Convince my wife not to quit her job
May 8, 2007 5:27 PM   Subscribe

How can I convince my wife that we need her income and that as much as we'd like to have our son at home with her instead of in Day Care, we have to face reality or severely cut back our lifestyle.

We're better off than most families. We were lucky in our real estate deals; selling one home on the west coast at the top of that market; but then we bought our new home at the market peak in our current town. Due to the cost of living differences, we still came out ahead in that deal.

We currently have no credit card debt (we converted it into a 8.5% interest equity loan) and no car payments. We have a 30yr 6.25% mortgage that is approximately 50% of the value of the house. My wife and I have lived in the house for a year but spent the first 2 months of ownership doing upgrades and repairs. At some point we lost track of our spending and what was to be $10K-15K in improvements became $30K+ then add in some medical bills and we were suddenly looking at $40K in credit card debt with payments beginning to balloon out of control.

The wisest thing we did was to convert that CC debt into the Home Equity Loan. We now have essentially mortgaged 66% of our home and can afford to make the monthly payments with no problem. But our credit rating dropped a bit due to a few late bills. Further financing is not an option for the next 5-7 years. I think the next step is to set a budget and find savings that don't compromise our lifestyle too much. The reason we moved to our current location is so we could live the lifestyle we want.

We're a two-income family with one child. We've been married 4 years but never had a budget. This month marks the first time when we're actually living within our means. However, my wife wants to go part time when our son enters Pre-Kindergarten in a few months. That will put a strain on our finances as not only will we lose half her income, but we'll also lose her health insurance. This while I am struggling, with some success, building my hobby (a blog) into a second job with enough extra income to pay down our home equity debt and build up some savings. I'm hoping it's not unreasonable to ask my wife to continue working full time, even if it means our son will be in day care longer than we would both like.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm hoping it's not unreasonable to ask my wife to continue working full time, even if it means our son will be in day care longer than we would both like.

I'm sure you could find a Random Person On The Internet to support each option, some will validate you, (wife-should-work-full-time), others won't (wife-should-be-with-kid).

I think the key is going to be truly respecting your wife's opinion, even if it's different from yours, and realizing that neither scenario is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT or ABSOLUTELY WRONG. Hopefully you can come up with a solution that you both can agree on.

Honestly though, her opinion is the only one (besides yours) that matters - nobody else on Metafilter is married to you. Hopefully.
posted by eleyna at 5:39 PM on May 8, 2007 [5 favorites]

I would suggest making this decision part of a joint process of determining your finances, rather than you convincing your wife that she has to work. There is part of this that has to do with rationally working out how to live within your means, and part of this that is emotional.

Your wife may be thinking that once your son enters pre-K, your daycare expenses will drop (which is true) and therefore you won't need as much income (potentially true). Have you run through the numbers for the different scenarios in detail?

You don't mention the hard numbers, and you sound kind of panicked. Maybe you are freaked out at the thought of being the sole provider for you family - I know I would be, in your situation. Maybe you are scared because your wife doesn't want to work, but isn't a full partner in making sure you live within your means.

I would suggest sitting down together and making estimates for exactly what it would cost for her to work part time, and what that would mean giving up. If you can quantify it ("Well, honey, if you go part time we won't be able to build any savings or ever go out to eat again...") then you can make the decision together.
posted by medusa at 5:44 PM on May 8, 2007

Any chance her job can let her work part-time from home, part-time in the office? Can she freelance write? Run an eBay business from home selling other people's stuff? Exhaust any skill she has that can conceivably not be done from an office.
posted by GaelFC at 5:50 PM on May 8, 2007

It sounds like you need to make a budget either way. Then you can jointly decide whether you'd rather compromise your lifestyle or have your child in daycare.
posted by YoungAmerican at 5:54 PM on May 8, 2007

Make sure to take the health insurance into account when you both crunch the numbers... and you will sit down together and crunch the numbers... because having to pay your wife's health insurance out of pocket would be a really big expense.

Make sure to check if your wife would be covered under your policy, too. I'm actually assuming you've done this already but you never know.
posted by Justinian at 5:59 PM on May 8, 2007

Maybe she could ask her boss if she could still work full-time but perhaps work part of that time at home? You guys would still get the money and she would have more time with your son.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 6:13 PM on May 8, 2007

Count me as the first to have an opinion about daycare vs. parent at home. While the commenting before me has pointed out the most obvious thing your post skirted (spousal buy-in) this same question has been haunting me lately. Which makes more sense the extra income the spouse brings home or, the advantages of a stay-at-home parent and the lack of expensive daycare payments?
For us, math says unless we actually have that third kid we want, day care still doesn't cost as much as we earn with her income with two kids b about a third of her income. But...
There are some clear social benefits to daycare made evident by our friends staying at home and their socially dysfunctional children. But there are also some clear emotional and developmental benefits to being with a family member. I guess my advice would be two-fold.
First, without a lot more detail on finances, I would suggest that the most important factors are mom and kid. Is kid thriving at daycare, is Mom sick of work, how much of a sacrifice are you talking about? These trickier variables need a role in this formula. If you're talking about buying fewer DVDs, maybe driving a car longer than you're used to before replacing, shopping at Costco rather than Whole Foods, then I'd say listen to the family. If you're talking needing to move, looking for another job, having uninsured family members, I'd say show that to your wife.
I guess I can't really offer advice on convincing your wife without asking you to first put a value on things that don't have a cost, like your kid and your wife's future well being and what job/daycare mean to those unmeasurables.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:28 PM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

This while I am struggling, with some success, building my hobby (a blog) into a second job

Perhaps not a big deal, but this sounds like a potential red flag to me. If you take a lady who is happy being a stay-at-home-most-of-the-time mom, and make her go back to work full time so you can work on your blog ... even if said blog has tons of income potential down the road, this sounds like it might be a breeding ground for some resentments later on.
posted by jbickers at 6:43 PM on May 8, 2007 [4 favorites]

Have you actually run the numbers, or is it just a gut feeling that you can't afford it. It sounds like you need to sit down with a (fee-based) financial planner, outline your goals, and decide what course you can take to achieve those goals. Once you have some budget options down in black (and red) and white, you'll both be able to see things more clearly.

Seriously, you need a budget.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:47 PM on May 8, 2007

This while I am struggling, with some success, building my hobby (a blog) into a second job with enough extra income to pay down our home equity debt and build up some savings.

I'm also seeing this as a red flag. Do you want your wife to stay working and keep health insurance so that you can try to turn your blog into your only job?

That wouldn't be a bad thing if that was what you both wanted. But it may not be what you both want.

I think that Toekneesan has a great point. Is this a matter of not being able to make a mortgage payment if your wife is not working full time? Going without food? Having to sell a car? Is it completely impossible to insure her and your child on your health insurance?

Or is this a matter of having to make a budget, give up Tivo and Netflix, and shop more at thrift stores?

Is it important to your wife that your child have access to a parent versus a daycare provider during the day? Or is she unhappy with her job? Are you unhappy with your job?

These are questions that you should discuss with your wife.
posted by jeanmari at 7:12 PM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with everyone above me re: budgeting, etc. But want to add that you should talk this through to determine your individual priorities and priorities as a couple. For example, maybe she's okay with cutting back lifestyle in order to stay home.

I had some friends recently go through a similar discussion (though somewhat different as she had not been working). They determined that in order to maintain their lifestyle and not go into debt (priorities to both of them), she had to take on a part-time job. However, it became more of a "this is what we have to do to meet our goals as a couple" than "you need to get a job to help us stay afloat." Even though technically they might be saying the same thing, the approach is different and that's where you'll be able to come together rather than battle each other.

Also, unless she is really supportive of the blog-as-career plan, there may be some resentment down the road, particularly if she's keen on not working right now. Again, talk about priorities, not just numbers.

Good luck!
posted by ml98tu at 7:20 PM on May 8, 2007

If you can make budgeting a fun activity for both of you, that is half the battle. I like running the numbers, but Mr. Selfmedicating finds it tedious and stressful. So we decided to do just one 15-minute budgeting session per week. To make it festive, we would try out a new mixed drink each time. The key is you have to actually stop after 15 minutes so it doesn't turn into a stress-fest. We actually managed to create a budget that way.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:39 PM on May 8, 2007

I'm confused. You say you are working on your blog - so you are at home already, yes? And so you are already taking care of your son when he's not in daycare/pre-K? So your wife wants to quit work to stay home with the two of you?

The most decisive reason to keep her job is the health insurance. Yould that mean you had no health insurance at all? Don't be without health insurance, with a young child.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:42 PM on May 8, 2007

I think you should tell your wife that to have the finer things in life you evidently overhauled your life to have, she will need to pull her weight. We'd all love to work part-time but bills have to be paid. It sounds to me like you can not afford to take any more hits to your budget.
posted by loiseau at 7:54 PM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

There is a lot of not reading the question here. If I summarise correctly:
- both partners currently work full time.
- 4yo is at day care
- when 4yo starts school daycare expenses will be less and the wife wants to cut back.
- poster hopes to earn more through part time blog on the side
- financial position is pretty good, with a nice house a 1/3 paid off in a lifestyle location
- concerns over health cover expenses, as at least the wife's insurance comes via her work.
- unspecified anxiety over life style compromises. No clarity about whether these are significant or not.
posted by bystander at 8:02 PM on May 8, 2007

You really can't come to any decisions without some kind of budget. There are certainly a lot of situations where working while paying for daycare actually costs more than not working. But we can't tell if that's the case with you, and apparently you can't tell either because you haven't sat down together to talk about the money.

Also, have you discussed how much of this is about money and how much is about time? You are essentially working two jobs right now, does that mean you're not doing an equal amount of household tasks? If she's working full-time while also having to do the shopping and cleaning, then her desire to cut back hours may be driven by a need to find time to do non work related things. I know that I went crazy sometimes trying to schedule doctor's appointments, car repairs and other errands when I was working full-time and dealing with a long commute when we had our first child.

Obviously, insurance is a big issue. Would she be willing to only look at jobs that offer insurance? Do you live in a state that provides free or reduced health care for children? Some states even have plans for adults, although the benefits are lower and the premiums higher than company sponsored plans. That's another thing to look at when you do your budgeting. And if your above mentioned medical bills will lead to a pre-existing clause kicking in, then you can't risk her leaving work and being without coverage for any longer than two months or you'll have deeper issues.

I wish you luck with this. It's not easy. I hope that if you really can't get behind this idea now, that you'll at least come up with a plan to make it work sometime in the future. You all need to be happy with the choice you make.
posted by saffry at 8:24 PM on May 8, 2007

So, after that, my opinion? Some random points.
My wife stopped full time work when our second child was born and has contributed essentially zero financially for four years.
I'm not a believer in the work from home ideas as to make any more than a pittance takes lots of hours, imagine running a dozen ebay auctions a day in terms of the running around.
I personally think a decrease in expenses is no hardship if it means less work, but only you and your wife can judge whether the restaurant meals or ski trips are worth half her week.
Apologies if the sacrifices you are talking about are more dramatic, but from your tone, ability to easily meet current mortgage and lack of a budget, I suspect there is quite a bit of lax spending you could trim back with very little lifestyle compromise.
Do a budget. JDRoth usually posts his great financial links summary in these types of thread. If he doesn't, search his posts.
A good recommendation to reviewing this type of life priorities stuff is the book "Your Money or Your Life", but be aware almost everyone I know who has read it has emerged saying lifestyle that costs big dollars isn't worth it. So it might convince you to let her quit ;-)
Talk over you life priorities with your wife. Don't be cross if they change or have changed recently. She might not be valuing lifestyle against having to work so much.
Make your own views clear, however.
If she cuts back, presumably it will cramp your lifestyle too.
Can she offer anything that might make you feel better about it? Maybe she will have time to do some fancy cooking so you won't miss dinners out as much. Maybe she can take over a bigger share of the housework so you end up with more total free time too.
I mentioned my wife not working. A mistake we made was not directly equating her income with lifestyle expenses.
At the time, we had savings to allow us to maintain our then spending for 4 years until our youngest child was in school.
Since then, we have had another kid, and she won't be earning any money for some years yet.
The need change our lifestyle to accommodate reduced income has been hard and caused fights.
So my advice is to make sure you both understand and accept any changes you would need to make.
posted by bystander at 8:29 PM on May 8, 2007

First, crunch the numbers. You might be surprised at how much her job actually costs you.

Second, unless you are doing half or more of the household work and care of your child when he IS at home, you might want to recalibrate what you are expecting of your wife.

posted by konolia at 8:42 PM on May 8, 2007

I have to say that your blog is low priority in this case. Help take care of the kid.
posted by cellphone at 8:59 PM on May 8, 2007

In addition to crunching the numbers, there are also creative ways to be flexible about part-time work. When my son was born, my employer considered 30 hours to be full time in terms of benefits. So I worked 7:30-12:30 four days a week and 7:30 to 6 pm with a 30 minute lunch once a week. Since my husband started work much later, he took care of getting out son up, dressed and out to day care about 9 am so our son was only at day care from 9-1 except on Tuesdays.

Personally, I think part-time work is great, especially with young children in house. I was happy to hand the smelly/crying baby to his father when I left the house in the morning and I was happy to see his little smiling face when I picked him up at lunch time.

Later, I had a job where I worked 60% time (at first 3 days a week, later four 6-hour days so I could pick up kids from school) I think the employer let me pay the difference to get full health care, the rest of the benefits were pro-rated.
posted by metahawk at 9:09 PM on May 8, 2007

He is turning the blog into a SECOND job. He is not working solely on the blog, he's not quitting the day job. I think it's valid as an extra source of income, I don't see what the problem is or maybe I am missing something.
posted by falameufilho at 9:13 PM on May 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

Budget. Budget. Budget. Budget. Budget. Budget. Budget. Mushroom. Mushroom.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 9:16 PM on May 8, 2007 [4 favorites]

Hmmmnn...maintaining 'lifestyle' and 'hobbies' versus invaluable time lost with your child in daycare. Nothing wrong with living outside your means for a few years to enjoy what is the most precious years of your childs life. I hate to sound cliche but you can't get those years back. Convincing your spouse to continue working instead of having the opportuniy (maybe not ideal financially) to stay at home (at least until your child is full-time) sounds cold. Kids first, hobbies maybe third.
posted by repoman at 9:19 PM on May 8, 2007

Ah, I see I was mistaken about the blog. I apologize; don't know how I misread that.

1. The way to tell her that going part time would mean lifestyle compromises, is just to tell her that. And jointly work through exactly what compromises, for how long, etc. That is, crunch the numbers together as others have said, and figure out together what's a worthwhile lifestyle compromise. Bear in mind how long the compromise will be in effect - maybe only a couple of years?

2. Things to consider: How long would she want to be part-time? If your son is going to be 4, then he will start kindergarten in a year or so, right? So would she be part-time until he entered first grade (ie 2 years of part-time work)? Would she then be willing/able to go back to her old full time job? Would this break set her career back badly? Will you guys end up having another child in this time?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:32 PM on May 8, 2007

If her job provides your family with health insurance, she has to keep working. You have a kid. You can't be uninsured. If you can get health insurance, do it, and then figure the rest out. But if her job is the only way your family can afford health insurance then she has to keep working, or one illness or accident will wipe away everything you've built up.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:31 PM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

The original poster's justification is all about the numbers. Presumably the mother/wife's justification is all about quality of life.

You'll have to decide between you which is more important - but if it was all about the numbers, you wouldn't even have had the child in the first place (since kids aren't exactly an economic netgain).

If you want to win her round to your point of view, you'll have to justify it from an emotional/quality of life viewpoint. And it sounds like she values quality time over finances.
posted by electriccynic at 2:01 AM on May 9, 2007

Keep track of what you spend and what you take in for a month.

Find out what you spend things on.

Put in pretty spreadsheet/otherwise visually easy-to-understand device.

Show to wife.

posted by that girl at 5:06 AM on May 9, 2007

Please do not pay your medical bills as if they are a hard number -- they're a fake number. Write the hospital a letter explaining a debt issue and imply some kind of "this is what I can pretty much reasonably offer you" and make it a bunch thousands less. They often bill insurance for a very large amount (way more than you would pay if you paid cash) and the insurance will send them a check for a number less than the billed amount and they'll just take it.

If you put the entire medical bill on a CC, and then are paying off a wicked CC rate (and then converted it into a HE loan, meaning you paid 2 different people way too much for only one service and are now paying a 3rd person even more) I'd say you pretty much screwed yourself out of about $5-8k on your own.

When you better understand why medical bills are so "high" (when you can just write them a letter, costing a whopping stamp and get them reduced by thousands) you may figure out that medical insurance itself is its own numbers game and not worth even pursuing. Hospitals will usually let you pay off the bill in increments without interest anyway, in any increment you want ($30 one month, $70 the next, $15, $42, etc), in my experience.
posted by vanoakenfold at 2:42 PM on May 10, 2007

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