How did you decide to have one parent stay home was the best situation?
January 5, 2012 4:57 PM   Subscribe

How did you decide to have one parent stay home was the best situation?

I will keep it brief and can fill in on details if it will help, I just dont want to ramble. Wife wants to teach elementary but cant due to budget cuts in Oregon. Her current job she works full time, but is too emotional and she is pretty unhappy. She really wants to stay home with our two year old daughter. How did you decide to go down to one income? What helped the transition?

Specs: Both in our mid-20s, two year old daughter. We would be living on $60k (My salary) if she quit, losing the $36k she makes now. We own our own house ($1700/m), two cars, etc.

I just dont know where to begin with budget. I guess I am afraid having my wife stay home is going to COST us more money than it will save. That and I do not think she sees the gravity. That is 95% all her with the kid, no breaks until I get home, little interaction, etc. We do not have any friends with kids yet, so we are kind of trail blazing this.
posted by NotSoSimple to Work & Money (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Teachers are always looking for trusted in home daycare....Why doesn't she arrange now to keep one or two of her peers children next year? Income, teacher holidays, interaction, etc....
posted by pearlybob at 5:05 PM on January 5, 2012

A $1700 mortgage on a $60k salary is going to kill you. I don't sew how that's possible.
posted by fshgrl at 5:08 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Pearly: Meaning find a teacher who needs someone to babysit? Unfortunately my wife taught in Utah (Where she got her Masters). We moved to Oregon to be closer to family once we were pregnant, but lost her connections in education.
posted by NotSoSimple at 5:10 PM on January 5, 2012

What are your current child care arrangements/costs?
posted by argonauta at 5:11 PM on January 5, 2012

Ahhhhh. start networking through family and friends, neighbors, etc....even if they don't have kids, they know folks who do. Your office peers .....finding good daycare is hard and keeping only 2 kids can bring in an extra 200-250 a week. If she would want to do that. YMMV, but it's a solution that might be easy till your little one is school age.
posted by pearlybob at 5:14 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Daycare is $40/Day right now or around $480/m depending on the month.

I might propose it.. That extra cash would help and she would still be home... Honestly I don't know if she would be able to handle our own daughter full time, let alone another persons kid :P However my wife is pretty amazing and can do amazing things..
posted by NotSoSimple at 5:17 PM on January 5, 2012

How much are you netting a month? Are they covered under your health insurance?

If she wants to stay at home with the toddler, I think she should quit rather than wearing herself out at a miserable job, for the sake of your child. Unhappy parents have a negative impact on their kids.
posted by anniecat at 5:18 PM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Figure out what expenses you would no longer have if she stayed home. You might be pleasantly surprised.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:29 PM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh and handling one child is not that hard ....running errands and having outings are easy. She will do fine.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:32 PM on January 5, 2012

Honestly I don't know if she would be able to handle our own daughter full time, let alone another persons kid

It might be a good idea for her to transition into it with one kid, but if she used to be a teacher then you may be underestimating her.
posted by jacalata at 5:34 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

You don't know where to start with the budget? Well, the first thing to do is sit down and figure out what your actual expenses are, and where you can cut costs. Be sure to include (realistically) any wages currently lost by one of you when the child is sick, etc. Do you really need two cars? If your wife is at home, can she cook all your meals, shop in bulk, etc? What about taxes? Expenses for clothing, commuting, and other work-related hidden costs? Part of what's scary about it is not knowing. I advocate putting it all on paper. Then if it's impossible, you'll see it. If it's workable-with-some-sitting-income, you'll see it. (My sister stayed at home with her daughter this way). If it's really not that hard to manage, well, you'll see that too.

We made it through those first years of lower income by buying discounts, freecycling, letting friends and family members know that we were open to receiving gently used baby clothes. My son's dresser arrived when a friend snatched it up from bulk pickup in her classier neighborhood. We never ate out, and didn't have an official vacation. A lot of my kid's early Christmas presents were not new, but new to him. You don't really need cable: the library is your friend!

As far as parenting without a break throughout the day: it's tough, but it's manageable for a lot of people. Not everybody, but for a lot of us. Getting up a little early yourself, or making a habit of scooping up toddler as soon as you get home (so wife can go to the toilet alone, maybe grab a shower even) will go a long way to making this workable for her. Additionally, if you're near family, enlisting somebody to give the two of you a couple of hours alone on the weekends is a real blessing. Encourage her to keep her friendships, but she'll also develop relationships with parents she meets at the playground, etc., which will help keep her sanity too.

I consider having been able to stay home with my son such a privilege, and totally worth all the sacrifice. My husband does too. YMMV.
posted by theplotchickens at 5:34 PM on January 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would never stay home with daycare that cheap especially not with a $1700 mortgage. It'll kill you financially.

If both jobs offer health insurance, it's extra stability and backup that shouldn't be underestimated.

She should look for a more fulfilling job instead, or a part-time job.

A big gap on her resume doesn't look good, either.

(I say this all while currently staying at home with my child, by the way.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:48 PM on January 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

Also, sacrifice is all well and good but you need to make sure you're not sacrificing your daughter's long-term financial stability because your wife doesn't like her job.

It is extremely important that you not underestimate the impact that could come from financial worry and stress, lack of appropriate health care, not having a safe vehicle...these things are much more likely with a significant cut in income.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:51 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: We did this. $60k and a $1,700 mortgage isn't that bad, especially when you start to figure out savings such as the almost $6k a year in child care and possible getting rid of one car. Are there any government payments available for parents that are means-tested? For us, by the time we allowed for the cost of child care and the reduction in family allowance payments because of the increased income, my partner was working three days a week in an emotionally draining job at a high school for a total of $50 a week. Keeping the kids in child care on or two days a week made the cost manageable, gave my partner some time to run errands etc unmolested and gave the kids valuable social contact with other kids.

Unless you have huge debts other than your mortgage, you should be able to manage financially, although you may need to make some lifestyle adjustments, depending on what your lifestyle is currently. From a financial perspective, it's simply a matter of realistically listing out what your current income and expenses are, then crossing out what you will no longer earn/spend. You may be pleasantly surprised, particularly when you factor the cost of her staying in work such as childcare, second car etc.

Depending on personalities, the biggest challenge may be your wife being starved of adult company and being drained every day by a child that demands attention. The idea of taking in other kids as a child care provider (check if there are any regulations on this first) can help in two ways - obviously by bringing in money, but also by taking some of the strain off in terms of having to amuse a single child all day, which can be harder than two or more, because they will often keep each other occupied for at least part of the day.

If you go down the path of taking in other kids, though, consider the ramifications - your wife can't really dump other people's kids in the back of the car and drag them around on errands or visiting friends etc, so the social isolation may be worse with this option.

Think about other possibilities - can you both work part-time and share the parenting duties? Can she (or you) work nights/weekends instead?

Overall, your finances will definitely take a hit and you need to decide whether the advantages of having one of your child's parents taking the primary role in bringing it up, rather than a child care worker on minimum wage is worth that cost. Having kids is expensive and this is by no means the last time you'll have to make this kind of decision.
posted by dg at 6:05 PM on January 5, 2012

I like my work and haven't ever really wanted to be at home full-time, BUT - there are still days when I hate having to drop my kids off and be separated from them. It's hard. Really, really hard. Part of my brain is always aware of what their schedule is, what they're doing right now, and anticipating getting home to see them again. If I have a bad week at work, I start writing my resignation letter in my head. Haven't actually done it (yet), but the escape plan is there.

things we've considered:

1) benefits - what would your company cover? how much would it cost to have 2 dependents? I used to have double coverage, but we dropped it and haven't regretted it.

2) taxes - talk to a tax preparer, find out what the actual change in income would be

3) part-time child care - would you have access to a PT care provider? even if just on a drop-in basis, it's important for things like drs appts. Could area family help?

4) cars/commutes/gas - we pay a lot to get to work because we both commute - just cutting out my commute would save us quite a bit - could you drop to being a 1-car household?

The financial answer is probably an easy one, once you start writing everything down (and very likely the answer would be keep working). The emotional answer is not. If your wife had a more satisfying job, would she still want to stay home? Could she find part-time work that would allow her more time at home but help bridge the budget gap? If she worked part-time or stayed home, could she do something to improve her skills and be more marketable in a couple of years?

As far as whether she'd be happy being home full-time, I think it's kind of like any new job. She'd have to seek out a peer group and professional resources (local moms groups, the public library, etc.), learn new skills, and figure out the best way to be productive. It's not easy, but neither is working a job you hate while longing to spend more time with your child.

Also - if she's truly emotional and unhappy, then it's going to affect her work performance, and the decision to stay home or not might be made for you by her boss. Figure out the escape plan budget. Maybe she just needs to know there IS one.
posted by hms71 at 7:01 PM on January 5, 2012

Best answer: You sound overwhelmed by the budgeting, so I would suggest you see some kind of credit counsellor. Hopefully you have a government-funded one in your area. When my husband was laid off before Christmas, we went to see credit counsellors and they made up our 'what we spend now' budget with us step by step, by asking "what do you really, honestly spend on x?" For there it was very easy to make a 'what we can spend now' budget. There was no hidden agenda, just help, because it was not-for-profit. We walked away feeling less stressed despite a dismal situation because we now knew where we stood. I think it would help you guys decide either way and also, you can't argue or get sidetracked when you're making a budget with a professional in an office.

Has your wife stayed home with your child for long in the past? I know that Americans often get only 6 weeks off. I ask because she may discover, as I did, that she hates being a stay-at-home-mom (my daughter is 16 months old and I've been home with her from day one - she started daycare this week - yay!). It's very hard work, fraught with anxiety, self-critique, boredom... But all children are different. And she may love it.

Could you maybe give it a try? Your wife does sound like she needs a break. I think we all deserve extended work breaks just to get sorted out, although most of us can't afford that. Anyhow, make sure that you're both on board with the fact that it's a trial and if it doesn't work out for financial reasons or otherwise, things will return to their former state.

One more thing - don't forget to include Christmas in your budget.
posted by kitcat at 7:26 PM on January 5, 2012

We did this 20 years ago. We had two kids at the time, and a big mortgage. We were unhappy with our lifestyle, with other people raising our kids and our at-home time constantly in upheaval. In our case, we both had similar jobs with similar salaries but my husband had a skill that would provide extra income on weekends. The final straw was when the 4-year-old came down with chicken pox and couldn't go to daycare for ten days. We both had to take turns staying at home, using up most of our vacation time for that year. We ran the numbers over and over, and after daycare expenses one of us was only clearing about $150 per week and we felt we could make it without that amount. So he quit his job, became a Mr. Mom, and worked on the weekends. It worked out GREAT for us, and we did it for many years. As the working spouse, I loved it because I didn't clean or do grocery shopping or any of the other household chores and I was able to really focus on my career. I believe having an at-home spouse really paid off in the long run in my extra income over the course of my professional life. House-husband clipped coupons, hit garage sales, bought and cooked in bulk, and visited thrift stores as a hobby. He also found work on Friday and Saturday evenings, which not only brought in money but also gave him an outlet for adult company. Sure, there were challenges, but for us it was much easier on the whole family and we have zero regrets. Both kids are in college now and the quality of our family life was much more important and worth it in the long run. You can memail me if you want, now or in the future.
posted by raisingsand at 8:03 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

My wife and I are raising (and homeschooling) 3 kids (7, 9, 12) on less money. We each work one half-time job, scheduled so that one of us is always home with the kids. We each have some other fill-in activities (freelancing, etc.) that provide extra income, but we're basically living in the fiscal situation you describe. We have a number of tricks for cutting costs, including:
- almost never eating out
- family vacations involve driving, not flying
- I do a lot of our car maintenance and house repairs

Honestly, if it weren't for our $600/month mortgage, I don't think it would be remotely possible. I don't see how you can do it while paying $1700/month. With our family budget, unexpected big expenses sometimes push us into credit card debt. We work our way out of it, then another big surprise comes along....

If you have some savings and plan to put your child in public school, you guys might be able to make it a few years without her income, but if you have more kids or something unexpected happens, you'd be in financial trouble.

Might I recommend she try the half-time thing?

There are a lot of roles in public schools that can be filled at less than full-time. (I should know, my wife is a half-time school teacher.) And that extra $18k makes a world of difference - it's almost enough to cover the mortgage. Your wife gets to keep her skills current, her job won't be as stressful, and she gets a balance of kid and grown-up time. You get some help with the bills, while still having a greater level of support from a spouse with extra time on her hands. Your kid gets a balance between the socialization of daycare and the extra family time of a stay-at-home mom. Something like that could really work out well, if you can find a way.
posted by richyoung at 8:29 PM on January 5, 2012

Best answer: I would propose a test. For next, say, three months, your family has to live on your salary alone. Her salary goes straight into a savings account that you're not allowed to touch. Just pretend it doesn't exist. At the end of three months, look at the results. Have you been able to live on your salary alone? How much of a sacrifice was it? Is she any happier at her job? How's the kid?

It's not a perfect test, since you'll have to pay for daycare and work-related expenses out of your salary during the test that you wouldn't have if she stayed home. But think of that extra expense as your buffer. If you can't live for three months on your salary less the $2k or so you spend on daycare, you probably can't afford to do it long term, because emergencies will happen. In any case, you need to figure out what this will mean for your family financially, and the only way to do that is to actually try to live it.

In the end, it may turn out that the best solution is for your wife to leave her job. It may also turn out that the best solution is for her to try to work part-time, or for her to find a new job she likes more, or for your family to take steps towards moving to a less expensive home so that staying home becomes a viable option. But at the very least, I think you should figure out what you're dealing with financially, and then make the other decisions once you know that.
posted by decathecting at 8:33 PM on January 5, 2012 [12 favorites]

I decided to stay home with my children when I realized that I preferred happy children living in poverty than miserable children who had decent things. I don't regret a moment of my stay at home mom time.
posted by myselfasme at 10:29 PM on January 5, 2012 [8 favorites]

If she does decide to leave her job, she should mind the (employment) gap. When a woman is staying home with her kids, but intends to head back into the workforce eventually, I always recommend they do some freelance work on the side or start up some kind of home based business. It doesn't have to bring in a ton of cash, and ideally it should be the kind of thing she can spend an hour on a day or so (because caring for your daughter will be more than a full time job) but it means she can put Owner/Operator Widgets and Service, Inc. on her CV and not have to explain a multiple year exit from the labour market.

As for making it work, is there some way for you to bring in more money? Are you ripe for promoting? Does the employer across town pay better? Do you have a possibly profitable hobby? If your wife takes up a larger share of the domestic duties, that should free up a few hours in your week that could bring in more money.

Whether your wife will be happy at home is an open question. I thought I would love staying home with my daughter, but I had 12 months mat leave, and it turned out to be incredibly lonely and frustrating. (And, of course, magical and wonderful, and babies are precious and miraculous, but STILL. The monotony.) I was the first of my friends to have a kid, too, and everyone was at work all day long when I was home and available, and out all evening, when I was stuck at home. I was really happy to go back to work and talk to grown-ups again.
posted by looli at 10:56 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

We paid off our mortgage before I quit my high stress job to stay home with my toddler who was then almost one. I'm glad we did it, though I think I underestimated the challenges and isolation. That said, it's much easier now that she's almost three, mobile, and talking than it was when she was wordless and barely walking.

Not sure I could have taken in other kids early on. It also would have been fairly tough on me not to have a car at home with a toddler. It's good to get out of the house to run errands with her, and sometimes it's too cold to walk places with her.

I know it is more stress on my husband to be the sole provider, though he is doing a great job of it and is happier in his work situation now (after finding an even better job) than he was when I first left work.

Getting to the point where I could quit took some doing. We knew we wanted to work toward that when I got pregnant, and were living lean and overpaying on the mortgage to get there as fast as we could. Even so, it still took another 7 months after my maternity leave ended before we paid things off, meaning I was essentially working full time from home AND taking care of the baby. I was lucky to be able to do a lot of telecommuting, but that was incredibly stressful. Still, we had a goal in sight and that did make it easier. I guess I'm suggesting that you both consider sucking it up for a bit to better position yourselves to switch to one salary by paying down your mortgage or building your savings. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 6:07 AM on January 6, 2012

Response by poster: anniecat: ~$3600/m. I pay for my own health and my wife pays for her and our daughter. I work for a dental company so dental is covered for everyone at no cost. It would be another...$2-300/m to put them on private insurance which is cheaper than putting them under my plan.

dg: Debts: Student Loans, Car Payments, and Mortgage. No credit card debt at all. Many people have mentioned the one car thing and I would like to preserve the two cars. We are close (Within $1500 or so) to paying off my vehicle which would free up $140/m. We are considering paying it off just to save on that. I unfortunately cannot work less hours. My wife has asked at her place and they 'froze' anything less than 40 Hrs/week.

hms: Benefits covered in anniecats reply above. I have a really awesome tax lady and I didn't think of that, thanks. No on the PT Child care unfortunately, maybe we could find something. Commute: Luckily I am ~5 minutes to work from home and my wife the same. However she was commuting via train after that 5 minute drive so that saves ~$5/Day in train tickets. She has thought about a PT job if needed.

Kitcat: Never thought of that... Always kind of thought credit counseling was for people with uber high debt and finance problems. Wife stayed home 6 weeks with our daughter when she was born and hated to leave her at daycare. She also spends 1 week with her on spring break (Daycare closed) and 2 weeks during Christmas (Daycare closed and she gets those 2 weeks off).

decathecting: The 'pretend we live on my salary' came up last night as well. I think that is our next (large) step.

looli: She has wanted to get more into craftiness and likes etsy, so perhaps. No more money for me right now. I feel fairly paid and I am only 4 months into this job. Negative on promoting also. Not looking to job hop AGAIN as this is super close to home (5 minutes), rather flexible, and I am established. In other words I am happier than I was the last two jobs I worked and am making $15k more. I do IT for a living so I could moonlight my services, although my employer says to be careful as they frown upon it due to the possibility of effecting our performance.

onlyconnect: I wish we could pay off our mortgage, but that wont happen. We are only 2 years into it :)

Thank you all for the great comments. I need to go through and re-read them all multiple times to absorb all the info. Right now our first action items are going to be looking at reducing anything we can on the big bills: Streamline our mortgage (Currently at 5%), lower interest rate on our cars (I am almost certain we can get at least 1% drop, I have pretty awesome credit), and I am about to turn 25 in a month or so, which means large drop on our car insurance. So that should help the monthly reoccurring bills.
posted by NotSoSimple at 8:45 AM on January 6, 2012

We did this, but were able to because of a few things that sound like they are in contrast with your situation:

We had the good fortune to buy our house at a great price in a gentrifying neighbourhood, and our mortgage is significantly less than yours, even with a refinance a few years ago. For gifts from relatives, we've asked and compiled gifts and money for things like one new window at a time, or a new-to-us fridge or what have you. Everything we have is either second hand, or if it's computer or music related, a tax-write off and an income generator. My husband has a good job, but also does freelancework on the side, and his band (his main hobby) covers its own expenses. We barter with friends for work done on the house whenever we can. Things like roof repairs or brickwork are piggybacked with our neighbours for better rates.

Having a good accountant is helpful. Having a small business lets us write off certain things, as long as one room is dedicated to the workspace and clients come over (there are more specifics, but the accountant helps us deal with them) and the business pays me a certain amount for what I do, like errand-running and print-brokering and stuff, though I never see the money - it's just how it's worked out by the accountant. He is worth every penny. He helps us save too, which we never did before we engaged him.

Our car is old and unattractive - but reliable, good on gas, easily and cheaply repaired by a local shop down the street, and it's paid for. Our insurance rate is low for a variety of reasons, such as how the car is rarely driven (not to work etc.) and we've never made a claim and I have no points on my license. Avoiding stupid wastes of money like parking and other tickets or violations is also huge - that can add up to hundreds over the year in a city like this. Sadly my husband's public transit expenses are creeping up, but our affordable car and house allow room for this. But we live in a very walkable neighbourhood, which also helps.

We have helpful parents - my folks pay for my daughter's clothing, and her birthday and Christmas gifts are weeks at camp. Toys and books are primarily gifts or second-hand. My mom plays the ponies, and if there's a windfall from that, she'll often buy us something we need. Our gifts from our parents go to buy quality items we need, like good boots or a good coat that will last for years. Buying either second-hand, accepting hand-me downs, participating in clothing swaps and buying great quality with gift money means we don't waste money on crappy clothing that is wasteful and a drain of perfectly good money. We keep expenses like dry-cleaning low.

We call the utility companies regularly and always ask if we have the best plan or rates for our usage. Often we find we've been paying more than we need to, but nobody's going to offer a chance for you to pay less - you have to ask for it. We work on saving energy, and the next big thing will be insulating the house better - it is old and drafty.

We rarely eat out or order in. We buy in bulk. We make meal plans. Dinners include the makings for my husband's lunches. We make a lot of soups and stews and freeze a lot of it for later meals. We host dinner parties rather than pay for babysitters whenever we can, so we can see our friends but not have to go out so much.

For years I've "patchworked". I dog-sat for a friend, which was money for work I had to do with my own dog anyway, and it helped my dog a lot too. It was easier than taking care of another kid for nearly the same amount of money! Then I found a job at a cute neighbourhood vintage store for 3 days a week, from 12-6, where I could bring my daughter. She had a playpen there for naps when she was little and helped me in the store as she was older, and was good with amusing herself while I did my job. We worked there together from when she was about 8 months until when she was 5 (when it closed). As she got older and needed time away from the store, I paid a neighbourhood teen a little bit to take her to the park across the street to play, or traded playdates, and her grandparents would sometimes take her for one afternoon a week. I "flippped" antiques - buying from estate sales and re-selling. I wrote for a frivolous shopping website. I was/am a technical reviewer for a parenting book series, where I work from home. I still work from home for an online magazine, sourcing images and doing other things as they come up. I still babysit. For a while I did have our daughter in a daycare two afternoons a week, primarily for socializing purposes, and my mom helped to pay for that instead of gifts for a year. The thing was, I found money and earned cash wherever I could find it. These days I work in my daughter's school in a paid position that covers our groceries and other small expenses, and it will lead to more work down the road and it lets me do lots and lots of work for the parent council and breakfast club - right now I'm torn between liking the flexibility of freelancing vs doing just one thing and being done with it after I've put my time in.

The thing is, soon your kid will be in school and you'll need to change up your plans again anyway. It's only for a short while that you get this time with them - the long and lovely afternoons to explore your world together. I was not bored - I found mommy friends who were also home, and we met up at parks and coffee shops and ran our errands together. I went to drop-ins and museums (memberships save money!). Staying home doesn't mean staying home, though it's easy to get in that rut. It doesn't mean not working or making money either - it's not either/or. I wrote and read and used every minute during naps, and encourage/d benign neglect. We made a choice to be poorer so that we could have this time. I can't speak to getting back into the workforce, because after I left my career/job, it didn't exist any more and the competition has the other positions in the city sewn up. That said, we're also currently house-shopping to take advantage of our great fortune in buying good real estate, so that with our next move, we'll be mortgage-free and taking a chance on one of the next-neighbourhoods to gentrify, so we can continue at this rate -- or, in a small-town without the city expenses.

You might want to look at some of Gail Vaz-Oxlade's shows - she has a few I've seen that cover this very topic. I use a lot of her tips on her website. I haven't read her books, but they're on the to-do list this year. We do hundreds of things to save, but I wish it felt more cohesive.

I think you can do this if you want to enough, but you might need to look hard at some lifestyle changes, especially if you want to have another child. It's tough for us emotionally when we compare what we have to our friends who are better off for various reasons, but we're pretty happy and don't aspire to a particular lifestyle, just a particular family life.
posted by peagood at 8:57 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hi, we did this with almost the exact same numbers -- I make $62K, Mr. Rabbit made $35K, our mortgage was $1800/m, student loans, we have two car payments, and we were even in the same city I think (Beaverton). Mr. Rabbit quit his job this past June to stay home with our 6-month-old (now 13-month-old). When we did the calculations on what we were spending on child care, and how little we were seeing our kid, and how much Mr. Rabbit hated his job, it seemed to make sense to do it.

What we did was take ALL of our savings ($75K) and buy a cheap house out in Scappoose that we moved into, and we rent out our high-mortgage Beaverton house. I work in Hillsboro, so my commute is longer mileage wise though not really longer timewise because there's no highway traffic at rush hour, and my car gets better mileage because I'm not stopping all the time so gas costs are only slightly higher. The rent we are getting doesn't cover the mortgage (we get $1200) but that effectively makes our housing costs $600/m instead of $1800/m. And even then, it is very hard, mostly because the lifestyle adjustment to live on one income is a hard one to make. We're honestly slowly going into credit card debt.

My advice to you is to lower your monthly expenses as much as possible and see if you can do it on one income like someone else advised above. It's hard but if you can make the lifestyle changes needed, you could do it.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:04 AM on January 6, 2012

The objective half of it is simple math: is her salary worth more than the costs of child care + expenses? After our third child was born, this question tipped for us and my wife stopped working.

The subjective half is, will she go crazy at home? This is a hard one to call.

Our mortgage was like half of yours, and our child care costs were higher, so you need to do your own math.

Also, taking other people's kids into your home for care my open you up to a MOUNTAIN of regulaitons. We had our kids in a local home day care which, after we moved on to Kindergarten, got whacked by the state despite maintaining a VERY high level of care. It was awful for everyone involved.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:09 AM on January 6, 2012

The whole "she'll go crazy at home" isn't a given. There are lots of happy SAHMs, and there's a lot of support for SAHMs out there. Moreso than for moms who work.

Also, I don't think you can just set up a daycare. There are tons of regulations, I think, in a lot of states.
posted by anniecat at 12:58 PM on January 6, 2012

Best answer: I stayed home with our kids (now 6, 4, 2) from day 1. I was not a typical "always wanted kids' or burgeoning Betty Crocker, but I L.O.V.E. being at home! I'm a writer, I work from home, and I squeeze my writing time into naptimes and get up early or go to bed late so I can write (I also used to do IA fulltime so that's also part of my freelance life). If she has a skill like writing or tutoring she should think about adding that to her docket.

It's not hard to use your brain when at home -- what's hard is taking care of yourself. Remembering to eat regular meals, exercise, and all that stuff seems harder when you're with kids. But having another kid over can actually ease things a bit since toddlers do entertain each other enough to let you do things like wipe down surfaces nearby, or plan meals or do meal prep or fold laundry, etc. Maybe she could trade off babysitting with another mom a day or 2 a week to get enough free time to go have coffee with friends or work a bit at freelance.

Know what you can do and what you will put down. I shop for food looking at sales, but with 3 kids and no sitter I do not clip coupons. I make food from scratch nearly 100% of the time, but I love to cook. We got rid of cable. I shop for nearly all our clothes online. Xmas gifts are also nearly all online purchases and on sale -- I used to love to go shopping but I would rather spend any free time reading or faux-crafting with the kids or spending time with my husband.

I don't regret one minute of staying at home. And I now have lots of SAHM friends who are in the same season of life as we are. Reading homemaking blogs of all stripes (liberal, catholic, conservative, mormon, conservative jewish) helps me see commonalities across lots of types of homes, as well as helps me figure out how to solve common problems in homemaking, child-rearing, and self-care as a mom.
posted by mdiskin at 6:03 PM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

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