For most couples, deciding who works and who stays home comes down to plain economics.
Sure, many parents love their kids and still want to work. But many more think they can't afford to stay home with their children. That's probably why more than half of American children live in two-income households, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But what if I said that both of you working may be draining your money more so than the alternative of one parent staying home after you consider the costs of childcare, gas, commuting, and insurance?
And beyond financial reasons, there are plenty more ways a family can benefit by sticking to the one-income model. Here are five practical reasons why one parent should stay at home:
1. Save Money
Wait ... what? Isn't it kind of a no-brainer that having both parents work means much more money and fewer financial stresses? Not exactly.
Consider this for a start: Child care alone costs Americans an average of $11,666 a year (or $972 a month) for one child, according to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies. That means If you have two kids, and one parent stays home instead of working, you could save more than $23,000 a year -- about as much money as you might earn from a full-time retail job, after taxes. And that's just from childcare savings alone!
Then there's the cost of commuting to and from work, including gas, insurance, an occasional $5 coffee and lunch out -- all of which can easily add up to more than $300 a month ($3,600 a year).
Work clothes can be another expense for many working Americans that can cost around $100 per month. And what about food? When both parents are working, there is less time to cook, meaning more money spent at restaurants.
Add it all up yourself, and you may find that staying home is financially smarter for your family in some cases. Especially when you consider the non-financial factors we are about to talk about, like ...
2. Get More Family Time
Obviously, the more you work, the less time you have to spend with your children. And sadly, most people work more than a full-time job. According to the United Nations, more than 85% of men and 65% of women work more than the standard 40-hour work week. Add in at least an hourly commute every day and you are pushing at least 50 hours a week.
Work isn't the only thing that will keep you from spending time with your child. Taking care of the house and running errands drains the time spent with children, but that can be minimized if one parent stays at home.
3. Be at Your Best
Families where both parents work full time have less time to spend with their child, and the time they do have to spend is typically their low-energy 'bad hours' -- or times when you aren't at your best.
Anytime you are tired, hungry, distracted and need alone time to unwind can make it tough to be attentive, patient or loving with your child. With one parent at home during the day, the child can experience the best hours, with the most energy, of that parent. If the working parent can spend extra time with the children on the weekends, the parent who stays home can use that time to relax a little.
4. Enjoy More Bonding
By staying at home, a parent has the chance to see all of their child's firsts and act as a positive influence during the formative years.
Of course, you can absolutely find caring environments in a day care or with the right babysitter, but you have to consider frequent turnover and high student-to-teacher ratios in some programs. There's also this:
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, regardless of quality, children with a higher quantity of non-parental care exhibited increased behavioral problems.
While being a parent can be thankless at times, it can also be the most rewarding job on the planet. You might want to pull your hair out when your kid decides to eat the dog food, but does anything compare to her hug? During tough times in the office, a hug from Terry in accounting is just not the same.
In the end, you can't pin a dollar sign on the value of spending time with your children.
5. Alleviate the Work/Life Struggle
No, I'm not saying parenting is a stress-free occupation, but it can certainly beat juggling a full-time career at the same time. Striking a satisfactory balance between work and family is a constant struggle, and some parents decide that juggling is just not worth it. By staying at home with a child, a parent doesn't feel pressure to squeeze activities and moments into their day simply because they have time.
Striking a Balance
A happy medium is for the parent that stays home with the child to work part time. It is no easy task to juggle raising a child full time with an added part-time job on the side, but it could offer the best of both worlds. With an increasing number of workers requesting the flexibility of working from home, part-time work is easier now than ever.
Having one parent stay at home with the children can be cost-effective and a great investment in the emotional wellbeing of your entire family. But this might not be an option in every case. Every family has to look at their situation and weigh the costs and benefits of every child care option.
Here are Three More Money-Saving Ideas to Help You Afford the Stay-At-Home Parent Lifestyle:
- Free yourself from credit card debt this year. Learn how to pay 0% on your balances for up to 21 months in The 4 Best Credit Cards for Balance Transfers.
- Pay off your mortgage to free up an extra $1,000 to $2,000 every month. Check out 3 Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage 15 Years Early.
- Shrink and eliminate your car payments.If you're paying 6% APR or more, it's time to know The Top 3 Reasons to Refinance Your Auto Loan.