Monday, April 09, 2007

The risks of being a stay at home parent

Everwhere there is the argument for staying at home versus working outside the home when you have children. But is there a clear cut answer? No. But what are the risks involved.

The biggest risk is losing your job skills. One may argue they make minimal amounts of money, but if you take 5 years off, those years of making say $10/hr could be $15/hr if you had stayed working versus having to come back and start again at $10/hr. Also that $10/hr purchasing power during those 5 years has taken a hit so it's worth less.

But it's family time. And I fully support this, and will probably stay at home for awhile (1 year) with my kids. But I think you really need to understand the risks involved.

With the loss of your job skills getting another job could also be difficult. Actually it's more than 50% likely getting a job after years away from the job market will be tough.

But parents who stay at home would argue "why would I need another job? My job is watching the kids." True, but what if your spouse dies, or more likely is disabled? Can you live on 50-70% of their income? And you only get 50-70% of their income if you were prepared enough to buy disability insurance. Also it only lasts I think 5 years in many cases, and what if your spouse is permenantly disabled? Who will be the breadwinner? The disabled spouse in a new career? Or the stay at home spouse (SAHP)? There is a huge risk in staying at home if the primary breadwinner is hurt.

A second reason the primary breadwinner doesn't provide anymore. What? Well think about it, if 40% of US marriages end in divorce, then 2 out of every 5 couples don't make it. IF that is a true statistic, then there is a very large chance that a couple will get divorced. So if your spouse leaves you for another person they meet at work, then what?

Sure that spouse will still be earning money, but their money will now have to support two households. And you really believe they will be able to maintain the lifestyle you have become accustomed too? Some will argue I'm being negative. But realistically, if there are so many divorces, but everyone says they are happily married, then who the heck is getting divorced?

Where are all these problem marriages? Is everyone just lying on the internet? My cousin has already been divorced at 35, but without children. So it's possible that a good chunk of those divorced were DINKs, because people with children stick it out for purely financial reasons.

But realistically there is a great chance that at some point the SAHP will have to work again, and the biggest risk of staying at home is not having any marketable job skills.

I guess the choice is personal, but if it were me, I would really consider keeping up skills by volunteering, working part-time, taking classes to make sure that I could transition back to the workforce easily. Also I would have kept up with networking to assure I could get a job.

Thus a great many people start staying at home without a plan to transition back or thoughts about the future. Sort of like buying a home, you never buy a home without considering 3 steps out.

I am not writing this post to be negative about staying at home, because I personally think it's a full time job and honestly harder than just working 9-5. BUT I believe a lot of people don't carefully weigh the issues involved with staying at home more than just a loss of income.


Carisa said...

And this is why our country is in the state it's it- we value a few crappy dollars over our own children. After your kids go to school you'll end up working for another 30 years. Isn't that enough time to get your "skills" back? And your money?
LAL- do you even have children? If you don't, wait until you do and let us know how it feels to take them to be cared for by a stranger.

Living Almost Large said...

Sigh, now I realize that people are very stuck in their positions whether or not they choose to listen to both sides.

I do not have children, nor would I presume to assume which side of the argument I will be on.

Carisa here assumes that all children in daycare are terrible, and many stay at home mome do not go to work for another 30 years, actually many stay at home permenantly. In fact if you have children in your late 20s-early 30s and stay home until your youngest if 5, how many years is that? Many.

Also you will be out of the workforce what 5-10 years? And the skills you need to get into a job?

I never said it wrong, I point out the need to evaluate every scenario.

I also might add that I am a child of a single parent. I suppose that shall be my next post, NOT having a choice. So I guess Carisa by your standards I'm a drag to society and my mom was a terrible, bad mother. But it's much easier to cast stones at those you don't know or haven't walked in their shoes.

Carisa said...

LAL, of course if your choice is to work or to be on the streets, well then that's not a choice. But, I really have a problem with woment being told that they'll be left behind if they choose to stay home. Are we living to work or working to live? I hope that it's the latter.
And really, your kids are only young once. I would hate to have someone else seeing all of my daughter's firsts and instilling in her their values.

If you have a choice, then remember that work isn't the end all of your life. There really are more important things than money and work.

Living Almost Large said...

Sure carisa, my mom wanted to be a stay at home mom desperately. And when you read my post tomorrow, perhaps you'll finally get your head around the idea that working is not the end of the world.

Would you leave a sick child at home? Probably not, maybe you'd go on welfare instead. My mom didn't want to take a government handout even with a sick child so she worked.

But of course she's a bad person for doing it right? And everyone who gets married will stay married? If so why the divorce statistic?

I'm pointing out that people need to think. You can't argue that people do not work for 30 years post-children, unless they had kids early.

Also you cannot contradict the fact that people do not stay at home for just one year.

I hope that you have a fantastic marriage to a terrific person. I hope that person does not ever die or become disabled.

My grandmother's youngest brother died at 50 from throat cancer. He had life insurance, army pension, he had savings, but he left two small children and a wife. His wife had to go back to work to support her kids even with the life insurance that paid for the home. It wasn't enough, especially when his cancer wiped out a lot of savings. And she was a stay at home mom who didn't speak english. Did she ever expect to work? No, but she went out there and did it.

I am so impressed. She worked and took classes trying to get a better job. And that's all she could do. And was she left behind? Yes.

My great-grandmother worked as janitor because her husband died also of cancer. She had 7 children at home and 2 had left (one being my grandmother). She took in washing, too bad she couldn't be a stay at home mom anymore. And geez she didn't have more than a 5th grade education.

You are going to sit there and tell me that people don't die, get divorced, or disabled? Um, not reality.

Sure we don't live to work, but putting food on the table is an awful good reason to work.

Carisa, how much does your DH make? How much did you make? Was it a large discrepancy? That also makes a large difference. What do you suggest about women who out earn men? That the men stay at home? What if the man doesn't want to? What then the woman who earns more and potentially makes it easier to survive stay at home?

Carisa said...

Dude, you are bumming me out. Sometimes you just do something b/c you want to, you think it's right for you, and you DO have someone who can support your family for $24k per year!! So, I'm not some desperate housewife who shops all day and I loved my job and miss it, but I LOVE being home with my baby. Don't let fear make your decisions for you. BTW, my mom worked, too and I'm a pretty productive citizen. But, please, before you jump on the "women must work" bandwagon, know that money can't always solve everything, work situations change despite our best efforts, and sometimes you make a choice and jump in.

Living Almost Large said...

Were you a two parent household where you mom chose to work? I think it makes a huge difference to be from a family where your mom worked because she was the sole provider.

What does that mean? That means there was no possible second income. No one to pick up the slack. That if you died there is no one to care for your child. That if you become disabled what will happen to you and your child.

I am not saying that woman should work. If you read my post CAREFULLY, in the third paragraph I said this is family time and I will probably stay at home. I also say it in my last paragraph that staying at home is not bad. I even say that it's harder than working.

BUT I say that women need to carefully consider the risks. And there are risks. Think my mom wanted to work? But geez a man walking out sort of makes it a moot point. And that is a reality if 40% of marriage end in divorce, then one in two couples will not be together. So what do you suggest? That women don't face that reality?

Carolyn said...

Being a SAHM is a very personal decision. If it is important to you, you will find a way to make it happen. Of course, there are always situations where it is impossible (single parent, for example).

I understand what the author is saying - that you have to always have a back up plan - because life happens, and it doesn't always happen as planned.

I'm a SAHM right now. I was a career gal, making decent money, enjoyed my job... but when I held my little guy, I knew I wanted to be here with him. I've had a great experience so far, but I can see how it could get tedious.

In the interest of planning for the worse (but hoping for the best), I'm keeping my professional licenses valid, and keeping up with my continuing ed units (as annoying and expensive as it is to do so....). I'm not really concerned with missing the years of earnings, or even going back one day to diminished pay - I'm really just keeping all the professional stuff active so I won't have quite as large a learning curve when I go back. And, just in case I have to go back for some urgent reason. Then again, I'm new to this mommy thing, so I really don't know when I'll feel ready to go back. It might be 6 more months (doubt it), or it might be 12 more years!

I'm really blessed that my husband and I were on the same page on this - we both knew there was a great possibility that I'd stay home, so we prepared prior to conceiving (by paying off our debt), and during the pregnancy (by stashing wads of cash).

I try not to judge other people's decisions on staying home or not... but I do get aggravated by people who say they wish they were "lucky enough to stay home..." when really all it takes in most cases is a little belt-tightening and planning. If it is a yearning & deep desire, there's a way (except in those extenuating circumstances).

Make sense?

Living Almost Large said...

That's my point, is realizing the risks involved in single parenthood. And you are lucky if you make it to adulthood without ever having to work. Maybe your spouse never gets laid off, injured, ill, or dies. I think that people assume that none of these things happen including divorce.

But it must be happening or else there wouldn't be a 40% divorce statistic. But reality is that you have to be prepared to support your family.


Women who stay at home being mommies will be left behind. period. point blank.

Children of working women turn out very well. Children who were brought up by SAHM's rebel as soon as they are free of mommies overbearing, obsessive attention.

Men quite frankly resent being the only one bringing home the bacon. While a grown woman keeps her behind at home. Imagine having to come home after working 8-10 hours to grown woman who should be contributing monetarily to the household, the bills are climbing out of control, and she uses the excuse that she is watching the kids.

pfodyssey said...

I think this is a good post for the mere fact it generated discussion.

I must admit, upon first reading it, I was a bit skeptical about where it was leading / what kind of message was trying to be conveyed, etc. However, after finishing AND reading some of the follow-up comments, I think I just came away with the sense that:

1) It is a very personal decision that involves many factors - both monetary and non-monetary

2) As with any significant decision, all the various aspects should be considered and an "informed" choice made that makes sense for the individual / family, etc.

Admittedly, I have seen and experienced both sides. It's a difficult decision...and I have developed my own particular bias, but would not criticize / judge anyone's decision either way.

Thanks for posting on this important topic!