh?

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Jim Perry February 24, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Yes, there’s a price for every choice we make, and the price of motherhood is often high. Other countries, especially in Scandinavia, do it better. Still, it deserves to be said that there’s a price for not robbing banks, too, and for not becoming a prostitute for a few years. People pay that price partly to avoid the attendant risks but also for the privilege of living lives they are proud of. Need I add that money-making careers are no longer the rewarding and reliable things they were touted to be in decades past. Ask the unemployed.

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Lucy January 24, 2013 at 1:22 am

The author has a right to her opinions, as do you. I don’t think you are as liberal as you want to be. You seem highly defensive, and choose to take issue with an author who just sees things differently than you. Interesting. Free will and expression is for everyone, even if you happen to disagree with them. Think on it.

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Big Mike April 11, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Well it is obvious you are one of those ‘entitled’ women who feel that being a stay at home mom is a JOB. Wake up honey, it is a privilege. If you wanted a job, then go work at the local day care.

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James October 28, 2010 at 8:00 am

Your views on a prenup seem extremely biased. From the man’s perspective sacrifices are made on both fronts when a wife decides to become a stay at home mom (and i’ve already discussed with my fiancé that this is not an option for us unless she can explain why I can’t be a stay at home dad). In your case you chose to give up a $150,000/yr salary; no one forced you to do it. And if the marriage doesn’t work out you can’t expect to recoup your lost wages (that’s just silly). Do you really think that in losing your salary your husband has sacrificed nothing?

A prenup is put into place to make the hard decisions while the two of you love each other rather than are at each others throats.

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vered October 28, 2010 at 10:20 am

My view is based on actual experience as a divorce attorney and on how I used to craft these agreements for clients.

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Financial Samurai October 30, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Vered, random question. Why don’t you smile in your picture? Even I’m smiling in mine :)

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Catherine October 28, 2010 at 11:43 am

James, remember that individuals who choose to stay at home to raise children are still working, they just no longer get paid or receive benefits for what they do. The decision to stay at home is difficult for both parents since the family unit loses income but they get what they want as well: a family. Stay-at-home spouses certainly shouldn’t expect to recover their wages in the event of a divorce but they should get 50% of shared income/assets during that time. Their sacrifice to work but not get paid should be respected as its fair 50% contribution, that’s all. There is no money grabbing here, just an insistence for recognition of fair input. This holds for stay-at-home men and women. Effort is protected, not gender.

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Tracy O'Connor October 28, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Exactly, Catherine. I can’t imagine that my husband would have advanced so far in his career if he hadn’t had the support of a stay at home spouse. This takes nothing from his abilities and talents, but there is no way he could work the sheer number of hours he does, travel and always be there (since he has no need to take off work for sick kids, appointments and so on or arrange his schedule around the schools).

I wouldn’t expect to “take him to the cleaners” if we ever split up but I’m glad he’s appreciative and acknowledges that I work just as hard as he does to ensure our family’s overall success.

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James October 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm

I guess i’m playing devils advocate here but i’ll bite:

The article says “My advice to women in general: If you can help it at all, do not sign a prenup.” & “Splitting everything in half upon divorcing may seem fair, but if you gave up $150,000 a year in salary to take care of him and the kids for 10 years, is it really fair to split everything in half when that portion might just be worth $100,000?”

I read this to mean that you do not want to take exactly half of what you have (which in all fairness you’re entitled to having supported your man from behind the scenes.). You’re trying to take the whole kit and kaboodle.

How do you all feel about alimony then? If you were to break up would you think it fair to continue taking your ex’s money without supporting him? I am not talking about child support here, specifically alimony. Is the idea that you’re entitled to it because you once helped support him work in your mind? Because to me it seems like canceling a netflix subscription so you no longer get the movies but you still owe the monthly fine.

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vered October 28, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Not the whole kit and kaboodle, but in my past life as an attorney, we have reached many settlements where the wife got more than 50% of assets. We took into account her earning potential at age 50, after 25 years of staying home (near zero) as opposed to the husband’s earning potential at age 50 after a long and thriving career (often around 500K a year). These were wealthy families. No one forced the husbands to agree to these arrangement, so don’t worry – no one will ever force you into such a settlement.

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Jamie February 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I’m with James: while I like the premise as an abstract, the fact is that a woman’s husband is in no place to compensate her for her lost wages because he wouldn’t have paid those wages. Instead, the wages would have been paid into the family wealth pool, which would upon divorce have equitably been split, yes, 50-50.

The net result of what you’re proposing would be a system wherein while stable, the family as a whole made due with less so that upon divorce, one spouse could claim a greater share of what was available on account of having not earned any income. That spouse would then be able to seek employment too, and while there’s no guarantee — certainly, returning to the workforce is hard after a long break — it’s possible that the spouse who came out ahead in the split might also end up with a bigger paycheck. This strikes you as fair?

By the way, the reason that I’m using gender-neutral language here is because the fact is that there are also stay-at-home dads. Would you advocate a larger share of the family wealth go to a stay-at-home dad were his wife to leave him? Or would you say that men just have it better, so he should be happy with half and leave it at that?

sarah March 12, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Just want to throw this out there- when our son was born and we already had a two year old little girl, it was apparent he would need several surgeries and years of therapy to take his place in the world-as the one with the ability to provide a better income, better health care benefits and who could get a more flexible schedule(nurse)-I went back to work asap and he stayed home for several years to raise the kids-it should be noted they are both excellent readers, intelligent, self directed people and I credit him and his staying at home to raise them with most of this. Men make great stay at home parents as well and their contribution, like stay at home moms is priceless.

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KM October 28, 2010 at 9:53 am

Also consider working part time and/or from home if your job will allow you. I am a single mom and I have been working from home when I could. Granted, it’s not easy to find a company that will allow you to do that, but it might be possible. I plan on going back when my son is a little older (he is only a month now) as it’s really difficult to have any energy or time right now. But being single, I actually think it’s a lot easier. I am not pressured to do anything and I don’t feel guilty about anything – I just do what I need to do to take care of my child. Right now, it’s very difficult to even leave him for an hour, which is why I understand stay at home moms now – that attachment is so strong. But I am a very independent person by nature, so I am glad I don’t have to worry about anyone leaving me and I would always be financially independent, even if I was married.

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vered October 28, 2010 at 10:15 am

I fully agree – working part-time can be a great option. As mentioned in the article, this is not necessarily an “all or nothing” type decision.

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Catherine October 28, 2010 at 11:32 am

The use of “slave labor” is likely referring to the stay-at-home working to raise kids and keep the household running and getting paid nothing to do it and getting no benefits. When people don’t get paid, our society says they aren’t “working” and that has so many negative consequences, one of which is that the working spouse (almost always the man) says his salary = he calls all the shots. Stay-at-home spouses are almost always subordinate for this reason.

Raising children is extremely important and somebody has to do it. Now that we no longer live in extended family groups, it falls on mother and father, which is way too few people to keep it up all the time. Anyone who chooses to stay at home to make sure they do a good job should be respected for their important contribution instead of denigrated as a “housewife”. If more mothers were respected for their contributions irrespective of salary loss, there would be fewer divorces. After all, who wants to work hard all day with infant or young children, take care of the house, serve your husband and never get help or thanks from any of them? Nobody I know.

Prenupital agreements are meant to protect both parties in the event of a split. I see no reason one side can’t protect what they bring in while splitting everything made/accrued during the time of the marriage. People should get out what they put in. Taking care of kids generates no salary but has immense value and splitting the working spouse’s wages 50/50 during that time is fair. Most of all, any kids present should be protected and the worst possible scenario (and so frequently happens) is divorce followed by she gets the kids and has no current career (because she dropped out to stay home) and he takes his salary, house, investments, etc. with him. The article was sound in advising women not to drop off the planet. You never know when you’ll need to get back in it and a prenupital should be fair to both. It will also teach you a lot about your prospective spouse if you have been negligent to bring these topics up during courtship. People need to talk about everything before getting married. Financial beliefs is just one topic.

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Patricia October 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Thank you so much Vered for writing the article and taking all the criticism and new definitions.
I keep researching this concept and how we can re – look at what happens to women ( and stay at home dads – although they get lots of praise and grief still too) and how we can strengthen families. ( One reason being because schools are being asked to do too much parenting work these days – especially with the exodus to private schools)

I have just had my counselor registration taken away ( even though I took all the updates and kept working 1 family a week all the way through the last 31 years) I have had my own business and sold safe soap and other products, I have done research for news organizations, taught at the local university and community college and I used to get paid for book reviews by a number of companies……I made most of my money cleaning houses and stocking store shelves all night long. In September our health insurance dropped me from coverage….we have kept 13 employees employed through this huge economic down turn…and I am unable to get any long term care insurance. My partner is very supportive and he works long, long hours…

I have to cook specialty foods for my family …( oh well we are all just sickos)

Now I am being told I will get a grand total of $325 a month and only partial medicare coverage when I turn 66 ( oh those pre-existing conditions and not working for the company – doesn’t pay)….my partner must work until he is 73…
I am living out all these strange changes, still volunteering for schools, tutoring, and almost paying all my bills….
One financial planner just called us “stupid….and unforgivably irresponsible…”
We live our principles and values every day….and if I get cancer again, the only way we will make it is if we get divorced…it could instantly ruin us as a couple.

Why should we be made to even think about these choices? I talk to the homeless every morning on my walk and make sure they get medical care and someone to talk to and acknowledgment that they are human and deserve a tender affirming connection…. No I just like to use the correct terms…slave labor, fool and bleeding heart…those are all great words to use to describe me….I am still with Gloria Steinem on this concept….and I have put my whole being on line for justice and love – that includes economic justice too..

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vered October 28, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Patricia, thank YOU. Your story is what had inspired me to write this piece. Don’t worry about taking criticism – it seems to be part of almost any Internet discussion, unless heavily moderated. This conversation is important, and your story must be heard. I do hope the health care reform will solve some of your issues? Although that won’t be before 2014.

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Patricia October 28, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Vered,
The good news about the new health care program is that my daughter was born with a pre-existing condition which meant many companies could not afford to hire her because they could not put her on their health ins. – so like me she would have had to provide her own health care even while others in her company got coverage. Well she just got a nice career growing job because this new legislation went through and she is working at higher levels than nearly all the other employees in this huge corporation.

I will have to wait until 2014 to get realistic health care because I was born with cancerous tumor and have had cancer several more times….So I have used up all my lifetime benefits by age 12, that will no longer be possible after 2014.

The hardest part still for me is that so many people are not willing to look at the idea because “these things do not happen to them – always the others, the unfortunates” I am right in the middle of the shift…and if I can get full time employment sometime soon, I will need to work for at least 20 years to regroup….I have faith :) but I am still going to call out its name.

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Amy October 28, 2010 at 12:37 pm

I am not offended in the least. I am a working mother and I see the reality of my working life. I understood exactly what was meant by the term slave and see it to be true.
It is not easy to be a stay at home mother. But, working mothers are expected to accomplish just as much with 50 fewer hours a week.
Things are as they are and we just have to make our own situations work for us. That’s all there is to it.

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retirebyforty October 28, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Thanks for the great post. It’s good to see how the other half view this transition. My wife likes her job though and will go back to work after the maternity leave. I’m really contemplating being a stay at home dad for a couple of years and try the self employ route. We’ll see how it goes.

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Mommyof1 March 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm

kudos to you, staying at home with my daughter is the best thing I could have decided for both of us. I hope it works for you too.

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kim October 28, 2010 at 1:18 pm

You are only getting ahead when that 2nd parent’s wages go to savings, not just increasing the monthly bills for the bigger house and car. You are also making a huge assumption that your kids are being well cared for by school, daycare, etc. Heaven forbid people make material sacrifices to actually be around your kids. You should really look at what it COSTS for you to go to work too. Childcare, gas, extra mochas, food, clothing, insurance etc. We have been juggling working and have found childcare is not worth it for 3 kids. I will only work when my husband can take the kids now. I think too many people jump into gotta work mode without even THINKING of well maybe we don’t need that extra 1200 square foot house. Really think what your doing to your kids people.

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vered October 28, 2010 at 4:04 pm

I can’t agree with your assumption that all dual-income families are living a wasteful lifestyle. I know this is not the case for us.

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Em May 22, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Until you can show me the study that provides irrefutable proof that kids do worse with working moms, I’ll live my life, you live yours. Your choices don’t apply to everyone just because they work for you.

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Steve Jobs October 28, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I am a stay at home Dad and my wife is working, does that mean I should be compensated too? Nah, I don’t think so, it is my own choosing for not working on a corporate world and work and stay at home. If we are going to consider stay at home moms or dads as lost opportunity, then we ought to work in a corporate world and leave the kids at home to fend for themselves. It is the couple’s obligation to take care of their kids and one of them must do it at home while the other one is working. If the concern is the lost medical and retirement benefits you could get while working, why not get a medical or retirement plan for yourself paid by your espouse income.

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vered October 28, 2010 at 4:18 pm

All US families where just one partner is working, including mine, are taking a financial risk. They’re gaining a lot, for sure, but they are at risk of losing everything if the earning partner loses their income. This is a flaw in the system, so there’s no point at pointing fingers at each other and yelling that our choices are better than others’.

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Patricia October 28, 2010 at 5:06 pm

We own a small business so we purchase our own health insurance independently – most of my outside work went to pay the premiums and the co-pays….Then we turned 60 and pay $1600.00 a month in premiums with a $5,000 deductible…we have used up all our savings and so when the insurance company refuses to pay for care after an accident and drops me because I have used my lifetime cap….I dare you to find health insurance you can afford on one income…got to think ahead…how do you plan for something that was not there before…or try thinking about being a 70 year old retired female who gets breast cancer….the risks go up with age…I know 6 of those folks who have had to go to work again..

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Disagree November 11, 2010 at 2:44 pm

By the same token, every US person who has a job is taking a risk. What if your company suddenly closes up, and your spouse’s fires them? You are in the same position as the single income earner. By your reasoning, the only safe job is welfare from the government.
Sure, if there are 2 of you it’s less likely you will both be unemployed at the exact same time, but if you are depending on 2 incomes, you are in no better position when you do lose one income than the family depending on 1 income. In fact, you may be in a better position to negotiate benefits to see your family through the hardship as a single wage earner.
I did find this article to be directed toward a very specific subset of the population – the wealthiest where both spouses are making large sums of money.

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jim October 28, 2010 at 2:58 pm

“The privileged upper middle class mom who stays home with her kids and takes them to the playground each day is a relatively new phenomenon. Mothers have always worked, taking their kids with them when they could, or leaving them to be cared for by the extended family when they couldn’t.”

In 1975 about 35% of mothers with children under 3 years old were in the workforce and therefore 65% (large majority) of mothers were not in the workforce. So as recent as 35 years ago MOST women with children did NOT work and that has now shifted to the opposite where MOST women with children DO work.
If you look at general labor force participation, in the 1950’s less than 30% of women worked at all and in 1910 less than 20% worked. And even fewer % of mothers would have worked.

It is a new phenomena for women to work while mothers. In the past it was not a mark of privilege to be a stay at home mom but actually it was common place.

Note that I’m NOT saying women should be feel guilty about working. I’m just stating the facts about the tends for women and mothers in the labor force.

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vered October 28, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Human history started before 1975.

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jim October 28, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Yes and I also gave data for % participation in the workforce for women going back as far as 100 years for 1910 and 1950. Pre-1900’s most people had farms so its not really very comparable.

Exactly what period of history are you thinking about when most women commonly worked outside the home while being mothers?

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jim October 28, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Here’s another couple data points:
in 1948 only 10.8% of married women with children held jobs
in 1890 only 4.5% of married women were in the labor force

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jim October 28, 2010 at 4:45 pm
vered October 28, 2010 at 8:03 pm

OK. I accept what you’re saying, Jim. What I had in mind was the mother who slaps her kid on her back and works in the field. So in this sense, mothers have always worked, but now we’re talking about mothers who work outside the home and away from their kids. Different situation.

Still, I think we both agree that the choice to work outside the home is a legitimate one, even if not problem-free. Each choice has its pluses and minuses. Contributing to the family’s finances, knowing that if something happens to your husband you and your kids won’t be desolate, not being completely dependent on your husband – those are very important.

This also goes back to the core question of this article – not pitching parents against each other but asking whether our society should maybe support families more than it does now.

I don’t think I’ll be able to come back to this discussion – a busy day tomorrow and I have already spent more time on this comment thread than I had ever intended to :) but thank you for an interesting discussion.

Em May 22, 2014 at 5:16 pm

LOL!

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jim October 28, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Of course I agree that anyone looking at a pre-nup should get an independent lawyer to review it.

But I’m a little confused on this bit…

“Splitting everything in half upon divorcing may seem fair, but if you gave up $150,000 a year in salary to take care of him and the kids for 10 years, is it really fair to split everything in half when that portion might just be worth $100,000?”

I guess I don’t get this. Are you questioning if 50/50 split is fair for the wife? Does that mean you think a stay at home mom should get >50% of assets?? I’m not clear on your argument here, maybe I don’t read you right. How is 50/50 split unfair in this case? How should it work? If they made a joint decision to live on one salary then thats a joint decision. If they didn’t save much money then that is also done jointly.

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vered October 28, 2010 at 4:06 pm

In my past life as an attorney, we have reached many settlements where the wife got more than 50% of assets. We took into account her earning potential at age 50, after 25 years of staying home (near zero) as opposed to the husband’s earning potential at age 50 after a long and thriving career (often around 500K a year). These were wealthy families. No one forced the husbands to agree to these arrangement, so don’t worry – no one will ever force you into such a settlement.

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jim October 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Ok, yes that situation does make more sense.

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Briana @ GBR October 28, 2010 at 3:44 pm

I’m still young and not looking to have kids for another 3 years, but I’ve been trying to figure out what my working situation is going to be. I love my current job, but I also want to telecommute at least a few days a week. I was thinking once I launch my business, I can cowork between 8:30 and 2:30, be able to take my kids to school and pick them up, and work from home the rest of the day. Seems like a win win situation to me, as long as I have enough clients.

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vered October 28, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Sounds like a great plan Briana. Even if you’re not an employee and don’t have a 401(k) plan, talk with your tax advisor about opening an IRA account.

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Perplexed October 28, 2010 at 8:00 pm

I’m not a mother but I’ve always wondered why working mothers take on more childcare responsiblities than their working father spouses. If this burden were split 50/50 it doesn’t seem to me that working mothers would be over-taxed. I’ve known couples who have done this. Why isn’t it commonplace?
Some strategies I’ve observed to avoid daycare:
1) one works day-shift, one swing-shift while the kids are pre-school.
2) one works an early hours (6-2) picking the kids up from school, the other works later hours (10-6) getting kids ready and taking to school.
With daycare there is even more flexible options for splitting the childcare responsibilities – unless one partner travels ALL the time, they should be able to switch off for business travel – rarely will they both be required to be on-the-road at the same time. Why would a woman not negotiate a FAIR arrangement with her partner before even agreeing to have children?

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vered October 28, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Excellent points. I think the expectation that the woman take on the majority of the household and childcare responsibilities is deeply rooted in our society. So the same society that gave women all these wonderful rights – the right to vote, to own assets, to get higher education, to have a career – is basically telling us that we got these rights in addition to our duties as mothers and wives. “Now deal with the stress.” is basically the message.

But things are changing ever so slowly – – here on this comment thread we have a stay at home dad. We should keep talking about it, asking the questions you asked here, and demand more flexibility from employers. Things have changed so much over the past generation or two – fathers are so much more involved now. Who knows, maybe in 2 more generations the home and kids will become the equal responsibility of both partners and employers will come to respect that.

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Perplexed October 28, 2010 at 8:20 pm

I’m sorry, Vered but I have to disagree with you. The decisions about who-does-what in a family are made by the individals involved. It doesn’t matter what is ingrained in society as a whole. Women must take individual responsibility for protecting their individual rights. They know the men they are married to – if those men maintain sexist attitudes about childcare then perhaps they are not parent material — remember all women have VETO power in this area (unlike men in the case of an unplanned pregnancy). Only if the women share this sexist attitude would the situation work. I wish that childcare and household responsibilites could be included in pre-nuptial agreements – not just how to split the money. At least everything would be clear to both parties before the family started.

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Amy November 2, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I’d also like to pose the possibility that it isn’t necesarily only the child rearing duties that people are talking about, but the duties of cleaning house and running errands. Many husbands are fabulous fathers and not so fabulous at cleaning the house, planning the meals, or shopping for the families Christmas presents.
If one parent works nights/swing and the other parent works days, what time is the family spending together on their time off? What time are the parents spending together? Isn’t the purpose of a family to have time together?
You are definitely right that everyone involved in the relationship is making an agreement, stated or not, as to what their participation is going to be in the relationship. Most people don’t think of it – or anything in life – this way. That certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t fit for fatherhood. As a matter of fact, the opinion that a father should be responsible for 50% of everything is a new idea. I think it is kind of like the idea of the Prius or an electric car. Just because I don’t drive one doesn’t mean I can’t be on the road nor does it make me unsuitable to drive. That’s just the way it is. The men of today are much better at parenting than their fathers were and that’s a start. I know that I would not have had children if I hadn’t found someone who I knew would be a great and participatory father to share my life with.

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Em May 22, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Nice idea but you don’t always get to choose the hours you want (or contain your work week to 40 hours for that matter)

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Megan October 28, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I’m not sure that you’ve taken the whole picture into consideration. The average cost of child care for two kids is roughly $1,443 per month in my state according to a survey taken in 2005. (I haven’t found any others more recent as comprehensive as this one.) It seems to be fairly accurate even now, with the price increasing as you add more members to the family.
Child care for just two kids is $17,267 per year and for most people, that is probably the major part of the average working mom’s income. (the average median income is $24,388) For a lot of women who choose to stay home the additional $7,121 is not worth the hassle. If she adds a third child to the mix, the cost goes up either another $7,576 (preschool care cost) or another $9,691 (infant care cost) and they are now taking from the primary earner’s income to pay for childcare. Not to mention that the larger the family, the less practical and cost effective daycare is. For some families, staying at home is the best plan.
I for one, have four children and even when my husband and I only had one child, we chose to never use daycare. One worked in the daytime, one at night. I don’t see the benefit of having someone else see my children for more hours of the day than I do. I want to raise them and help guide them myself, and no amount of money, social security, retirement or other is worth giving that up.
I think the true problem is how our money-minded culture has devalued women, child rearing, nurturing, and stay at home parenting as a whole.
If you are going to figure out income lost, you need to add up all the money saved as well. Add up the cost of daycare, a housekeeper, and a cook. That is the true value of a stay at home parent.

As a footnote, work at home parents are still stay at home parents.

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Megan October 28, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Here is the link to the survey results, I hit send too soon.

http://www.naccrra.org/docs/policy/PriceReport_detailed_tables.pdf

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Nick October 28, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Unless you are bringing in some serious cash, staying home just makes sense….if you work all you’ll do is pay for daycare, so why not stay home and give the kids the interaction they need .

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Rachel October 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Even if most of one parent’s salary goes to child care it can help a lot to have that parent working.

It depends on the job, but if you’re earning benefits like health insurance, a matched 401k, and dental coverage then you’re earning a lot more than take-home wages. Working in order to earn those benefits can make sense.

Another reason is the job market. I grew up in a beautiful, isolated and rural town where professional jobs that can be hard to come by. People tend to hold on to benefited jobs in teaching, science, engineering, and many other fields for as long as they can because there aren’t many of these jobs and these jobs are very hard to get. Health care jobs on the other hand are easy to find. So, if were a nurse or CNA it wouldn’t hurt to take time off to raise kids. But, in you’d be absolutely crazy to give up a job in teaching because the odds of you finding a suitable replacement job in the same town later on are next to nil. So people that don’t want to move generally stay withing the maternity or family leave they are allotted.

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Jamie February 20, 2011 at 7:02 pm

You’re assuming that the interaction that a child receives from his or her mother is somehow superior to what would be received from someone else. That’s not necessarily the case.

Contrary to what people seem intent on pushing here based on their very limited personal experience, not all mothers are particularly good at parenting, bonding, or even taking care of chores around the house. (Not all fathers are good at these things either.)

If someone’s personal effectiveness is stronger in a structured work environment than directing the activities of a child, and he or she therefore enjoys that more, then he or she would be better off choosing to return to paid employment quickly unless his or her work actually pays *less* than the cost of daycare. Otherwise, even a break-even scenario will leave the person feeling better.

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Jon DeRidder October 29, 2010 at 6:27 am

I have met many successful women over the years that work from home. They did this while raising children. By working when their children were taking nap etc.. I am sure this was not an easy task.

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Em May 22, 2014 at 5:25 pm

I wish people would stop saying this. If you work from you, you are working, regardless of whether it’s full time or part time. Stay at home mom and mom who works from home are not the same thing.

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Em May 22, 2014 at 5:27 pm

That should have read “if you work from YOUR HOME, you are working.”

In this day and age, we still think that it’s not work if you’re not doing it in an office??

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Mark October 29, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I had no clue that so much went into being a stay at home mom. Maybe some pay(from the husband) should accompany the many job duties.

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Jean October 29, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Now that I am near 60 I regret a ton of decisions in my life. The only one I do NOT regret- and am thankful every single day of my life that I made- is giving up my job as a teacher to stay home and raise my children.It is worth every sacrifice that we made.

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Jamie February 20, 2011 at 7:03 pm

You’ve had the benefit of reflecting on that choice over a lifetime, so anyone who argued with you on this would be foolish. I’m sure you can appreciate, however, that your situation is your own and not necessarily somehow representative of all past, current, and future mothers.

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What? October 29, 2010 at 10:27 pm

I found your article via friend’s comment on FB, and I have to say, and as a working mom, your post is offensive. Why on earth should the “system” be responsible for your choice to stay home with your kids for any length of time? Why would you equate this to slave labor? Because you chose to give up your $150k salary? What if someone had given up a $10/hr job? Should the lower-wage earner be compensated at your level for giving up her job too? If not, why not? She has to devote just as much time raising her kids as you do yours. And how do you decide what qualifies for compensation? By the quality of the behavior of her kids? By how much time she spends with them? Sorry, but this just sounds like another version of welfare. But without cause.

And I really love it when articles like yours say something to the affect of ‘if you decide to stay home, make sure you start your own business or keep your skills up’. Really? First off, starting and running a business is not something just anyone can do. I have loads of ideas and some decent skill to support those ideas, and I love doing the work. But the reality of turning those ideas into a business is a complete nightmare. I know because I’ve tried. I’ve also watched some friends have their own businesses, and it’s tedious work. I definitely give them kudos. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it if you have the inclination, but please don’t make it sound like earning a little extra money on the side while staying home with kids is as easy as flipping a light switch. And keeping up on skills? Yeah, just fit that in between 8-9pm when you’re dead tired and really want to read Physics Today.

And I have to agree with Perplexed. The real mistake a woman makes is walking into a marriage not demanding that the relationship be equitable on all fronts. The moment she allows the husband to make all decisions or allows herself to be mostly/completely responsible for child rearing, well, that’s where the real problem lies. If she chooses to stay home, she has to make sure that her husband understands that staying home is not a couch-potato job, that he still has to participate in household duties. How she receives “compensation” should be decided between her and her husband. The marriage should be viewed as a partnership to better their and the lives of their children, however they define that. I also appreciate Perplexed’s strategies, because, oh, my, that’s what we do too. And it really can be done.

Whether a woman chooses to stay home or work (as defined as being paid to do a job), both situations demand sacrifice in one form or another. Both are hard choices, but can only be made by the individuals as they are the only ones who know what’s best for them. You can look at all the studies in the world, and I’m pretty sure I can find exceptions to why working is not good for kids or staying home is not good for kids. The studies don’t matter one iota: it’s what’s best for *your* kids that matter most.

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Sherelle October 30, 2010 at 2:43 am

Personally, when the time comes to have children, I hope to be able to stay home with them and use my resources to save money at home & make money at home. But I know that it comes with risks, many of which you outlined.

I felt it was a fair article written to raise awareness of the risks to SAHMs. Being able to raise my own children is something I hope to be able to enjoy, but regardless of how sensible I am about the man I marry or his sense of equality in parenting, ANYTHING could happen in the future. I really respect your experience as an attorney, because I received some training in divorce mediation and it is clear to me that the spirit of the law and what actually occurs can be quite different. Few people get married thinking they might divorce, and I’m not sure all SAHMs have considered what might happen to them if they are left as single mothers with a huge gap in job skills/experience. However, people change and life can change very quickly and many things occur that we do not expect.

Clearly, my comment focuses on the possible long-term effects of a lack in planning (and your point about your husband not leaving you). While it is easy to be offended, it would be ignorant to ignore the crucial advice given here.

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Financial Samurai October 30, 2010 at 5:07 pm

I kind of understand what you are saying if I make assumptions about your assumptions. But, you’re not very clear.

You say 50/50 split is bad during a divorce since you make $150K/yr. Isn’t that more than fair since you only make $150k/yr? That’s only about 1/3 to 1/10th of what most guys I know make, so you getting 50/50 is a GREAT deal.

Please clarify. Are you saying your husband makes less than 150K?

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MoneyNing October 30, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Let me try to explain for Vered.

Vered is referring to splitting 50/50 after according for the earning potential of both the husband and wife at 50, which she is deeming to be at the height of both their perspective careers if they were worked during the whole time.

Since most of her clients were getting divorced before they reached 50, the stay at home wife in reality got more than 50% of the assets to compensate for the sacrifice of HER part of the career for a few years.

The numbers seem big, but she is referring to people who have careers that reach $500k+ a year in compensation.

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Financial Samurai October 30, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Right. So if the husband is making $500,000 a year for the past 5 years, and she gave up $150,000 a year for the past 5 years, what’s wrong with 50/50? Shouldn’t she feel content to receive half since she only makes $150k/yr?

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MoneyNing October 30, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I think the example she gave was that just splitting the income in half would be $100k, but if we look at half of the potential, it might be more than that and she should be entitled to get at least a portion of that, which might end up being more than 50% of current.

Note though that I’m not making a stance on whether this is fair or not, because I believe that NOTHING can ever be truly fair, especially in a divorce.

Each lawyer should try to get as much as they can for their perspective clients, and the outcome is just the way it will be.

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Daniela November 1, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I left corporate America after working hard for 16 years after college. I was single until the age of almost 37 and then had a baby right before I turned 38. I had a very successful career and saved my money. My husband travels extensively for his job and it just didn’t make sense for me to keep working.

The one thing that irks me with the whole debate between working moms and stay at home moms is that we are perceived as having the hours of a typical work day as “free” to do all of the things that working moms have to do when they come home.

Try hanging out with anyone under the age of two all day long and see how much you accomplish (on very little sleep too as your spouse gets to sleep through the night). This is the hardest job I’ve ever had and do not feel that if you have young ones at home that you have all day to get “chores” done.

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Amy November 2, 2010 at 2:22 pm

I have stayed home with my children and I find that it is difficult to get things done but still possible. There is down time during the day in which to accomplish things because you are in the house, or running around and doing errands that you can’t do while in an office all day.

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Kris November 4, 2010 at 8:08 pm

A-freaking-men… My husband was bugging me to call a stupid landscape contractor “in my free time”. Um, yeah. Where is this “free time” that you speak of??? (He travels for weeks at a time for his job, so I stay home with our little guy.)

My downtime comes after he goes to bed, which is usually around 10:00. Otherwise, he only naps for 20 minutes; and I’m usually rocking him for 15 of them. We’re undergoing some evaluations for autism; but I don’t have the luxury of making uninterrupted phone calls or answering e-mail during the day.

I sell crafty items on ebay or etsy for a little extra cash when I can. I wish I could run a business out of my home, but parenting a special needs kiddo leaves me little time for “real life” things.

Starting a business from home isn’t something that should be done flippantly or taken lightly. It’s all-consuming (as is parenting), but it seems like we’re damned if we work and damned if we choose to stay home and superduperdamned if we try to do it all.

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Sandra November 8, 2010 at 6:02 am

I stayed home with my 4 kids – financially it made much more sense than paying childcare expenses (daycare and after school). I was employed in a field where you make about $25,000 with a BS degree. The time at home gave me an opportunity to reassess my career – if I was going to return to work, and sacrifice time away from my family, and pay for all the nanny who would be required, I needed a different career. I went back to school full-time, instead of work, and am now in a field where I earn 3-4 times as much. So while I gave up many years of income, that time really let me re-examine my career. Having children is a great way to stop and rethink where your career is going, and change for the better.

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Jamie February 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Sandra, your story makes sense, but your having children was not a required component of your taking a step back to consider your career path except that, all things being equal, “taking a break” from a formal career is more acceptable on account of children than it would be were you to simply tell people that you’d decided to stay at home. Other that reducing the social stigma of being “lazy,” you had the choice either way.

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koffeewitch November 23, 2010 at 7:10 am

I just read a fascinating article about how Dutch women feel about this issue…Dutch women have a huge pay gap, fewer “titles” and high paying jobs…yet they are much happier and less prone to depression than American women. Europeans simply seem to feel far more connected to their family/ideals/community & hobbies and far less concerned about their working life and professional image. In short, they are more prone to define themselves by who they are…not what they do for a living. For the article: http://www.slate.com/id/2274736/pagenum/2&h=2de37

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Jamie February 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm

There are about as many Europeans as there are Americans, and I assure you that from Boise to Boston, Houston to Honolulu, Anchorage to Aspen, Americans differ greatly in what they value. I’d be careful with drawing conclusions even regarding “Dutch women” as a generalized class, and certainly it’s presumptuous to extend such a generalization as broadly as “Europeans.”

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Stephanie December 14, 2010 at 11:14 am

I love being a stay at home mom. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Though, times do get lonely while my guy is at work, and I sometimes wish I had a job for social interaction only, it just doesn’t sit right with my gut. My child’s safety is at the top of my list, and I am the only person in the world who can make sure he is safe all of the time. No distractions, no computer work, phone calls or hanging out with friends. Not now anyway. We do family holidays, shopping and a lot of singing and dancing. My 7 month old loves to watch me dance around him while making faces and noises. That is priceless. If everyone were more conscious about the money they spent, they wouldn’t need to work so hard. This I know from living on my own for a while, 3 different places, 3 different rent prices… utilities included or not. We figured out exactly what we needed to do once we had our son. It was to get the heck over ourselves, sacrifice everything… sell things we no longer needed, watch what we eat, and so on… Every stay at home mom (and working Dad) should consider a full lifestyle change if they want to make ends meet and not stress about money.. (stress does come in other forms, though. That’s life.) It doesn’t come down to working or not working. It’s all a matter of getting your priorities straight and making sure baby (survival) comes first. Every one gave us speeches about how much money a baby costs while I was pregnant. Yeah, well, with our lifestyle changes we are soaring past those guys with money in the bank and everything we need to survive. No struggling. We make plans, and figure everything out ahead of time. If it’s not needed, don’t buy it. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. If it IS broken… wait a while until you have enough money. Don’t spend because you think you need something that you really don’t. Luxury is a human fault. Taking our survival instincts away from us, distracting us and leaving us stressed and wanting more…… (thanks to this lifestyle change our baby has his own money in the bank… $10 dollars a week and with each raise another 5)
Proud Stay at home Moms, you are getting everything you’ve ever wanted by seeing those beautiful smiles everyday, whenever you want. And to you working moms, I admire your work ethic, but fact of the matter is, you gave birth to that child. You wanted that child. You are forever bonded with that child….. but you are missing precious moments with your child. That, I feel bad for. You have no right to try to convince Moms who stay home to re-think their options. Our moments are worth more than your paychecks. Sorry, that’s how I feel.

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Jamie February 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Stephanie, I’m very glad that things are working for you, but please do keep in mind that you can only speak with 100% certainty for yourself and with a high degree of certainty for the handful of stay-at-home moms you personall know and trust. Making a statement on behalf of all or most women in your position that they “are getting everything [they]‘ve ever wanted” is as presumptuous and unprovable as competing claims made by women saying the opposite. Each person is unique; each family is unique.

I did find your opening rather in constrast to your closing, by the way: are you primarily interested in bonding with your child to form lasting relationships based on love and growth, or protecting your child from the dangers of the world? If the latter is a primary motivation, you should be wary of taking this too far, as some permissible degree of risk-taking is what provides us with the scrapes and bruises that let us learn.

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Nancy December 18, 2010 at 6:15 pm

I think people can achieve a balance. I kept my foot in the door while working in a job share position. Once my children were of school age, I went back to work full-time. Since I work as a teacher in the same school district, our schedules are perfectly matched. There are ways to blend work and parenting successfully.

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Jamie February 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Nancy, certainly there are. Maintaining some degree of professional relevance is a key point that the article here is making, particularly with regards to providing a form of personal insurance against destitution should a couple unexpectedly divorce.

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Nancy December 18, 2010 at 6:21 pm

As far as the argument that women shouldn’t work because day care costs eat up a woman’s salary, this reasoning always drives me crazy. Why don’t people ever consider whether day care costs subtracted from a man’s salary, make it worth it for the dad to work? It’s funny to me how it is always placed on the woman’s score card.

I know that my day care costs never came close to the amount I was earning.

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Ashley December 21, 2010 at 12:45 pm

My husband earns a good salary — $125,000 in Atlanta. We are able to have a nice house (not extravagent but nice) in a good neighborhood. We have 7 year old cars that are paid off and don’t live off of credit cards. We do have some student loans we are still paying off. We could afford to get by on his income if we were very careful about our expenses but would not be adequately saving for retirement/college. I am in sales and currently earning about 80,000/yr. If I leave my job, even for a few years, there is a good chance it will take me a very long time to reach this earning potential again if I ever do. I will lose my clients and have to build my business from scratch again. Because of the employment laws in Georgia I could not leave my firm for any reason and go to a competitor within a 3 year period. I would have to either take more than 3 years or go into another industry. I have worked very hard to reach this earning potential and I think the extra income will benefit our family in the long run. I would like to hear about more people in our situation. Yes, we could get by on one income but our savings would be dicey at best and we would be giving up an awful lot. I also know how stressful it is to worry about money and can’t imagine putting my husband in a situation where he has to stress out all the time about being the sole provider. How are SAHM’s saving for college/retirement for their kids? Are they counting on loans and the husband working forever? I hear an awful lot about counting coupons and buying used cars, etc. I don’t really hear much talk about how this decision affects the level of retirement savings and college savings. Are you worried that your kids will graduate from college saddled with debt and then have to face potentially caring for you in your old age? Thanks for the advice..

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Disagree February 9, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I choose to have a house that is sufficient for our needs (a 3 bedroom/1 bath house). Sure it may seem small to others, but the mortgage is small, and the upkeep is cheaper. I live just outside of Boston, and my husband makes about half your husbands salary, and yet we have everything we need. He contributes to his 401 (k). With his next raise in March we will start a college fund for our infant.

I don’t worry about my kids graduating “saddled with debt”. After all, neither of us had a college fund, and we only have about $3000 in student loans. We worked full time and went to school full time. It can be done. I don’t feel the need to hand my kid life on a silver platter. I went to school with kids with college funds, and most of them didn’t care about the classes or their grades because “I didn’t pay for it”. I think hard work builds character. My sister has no college fund, and yet she is going to school just fine. She has no loans so far, and has qualified for scholarships and Pell grants. She is also planning on working.

I received all my credits that I need to get something when I retire. I don’t worry about my lost income from SS, as proven studies show there won’t be enough to pay it out because there aren’t enough kids being born. Ironic isn’t it? And working would push us into a higher tax bracket where we wouldn’t qualify for a lot of tax breaks.

I do worry about my child and the things he would learn. I wouldn’t make enough to hire a private nanny, so it would be daycare. I was a nanny and I remember how the poor kid never got enough sleep because his parent woke him up early to get to work, then would keep him up late to spend time with him. He was averaging 7 hours of sleep a night at 18 months.

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Jamie February 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I’m not sure how old you are, but college costs a lot more today (adjusted for inflation) than it did twenty or even ten years ago. There are ways to reduce cost but they’re not always easily navigated, and some states and locales just don’t have as many lower-cost options as others. (For instance, not every county has a well-regarded community college to allow for a two-year degree before continuing to a Bachelor’s-level program.)

Your response here also addresses a question I posed to one of your earlier responses: you indicate that you’re less cash-strapped because you qualify by virtue of your lower family income for tax credits that wouldn’t otherwise be available. I know exactly what you mean; my family recently crossed a threshold whereupon we lost some credits we used to get, and it makes a big difference.

Be careful, though, because many of those credits will be on the chopping block as Americans continue to clamor about the Federal deficit. A tax credit is, after all, a targeted subsidy. A flat tax or something similar would see many of these incentives removed, after which earning less would mean having less. That would change the equation and make it a much less financially self-justifying choice to remain at home.

I’m not taking a position against being a stay-at-home parent, by the way. Caring for children is important, and someone–whether the parent or a third-party provider like a nanny or daycare center–will ultimately do it. I’m just saying that your situation, in which there is a financial argument for staying home, isn’t universal.

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Orlando CPA January 2, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Another option is part-time work rather than staying at home full-time or working. In my opinion lost income is not a compelling argument for not staying at home when you consider that any moment you miss in your child’s life is forever lost . Talented, hard working people will always make money.

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Jamie February 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Orlando, your assertion that “talented, hard working people will always make money” feeds into an imaginary worldview popular among some Americans, but it’s not borne out by reality. Many people with talent find that they are in the wrong place to put their talents to work but are unable to relocate; other people work very hard only to find their entire professions being outsourced and opportunities drastically scaled back.

I knew a great many professional programmers in the early 1990s–before the Dot Com boom–who worked long hours and were very, very good at what they did. They still are very good, but there are now many other people overseas who are just a bit less good and cost less than a third as much. It’s hard to recover from that.

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AaronS January 5, 2011 at 3:07 pm

May I suggest that your financial “costs” of being a stay-at-home mother were to a significant degree cancelled by the cost savings of NOT having to:

Gas, oil, wear and tear of driving to work each day;

Dry cleaning for business attire;

Daycare;

Personal stress of having to work and be a mother;

NOT having to stay home to nurse a sick child that caught a cold from a fellow child at the daycare center;

NOT having to stay home to nurse a sick child that caught a cold from YOU that you caught from an inconsiderate co-worker;

You get the idea. Indeed, while you may have come out ahead in terms of pure dollars, not only do we not win as big as we thought, but the opportunity cost of losing those precious moments with your child…well, that’s just priceless. I’m am delighted that you “get it”–and I know your child is, too.

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Jamie February 9, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Aaron, these are particular costs that may or may not apply depending on one’s profession and location. In D.C., for instance, my wife and I used to carpool to work, and we don’t own many dry-clean items.

Daycare is indeed money saved, but depending on the numbers, it may not add up. As a certified teacher with a Master’s degree, my wife had access to a 403(b) and a traditional pension plan; those can’t be replaced. She also made $60,000, and daycare would cost less than $25,000 per year.

She did decide to take some time away from work to stay at home with our daughter. But it wasn’t a compelling financial case that supported that decision; we found a way to make it work, but we’re definitely making due with less. We just agreed that it was a good idea and moved ahead with it on its merits.

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Nancy January 5, 2011 at 4:29 pm

I make $60,000 a year. There is no way that staying home would “cancel” out my earnings. Not to mention, the pension that I earn, the increased social security benefits that I will receive upon retiring, the health and dental care I receive, and the list goes on… As a teacher, I do not spend any more on clothes than I would if I didn’t work, and I’m certainly not dry cleaning anything. My job is 5 minutes from my house, so gasoline is not an issue.

As for catching colds, what about catching colds at play dates or library hour? Give me a break.

You do have costs that you incur while staying at home, too. Utility bills go up because you use more of your utilities each day, including water consumption, heating and electricity, additional gasoline to drive to different errands/play dates/outings, additional money for entertainment… So, two can play at that game…

As I said earlier, I think there are many ways to balance parenting and working. By me working half time while my kids were babies and toddlers, and doing a split shift with my husband, we needed no day care. And so, I was able to have all of the “precious” moments as well. By working, even in a half time capacity, I was able to increase my salary every year, at the same level as though I was working full time.

Now that my kids are in school, attending the same school district that I attend, our schedules are perfectly aligned, and I do not need any day care. I think flexibility is the key. Parents who work together can balance parenting and work.

By opting out of the workplace, women not only lose out on retirement savings, but the growth of an income. By staying out of the workplace and returning later, women diminish how much they will be able to earn in the long run. It is also very difficult to re-enter a career that has been abandoned for a number of years. Employers question “time out” periods and see those as a black mark on a person’s resume.

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Anne January 7, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Can we PLEASE stop debating this ? I believe that at least 99% of parents are bright enough to make the best choices (re working/staying home) for their own families, and therefore trying to point out the “problems” with another person’s choice that differs from one’s own is almost always futile. Being present the majority of the time with your children is a good principle, but so is working to achieve financial stability for them. There are no “cookie cutter” families, and no one solution will work for all families. Can we all just be confident in the choices we have made for our own families, and not feel we have to convince others to follow those particular choices? Is this too much to ask???

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Daniela January 25, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Amen…

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Jamie February 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Anne, you do realize that this is a written forum rather than a room of people, and that you’re under no obligation to participate in or even read the postings made here… right?

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Sara January 26, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Taking care of children is back-breaking work. It is also very “low status” (changing diapers, doing laundry, feeding, napping, etc.) and the pay is lousy for stay-at-home-mothers and day-care providers. This is because our society does not value women and children. We value “workers” and “productivity”. If you “choose” to have children, they are your personal responsibility to care for, regardless of society’s need for future generations (to care and pay for the aging generations). Women today are educated and should use their educations accordingly. However, childcare is so outrageously expensive, that many women are pushed out of the workforce. This is a travesty. Thank you for this article. Women should keep their jobs. Children can go to daycare.

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Jamie February 20, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Sara, you assert that pay is lousy for day-care providers, then go on to say that childcare is outrageously expensive.

I don’t see how these can possibly both be true unless you are claiming that all childcare is run by aloof investors who claim massive profits for themselves while treating their employees badly, and that is precisely not what I see in many of the small-business daycare centers in my area.

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Mr Mortgage January 27, 2011 at 1:55 pm

It is a personal choice of the family and I respect the decisions that are made.

Grand Rapids Mortgage

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melissa January 28, 2011 at 6:54 am

Although I have to agree with this article from a financial point of view, I disagree with the ending remarks that it will make your family stronger. I am in the minority of my friends that chose to stay home, and the stories I hear from families where both parents work reinforces that I made the right decision for MYSELF AND MY FAMILY.

Between nanny horror stories, juggling work and parenting responsibilities and all the anxiety it causes, a sick kid and every snow day is a calamity, children not getting enough sleep to spend time with their parents, and the working-parent-guilt that often seems to foster mis-parenting … I know I have made the right decision for MYSELF and MY FAMILY. However, every person and family is different, and some families are fortunate to have another family member watch their children. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to afford to stay home while my kids are young, and I know many families cannot afford it. Additionally, I was working in a low-paying career that was extremely un-family friendly, and I did not enjoy it, which made it very easy to walk-away. I do not plan on returning to that profession. If I had a well-paying job that I enjoyed and was at all flexible, I would have continued working part-time. I am fully expecting to have to go back to school in order to re-enter the *paying* workforce. Because if any stay-at-home parent will tell you, staying at home with young kids is work. lol. Slave labor indeed.

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richard January 29, 2011 at 10:00 pm

germany and france have monthly stipends paid for each child to parents
(to encourage indigenous population growth)
of course anything that might help people is labeled “socialism”
so don’t expect anything to change soon
good luck ladies

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Jamie February 20, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Richard, such payments are inherently socialism (as are many of the tax credits that Americans receive).

The primary issue we need to tackle in the U.S. is not that things are falsely labeled socialism when they aren’t, though that does happen. Rather, it’s that we viscerally react with an assumption that socialist things are bad, without bothering to explore the intellectual foundations as to why that may or may not be the case.

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Em May 22, 2014 at 6:17 pm

I don’t need to get paid for popping out a kid. I’d just settle for a minimal amount of humanity by American employers to realize that they don’t own you, that allowing a little flexibility will make employees better able to balance work and family, happier and thus more productive. It’s time to start recognizing those employers who know this and those that don’t can succumb to the market forces they seem to so quick to defend when talented workers vote with their feet.

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Lee Jones February 6, 2011 at 8:45 am

The vast majority of you are missing the point. Nobody is criticizing your decision to stay home. All that the author is saying is that you need to figure in many other “costs.” Everyone who is posting that the cost of childcare, gas, and work clothes cancels out any reason for women to work is completely missing the point: during those years, you’re NOT earning a pension. Or putting money into social security. Or earning promotions. There’s a HUGE cost that goes well beyond just the immediate pay–and that’s what many women overlook. I teach at a community college, and my classes are full of middle-aged women whose husbands either left them, died of a heart attack, got hit by a drunk driver, got cancer…any one of a number of catastrophes that life hands us. Every single one of those women is now faced with less than 20 viable years on the job market in which to build up savings, a pension, SS quarters, what have you–and that’s AFTER finishing a degree program, and going into a horrible job market filled with bright, energetic, YOUNG competition. And many of these women already had a college degree…only to find that the work world is not lining up to hire people who’ve been out of the workforce for a couple of years, let alone a decade or more. Technology moves so fast for even a basic entry-level position that even if you dust off that degree, you’re going to be facing stiff competition from young’uns who have kept up on all the latest research in the field, while you likely haven’t, because you spent the last five years dancing and making silly faces. Sure, that’s a valid choice–but like all choices, it has consequences. All the article asks is that you make sure that you understand and accept what those consequences are, for YOU.

There’s a reason that the rate of poverty among elderly women is twice as high as it is for elderly men, even after you take the differences in life expetency into account. Dancing and making funny faces for your 7-month old is all well and good, but it’s not going to pay for your heart pills when you’re old. And don’t assume that your kids will step up and do it for you. How many of you stay-at-home parents would have no difficulty suddenly having to care full-time–both physically and financially–for your elderly parents? Few of you, I’m guessing. Part of being a good parent is realizing that it’s not just about making silly faces today, but also about making sure that you’re not a burden to your grown children at a time when they have their OWN children to provide for. Would not making funny faces at your 7-month old have a real impact on the quality of her future? Maybe, maybe not. Will being able to provide for yourself in your retirement have a real impact on the quality of her future? DEFINITELY.

There’s more to being a good parent than playing TinkerToys and making silly faces, for heaven’s sake. Seriously, I get so annoyed that female-dominated fields, like teaching and child care, so often fall into the “But I do it for the look on the children’s faces…” BS trap. And women fall right into it, with all their talk of dancing and silly faces. THAT DON’T PAY THE RENT, SISTER. Nobody expects surgeons to declare that really, they don’t need to be paid much, because they do it for the look on the brain tumor patient’s face; nor do we ask athletes to forego a salary because it should be all about “The joy I bring to the fans.” No, we only ask that of women–and to make it worse, women line up to devalue themselves in that way, and to holier-than-thou slam other women for being “so materialistic, what with your foolish, vain concerns about not being homeless when you’re 90.” Stay at home if you want, but at the very least, make sure that the FIRST thing to come out of your working partner’s paycheck–yes, before diapers and baby food and teething biscuits–is a payment into your personal IRA. At least have the common sense to protect yourself that way–because if you can’t afford a big fat payment to the SAHP’s IRA right off the top, you can’t afford to stay home in the first place. Otherwise, don’t be crying later if you can’t afford to retire, or buy your meds, or afford a decent nursing home or medical care, because you chose to stay at home. And for heaven’s sake, don’t expect your then-grown child to mortgage their own family’s future because you weren’t adult enough to plan ahead and provide for yourself in your twilight years. Yeah, I can hear the indignant chorus now: “But in the olden days, people respected their elders, and cared for them. It’s still that way in China.” But this isn’t the olden days, nor are we in China. Go to any county nursing home (or ask anyone who works in one), and just SEE how many people are being cared for by their grown children. Heck, just see how many people are even VISITED by their grown children.

It’s common sense: being a grown-up means taking care of your own future, as well as your childrens’.

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Disagree February 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm

So, if I work, and can’t afford to pay for retirement and childcare, what shall I do?

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Em May 22, 2014 at 5:36 pm

You had me until you started trashing teachers and women in “female dominated fields.” If everyone stopped teaching tomorrow, it wouldn’t bode well for your kids’ future.

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melissa February 7, 2011 at 7:01 am

@Lee:

You have a very good point, which can be summed up as: Plan for the worst, hope for the best. However, it is lost in your bitter angry tone regarding parents “dancing and making silly faces”, which you use in some similar form no less than four times. You obviously have not stayed home to raise your children, if you have any. Some parents prefer to be entirely involved in their children’s upbringing, some parents prefer to hire professionals to do it, and some parents have little choice but to go back to work in order to pay for housing, food, etc.

Life is choices. Life is not fair. We are not in control of many things in our lives. We cannot foresee every possible bad outcome. How we react and deal with what life throws at us is what matters.

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Em May 22, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Ironically you didn’t hear your own snarky, holier-than-thou tone in those words “Some parents prefer to be entirely involved in their children’s upbringing, some parents prefer to hire professionals to do it”

Working parents raise and are involved in their children’s lives. Just so you know.

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Andrea February 8, 2011 at 3:01 pm

If your career is so much more important than the early development of your child, by all means please go back to work. If on the other hand, you have the common sense to recognize that staying home with your child is a wonderful GIFT and will ensure you countless hours of time seeing them grow and develop that you will NEVER be able to recapture, then you have made a great choice. Some women understandly are simply financially unable to stay at home. But if you are so fortunate, stop looking at all the things you are “giving up” and look at what your child is gaining by having that quality bonding time with you. And then ask yourself if you can really put a price tag on that. Motherhood is the most important “JOB” a woman can ever have. No salary can compare. The joy and honor of giving birth to another human being that is entrusted to your care is PRICELESS. Grow up already.

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Jamie February 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Andrea, the language and tone that you’re using here shows a mapping of how you feel onto a broader assumption that all women–or at least, all “normal” women–also feel this way. That’s combative and frankly pretty arrogant under any circumstances.

In this case, though, it’s also quite irrelevant, because this article is specifically dealing with situations wherein a marriage that was formed assuming the position you’re taking and then ends in divorce. The author is not claiming that there are certain rewards to being a so-called “stay at home mom;” she’s pointing out that there can be unanticipated pitfalls awaiting women should they find themselves single.

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Em May 22, 2014 at 5:43 pm

If being a stay at home mom is so great, so empowering and so wonderful, why do so many comments from SAHMs begin with this judgmental tone and near hysterical defending of their choices by insulting everyone whose decisions don’t align exactly with yours??

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Disagree February 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I just have to say, that maybe that works for you. However, I’ve never seen research that says keeping both parents working results in a longer marriage. I’ve seen studies saying it’s more stressful on a family.

And I know that since I stayed at home, there is a lot more loving going on. There’s a lot less stress, and there’s no worries about when we can schedule that dr. apt. We are less financially strapped because we are in a lower tax bracket and paying less in taxes. I have an outlet that is not a career, and I promise my husband is not tired of me.

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Jamie February 9, 2011 at 12:45 pm

While I’m glad that you’re finding life at home to be rewarding, your financial claim here is nonsensical. By the logic you seem to be using, the solution to financial burden would be to leave the workforce, whereupon zero earnings would yield zero taxes.

With only a handful of exceptional circumstances that result from higher AGI leading to ineligibility for tax credits, paying less in taxes due to lower gross income does not result in any decrease in financial burden, as the amount paid is always only a portion of the amount earned.

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Nancy February 10, 2011 at 3:58 pm

What’s funny about all of these comments is that everybody has a valid point. All mothers would like more time with their children, financial security and secure futures. Everybody really wants the same thing. It is just sad that in our country, it is hard for women to obtain all of these things, in a successful way, without having to incur significant losses, whether that loss is time with the children, financial security, etc. I hope we can make this country a better place for our girls. I know I would like my young daughters deserve to have fairer choices offered to them in their future years.

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kelly February 16, 2011 at 10:15 pm

I am also deeply offended by this. I praise women who work and balance their careers with their children. That is a choice, and it was a choice I declined on.
That being said, I knew I wanted to stay home with my child, build relationships with her, and build relationships with other mothers.
We barely scrape by, but the love I get to share with my daughter everyday is worth it tenfold.

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kerry February 16, 2011 at 11:08 pm

I think what is missing in this conversation is the idea that frugality can take some of the financial sting out of staying home to raise your children. In our country we seem to think we need new cars, new cell phones, new clothes, shoes etc. I am a stay at home mom to 3 kids under the age of 4. It is not easy to make ends meet sometimes but we have managed to pay off all debt (except our mortgage) by living frugally. We drive older yet reliable vehicles, don’t have cable, have bare bones cell phone plans, rarely eat out and don’t spend money we don’t have. Our kids are well dressed, well fed, healthy and well cared for. A healthy perspective on the difference between wants and needs can make all the difference in the world.

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Liz February 17, 2011 at 7:19 am

It seems that some people on this thread are missing the main point: staying home with kids is fine if you stay married. If you get divorced, or your husband dies or becomes disabled in some way, that’s when you may regret leaving the workforce.

So it’s a question of risk management, not frugality.

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LEB February 20, 2011 at 2:41 pm

This isn’t an attack on stay-at-home moms, but rather a more pragmatic view of the cost of making that choice than you typically see. When it comes to working or staying home, the two views come down to: “Keep working or you’ll lose all your independence to your husband and be a burden to your children in the future” or “Stop working or else your children will be permanently scarred by lack of 24/7 motherly presence.”

In a perfect world, all parents would be married to loving, faithful partners, and NEITHER would have to work when kids were being raised. Ideally, child-rearing would be a 24/7 career for both father and mother, with no other priority detracting from that pursuit. But this isn’t a perfect world. The reality is that we all need money to survive, so any choice you make regarding your capacity to generate income is going to have an impact on your life. I don’t think that stay-at-home mothers are always aware of just how big that impact is… at least, not until they’re 45, haven’t worked in 20 years, and have found themselves abandoned for a women 15 years her junior. Working mothers aren’t always aware of the impact either, particularly if a pregnancy happens too early, or is put off until too late.

The reality is, no matter what choices women make in regards to motherhood, they will be punished for it. They’re punished for giving up work to raise kids in terms of lost wages and retirement benefits, and they’re also punished for working because of childcare costs and the second income being taxed at a higher rate than the first. Women’s choices are punished for one simple reason… our society was not designed for women to have the same rights and options in life as men. So until tax structures, corporate structures, and public perceptions about women’s role in society change, women are never going to be able to make the RIGHT choice… only the BEST choice out of the limited options available.

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Megan February 20, 2011 at 4:51 pm

First I want to say that everyone here makes valid points. We all have to make choices that we believe are the best ones for Our Own Families.

Speaking for myself, my dream has always been to be a wife and especially a mother. Having achieved those things, I am very fulfilled. I have two children, one in elementary school and the other in middle school. I am so grateful that I made the choice to leave my career to care for them. I knew that I wanted to be the only one to raise my children and I didn’t want to miss any moments with them or have any regrets. It has definitely been a financial sacrifice, but worth it. We don’t buy what we don’t absolutely need and we buy used whenever possible. I have worked jobs on the side from home to make extra money. My husband has almost never had to miss work because of a sick child or for doctor’s appts. My kids are so thankful that I have stayed home with them and glad that I am able to pick them up after school, talk to them about their day, help them with homework, etc. (they actually tell me this) They tell me (and I see for myself) that many kids they know whose parents both work have behavioral problems and many other issues that show up in the classrooms for the teachers to deal with. The kids I know whose parents work end up going to bed late and eat lots of prepared meals or fast food because the parents are just too tired. I think that frequently the children are the ones who pay the price for having two working parents. They may have for more material “stuff” than my kids, but they’ve missed out on so much more. My kids don’t get tons of extras, but when we get to do something special (go to a movie or go out to eat), they really appreciate it.

When I worked, my careers always required me to work a minimum of 50-70 hour weeks. I also had to commute about 30 minutes. Many times I left for work in the morning when it was dark and came home in the dark. I was always tired and got sick often. I couldn’t find a balance for myself, let alone if I had a family to care for as well. There was not an option to work part-time. Since, my kids have been in school, I have always looked for part-time work, but it is extremely difficult to find.

We are middle class and my husband makes a decent income and has a 401 k. I don’t believe in pre-nups, and I think there are no guarantees in life. I could have worked for years and had tons of money in the bank, but if a sickness or loss of job happens, all of that money still might not be enough. I have managed to still hold onto some “skills” while staying at home. So if my husband did leave me, I know that I could get a job again, although probably not a high-paying job. I don’t believe that anybody can be 100% prepared in life for any situation. All of our best made plans can fall through in a crisis situation. I’m not advocating for making no plans.

I have received much prejudice over the years as a stay-at-home mom. I must have so much time on my hands since I’m not “working”. What do I “do” all day?? Oh no, my kids don’t get to do every activity that they want to do. We usually make their birthday cakes and have at home parties. We have to buy clothes off of the clearance racks or from consignment shops. And worst of all, they have never been to a day of preschool in their lives. I know it’s shocking. But, because I was with them every day, I taught them to read and write before they started kindergarten. They were seldom sick because they weren’t around sick kids often. My mom friends would keep their kids home until they got over the illness.

My mom stayed home with us kids and I thank her so much for making that sacrifice. She eventually went back to work and has been very successful. I was able to go to college with scholarships and I worked while going to school.

We may not have a huge bank account, or get to take fabulous vacations every year. But, I consider us to be rich…rich in time and family.

This is my opinion only.

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Jamie February 20, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Megan, you sound reasonably happy with your situation and certainly have given it enough thought to recognize the pros and cons. I think that the article is meant to be thought-provoking for men, women, and couples who may not have the benefit of your experience, who walk into the stay-at-home-mom model imagining that it’s inherently easier, more prosperous, and better for the long-term than any other alternatives.

As you say, it really comes down to what works best for one’s own family, but to know what that will be, one has to first know his or her family. Sadly, good communication rarely occurs between spouses until it’s too late.

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Megan February 20, 2011 at 5:53 pm

One more thing… being a mom is the most important “job” I’ll ever have, despite other people who tell me the opposite just because it doesn’t bring in a salary. Raising my children to be productive and contributing citizens with values seems priceless to me. :)

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Jamie February 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Are you saying that doing this is priceless to you on a personal level, or are you claiming that it’s priceless to society as a whole?

The latter may well be true, but since society will not reward you for your personal sacrifices, it’s really only the former that matters–for instance, that your children will make you proud and happy, that they’ll care for you in your old age, etc. Making such a sacrifice with the expectation that human civilization benefits from your efforts wouldn’t be very smart.

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Ame February 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm

When my daughter was born (2005) I ran across a study that stated working mothers actually spent more time bonding with their children on a weekly basis than stay at home mothers. Granted, the total was only about 21 minutes a week. My point is that you can’t really say that parenting is lacking from working parents. Neither can you say that children of working parents have more problems that those of stay at homes. As a matter of fact a recent study based on 30 years of study found that the children of working mothers/children with two working parents are BETTER adjusted than those who have a stay at home parent. Oh yes, and children continue to get sick until their immune systems are strong. The only way that can happen is by being exposed to germs and viruses in the first place. You know that right

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SarahConnor March 3, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Are you serious — 21 minutes a week? Versus actually staying at home with them, talking with them, teaching them and eating meals . . . I have to think that article is just a “working” mother’s pipe dream. So moms should farm out their children to daycare to purposefully make them sick? Um. . .right . .

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Jamie March 3, 2011 at 5:27 pm

I believe Ame was saying that the amount of time spent bonding differed by 21 minutes per week, not that working moms spent a total of 21 minutes per week bonding.

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Christine February 24, 2011 at 8:46 am

Any odds of you doing an article on the net costs of mothers working/staying at home? I live in an area where childcare is the responsibility of the parents to pay for, so it would take a really high-paying job for it to be worth it for me to work with kids (working would also require that we get a car, which would run 5-10k p/a, a new wardrobe, etc.) I’m just curious as to how normal it is for women to be able/unable to afford to work outside the house when they have young children.

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Jamie February 24, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Christine, I’m curious what you mean by “an area where childcare is the responsibility of the parents to pay for.” Do you live outside of the U.S.? I’m not aware of any American locale where childcare is free, but if there is one, I may consider moving there.

As to cost, I think you’ll find that there are broader options than conventional wisdom suggests. My wife and I, for instance, live in the D.C. area. We linked up with a woman who worked as an elementary school teacher but decided to leave work for a while to care for her newborn, and was interested in taking care of one other child to provide both income for her family and socialization for the babies.

The cost? Just $800 per month. My wife, meanwhile, is also a teacher, and her going back to work will bring in about $2800 per month (net from about $50K annual salary). That means we’ll be increasing our family income by $2000, and we’ll either carpool or take transit to work.

Yes, of course she’ll need a wardrobe, but that’s a fixed expense, and it’ll be covered by less than a single month’s increased pay.

Depending on how much you can expect to make were you to seek outside employment, your situation would vary. The cost of childcare can also be much higher. But there are lots of folks out there who love caring for kids and can provide safe, nurturing environments, and there’s a definite benefit to kids being around each other.

It’s not a slam dunk, but there are options.

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SarahConnor March 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Really — increasing income by going back to work? What about factoring in all those extra expenses like the second car (or public transportation), insurance, clothing, eating out not to mention time spent commuting, gabbing at work and basically not raising your children. Is it really worth it in the end?

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Jamie March 3, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Most of what you’re asking suggests you didn’t read my comment very carefully. For instance, we’ll carpool or take transit; there’s no extra car payment. Actually, our car is fully paid for and our insurance is about $26 a month.

Clothing? People need clothing even when they don’t work. Eating out? Making lunch works just as well when bringing food to work as it does when eating it in the kitchen.

Is it worth it in the end… well, keep in mind that *I* don’t see my daughter during the day *now*, because I’m at work. Nonetheless, I spend about 30 hours per week with her while she’s awake, evenings and weekend time.

It’s always funny the way that stay-at-home-mom advocates will somehow suggest that spending less than every moment with a child is horrible, yet they casually ignore that at least one parent never has a choice.

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Marsha March 3, 2011 at 5:35 pm

So are you saying that mothers like myself aren’t raising their own children when they work? Cause despite how much of a failure I feel at times when I get home from work at quarter to 7 and I’m dirt tired and can’t cook for my family like I used to, I’m still able to kiss my girls goodnight, tell them “good job” when their grades are good and other little things that mean so much to them in such a short time. I know i only make very little money by working…less than $1000 a month. But as it stands, there is no extra expense into me working except maybe for gas and maintenance for our 3rd car..yes we have 3. When we’re in a bind and my husband’s military income just isn’t enough, the little bit I do bring in goes a long way; and that makes me feel good. I’m contributing to our overall comfort and security. Otherwise, the extra money is mine to spend and enjoy as I please…or save as I try to do. In fact, the little a was able to save, saved our butts a few months back. All because I put away $50 every paycheck. I work while my kids are in school and my husband gets home from the base by lunchtime so he can get the kids from school and get homework and dinner done…a reversal of roles if you will. So I don’t pay into child care. I’d always wanted us to have at least 2 cars so I wasn’t stuck at home without one while he worked. And we have a thrid one because of an accident I got into that totaled my car, which I promptly bought back and am anxiously waiting to head to the junk yard for parts to repair it within the next 2 weeks since I just got paid more than enough to cover it. Of the 3 cars, we have 1 car payment on the family car and our monthly insurance is $233 a month, with the 2 cars without payments on liability We don’t pay taxes on the cars because my husband is domiciled and everything is in his name only. The gas I put into my car is about $40 every week and a half to 2 weeks depending on the amount I work each week.

Oh and we “eat out” maybe once a week. Maybe.

So I feel like your comment really was well thought out, based on my day to day experience.

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Hazel February 24, 2011 at 6:28 pm

To me the bottom line is this….if staying at home is putting a strain on your relationship with your spouse (finances usually being the culprit), you better consider heading back to work. The kiddies will be fine. You don’t want to be a statistic. I’ve known plenty of at-home parents that ignored the warning signs and were blindsided.

If your home is happy the way it is and there is no financial strain, keep doing what you do, at home or outside of the home.

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Marsha February 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Hmm…I don’t want to sit here and read all these comments, but I do want to give my own personal experience to being an SAHM.

Back in 2008, on October 21st, was my last day at the dental lab I’d worked at for 3 years. I’d put in my letter of resignation 2 weeks prior. It was at the beginning of the economy downturn and the lab wasn’t doing so well, Which in turn affected me because i went from salary with commission to commission only. There just wasn’t enough business coming in to support me driving as far as I did to work and paying for a sitter. With my husband’s permission, I quit, under the premise that I’d just take a month off then go back to looking for work. Then in November , my oldest daughter was diagnosed with cancer, and my husband came home from his deployment to help me. I failed to mention I’m a Navy wife. And at the time, we’d been just married only a few months. My 2 children were from my first marriage. At that point, the decision was made that I stay home indefinitely, as at that point, my daughter basically had special needs that required constant attention. In that time I was pregnant with our first baby together so, in a sense, it worked out. I happily stayed home with my youngest daughter since she wasn’t in school yet; my oldest after being transferred to school in my city and living primarily with me instead of half time between me and their daddy, still went to school like normal, with a special 504 plan so she was taken care of throughout her treatment. My home was clean…immaculate, I cooked almost every night. My kids well behaved since i was home more to help enforce rules and discipline. Money was always tight…but we made it all work out in the end to where we didn’t need WIC to get formula since we stock piled before the baby was born in case I stopped nursing at any point. And i was good at finding good quality things for super cheap. Hospital grade breast pump valued at $300…less than $100. ;) So with the baby on the way, we agreed to let me stay home with the baby til she was in school…5 years. that was something I never got with my first 2…working so hard and going to school at the same time, i missed out on so much with my first children in my first marriage. So i not once thought about what I’d do at that point since it was so early in. Then our baby passed away at 15 weeks and we were all lost. Me particularly as I’d already had my mind set on staying home. After about 3 months of being in an empty house and literally losing my sanity, I went back to work. But I didn’t know where to go so I went back to “my roots” so to speak. Fast food. Particularly Sonic Drive In. I’m still there now..as a manager. A poorly paid one. And I still don’t know what i want to do career wise. I’m 26 years old.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that some of the most well thought out plans can have some very significant snags in them. I honestly have no useful generic skills or experience. I’m only good at fast food and the dental lab. Though I’ve only been at one lab. It’s been lover 2 years since the lab shut down. And no other that I can find are hiring for my particular skills. I have ideas as to what I’d like to do, but those require money, and my first marriage ruined me financially. My ex and I split our debt in half…my current husband paying off most of it with his re-enlistment bonus. What I have left are student loans…a federal consolidation loan with my ex husband that I’m having troubles with paying, as my current husband won’t pay them for me, which I in one way understand since half is my ex’s. With our job market still ugly, and employers still picky and choosy over whom they hire; they want experienced people in the field I went to school for, which is dental assisting, And even the seemingly simplest of jobs such as clerical work, they want at least a year of experience around here.

So some of the advice given in this blog are sound. Even in the short time I was out of the work force, I lost my place in the job market so to speak. I’m a Jill of all trades, mistress of none, and no one wants that. And I’m noticing they don’t want Navy wives or mothers of special needs children either. I guess this is all food for thought, if it makes any sense. i will say i miss staying at home..but at the same time, it’s still lonely after the house is spotless and errands are done, as most of my friends are still either single or have no children at most and work or go to school during the day.

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Jules March 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I’m surprised no one has mentioned the cost to our children when we do not have a loving and nurturing parent home with them. Crappy childcare in the form of a day care center costs, from other replies I’ve seen here, over a third of a woman’s income. That’s a lot, but what price are our children paying when they are left with people who are at best not emotionally invested in their development and, at aworst, neglectful or abusive? We have seen shocking rises in psychological issues in the preschool set, and I think it is directly linked to parents putting their careers ahead of their children. THey must feel secure to develop healthfully.

We women have the mistaken notion that we can have it all, all at once. Sure, we can have it all, but something is going to suffer in pursuit of “having it all,” and unfortunately, our families bear the brunt of this. I was raised by a stay-at-home father and working mother. I don’t care which parent stays home, but if we are going to bring children into this world, someone needs to sacrifice to be there for them. Our kids are not another box to check off in our “having it all” wish list. They deserve to be cared for by a loving parent so they can develop normally, and yes, that means we have to sacrifice. It’s not about what you want, but what works best for your family.

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kathy smith March 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Yes, mothers have always worked, just as you say. But the extended family you mention picked up the slack in child care. That’s not what is happening today with commercial day care and with two parents working in separate corporate jobs in fractured communities.

Today’s mothers didn’t create the financial consequences of divorce and the loss of extended family and community support. Mothers can only react to these realities.

Our modern Western experiment in child rearing is only a couple of generations old. In the past, sporadic attempts to replace the extended family have failed so far – the Israeli kibbutz experiment with collective child care was gradually phased out. The Soviet Union’s forced collective child care didn’t last. Even the contemporary agricultural Hutterites gave up sending their children to collective boarding arrangements and went back to the extended family.

Whatever history throws them, mothers will keep doing the best they can as they always have.

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Kristen March 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Wow, you are so oblivious if you really think you’re being realistic. Let’s face it, you’re incredibly jaded about salaries. You make a heck of a lot more money than a lot of mom’s make. Yes, I’m college educated with a Bachelors degree in a science-field and its to the point thats its going to COST me money to work and I only have one child. Why is that? Because when you’re only hired at an hourly wage and part time at that, for one its hard to find part time care where I live and for two, they want at least half as much as I’m making. So let’s see, is it worth the time and hassel for me to make (if I’m lucky) $100/week working 5 days a week? Yeah. I’m the district registrar for a school district and thats how little I make.

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WhatWorks4Me March 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I’ve really enjoyed the debate this article has generated. Obviously there are many different family situations, many different opinions and many different options. I’ll echo, there isn’t a one size fits all solution for every family, just like all people and children are not clones of each other.

We conceived our precious daughter with fertility treatments. It took nearly 2 years to conceive and she will be 4 this summer.

As the primary bread winner, I would have appreciated the option to stay home, but it was not in the cards. Hubby made less than poverty level for a family of 3 and we did not want to become a burden on society.

After our daughter was born, my husband gave up his job and returned to school. We found a highly accredited daycare for our daughter. Having her in daycare allowed my husband to complete classes while I was at work, and graced us with family time on weekends and evenings.

Now, at almost four, our precious daughter has learned the basics to speak German, Spanish and extensive sign language. She was reading very well at 3 and has an incredible grasp on history, geography and nutrition among other subjects. These are things I would have struggled to teach her. Likely, I wouldn’t have realized she was capable of learning such things. Her fitness level is incredible. The school provides an indoor gymnasium so they have physical activity even during poor weather.

We are personal friends with, and continue to have at least weekly conversations with every teacher she’s had since she the day she started daycare (we speak to the current teachers daily). I do think the extra effort we make to befriend the teachers has a positive impact on her excellent care, but isn’t the only factor. As an orphan (since I was 17), these wonderful teachers have guided me and taught me how to be a great Mom.

Before my daughter was born, I was concerned that spending 40 waking hours in the care of strangers would make me less of a parent, or could cause her to have attachment issues. For me, those concerns were unfounded. She wakes to her mom and dad every morning, and falls asleep every night in our arms. She’ll always run to us first if she’s hurt, sick or just has something incredible wonderful to share with us.

I couldn’t be more pleased at how this has turned out for us. I wish every family could find the balance and the happiness our family has experienced.

To afford the daycare costs and the college tuition costs of my husband we make many sacrifices. We’ve gone out to eat (including fast food) a handful of times since she was born, our cars are nine years old, I haven’t had a new piece of clothing since I was pregnant, and there is no TV (not exactly a sacrifice). However, we have money in the bank, retirement savings, college savings and no debt. My husband will graduate in a few months and we look forward to continuing our prosperous life as a two income family, and if graced, a two child family.

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TucsonPaula March 19, 2011 at 3:06 am

I am a former CPA, have been married for 27 years. I have been a stay at home mother for over 23 years for our five children.
My husband has a public service occupation, and both of us work very hard, many hours, and for not extravagant wages.
I am so sorry for many of you.
I have looked at my own life, as has my husband, and we have looked at our married life by the personal motto of “how and what can I GIVE” and not “how and what can we GET.”
When you focus on what you have to GIVE, to your family, or to your employer, then what you GET helps you to give more to those in your life.
We have never assumed that Social Security would even exist by the time we would be of a retirement age to use it, so we always planned for self-sufficiency.
My intellect has not been allowed to atrophy during my my stint without a paying job – I have studied both inside and outside an investment club to learn profitable investment strategies to allow our family’s meager savings to grow and help us to prosper, even with the current economic hardship. This was another way that I could GIVE my time and expertise for the betterment of my family.
As my husband has sacrificed much to work to provide for our family, I, too have sacrificed as we paid entirely for our children’s educations from first to 12th grades, he by working much overtime and extra shifts, and me by choosing to educate our children through home schooling. Our oldest son just graduated from the number one college in the country, and our second attends one of the top business schools. We only used publicly funded education for the cost to send the five for half day kindergarten for one year apiece. Instead of complaining about the public education system, we again worked for self-sufficiency and decided to take on their educations, at our own family’s expense in both money and time committment. Again, how can we GIVE instead of what can we GET.
I suggest to many of you that you change your mindset from the half empty cup of what is in it for me, either now or in the divorce-world, or government supported future, and instead move toward the cup half-full of what can I give of my time and talent for my family and my employer with a new attitude of self-sufficiency, self-sacrifice, and self-effacement.
Soon you will see your bitterness and self-concern melt into appreciation for what you have, and contentment in the life that you have unselfishly given yourself for. People will come and go, some will leave you, many will take from you what may be rightfully yours. I have paid through my property taxes for public educations for children whom I will never know. My home schooled children have not used public education funds since first grade. My children will pay into a Social Security system to support many of you who have few or no children to pay into the system.
I hope for each of you a life that allows for giving of the self, freely. May you move on in life and let go of the things that have been or will be taken from you. And I hope for you for a life of deep contentment and appreciation for the half-full cup that you have.

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Nancy March 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Tuscon Paula,

I have read and re-read your post, and I am still confused. I don’t really get your point. You pay taxes, but have home schooled your own children. So what? Lots of people don’t even have kids, but still pay taxes. There are a lot of other services you do use. For instance, do you plow your own street, deliver your own mail and haul away your own garbage? We all pay our taxes, and in some form or another, use the services the government offers us. I don’t know about you, but I am glad when my tax dollars help out other people.

I think most people are working and offering services for the right reasons. As a teacher, I make a difference every single day that I go into work. Additionally, I don’t understand why you pity other people. From the previous posts, I certainly didn’t sense that other people were only out to “get” things and not “give” to others. I’m not sure where you came up with that one.

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Betsy Griebenow March 24, 2011 at 7:23 am

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom since my older daughter was 6 mos. old (my girls are now 15 and 12) and wouldn’t have it any other way. We deliberately bought a small house so I could be home — I’ve found my passion volunteering in our schools and have met some incredible (and a few prima donnas) people along the way — authors, musicians, illustrators, etc. who gave presentations to the kids. If you think being at home when the children are young is important, it is even more so as they begin to mature, take on numerous activities, discover the opposite sex, need all kinds of help to finish major projects for school, to simply stay on task, to make sure they aren’t unsupervised in the critical hours after school, to keep time spent on Facebook to a minimum (my younger daughter does not have a Facebook page — but most of her 6th grade friends do and all I can say is YUCK — nowhere near enough parental supervision). It’s mind boggling, but as I say, I feel so lucky to be there day in and day out. I hope to find a way to get paid for coordinating Cultural Arts events, though it won’t come from the schools — no money there — shame we don’t value them more.

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Amy Rodriguez April 1, 2011 at 11:05 am

I have been a stay at home Mommy for the last 10 years. I married young (19) and had my first child at 21. I went back to school to obtain a B.A. and found that after I had my B.A. I am not employable because there are always interns around to do what I can do for free. So not only am I a stay at home mommy, with a degree, I can’t use it and potential employers only see me as an un-experienced 30 year old. My husband fortunately is Active Duty military and so while financially we are tight, we aren’t lacking, and every time I attempt to refer to his paycheck as “his money” he gives me a withered look and vehemently declares I’ve earned my half o f his paycheck. With a 2 year old at home, I cannot possibly afford daycare to go work at a temp agency in hopes of gaining some career experience, so I am back at school working on my Masters. Stay at home Mom’s have a tough road to haul because we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

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Nancy April 2, 2011 at 5:49 pm

To Amy Rodriquez-

It sounds like your husband is really supportive of you. He certainly recognizes that you work hard raising your daughter. It doesn’t sound like there is any power dynamic going on in your household regarding money.

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SteveKJR April 2, 2011 at 8:59 pm

What planet do you live on. Apparently you are not old enough to realize that the older generation of mothers stayed home to raise their children.

Todays generation thinks that they should have everything in addition to raising their children. Get a clue. First off, if you decided to have kids you should have had money in the bank or have planned so that “money is not an issue”.

Second, if you think that that would be an impossibility, then you must make a decision. Get rid of the two $45,000 SUV in the driveway, the $300,000 house, the $2,000 flat screen TV throughout the house, the $100.00 a month phone service, the $150.00 a month cable TV bill and stop going out to dinner and spending $4,000 on a vacation.

If you do that, then there would have been no dout in you mind as to why you stayed home to raise children. But instead you weighed staying home with having a job and not having money to spend.

What kind of mother does that? Not mothers from generations past, only mothers of todays generation.

You like the rest of your generation are the “I want it now” generation. You think that we still have people living in this country who are in poverty.

Poverty is when you have to pick coal to provide heat, poverty is when you have to go visit the garbage cans for food, poverty is when you don’t have electricity, poverty is when you don’t have running water, poverty is when you don’t have a cell phone, poverty is when you don’t have 5 flat screen TV’s in you house, poverty is when you have leaks in your roof and lastly poverty is not having a laptop computer with internet service.

You haven’t got a clue just like the rest of your generation. Go out and plant a garden, and set up a root celler if you know what it is. Go out and hunt for your food then tell me that you have doubts about being at home to raise a child.

SteveKJR

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Jamie April 2, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Steve, it’s fascinating to hear that “the older generation of mothers stayed home to raise their children,” because if you knew anything beyond your own circle of friends and limited sense of value, you’d understand that there have always been mothers who had to work to survive.

Not only are there indeed people in America who visit garbage cans for food, don’t have cell phones or laptops or even houses to live in, but the last thing that any American has to tolerate is some self-righteous person — a man, no less; someone who not coincidentally will never have to bear that consequences of his diatribe — lecturing women that having children means giving up all sense of self and staying home where they belong.

I’d say you’re the one who isn’t sure what planet he lives on.

Good luck hunting for your food and living out of your root cellar.

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tf June 1, 2011 at 9:10 am

Who says a SAHM gives up all sense of self? I find that offensive. I give up a whole lot of selfishness, but not who I am to be home w/ my people. This article does give food for thought. I don’t know about the SSI argument. I graduated HS in 81. Did not believe then that SSI would be there for me. Anyone younger than I who expects to get it may be sorely disappointed.

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Kati April 2, 2011 at 10:35 pm

I’m a stay-at-home mom. Given the chance to do it over again, I WOULD NOT. Definitely not. As a minimum, I would have tried to work at least part time. Unfortunately, I suffered some excruciating post-pregnancy issues (i.e. carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, and horrible hip pain requiring 10 months of physical therapy…at which point my physical therapist gave up and said there was nothing more she could do with me and I’d have to live with chronic pain indefinitely). These issues made it impossible for me to work as an accountant since I couldn’t use a computer for more than an hour at a time and sitting for any length of time was impossible. So, I lost $70K/year + benefits for the past four years…

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Kati April 2, 2011 at 10:46 pm

With regards to finances, it wasn’t/isn’t an issue to live on just one income, even though my husband earns less than I did. We have ONE car (fully paid off…no car payments), we have no consumer debt. We’re naturally frugal people and we saved a significant chunk of money from when I was working (like, enough to keep us afloat for at least two years if my husband lost his job and neither of us could find any decent employment).

That said, it would be practically impossible for me to return to work in this economy. Wages are down, and there’s no way I would earn enough after taxes and childcare/preschool (minimum $1,500/month for childcare and/or full-time preschool) to come out ahead, which adds to my disappointment about leaving full-time employment. Plus, my husband often travels for work (both around the US and internationally), so there are times when I just wouldn’t be able to work. We have absolutely no family here and none of our friends were as stupid as we were to have kids so young (age 30). Consequently, we don’t have anyone who can “help out” with our kid.

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Marsha April 2, 2011 at 11:59 pm

@Stevekjr. So exactly why should mom stay at home when their kids are in school? And what’s wrong with owning a nice TV? Or more then 1 car for that matter? I don’t here anything from the parents out there with school aged kids.

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SteveKJR April 3, 2011 at 9:16 am

Jamie,

The mothers who worked back then had to to put food on the table. Back then “Cash was King”. If a purchase was made, it was made with cash. Vehicle purchases were made for going back and forth to work – not as a status symbol.

Houses were purchased as an investment not as a means of getting rich by flipping in five years.

Those who do go through the trash cans for food are people who have mental issues and have been abandoned by the when they were thrown out on the street.

Those who stand on the corner with a sign wanting food are making at least $50.00 an hour as was reported by CNN.

And lastly, back then when a family had children, it was because they wanted them and did not in any look at it from a perspective of being “disadvantaged” because of it.

I am not sure how old you are but people back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s had a different take on family values as compared to todays family values.

SteveKJR

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Em May 22, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Yes it seems like more choices do not necessarily make life easier.

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SteveKJR April 3, 2011 at 9:21 am

Marsha,

Nothing wrong with working while the kids are in school. However, this does have a big impact on how the child is raised. In todays society, there is no “quiet time to spend with the family” because everyone is busy on their cell phone, going to football practice, playing soccer, texting, e-mailing or doing something other then interacting with the people they live with.

That’s how our society is – look at the people driving – phone to their ear, look at people in restaraunts – phone to their ear or texting.

SteveKJR

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SteveKJR April 3, 2011 at 9:24 am

Jamie,

Just a tid bit of information that you may not know – a person doesn’t live in a “root cellar” – they store vegetables there.

SteveKJR

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Marsha April 3, 2011 at 10:10 am

SteveKJR- while I do understand and respect your perspective on this, we are not in the “back then”. We are in the now. And I’m pretty sure that back then, houses were bought and flipped to create profit and wealth for a family’s future. My grandmother sure as heck did it. People who could afford it, and knew how, did it. And regardless, cost of living just doesn’t allow for most American mothers to stay at home. i do agree with this article, as I pointed out much earlier, that we as women need to prepare for the worst. It is all too common that a secure, happy looking home can be turned upside down by some sort of family crisis, be it divorce of the parents, or the passing of the earning spouse. In our times, it is hard to get back into the job market without being forced to start from scratch. And with that, the now single mother, or even father, has to fight to make ends meet. Social Security benefits from the death going to the widowed spouse and children just isn’t enough. And with the idea floating around that there won’t be enough for my generation when we’re retired is a bit worrisome. Growing up, I used to think that the social security and medicare taxes I paid in my high school jobs went to some sort of account that would care for me when I got old. Obviously, I wasn’t educated in the process back then. Needless to say, I know now that I’m paying in to care for the elderly now, and that they get benefits based on how much they earned in their lifetime. Anyways, as I said before, going back to work when times get tough isn’t easy anymore. I’m a fast food manager, and I’ve gone to school, graduated with honors and gained some experience in my field. Do employers want me now? No. I’ve been out of it for almost 3 years now because I stayed at home with my kids for a year and a half and apparently that’s too long to be out of touch. I’m not happy with the fact that I may have to go back to school again and start over. More student loans to pay, more time invested. And what makes it harder for me in particular, and some parents here may understand, not too many employers want people with “baggage”. My oldest daughter has cancer treatments, though in remission. My youngest almost severe ADHD, possibly Asperger’s. I’m a Navy wife. All of these things I’m not ashamed of. It’s my life and it’s what comes with having a family. But believe it or not, we women can still be discriminated against for things like this. Just not openly and as obvious. So this makes it hard for some of us to go back to work if we need to. I want a job that allows me to be home more with my kids. I need flexibility. Just a little. As a manager, I make $8 per hour and I know I’m worth more in the job market. But to try and go somewhere else for this position would be hell because managers are mostly required to have a flexible schedule that includes working long, or odd shifts. Otherwise, you’re a grunt working for minimum wage or running a register, unless you do manage to find something that is better quality and allows time for a home life. But to not work at all? Sit at home isn’t a good option either as my kids are in school from 9:30 to almost 4. I’m lucky to get the hours I have that allows me to at least see them off to school in the morning. I don’t get home until after 6 in the evening. And I’ve pushed bedtime to 9, sometimes later, just so we can stay up and watch a movie, or just so I can here them playing…or fighting, depending on who snatched what. So my working so late makes me feel horrible because I keep them up late. I feel horrible because I’m not home enough to help with discipline and take some of it off my husband’s shoulders. And it’s going to be even harder when he goes back to a ship in less than 2 years, as I’d have to find evening care for them and I can’t say if my oldest will be eligible for the respite care program that Navy has for EFMP children, as her cancer treatment and follow up care will be done in a year. Though I think my youngest is eligible, but I’m not sure. Anyways. So imagine how that would be for a working Navy family.

Ladies, this is an insightful article. And it is based on someone’s own experience and feelings about it. So please keep that in mind. Neither of us has a place to judge the other for the choice they made. SAHM’s, if you feel a sense of reward for staying at home with your kids, that’s great. I honestly don’t see why you don’t work part time while they’re in school, but to each their own. Working moms, we do what we have to do to live the lifestyle we want for our families. You want to have nice things and enjoy what life has to offer in all aspects, that’s perfectly fine. Either walk of life has it’s choices, and we make them based on how we live now, and how we want to live in the future.

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Jamie April 3, 2011 at 11:01 am

Steve,

Thanks. I do know what a root cellar is, though they are virtually unheard of in houses built since the end of the Second World War. I’d suggest that the transition to cement basements rather than any erosion of moral values is why most people today don’t know much about them.

Since it’s come up on account of the root cellar, let’s talk about the Second World War for a moment. You tout that women used to stay home with the kids, yet as we know from our own history, that wasn’t the case from 1941-45, was it? Women ran factories, built ships, and even flew as Air Corps pilots. When the war ended, of course, people with attitudes like yours saw to it that these heroic women were rapidly put back into their place; the female pilots cut from the rapidly demobilizing military didn’t even get transportation home as a parting thank-you.

You’ll understand, therefore, if I don’t bend over backwards to tout the merits of America’s historical treatment of women.

We can all sit around the decry the growth of consumer culture, overindulgence and rampant debt. But in pointing to this as a problem, I can’t help noticing that you only see it within the context of a woman’s role in the family. In celebrating the “different take on family values” of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, you’re really talking about a different role for women, simply and solely, as men were asked to give up absolutely nothing to maintain this utopia you describe.

Jamie

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SteveKJR April 3, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Marsha,

I understand where you are coming from. On the Sunday Morning they talked about the people in the 40 – 65 age group trying to get a job and it’s not happening.

The problem is is that there are too many of the younger generation whom they will hire for less and as you have stated with your pay grade that is the reason.

I am not bashing anyone for wanting to work to support their family. The problem with todays youth is that they “want everything now” and when they get to a point where they can’t afford it because of job loss or other issues, they want the government to bail them out.

You know as well as I years ago, the purchase of a home was looked at as an investment. I addition to that, when a person made a purchase be it a home, a car or an appliance they stood behind their word to pay for it. A hand shake back then was just as good as a written contract.

Not so today. Todays society could give a damm less about paying for something should there be a reason for them not being able to pay for their purchase.

The housing market collapse was a result of this. A lot of people purchased homes they couldn’t afford but they did it anyway. There are those who want to blame the banks and lending institutions but let me say this.

If you are going to sign on the dotted line for purchasing a home you had better know the consequences of your actions.

The other reason for the economy collapse is because there was no down payment made when the purchase agreement was signed. There was no investment on the part of the buyer so it was a lot easier for them to walk away.

If a person invested $20,000 in a $200,000 home purchase they would think twice about walking away from it.

In addition to that people were more then happy to get a loan up to 110% of the home value pocketing what was left over and using that money to “support their lifestyle”

Now, that is not to say all homeowners are like this but the vast majority are.

SteveKJR

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SteveKJR April 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Jamie,

I am very famirilar with womans role during the war. I never said that a woman shouldn’t work when she is married/single and is raising children.

You are correct when you say todays society is different then the past society.

Todays society thinks everything is “owed” to them. Just listen to the whiners who went out and purchased $300,000 homes on a $85,000 yearly salary. That tells a chilling story about how todays society is.

So, if a person has to whine because they had a child and it placed them at a “job market” disadvantage, then maybe they shouldn’t have had children. That’s the problem I have.

I can’t stand a “whiner”. What todays society doesn’t understand is it is they – not the government – nor you – nor me – think they don’t have to deal with the consequences of their actions – be it good or bad. They just don’t have a clue.

I don’t care how much money a woman makes – todays philosophy is “Rich is Evil”. So, what do you expect –

Years ago when a person succeded, they were given a pat on the back and complemented. Today, when a person succedes, they are evil because their corporation made millions of dollars and they were rewarded because of it.

SteveKJR

SteveKJR

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Nancy April 3, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Steve,

Why don’t you stay home with your kids? Why don’t you forgo all of these luxuries that you assume everybody has? Or are men not included in your rigid diatribe regarding stay-at-home parenting?

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SteveKJR April 3, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Nancy,

If my wife and I made a decision to have children, you can be sure that I would make every effort for her to stay home and “properly raise” the child.

In addition to that, I would not expect my mother to raise the child as most of todays single women who have children do.

There is a decline in the causasian population and a rise in the hispanic and black population.

Why is that – it’s because caucasian woman want a “career” instead of children.

There’s nothing wrong with that and that is their choice. The problem with todays society is that it is “a disposable society” and that also includes marriages.

The younger generation look at marriage as just another device they wanted and when they get bored with it, they discard it like they do all the other “disposable devices:” they own.

And I must say that that attitude also goes towardsthe loyalty of this country.

SteveKJR

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Jamie April 4, 2011 at 6:51 am

Steve,

This just gets better and better. You don’t even have children, but you’re telling us what you’re quite sure that you and your wife would do if you were to have made that choice. You’d do whatever it took to make sure that *she* could stay home and raise the children.

We should lament the declining birthrates of caucasians because… why, exactly? Aren’t we all Americans? Not in your narrative: it’s not only meant to me a man’s world but a white man’s world. And straying from your formula ties into a marked decline in “loyalty” to the United States.

I can already guess what form that loyalty takes: showing unwavering support for the government whenever conservatives are in power, and clamoring that the government is being taken over by communists whenever progressives come to power.

We’ve strayed pretty far from the point of this article, which was to make a direct assessment of the financial cost a family incurs when it makes the choice to have a mother stay home. You’ve made your position abundantly clear, though, and while we can all recognize that there are tens of millions of Americans who feel the way that you do, it would be nice if you were capable of accepting that other people might diverge from your ideology without being selfish traitors.

Jamie

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SteveKJR April 4, 2011 at 7:17 am

Jamie,

As a matter of fact, I did raise a boy and he was our priority – there was never any question with regard to myself nor my wife as to “what kind of “burdern” he wold be” with regard to having a job or being able to get a job after he is grown up.

That is a “selfish outlook” by any individual who thinks that way. That is why I say, if a person thinks having a child will have an impact on their getting a job then they need not hav a child.

Just another example of what todays society is all about.

SteveKJR

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SteveKJR April 4, 2011 at 7:20 am

Jamie

The very first paragraph of this article shows that this person is more concerned about her “career” then the child. Great attitude –

“I stayed home with my young children, putting my career on the back burner, for five years. Financially speaking, it was a bad move.”

Another example of the “I want it all now” generation.

SteveKJR

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Nancy April 4, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Steve,
As I’ve written earlier, I firmly believe that you can balance a career and raising children. As a teacher, my schedule and my children’s schedules are perfectly aligned.

I don’t think there is anything selfish about using your gifts to make society a better place. I’m sorry that you have such a limited view of the world. By the way, when you raised your son, was it your career you sacrificed or your wife’s career?

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SteveKJR April 4, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Nancy,

I never said that it couldn’t be done and I don’t have a problem with it. But I think it’s a little selfish to say that raising a child interfers with a persons career.

Look at it from this perspective. Lets say that things are going good for this person and down the road money becomes an issue. Can’t buy the goodies she needs to keep happy.

Resentment creaps in and the blame goes towards the child. That’s the way I look at it. You see, the vast majority of todays mothers don’t have a clue about raising a child.

An example it costs over $250,000 to raise a child from birth to the age of 18 yet there are woman out there married or not who don’t even have a clue as to what raising a chld costs.

They think they should have all the goodies they want along with raising children. They are forgetting that “raising children requires sacrifice”

I know of people who would go out and spend $300.00 on a baseball bat for the child in the little league and next year it would end up in a pile with the rest of the “High Dollar” devices.

Yet that person who was married was having a problem paying bills (both parents working) but yet would go out and spend $40.00 a night going out to dinner.

That’s how I view most of todays younger generation. I do a lot of preaching to the youth and explain to them that if they want to have kids they had better have money in the bank to be able to afford it.

And the money that they need is not for the child but for their lifestyle.

Spend, spend and more spending is the norm for todays society.

SteveKJR

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SteveKJR April 4, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Nancy,

My wife stayed home while I worked. When I was out of work, I traveled to look for a job. When I traveled, I lived in a “camper” or in a tent. When my family joined me we rented an apartment.

I did whatever I needed to do to provide for my family. My wife also went college when she was not working to better her career. We didn’t have a lot of money but we were content and happy with what we had.

I always had a job regardless of the circumstances because I did whatever needed to be done to provide for my family.

Once my son was on his own she went back to work, continued her college education and eventually got her Doctrate. I made sure with my job experience that I was always employable as I am today. If I were to get laid off tomorrow, I could find a good paying job – and I don’t even have a college degree.

Going to college is not always the answer to getting a good job – not that I have anything against going to college because my wife makes lots more money then I do.

SteveKJR

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Marsha April 4, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Steve-
Sir, you totally took the author’s first lines out of context. She clearly stated that she wouldn’t have changed a thing about her decision to stay at home, however, her choice was not well thought out, she admits.

As for this slave labor thing, the author quoted another commenter from a different blog. She didn’t say she agreed with the slave labor portion, but did agree that we as women have it harder in the job market when it comes to being working mothers.

I completely agree with you however, in that many of my generation have self entitlement issues. Some of the people I worked with felt that $7.25 wasn’t enough to do a little hard work like clean and scrub a bathroom which by the way was part of their job description. And one person, now an ex-friend, said that he was working for “slave wages”. This said person also owes me almost $500 and is going to court for non-payment since he quit his slave wage job that I helped get him. But none of this is neither here nor there, as the topic here about the pros and cons of being a SAHM. I don’t understand why people are getting so butt hurt over this. It’s an informative opinion that’s telling women to think hard on their choices and prepare themselves well should they decide to stay at home with the kids. What’s so hard to understand about that message?

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alauterb April 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Thank you for your article. I had my first child right before the economy tanked with the intentions to scale down my hours or quit my job in order to stay at home with my children. My job was supposed to be for “the extras” and now I am the breadwinner of the house. Working full time and leaving my kids in daycare has made me full tremendously guilty but your article has given me some relief and assurance that this the best (never mind only) thing that I can do to ensure my family’s financial situation.

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Nancy April 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I went to a private college that cost $30,000 a year, so I do strongly feel that not using the education that I have received, would be a sacrifice. Since I have been able to work around my children’s schedules by being a teacher, and since I was able to do a split shift with my husband when my kids were young, we have been able to raise our children with very little outside assistance. Yet, we are not spending, spending, spending as you seem to assume all working parents are doing. We are saving for the college education of our four children, and we are also saving for our own retirement. We do not want our children to have to support us in our old age, which can be a large burden on adult children of aging parents, particularly since the government seems eager to trim medicare benefits to seniors.

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SteveKJR April 9, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Marasha
These are the two points that she made I have an issue with. –

She stated that “Putting her career on the back burner for five years financially speaking was a bad move”.

Her reason for this was because she read what economists say about being out of the work force for several years and they look at it from a “financial perspective – they don’t look at from a “child raising perspective.

So after reading that, she thinks what she did was a bad move. Well, if she felt it was a bad move, then she shouldn’t have had a child.

Then she goes on to say:

“While I didn’t lose $1 million, I have lost 5 years of wages, of 401(k) contributions (and growth) and of accumulating social security benefits”.

Well if she was that concerned about her career, she shold have thought of that before she decided to get pregnant.

That’s the problem with todays they place a value on everything and if what they did interfered with what they wanted they whine about it.

What she should have said was – Yes, I stayed at home with my child for five years and although I didn’t work during that time, I am sure over the years I can make it up “because I am young and can still go to school if I need to to increase the income gap”

But no, she looked at it from a different perspective.

I know lots of people who had children, the mothers stayed at home to raise them, and when the child was raised, they went back to work. Not once did they ever mention how much they lost because they stayed at home

The other comment :

Despite my successful experience dropping out of the workforce for a few years, I believe I took a risk.

So, what was the risk – having a child to raise and not being able to work. I know for sure that I didn’t plan it fully. Give me a break.

Her next comment:

“I believe that many of us choose to stay home with our kids because of strong maternal instincts that make us forget other considerations.

Well who does – and even if a family does, someone still has to sacrifice – can’t have it all unless they are millionaires.

This one really gets me:

Ideally, a woman should weigh all her options and make this decision very carefully.

Lady, it’s called “planning” – apparently she didn’t understand that it costs over $250,000 to raise a child and now it has finally hit home with her.

SteveKJR

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Jamie April 9, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Steve,

It sounds as though you object to the very idea that child-raising *can* be viewed from a financial perspective, that you have some sort of moral issue with children being considered as anything other than divine blessings. That’s fine as a personal worldview, but it’s irrelevant to someone whose entire purpose is to look at financial impact — and financial impact is the entire point of this blog.

As to your smug assertion that you know many women who left the workforce to raise children and “not once did they ever mention how much they lost because they stayed at home,” well la-tee-da. Isn’t it wonderful that you know only selfless, family-centric women who have no concern for their financial futures?

The extent to which you are intent on telling everyone (and especially all of the women here) that they have bad priorities and values, are selfish and unworthy, and fail to meet your ideal of life is really amazing. The author of this blog post is presenting something factual: there is an opportunity cost as well as a direct cost associated with staying at home with a child. What she is saying will remain factual no matter how much it annoys you, or how awful you think that she is for observing the cost.

Jamie

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SteveKJR April 10, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Yes there is a cost with staying at home with a child and if a woman decides to have a child, she had better know up front the costs associated with raising it. Those costs also include not working while at home with the child.

So, you tell me, what other options does she have to solve this “financial loss” while raising a child.

My answer to that question would be “don’t have kids unless you can afford them”.

SteveKJR

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Ame April 11, 2011 at 11:25 am

Steve, that neglects to take into account the value add that children bring to our lives. But, apparently no one else here is looking at it from that point of veiw either.

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Nancy April 11, 2011 at 4:14 pm

So Steve, why doesn’t your reasoning apply to men? You felt your career was more important than staying home with your own child. It doesn’t sound like you logged in much time at the home front. So, on that note, you shouldn’t have brought a child into the world, either.

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Nancy April 11, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Children do add value to our lives. However, let’s not forget the fact that we are also doing meaningful work for this country by creating the next set of workers to support our country’s future tax base. But as usual, in this country where work done predominantly by women is undervalued, women are expected to do this work with no compensation while sacrificing our future security and safety. Men, on the other hand, can continue to work, earn money and put money into retirement and make sure that their future is secure. This is why elderly women often end up in abject poverty. So, yes, having children adds value to your life, but should not have to consign you to future years of eating cat food because of the ideals of a male-dominated culture.

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Ella April 15, 2011 at 9:10 am

I think that this is a really good discussion to just open women’s eyes to the idea that they need to be responsible for themselves, no matter what choice they make. The debate between SAHMs and working mothers is not a resolvable one, as neither is a perfect solution.

There are many women out there who are unable to provide for themselves financially if they get divorced, and it’s a very sad thing. If you are unable to change things for yourself, at least teach your children (boys and girls), that they should always be able to provide for themselves financially in case anything should happen.

For myself, I’m a working mother, but in a unique situation. My husband and I are both high-income earners (combined income in the 7 figures), and we have people to clean the house, cook nutritious meals and do the gardening. (Our parents provide childcare). When I come home from work (around 4), I spend 4 solid hours of quality time with our 2 young children until they go to sleep. We arrange to do errands during our work hours so that our home life is strictly time with the kids and each other. On the weekends, we spend lots of quality time with the kids as well.

I could stay home, but that would destroy my career that I spent so long to build. This way, the children can go to private school, we can easily afford their university bills when the time comes, and we can go on any vacation we want without thinking about it. And if, God forbid, anything happened to my husband, or we were to separate, I wouldn’t have any change in my lifestyle and our children wouldn’t suffer.

I think that everyone should take responsibility for their own financial health, and I will teach this to my children once they are old enough to understand. No one should rely on anyone else and have nothing else to fall back on. That’s not to say one shouldn’t be a stay at home mother. You just need to maintain the ability to get back into the workforce in case you ever need to.

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Marsha April 15, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Personally, I never knew the costs of having children from birth to 18. I still don’t and don’t care. While yes this discussion is about finances, that never mattered to me when i had my last baby. My first 2m unfortunately, were of my soul stupidity and I certainly wasn’t prepared for with my first husband. However with my current husband, we did discuss frequently whether at his current rank and pay if we could afford to have a baby and keep me home. We knew things would be tight, but we were fine with it. I think those numbers given on the cost of raising children are skewed. Look at the Duggars for instance. I’m pretty sure raising just one of their children to age 18 didn’t cost them over $200,000, considering they make their own clothing and home school.

Steve, I really do feel you are taking the author out of context in this. She’s not out right complaining about her losses, but simply pointing them out to us to take into consideration so that we have something tangible to think about. She is right, And in a sense you are right, and actually agree with her in a small way, but fail to see that. Preparation. Prepare and plan to have children and take on their costs. Prepare and plan for the future should anything bad happen so that if mom has to, she can care for the children on her own. In my opinion, there is no point in a woman staying home for all 18 years of her children’s lives. She should at least work part time while in school..or some other hours that work out for her and her family. It helps her stay in the job market and gain experience. It helps her build up her retirement for when the time comes. I don’t think you seem to realize how much a potential employer frowns upon gaps between employment. As the years go by being out of touch with your career, you lose experience and aren’t kept up to date with any new trends in the field. I can’t be a dental assistant. It’s been over 5 years since I graduated from dental school. Dentists want recent experience. They want minimum 1 year. And then if you’re an RDA or CDA, you have to keep up with your board certifications through continuing education in order to get back into the field. Many stay at home mothers fail to look at these things when they decide to put in that 2 weeks notice. So when that 5 or 6 years rolls around when kindergarten is about to begin, mom is no longer an asset in her field and may have to start from scratch. In that case it could mean more long term schooling, student loans and tuition. More money taken away from the family so mom can go back to work, instead of mom investing in some of the time she’s at home to brushing up on her career choice and staying up to date. I don’t understand why you seem so offended by this notion. It’s very viable, secure even.

Ms. Ella, i consider you very lucky, miss. I barely get 2 hours a day with my kids because I’m a midshift manager, and they’re with their biological dad on the weekends. But it’s not necessarily the amount of time spent, but more so the quality. I spend 2 hours with my kids watching anime, as that’s my oldest daughter new favorite type of tv to watch. In that short time, we’ve had good laughs and she’s learning a little Japanese along the way, as we mostly watch the kind with subtitles, not dubbed with English overtures. She is 7 years old, soon to be 8. An honor roll student every quarter, every year since kindergarten and is in gifted classes. A cancer survivor When it comes to quality, it can’t be measured by a clock.

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James May 3, 2011 at 6:58 am

Interesting article (I took notes on the pre-nup portion to protect myself from future gold diggers and how they might push me into the corner, teary eyed and take all my money some day). So I’m not sure if anyones thought of this, but I will never forget this… I’m currently a pharmacy student who will be graduating pretty soon. When I was taking my undergrad courses to get into pharmacy school, I worked at a large hospital in Houston, TX. There was this one pharmacist, very sweet, young, HOT lady. She was a housewife. She had the perfect schedule. Every Saturday and Sunday, she’d work from 7am-5pm. She probably if I had to guess made about $50-55 per hour? So basically, at the end of the year she was pulling in about 50-55k to help out the hubby and stayed home all day with the kids during the week. I thought that was a brilliant idea. The fact that she had a professional job, but was smart enough to still work part time at 20 hours a week was great. The best thing about it was that she’d go to work so early on Saturday, and the hospital would be so calm, you’d barely notice you’re at work until about 2pm. This is the kind of woman I look for in a marriage. She definitely carrried her own in the marriage, and had her families interest to make the household stronger :).

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Hopeful September 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm

I have often felt like slave labor. Lately even more so. It is not a slight to my children, or other moms: It’s a financial fact. I work around the clock, and I have nothing of my own. I am exhausted, and silenced. I am totally dependent on my husband, who doesn’t seem to really like me. I know I am being used. I have been told as much. The lack of a secure financial future depending on what he chooses is frightening. I am educated, but I am not young. As women we are punished in many ways, but this financial inequity seems to be the core of inequality for women. Marriages don’t always last, and the changes I have gone through becoming a mother, and now getting older, are not working for me financially or otherwise. Frankly I am unsettled at best. This article found me at the right time. I was a bit surprised at the petty remarks about punctuation. I think we all have bigger issues. Thanks for the information.

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Janelle January 23, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Hi,

Our 6 yr old daughter has type 1 diabetes. My husband has 51% placement and wants us to put together a 504 plan because the school keeps excluding our daughter when other kids come in with snacks for the class. There are several other issues that would apply to her diabetes that would require a 504 plan later in school but I guess we are contemplating moving this up to now since she is getting treated differently and since we are both available by phone we feel this is wrong. It has happened several times in the last few weeks so we have given them a change to correct it and even provided them measurement materials. I’m just a litte nervous that my ex could have an alternative motive. Could he be setting up a 504 plan to allow him to be a stay at home dad if the school messes up or any other scenario?

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My Flaw February 4, 2013 at 11:01 am

I haven’t read all the responses yet, but, I wanted to add mine to the pile. In a year, I will choose to stay home, for my own personal satisfaction, and I don’t regard this as a problem with the system, I regard this entirely as my personal character flaw.

I was raised to perform my whole life; I was never allowed to wear dresses as a girl, was taught that stay at home Moms were leaches, and it was drilled into me that being productive in a math/science based career was necessary for me to have self-worth. After an extremely hard college curriculum in electrical engineering and computer science – and helping my husband who had come from an impoverished family with very little exposure to higher learning – I obtained a very high paying corporate job in the field. We enjoyed three years out of college together – and paid off everything on our own – a clunker vehicle that kept getting rear ended, insurance, our wedding, all of our college debt – everything.

We always wanted to have children. Now, we have one. My maternity leave expires in two weeks. I cannot describe the excruciating guilt I feel.

I feel guilt for leaving our baby with my husband’s step-Mom for the year while we pay off the minivan (our last remaining debt), and move into a small house. I feel sadder than I’ve almost felt over anything thinking of not being there during that formative first year. I’ve always done chores in my house, and cooking; it’s never been as difficult as my job. I thoroughly enjoy what others call slave-labor; this has been like a fantastic, surreal vacation (except the 24 hour labor followed by a c-section).

And that is the problem. I enjoy it so much that as soon as the minivan is paid off (a year) I want to quit and stay with my child full time. To the critics who call that lazy – you are right, it is; it is lazy compared with the rigors of my job, and how I lived my life before – balancing both. It is also shameful, burdening my husband with my existence in addition to the child’s. It also robs him of the chance to use my income as a means to start his small business now; it places sole providership on him. Additionally, after this year we will stop paying his extended family for childcare; they could maybe use that money for necessary surgeries.

It is supremely selfish of me. I hope to go back to work in 7 years after having my last two children – but who really will hire me then?

But I don’t blame the system, or men. I love my husband. My manager has been very kind and supportive; I’m going to be letting him down too.

I blame myself. For being weak. For wanting to be with my children past rationality. For enjoying the relatively mundane tasks of housework and playing with a baby. For being sad and anxious despite whichever path I take.

I can see both sides, being on both sides. I can understand the guilt that drives stay at home Moms to make long lists of the things they do all day – because I feel that guilt myself; inside me it says “you are a burden to your family” or “you are underutilizing your skills” or “does your child really need YOU; can’t you get over yourself and step aside – let an older family member do this” or “you are robbing your husband of his business opportunity” etc. But I also understand why working Moms fight back so hard – I can understand how badly they want to retain their identities and also, more importantly, to provide financial solidarity for their family; I understand the pleasure of saving for a kid’s college education, or of donating to charity – being “someone”, being “part of the best team”. I understand also the guilt of leaving a child in daycare because until my mother in law changed her mind to be able to come with us that was the sentence my child would have experienced too. I clearly see the pain even on my male coworker’s face as he drops his daughter off to daycare – recollecting it – because she cries now. Past the separation stage.

My only solace is in thinking – it’s only seven years that I will be a burden to my family, and there is an upside in that the children may be more emotionally stable because of it. I will not have to live with the regret that I damaged them or lost the best moments with them (outside of this year! I know that pain too!)

Of course this will all seem comical if in seven years I can get a well paid engineering job again – but seven years out of a technical field – you’re good as dead, no? So, I will probably have to try to go back for a masters and try to remember what I learned then over 10 years ago at that time.

Do you see what a difficult flaw this is to live with? If I were smarter, more ambitious, and, maybe less lazy, I would find some work from home skill – apply some type of programming to a telecommuting job.

Maybe in another life.

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Lucy February 5, 2013 at 8:36 am

Reply To Flaw: I can’t find your post on here, but it was emailed me via post updates. I can only imagine how your heart breaks, having to go back to work, and leave your baby. I was able to stay home with my kids, and especially with my first, I would have been a basket case if I had to leave him with someone else during the day. You mention that others consider stay at home moms are lazy. I don’t think anyone who has ever stayed at home to raise kids would say that. It’s the hardest job in the world. Anyone who says that has never experienced it, and should! It’s tough in the best of circumstances, and many of us are not in the best of circumstances. You don’t have anything to feel ashamed of, as you are doing the best that you can in your situation. It saddens me to read the harsh words that women levy against one another, all in the name of what? It’s not a competition. We are all trying (mom) to raise our kids the best that we can. I applaud you for doing what you have to do right now, and I hope you know, that this article wasn’t about bashing stay at home mom, or moms who hold outside jobs/careers. It seems to me, it was an article about how staying at home can cause a financial crisis for a woman, and we need to ban together, to push for laws and protections, so that we may stay at home with our kids when they are young, and not be punished financially. I for one, would like to use my mom experience on my resume, and not be out back 15 years in my field. Right now, that’s not going to fly, but it could. We need to change the conversation, and stand up as a revered group to demand respect and equality in and out of the workplace.

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Whoa Mommy April 10, 2013 at 12:17 am

I find it sad that most of the comments I read are solely from the perspective of win/loss situation for us parents. What about the child? The W.H.O. recommends breastfeeding until two years of age, and beyond. How does that fit into our paradigm of raising children and working. And before everyone starts saying, “hello, ever hear of a breast pump?” There are lots of mom’s, myself included, that simply could not pump/store their milk, and some research is suggesting that the more you pump the sooner children are weaned. That’s just one physical limitations that governments are not accounting for whether in a workplace situation or divorced family situation. Maybe its utterly ridiculous to expect mother’s to work outside of the home in a westernized culture where office’s, store fronts, etc or deemed unsafe/not good fits for small children. Yes, women have ALWAYS worked while raising the family, but maybe not always for money, maybe an exchange system, barter system of needed goods etc would be more simple and practical for family life. Maybe co-housing or multi-generational living would be helpful. Maybe we need to rethink what raising children is all about; simple living combined with love for new life.

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Jessie February 28, 2014 at 12:40 pm

I just saw this post and the comments. I rarely comment on any type of blog. I have to say something here. I was a stay at home for my children for many years. I was stupid and quit college when I married young. Now I am a divorced single mother. I never worked the entire time I was married. I actually became disabled and can not work. I’m trying to go back to college. My child support payments barely cover my house payments. I’m trapped. I can’t receive disability payments from the government because I don’t have the required work hours to receive the coverage and same for social security. I can’t receive social security benefits off of him until he is 62 or dies. Soon my kids will be older and I won’t even receive the child support. I trapped myself. I made the mistakes and trapped myself. I am happy I stayed and was there for my children. However, you never guess or expect what the future holds.

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April May 8, 2014 at 11:57 pm

Men aren’t men anymore and therefore women can’t do what they need to do. As a homemaker, I don’t think I will regret that decision but it has made me think about a lot of things. But I am glad my husband is obviously one of a kind. He takes care of us and doesn’t criticize or expect the house to be perfect like some of the apes on here. Belittling their wives because they are at home with their children and treat them as if they’re doing nothing. Wow. I am a blessed lady.

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April May 8, 2014 at 11:59 pm

I also plan to homeschool my daughter, at the cost of your retirement you are putting your children in public school where they will be in danger of school shootings, rapes and bullying and all other kinds of evil. I will keep mine with me thank you. I don’t know why people send their kids to school or daycare with all the horrible things humans do to each other in this world.

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Nita August 28, 2014 at 5:28 am

I also think of this as a cultural situation. Me as an African American female never witnessed any of my Aunts being stay at home moms – even though they were married. The benefits were when / if their husband’s were hurt, out of work etc – there was a constant flow of income. Now all of my Aunts supported each other by living close to each other and offering up childcare for free for those working nights and such. Also, note, finding a career that allows flexibility, working part – time is doable. I work and homeschool while my husband worked also. So it CAN be done. Most people complain about it though, I don’t becuase I have the best of both worlds. Me working has gotten my husband jobs when he lost his. Him working has afforded us the ability to pay for our kids college while helping family members in need. Also, we can retire one day. I plan to retire to take care of grandkids so my daughters can work if the want to.

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