Stay at Home Parent or Continue to Work?

One of the conundrums that modern parents face is whether to stay home or to continue working at a traditional job. In two-parent homes, sometimes there are questions about which parent should stay home, and which should continue on a traditional career path. As you attempt to determine what path is right for you, here are some things to consider:

Current Financial Situation

Your first consideration is your current financial situation. If you have a two-income household, can you afford to slim down to one income? Take an honest look at your budget. If you experience difficulty paying your bills now, chances are you won’t be able to handle a drastic drop in income without making serious changes to the way you spend your money. If it’s that important to you, consider a budget overhaul, as well as a savings program, to make it possible.

On the other hand, perhaps you can afford the drop in income. If one partner has a part-time job or earns much less than the other, it can make sense for the lower-earning person to quit work. Childcare costs are often a big deal. In some locations, the cost of childcare can equal the earnings from a full-time job. If this is the case, you might be better off with one parent staying home.

When deciding which job to “keep,” don’t forget about some of the less obvious financial considerations. If one partner’s job has better benefits, and there isn’t much difference in income, it might make sense to stick with the job that has better perks. It’s difficult to fully appreciate the value of good health benefits and a great retirement plan until it’s gone, but consider those items in your calculations.

Future Considerations

Family financial decisions should also consider the future. If you don’t have kids yet, one thing to consider is that millennial women who put off motherhood see career earnings increase by 9% per year of delay.

Other considerations for the future include who might have greater earning power down the road. This isn’t about traditional gender roles. In fact, the number of stay-at-home dads — who are staying home due to choice — is on the rise. Additionally, mothers are the sole or primary breadwinner in 40% of households (although 63% of those are single mothers, and not in two-parent households).

When deciding who should stay home, compare work experience and education, and determine which partner could likely earn more over time by following a traditional career path. As long as the stay-at-home partner is included in financial decisions, and is content with staying at home, this arrangement can work out, at least until the kids are old enough that a stay-at-home parent can go back to work.

Missed Career Opportunities

One important consideration, no matter who is staying home, is what missed career opportunities might come into play. In some career fields, you can easily end up falling behind when you take time out to become a caregiver. If both partners want to maintain their marketability, you might both need to stay in the workforce. As long as you have adequate income to pay for childcare, or if you have family nearby who can help you manage affordably, this arrangement can work.

Another option is to consider whether or not it’s possible to make other career arrangements. Technology today offers workers new opportunities to telecommute for some portion of the work week, as well as to work entirely from home. You could even get the best of both worlds by working entirely from home. If you can stay connected to your career field through ongoing training, networking opportunities, volunteering, and with other methods, it’s possible for you to keep up with your career, even as a stay-at-home parent. The partner with this ability, even from home, might make the ideal choice as primary caregiver.

There’s a lot to consider when you make the decision to stay home with your kids. And, while financial and future career realities come into play, don’t forget to consider your own values. If you believe that your children will be better off with one parent at home, it’s time to seriously consider ways you and your partner can make the situation work.

By Miranda Marquit, Staff Writer

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