Want to Both Work Outside the Home? Things to Consider.
What Should We Do?
Every family is different, with unique values, situations, and people. Because of this, I don't intend to answer the stated question for you and your family. It would be foolish of me to assume that the answer my wife and I have reached is the best answer for everyone. Instead, I'd like to offer up some information that may be important for you to consider when deciding whether or not to work outside the home when you have children inside the home. There are plenty of factors to consider, so it is important for both (future or current) parents to sit down and have an open discussion (or two or three or four...) about this crucial decision. When you do, here are some talking points.
Of course money's in the mix. Will each of your incomes be sufficiently more than what you will pay for child care if you both work outside the home? According to the National Association of Child Care Resources & Referral Agencies, the average cost of center-based daycare in the US is $11,666 a year ($972 monthly). Of course, this number varies on a number of factors, such as where you live, your child's age, which daycare you choose, and how many hours they are there. Prices reported by the NACCRRA ranged from $3,582 to $18,773 per year ($300 - $1,564 monthly). Of course, if you want to have a large family, these numbers may have to be multiplied.
This money talk brings up an important point: Stay-at-home parents have a legitimate and substantial economic value. This often goes unnoticed. The numbers above are only in reference to the cost of child care. Consider the potential cost of the many other jobs a stay-at-home parent could manage during the day: cooking, cleaning, laundry, errands, yard work, house upkeep, etc. That value escalates quickly! If both of you work outside the home, you will have to account for these jobs somehow. Taking care of everything when you get back after a hard day may not be the kind of stress-reduced life you want to lead, and paying someone else to do it is not an inviting option either.
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Ability to Work from Home
Maybe you've already done the math and figured out that only one of your incomes is not enough to support your family. Are you forced into both having to work outside the home? Not necessarily. Especially with the emergence of the internet as a platform for online businesses, there are an increasing number of ways for people to earn a respectable income working from home. Of course, running a business online is not your only option. Some other examples include a medical transcriptionist, travel agent, call center rep, author, teacher, tutor, and translator. If you want to make spending time with your kids during the day a priority, make sure you rule out these and other work-at-home options before you decide to look for work outside the home.
What do I mean by "child hours"? This phrase describes the amount of hours you spend with each of your children per day. If both of you work outside the home, this number will be drastically reduced. Now, that may or may not be an issue for your family. Do consider, though, how important it is to one or both of you to spend time caring for, teaching, and making memories with your children. It's not that your children will not do those things if you both work outside the home; they will just be doing them with someone else. Finances aside, the question to really ask here is, "How important/valuable/worth it to me as a parent is spending time with my children?"
Have You Made the Decision Yet?
What are you like as people? What are your values? What will be (or are) your values as parents? If you have weighed the options and still neither of you considers staying at home to be a priority, then don't do it! Sometimes it just comes down to personal preference, or what you can call "personality." Not everyone was made to just love being around kids all the time, and that's okay. Kids can grow up in a perfectly healthy environment with well-rounded qualities even if both their parents work outside the home.
Your Own Childhood Experience
Maybe one of you grew up with both parents that had work outside the home and the other had a stay-at-home parent, or maybe you both had similar experiences. What kind of effect do you think that had on you as a child and as a person? If the answer is truly none, then that may make your decision a little easier. Of course, also realize that your children will be different people than you are, and growing up in a different era. You may want to solicit the opinions of other people you know and trust to see what they think. There's nothing wrong with seeking out extra advice. If you have talked it over multiple times and just can't seem to arrive at a decision, that is a good sign that you may need an outside perspective.
This is not a decision to be taken lightly. Carefully weigh the considerations on either side of the coin before stamping your mutual approval on a decision to either work outside the home or provide a stay-at-home parent for your children.