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Being a Stay at Home Mom or Dad - You CAN Afford It (Part 1)

One of the most difficult questions my wife and I asked when we were going to become parents was, can we afford for my wife to be a stay at home mom?

We needed to decide if we could give up one income in order for my wife to be a fully engaged mother that is responsible for the care, education and upbringing of two wonderful persons.

With that hindsight I can tell you there are certain financial aspects you need to consider before making the decision to be a stay at home mom or dad. You need to consider the money consequences of either decision; both come with pros and cons.

Keeping Both Incomes

I have had friends that automatically assume they cannot give up one income, that they need the money. But it's important to understand that having a job come with it's expenses too and even more so when there is a child.

In order for you to make the decision to keep an income or be a stay at home mom you need to compare "apples to apples" and consider the following expenses. You can use an online calculator to help you. A spreadsheet will do the same and simple pencil and paper will do too. The important thing is that you figure what these expenses are for you:

  • Cost of daycare - it varies greatly but I will tell you one thing, its expensive. Make sure you visit several daycare's to shop around. Also consider the cost of supplies for daycare (special food, blankets, toys, etc.). Also note that daycare might not end when they start school. Many parents have to send children to daycare after school because they are still at work.
  • Cost of nanny’s - I know parents that choose this over daycare and although it might not be cheaper it’s more convenient and gives them more peace of mind.
  • Cost of commuting - from home, to daycare, to work back to daycare, back home…everyday.
  • Making up for time lost - because of the time spent away from each other you might want to make up for it with gifts/vacations/camps/activities/sports etc. Make sure you budget for these.
  • Help for the house - because the day only has so many hours and time at home is best spent with the family it's almost a given you will need help. Make sure you factor the cost of paying for a cleaning lady, yard guy, handyman, etc.
  • Eating out more - After a 8, 10, 12-hour day at the office getting home to cook can be a challenge.
  • Cost of tutoring - again, with limited time you might not be able to help with schoolwork.
  • Taxes – if you earn more you pay more taxes. You will be in a higher tax rate and more of both your salaries go to the government.
  • Expenses of having a job - commuting, meals, dry cleaners, seminars/conferences, computers, travel, appearance, keeping up with people at work, etc. Then add to this stress relieving activities because after all “you work so hard”: vacations, shopping, nice dinners, entertainment, etc.

Also consider some of the non-tangible but real costs of being a working parent:

  • Strain on you - I for one know I have some long, stressful and hectic days at work. If both myself and my wife had to do that and THEN come home to help with homework, baths, meals etc. I really do not know how we could do it.
  • Missing your child when you are at work - I'll be honest here, dads miss their kids but for moms this is even tougher. It may affect your attitude towards work.
  • Pressures at work - If you are on the promotion track or want to advance it might not be seen positively for you to not work as "hard" as your colleagues because you need to tend to parenting duties.
  • Pressure to be like full time parents – you’ll see stay at home moms do things with their children that you can't because you are at work.
  • Impact of being cared for by strangers – yes, there are disgruntled daycare employees and some daycares provide better care than others

Once you have considered all of the above costs of keeping one income you are now going to compare them to what you are going to need to do to be able to give up one income and be a stay at home mom or stay at home dad. That is going to be the second part of this article…

Go to Part 2 >>


photo credit: elviskennedy Creative Commons License.

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