Stay at home mom– A crippling blow to financial independence, or a blessing in disguise?
Well, that didn’t take long. My son spent all of three months in day care before I caved and let my wife quit her job. It’s been a tough adjustment for me mentally. Letting my wife quit goes against my belief that both husbands and wives should earn income. However, given the nature of this post, it’s obvious that life isn’t so straight-forward.
That said, I can’t help but look on the bright side of the whole ordeal – Everyone in the family is much happier!
My Pre-Baby Mentality
Prior to having kids, I always said that my wife would work too, and she’ll be the one to pay off her student loans. To her credit, she’s a hard worker and for the last couple of years has been putting 50% of her earnings towards her loans. Since she’s a social worker, we’re not talking about a ton of money post-tax. It ended up being roughly $12,000 per year going to her loans. That’s still a pretty good chunk of change though.
My response was always to chortle smugly and say, “No. My wife has student loans to pay off, and I’m not paying those off for her.”
Jokes on me, I guess. Three short months after getting married, my wife was pregnant. She worked throughout her pregnancy, and we both assumed she would go back to work after her leave was up. Then we had the kid, and as it turns out that changes things. Who knew?
The first three months
During maternity leave, life is good. Baby is home, doing baby things. My wife took care of him and had plenty of time to go to doctor appointments and run errands. I went to work and came home like normal, not giving a second thought to my schedule since she had time to handle everything.
If the baby had a rough night, and my wife didn’t get to sleep, it wasn’t a big deal since she didn’t have to go to work. I didn’t have to get up hardly at all since I had to work the next day. She slept when the baby slept, basically. It didn’t matter (as much) if she only got four hours at night, because she could nap throughout the day as needed.
It worked well, and she had plenty of time to work on being a mom and taking care of our son. I could focus on working, home maintenance, and maximizing baby time whenever I could. Eventually though, the good times came to an end…
Her maternity leave window came to a close and she focused more on starting work and day care. The increase in stress was palpable, and this was a crummy period of time for the whole family. She was nervous and stressed about leaving him with strangers. I was aggravated that I was about to spend $940 per month for day care. A grand a month to have someone watch my baby lay around seemed pretty pricey, but that was a middle-of-the-road rate for my area.
The first couple of weeks were tough but manageable. Our son seemed to get along with the daycare staff. Everyone was nice and friendly. My wife settled back into work, and the whole family developed a routine. It was much more difficult to manage schedules, and it made sleepless nights infinitely harder to deal with. However, like all couples in this situation, we were making it work.
Then the real test started – sickness struck our baby like a bolt of lightning. He was soon hit with a nasty cold. His poor sinuses were so snotty and plugged he couldn’t sleep at all. Consequently, we were making routine runs to the sinus care clinic at the hospital to get him industrially suctioned out. The aspirators we had on hand just wouldn’t cut the mustard.
The suction runs happened all hours of the day and night, so our sleep suffered even more than normal. To make matters worse, we had to keep him home until he recovered. That ended up being seven working days that my wife was immediately back at home, now caring for the sick baby.
He recuperated after about a week. We sent him back to daycare while my wife went back to work. About two weeks later he got hit again with another cold virus. Again, we’re making round-the-clock visits to the clinic. Over reactive new mom syndrome set in as well, which meant an *unnecessary visit to the emergency room. Of course, this also meant she had to stay home with him another week until he got better.
Once again, he got better after a couple of weeks. We naively thought we were in the clear for the time being. His immune system had seen some action and was stronger as a result, and we were entering warmer weather.
Nope. He got sick AGAIN. This time will full blown RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). Which is a highly infectious virus that infects the respiratory tract, and it’s apparently pretty common to get in a daycare type setting. This meant more visits to the sinus clinic, and another *unnecessary emergency room visit. It also meant another visit to the pediatrician, who said my son had an elevated risk of developing asthma if he keeps getting these respiratory infections at such a young age!
Last but not least, this was more time off work for my wife. This only cost her two days though. My mom watched him the rest of the time.
Financial evaluation after two months of daycare:
40 days of daycare service (5 business days / week for two months).
$940 / month = $1,880 total
Two *unnecessary ER visits at $150 copay each = $300 total
Three pediatrician appointments at $30 each = $90 total
One doctor visit for my wife because she got sick from my son = $30 total (I got sick too, but no Dr. visit)
14 days of missed work for my wife = ~$2300 in missed income
Potential for my son to develop asthma or other complications due to over-exposure to respiratory infections = Priceless
Total cost out of pocket = $2,300
Total missed income = $2,300
Total hit to my finances = $4,600 in TWO MONTHS!
Time to reconsider things?
This series of events was quite an eye-opener. Literally every parent I talked to who used day cares said the same thing, “Yep, your kid will constantly be sick. It doesn’t really get better.” That included our pediatrician. Every year for 6-8 months the daycare is a revolving door of illness. It’s miserable for the entire family, and as you can see, very costly as well.
I am all for kids being exposed to germs to build up their immune system. However, I know several day care kids that have developed asthma. How or why could be debated, but to me, that was the final nail. I will not jeopardize my kid’s permanent health for some extra income. When the doctor told us that, I knew it was time to re-evaluate things. I couldn’t possibly justify risking my son getting asthma for the extra money. Guess I’m just not that greedy.
My wife and I talked, and I mulled it over for a few days (I had to let it sink in). Eventually I said, “Okay, you can quit.”
She was ecstatic. Though she hadn’t even given her two week notice yet, I could see the stress instantly melting away. There was light at the end of the tunnel for her.
Even without the asthma as a factor, the finances just didn’t work out. The added stress, sleepless nights, and overall misery of a constantly sick baby (who then infects his parents) was not worth the money my wife’s job provided us. I am fortunate enough to make a pretty good wage, so we can survive (and still save) with one income.
This was one of those times where I really had to weigh money versus happiness. In such circumstances, happiness should win virtually every time. More money is not worth your entire family being miserable.
My wife still has $17,000 in student loans left, which I will obviously be paying off. However, I know that my son is happier and healthier, as is my wife. All in all, I think it’s worth it. Now that she’s a full time mom, she’s happier than ever.
The arrangement is better and easier for all of us. There are certain perks to having a stay at home wife/mom.
We no longer come home and scramble around, trying to get dinner ready. We don’t have to scramble around in the mornings, either, which is awesome. I actually get a lot more time with my son. I see him when I go home for lunches, and we have more time together in the evenings since there isn’t a mad rush anymore.
The house is much cleaner now, so that saves additional time during evenings and weekends. Grocery shopping gets done during the weekday instead of on Saturday’s now, etc. Overall, the arrangement has granted each of us a lot more time both directly and indirectly.
Truly, the list goes on-and-on.
Based on our finances I think I should still be able to save roughly 50% of my income at a minimum and hit millionaire status by 40. That said, the window obviously tighter than it was, and we’ll have to reign in some of our discretionary spending to achieve that goal. It’s only been two months since she quit, so I’m still waiting to see how the finances shake out over time.
I was spending $940 per month on day care, so that was a bit of a sunk cost whether my wife worked or stayed at home. Basically, I just reallocated that money to groceries and loan payments (which she was covering before). So, net-net, it isn’t that huge of a change for us financially. The biggest kicker is that I am only paying around $400 / month on her loans, and she was paying about $1,000. So this will definitely drag out the loan payments.
I tip my hat to all parents who both work full time and raise kids. It sucks, and I can easily see how you rarely have time to relax, enjoy life, and spend time as a family. Life becomes nothing but nonstop rushing around all day, every day. Sickness spreads and gets passed around continually. It’s really an unfortunate side effect to modern society, as I think it’s detrimental to both the children and the parents.
I am thankful to have my current job, because it allows us to have this arrangement. Without it, our life would suddenly be significantly more complicated.
Until next time, stay healthy my friends 🙂
*When I say unnecessary, I mean that we knew it was viral. There is nothing the doctors could do. He was doing okay overall, but was just very snotty and uncomfortable. However, mom panicked a couple of times and took him to the ER. Both times she was told, “It’s a virus, just keep doing what you’re doing and you have to wait for it to pass”.