Being A Full-Time Parent Has More To Do With Sacrifice Than Luck

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Photo courtesy of TedsBlog

When my wife and I first discussed having children we were both on the same page when it came to determining the primary care provider–their mom.  We knew living on one income would take some sacrifice, but it was one we were willing to make.  Ten years later we continue to live on one income (well, one full-time income–not including my “side hustles”).

The other day someone asked what my wife did for a living, and I told them she is a full-time mom.  Their response struck me, “You guys are so lucky she is able to stay home with the kids.”  Lucky?  I guess there has been an element of luck to my career success, and my success here at Frugal Dad.  But, we’ve made our share of sacrifices to pull off this lifestyle, particularly early on.

We both drive old, used vehicles (mine is really old!).  We did upgrade to an SUV when we had our second child, but we bought it used via a private sale and got a great deal.  I drive an 18 year-old van back and forth to work.  Fortunately, I have a short commute, and it is reliable at that distance.  For longer commutes we take Mom’s SUV.

Our entertainment budget is virtually non-existent.  Early in our marriage we had several sets of friends who were double-income families.  It seemed like they were vacationing every three months, and often hit amusement parks, aquariums, etc. in between.  That’s not to say all double-income families can more easily afford to entertain themselves, but with the extra disposable cash I suppose it is less taxing on the household budget.  We try to take an annual vacation, but we usually only get away once every two years or so.

We have less money in savings.  Since living on one income tends to be tight we have had less money to save and invest over the years, which will probably lengthen the amount of time I have to work.  College savings, retirement and emergency savings are all behind where they should be, but we are comfortable with this trade off for now.

My wife put school and a career on hold.  No reason a woman can’t have a successful career and be a great mom, but for my wife she made being a mom her top priority.  My own mom had a successful career and is a great mom, but she had to be since she was a single parent and received no financial support from my father.  My wife may someday return to school to finish her degree, or maybe even return to the workforce when our kids are older.  But for now, she is perfectly content with her role as a full-time mom.

The opportunity for one of us to stay home with the kids is not granted by luck, rather by making other sacrifices in our lives.  Opponents of stay-home parenting often cite the lack of social interaction as a negative aspect of keeping kids out of daycare.  Both of our kids attended a “Mother’s Morning Out” program at a local church a couple days each week to allow them some social interaction, and to give mom an occasional break. This additional expense made things a little tighter, but by continuing to live frugal we have made it work.  The bottom line is it is all about priorities.  If you are willing to make certain sacrifices, being a full-time parent can be a rewarding experience for both you and your kids.

Comments

  1. It’s funny how most people assume that if a family is living on one-income, they person working must be making a ton of money and they live lavish and comfortably. A lot of times, it is a moral choice that only one adult works in a relationship in order to provide a priority benefit. (ex: raising your children, home school, etc.)

  2. I agree that raising your kids with a full time parent has little to do with luck. I also agree with your general line of reasoning, but I am not sure that sacrifice is the word that I would use. Everyone has a limited amount of time, money, and other resources. I believe that the best way to live a successful life is to use your resources in a way that corresponds with your goals and values. Because we are using limited resources to meet unlimited desires, every choice requires some sort of sacrifice. In my family we too have decided to have a full time stay at home parent. Yes, it requires financial sacrifices. However, for us, we believe that not having a full time stay at home parent would be sacrificing something greater. I realize that I am arguing semantics here. However, I believe that it is better to talk about tradeoffs rather than sacrifices.

    RDS
    http://financialvalues.blogspot.com/

  3. Gosh I am going to use this line when I get told I am lucky I get the choice to stay home with my boys. I totally agree it has to do with sacrifice but it is worth it in my opinion, we don’t need to live in a huge house and drive brand new cars to be happy :)

  4. Thank you for this post! I too, as a stay at home mom (SAHM), get many comments about how ‘lucky’ I am. I may be very lucky in many ways – I have a home, two healthy kids, caring husband, etc. – but the decision to be a SAHM is based on sacrifice and careful planning. We live in a very small house in a middling school district. We buy very little for ourselves (I own exactly four shirts) and use hand-me-downs for our kids.

    I gave up a very lucrative job to stay home with my daughters but I do not have a single regret. I have plenty of time to work when they are grown – childhood passes so quickly.

  5. Amen! Awesome post! People think that b/c we live on one income that my husband makes tons of money. No.. we have made lots of sacrifices. But that was our choice. Others need to know they can do it too – it’s not easy – but it can be done.

    Take my sister, for example. She says that she couldn’t quit her job. I told her she could if she sold her $140,000 cottage! and boat and… (you get the drift)

  6. I commend anyone who can be a stay at home parent, whether by choice or need. But I think you’re missing a very important component when it’s a choice: temperament of the parent. I love my children dearly (don’t all parents?), but I know with certainty I don’t have the temperament, personality or creativity to stay home full time with them. On the other hand, I am fortunate in that I have a very flexible work schedule that caters to my family needs. My kids rarely eat breakfast at child care (twice in 6 years) and always eat dinner at home. I ensure they have a substantial amount of play time at home. I have a maximum amount of time I’ll leave them in childcare (including school), that we’re comfortable with. So yes, it takes planning and sacrifice to stay home, but I believe it takes the right kind of person too.

  7. Thanks for this! I stay at home with our kids and am able to because my husband and I both saw this as an important job. So we didn’t buy an enormous (or enormously expensive) house; we drive older, used cars; we clean our own home; our vacations are usually to see family; and our date nights are typically of the What Can We Do For Free? variety.

    It takes planning and work to live on one income. Thank you for pointing that out.

  8. My wife and I were forced to become a “stay-at-home” family. When my wife was pregnant with our twins she had to stop working 3 months before she was due. Ultimately she gave birth to two very sick little boys (one of which passed away)10 weeks early. Many days spent between three hospitals, funeral arrangements, and then bringing our son home on a monitor did not leave much time for a “real job”. Things have calmed down and my wife found an online job to work from home, but it certainly does not replace a full time income but we have made the sacrifices that we had to make.

  9. I totally agree with you. Living on one income takes planning and sacrifice. My husband and I started planning our frugal lifestyle from the time we started talking about getting married. We lived in a very small apartment for years to save a big down payment for our house, so our mortgage was low. We bought a fixer-upper in a great (but not trendy) neighborhood. We paid off the mortgage early. Right now we are living on 1/2 an income so DH can go back to graduate school. This wasn’t luck – and we had little help from relatives. It was planning and frugality. It isn’t always fun, but it is rewarding.

  10. Ya, I hear about how “lucky” I am all the time. It’s not to do with being a stay at home mom (because I’m not), but with other opportunities that arise. I’ve been told many times how lucky I am. Everytime I hear that I think how small minded a person has to be to use that choice of words. It’s not luck, it’s choice. Sometimes hard choices, but certainly not luck.

  11. Yep, it’s amazing what goes through people’s minds in order to justify how others are able to do what they can with less then what they have. Like most everyone else here, it’s not luck — it is careful planning that will get you to where you want to be. You may not have it all mapped out before you start, but keeping in mind a single goal — living on one income — will help to direct your efforts over the long haul.

    Saying that “it’s luck” makes me smirk. It’s basically tantamount to people saying that “yea, they’re rich but they’re not happy” in order to justify to themselves that settling for less in their lives is ok. I prefer to challenge myself and reach for the next rung in life. I look at how much money other people make and see that as a goal to reach. Hey if they can do it, I can at least try. I know that if I doubled my income, I don’t think that would decrease my happiness.

  12. one of the main reasons i want us to get into top financial shape is so i can stay home when we have kids. it’s not about luck, it’s about watching where your money is going and being mindful and frugal and prioritizing parenting. great post!

  13. Thank you for putting our philosophy into words! We have always structured our lives so I could be a stay-at-home-parent when we had kids. Now we’re expecting no 1 in Nov, and I appreciate the pep talk. It’s easy to see others with all the “extras” (and when we decided not to afford the shiny new SUV), and wonder if we made the right decision.

    I have enjoyed your website a lot.

  14. Thanks for your post. I get told on a daily basis by our school district that if I was a working mom our children would qualify for different services (full day kindergarten is the one I was working hardest for). I find it so insulting that the work that I do and the sacrifices that we make as a family are so undervalued by our society. My husband is in the military and a big part of our choice to have me stay home is that our children need that stability when he is gone and when we have to move for his job. I look forward to when I get to return to the work force but until them don’t fool yourself to think that SAHM’s aren’t working!

  15. @JANELLE: It is insulting how SAHMs (and dads) are looked down upon by some corporate elitists. The last time my wife was bad sick I had to stay home and parent the kids during the day. I told her she needed to hurry and get well so I could go back to work and rest!

    By the way, a big thank you to your husband (and your entire family) for making the sacrifices you are making to serve your country.

  16. Oh, I forgot to ask: FrugalDad, I hope the SUV deal isn’t a Trailblazer or an Equinox or something like that. Those can be found so cheap because they are so bad. I might have disown you if you got one of those.
    Was it a Pilot? RAV4? Something good?

  17. @DavidK: I’m not particularly brand-loyal, but I try to buy domestic when possible. Our SUV is an older Chevy Tahoe. It was more about the deal than the model, though.

  18. Nice post. Although I do not have children, I do have a paid off mortgage. My spouse and I have certainly made sacrifices in order to accomplish this goal. I have friends that live in interest only loan McMansions telling me how lucky I am to own my home. It’s kind of sad, really. So many people don’t understand that they have choices.

  19. I really appreciated this post, thank you! We have five little ones (6 years down to 2 months) and people constantly assume we must have a very large income in order for me to stay home and for us to have a family this size. My husband left a really nice position when our first son was born so that he could work half days from home, but with a far more modest salary. I’ve been home full time, leaving graduate school due to pregnancy complications with our third child. We’ve never for a moment regretted the trade offs.

    I think it’s about priorities and the choices we make. We cannot get these years of their childhood back, and we can focus on other goals down the line. For now, we’re exactly where we want to be and we do feel lucky. :)

  20. Maha – I totally get what you are saying. I am the same way. I feel crummy about myself anytime that I am not working toward some grandiose career goal! There’s also the fact that when one parent is home full-time the other parent doesn’t always have a chance to fully understand the at-home roll. My husband stayed home for a year and a half after our second child was born and he was just dying to get back to work after that. When they are that young work is basically a nice calm break from the unpredicatableness and constant responsibility at home (well – if you have a desk job that is). So I found a way to make a full-time salary by being a consultant. I work from home, my kids are in child care 3 days a week from 9-3 and I work evenings and weekends.

  21. You really are lucky that your wife can stay at home. My husband and I have been delaying having kids for several years now (I am 24 and he is 30). We don’t want kids yet but plan to in a few years. Based on how much money we will need to retire (3 million by 65), and that is to maintain our frugle lifestyle. Once we have kids, with my husbands salary (hopefully around 55K in wash DC), we will need to have me work, for my health benifits (his company only coveres his), and so we can save adaquetly for the future. That is something you really shoud not get behind on. I know it is wonderful to have your wife stay at home, and due to her lack of education, she probably couldn’t get a job that would make it worth it with two children in day care, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be worried about not funding your retirement account. Good luck!

  22. Let me also note… being a stay at home mom is the hardest job in the world, and your wife gest mad props from me for doing it. I didn’t mean any disrespect with the comment about education. I don’t think a college degree is all that important (but in the working world they make a big deal of it). I hope that my husband and I can work it out for me to stay at home, but I am completey paranoid about having enough money for retirement, so unless he gets a promotion, I am not sure if it is in our future.

  23. What can be sacrificial about being home to see your kids grow up, to raise them, to manage your household, and to have that precious time with them? There is no sacrifice, in my opionion. It was a joy!

    What you might not have is extra money, but what is money compared to the smiles and hugs from the kids? No comparison!

    It’s a matter of priorities – what is more important? The money or having a stay at home parent? (I feel sad for single parents who don’t have this option) Obviously, I was the stay at home parent for three wonderful kids :) (well, usually wonderful….there were those ‘moments’..haha)

  24. I do feel “lucky” to stay at home, because it was not always the case. But I definitely recognize the sacrifices that you mention, because we cut corners everywhere we can for me to have what I consider the privilage of staying at home. I worked with so many women who wanted to be stay-at-home moms but who genuinely could not afford to.

    I know it’s a matter of wording, but I was a “full time mom” when I was working and a “full time mom” now that I stay at home too. It’s just now I am a “stay at home mom”. To say that because a woman works she somehow is only a part-time mom is simply not true.

  25. I felt compelled to add this comment because some readers have taken my wording a little out of context. I never meant to insinuate that a “working mom” was somehow a “part time” mom. In fact, as I mentioned in the article, my mom was a single mom and often worked 50 hours a week in a grinding career. And I never felt slighted in terms of having a great mom, though I obviously would have liked to see more of her!

  26. I was going to make the same comment that Liz did. I must be the only working mom that reads your blog. I work full time outside the home and I am very much a full time mother to my daughters who I love more than life itself.

  27. Such a cute smile. It makes all the sacrifices worth it. =)

    As you mentioned, parenting does depend on the quality of time spend with kids rather than quantity. Hence, I totally believe you when you said your mom is a good mom even though she worked over 50 hours a week. I am currently working over 50 hours a week and I am definitely trying to be a good dad.

  28. I agree, what you’re doing is nothing to do with luck and everything to do with planning and considering the outcome of your actions.

    I get the same type of reaction from people when I tell them I work 4 days a week. It’s nothing to do with luck and everything to do with knowing exactly how much I earn and exactly how much I spend – and keeping a lid on the latter.

    Well done, keep it up and I hope you both enjoy having a stay at home Mom in the family :-)

  29. Well done. This reminds me of Ramit’s posts over at iwillteachyoutoberich—taking a phrase that most people hear a lot and accept without thinking it through and turning it on its head. Well done! I think most people assume that when one parent can stay home it’s because they’re making enough money to do it, but there’s way more to it than that.

  30. Have I sacrificed anything being a stay at home mom? Not at all. We drive used cars by choice. We live in a simple home by choice. I shop at the thrift stores and yard sales by choice. I comparison shop and use coupons by choice. We don’t have a car payment and our insurance is cheaper. My house payment is incredibly low, lower than even most renters in our area. Why pay full price for clothing when I can get the same things for a fraction of a price? Why spend more on groceries than I have to? For us, these are things we would do even if we were “rolling in dough”. It’s all about being a good steward of everything God has blessed you with.

  31. Great post. That really puts it in perspective. We are working our way towards that… I don’t work full time, but still working. We are getting things paid off and organizing our finances. That’s why I like your info!

    Just to let you know, I do have a Flickr account, t.blue where you can grab some images. Thanks for asking!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tabithablue/

    How do you find out when you have a post written about you? Is there a service you use?

    Have a great weekend!! :)

  32. I think everyone is misunderstanding what Frugaldad has said. Luck has had nothing to do with his wife being able to stay at home and be a
    “full time mom”.

    In my case, I am a “full time mom”. I am at home with the kids and they, along with the housework are my responsibility. That just goes along with it. I have said before that I don’t know how I would do it all if I did work a full time job outside of the home. Trying to keep up with everything must be hard. I do commend all working moms and dads. My mom worked because her and my step dad like the nicer things. They got into too much financing furniture, car, etc… They had too much debt and then it was too late. I was always in daycare from the time I was 6 weeks until the time I was old enough to stay at home by myself. I would have loved for my mom to have been at home and done without some of the material things. I never heard or got the impression that he said that the moms and dads are not full time parents.

    Anyone who says that staying at home with the kids and taking care of house is not a full time job/responsibility has never done that. Along
    with what Maha said, it “the temperament of the parent”, that is true. Some Moms and Dads couldn’t do that. I do have some friends that say “I couldn’t do that, I would go crazy. I need social interaction with people”. Yes we all need that. My husband does give me an out and let
    me do the things I need to by myself.

    We all know moms are moms all the time, and dads are dads all the time. But, when you are home with them full time then parenting is your
    full-time responsibility.

    I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love it.

    I love the articles. Keep them coming.

  33. Frugal Dad, well said. You obviously hit a great topic here. My wife and I have been married for 30 years. We have eight children, four still at home. She has been home the whole time and you can call it sacrifice, priorities, choices, or whatever, but the bottom line is we made a way (by the grace of God) to do what we believed was best for our family. Luck had absolutely nothing to do with it. We camped for years for a vacation. Now we can occasionally stay in a hotel or rent a cabin. My wife still cuts coupons, shops second-hand stores, and we buy modest used vehicles. We eat out very little. People today seem to think they have lost the ability to make choices. Not true. You can accomplish a lot if you want it bad enough. Keep up the good work.

  34. I absolutely love this post! My friends still think we are “lucky” that I “get to” stay at home with my son while my husband works. I am finishing my degree while I am home but I am doing it at a steady pace while making my mother, wife and homemaker duties seriously. We now only have one car, which is about 15 years old, but it’s reliable and can take the abuse it gets 5 days a week. It is a sacrifice, but one that both Hubby and I agreed was important to us. We have become a very close family….a closeness that I know we would not have attained if I had continued to work almost 60 hours a week.

  35. I’m curious about whether and how the reduction in eventual Social Security payments factored into the decision for one former worker-outside-the-home to exit the paid work force and parent full time.

    I’ll also put up one point in favor of the word “luck,” witnessing a catastrophic health situation that happened in my extended family. No decision-making could have prevented it, but it drastically changed the family’s income needs and expenses. Happily, they’ve rallied the resources (financial and personal) that they’ve needed to meet this challenge.

    Before this happened, it would have seemed like an option for the mom in this couple (the lower dollar figure earner) to stay home and parent full-time. As it turned out, it’s her company’s health insurance that provides what the family now needs for the sick member.

    Anyway. One data point.

  36. I think everyone who stays home is lucky. But while most who do sacrifice in one way or another, many do not. I am surrounded by women who stay at home full time and still drive expensive cars, go out to dinner regularly, live in the nicest neighborhoods and shop in department stores. I drive an old van, live in a small house, rarely eat out and shop at thrift stores. Could I stay home? Yes. Is it in the best interest of our family for me to do so? No. In this economy, we choose for me to work part-time while the kids are in school to sock money away in the bank as a buffer to the impending financial crisis. We currently have no debt and a fair amount saved so far. Of course, I am lucky to have a job where my children are welcome (even when they are sick) and I am free to take off whenever I want/need to. Otherwise, things might be different.

  37. I completely agree. We have made many a compromise in our life style to accomodate my stay-at-home life. I think our daughter has definitely benefited from me staying home. And, although she is socially behind, she is academically advance and she is in preschool to be more adept.

  38. Excellent post & I couldn’t agree more. I chuckled at the “not enough social interaction” bit. I’m pleasantly surprised at how many FREE events, playdates, library gigs, & other “social interactions” I have to turn down!

    It’s a discipline to keep our week simple & uncluttered with activities & I only have 1 2-yr old boy, living in a town of 50K people. I can’t imagine the potential to fill your day if you lived in a larger city.

  39. Thank you so much for this! I get all bent out of shape every time someone calls it “luck” that I’m home with my daughter. The other day, when I met a new yoga instructor, she asked me, “So, do you work or are you just a mom?”
    JUST a mom?! I couldn’t keep the sneer off my face as I answered the question. I didn’t ask if she has children, but I can take a pretty good guess at the answer to that question.

  40. I LOVE LOVE this post! I am a stay at home mom and yes I love it and do feel lucky but we are making sacrifices and trying make ends meet each month. So we do sacrafice a lot, I can’t remember the last time my husband or I got new clothes, shoes, etc and we don’t go out to eat as much, walk the mall or stores and pick up something we would like to have….but in my opinion it’s all worth it :) I love the time I spend with them at home.

  41. There are two sides to every story. We are a two income frugal household, with two small children. We have one second-hand car (and it’s not a fuel-gusseling SUV), commute mostly by bike, rent a house with mould in the bathroom and the hall, never go on far-away vacations (the last time we went away for a vacation is already more than a year ago, and we only went a day’s drive far, to camp), we don’t go out to dinner, I haven’t bought new shoes for me or my husband in years (the kids need shoes, their feet grow…), we buy second hand clothes for our children, all our furniture except for one 2-seater and 1 shelf are hand-me-downs, we don’t have cable TV, we are not subscribed to any magazines and yet it would not be financially feasible for me to stay at home on my husbands salary (he earns more than me), even if you take the costs of daycare into account, and not even if we gave up our car (I don’t know what else we could give up…)

    So: yes, you made sacrifices for the life-style you chose, but you are also lucky to be able to make this choice. Saying that this is an option for anyone who sets their mind to it is simply NOT TRUE!

    (By the way, this is not a bitter comment of a wannabe saty at home mum, my husband and I really enjoy our jobs, I would not make a good full time parent (though I truly admire the mums and dads who take up this challenge). We are both at the beginning of our careers (we are old students/young parents :-) ) and in time will probably be able to afford staying at home, but I think my choice in life will be for the balancing act between the home and my work…

  42. I found this to be a really interesting read – thank you. I would love to be a stay at home parent, but for my family, that isn’t an option. I will admit, I am a Mom that can be heard saying to others “You’re lucky you can stay home” Your post gave me food for thought to help me remember that sacrifices are being made so that one of those parents can stay home. But, there are those of us out there, that no matter how many cuts or ‘sacrifices’ we made, there is no way one parent could stay home. Financially it wouldn’t be possible. I’m in that situation and I envy familes that can make it work to have what I believe to be the optimal situation – parents raising their kids full time. I guess what my meandering thoughts are trying to say, is that yes, sacrifices are being made, but perhaps there is an element of ‘being blessed’ (“lucky”) that you are able to make those sacrifices and make it work?

  43. A…Men! I get told I’m “lucky” all the time. Um, it’s not luck. My husband made sure we could live on one income for a full year before we started having kids and put my income in savings. That’s not luck, my friends, that’s planning!

    I’ve seen your name floating around a lot, but this is the first time I’ve visited. Love the content of your site…I’ll be back!

  44. This is a great post. I LOVE it. My children are growing up, my youngest is nine. I identify so much with the sacrifices and being told I was so lucky to be able to stay at home. This year I did return to work, but I can honestly say I have nothing but thanks that we chose for me to stay home for those 11 years. They weren’t easy years, but they were great. For all you parents still having to sacrifice to keep a parent at home, I applaud you and say hang in there. It is so worth it. You won’t be sorry.

  45. *SIGH* I would agree that luck has had little to do with it, rather you are fortunate to some degree to have had certain fates take a turn in your favor.

    I would love to stay home with our son. He is 1 and a total joy. However, I make significantly more than my husband. We have no debt, no car payments, etc. Yet the shortfall created by losing my income is too large for me to quit. I am fortunate to have a job that is flexible and close to home. We choose to sacrifice and pay an ungodly amount for a nanny in our home (yet I still bring home more than we pay her) so that my son can have the best care possible next to me.

    I also get concerned when I hear about people with small savings. I learned an important lesson about this recently. My parents had five kids and my mom stayed home, which I loved. On my dad’s single income, though, they tried to save some money and got my mom pretty basic health insurance (my dad is self employed). She got cancer 4 years ago and they ended up paying astronomical amounts for her treatments and surgeries. She died last December and toward the end, my dad was not working as much since he was caring for her. So less income = he had to choose between paying for my mom’s care and paying the mortgage. Long story short, he is losing his house tomorrow. The debt was too insumountable. This just drives home for me that everyone is just a health crisis away from disaster. So it scares me when people say they are behind on savings, etc., because I’ve seen what happens when people let that happen.

    Part of the reason I don’t stay home is practical: the math simply does not work. The other is fear. I am deathly afraid that what happened to my parents will happen to us.

  46. Thanks so much for posting this! I get so irritated whenever someone tells me I’m “lucky” to be able to stay home with my kids, but that they could never afford to do it (as they stand there in their designer outfit, with their kid also in a designer outfit, while holding the keys to their new car). It’s all about choices – we all have them! We chose to sacrifice material things so that our children could be raised by their mother. I always wondered what was the point of having children if you weren’t going to raise them. And I truly believe that the people who say that our children are not being socialized are the ones who feel guilty that their kids are in daycare for 8 hours a day, so they claim that daycare is “good” for their kids, because it makes them feel better. My children get plenty of socialization – at the library, at the grocery store, at the farmer’s market… and all with their mother’s guidance. I would rather be the one teaching my children social skills than a bunch of 2-year olds. Thanks so much for this post!

  47. I would also like to add that having a person at home full-time provides tremendous opportunities for reducing expenses. I think many people only consider daycare costs into the equation when deciding whether they can afford to stay home, and don’t look at missed opportunities to reduce expenses. Because I am home full-time, I can carefully plan meals, all of which are cooked from scratch. I can grow a garden. I’m learning to preserve food. I can mend clothes, which saves us from buying new ones. I can sew new clothes for the kids out of clothes that their dad and I are no longer wearing. We use cloth diapers (which I make myself, out of recycled materials). I can hang our clothes on the clothes line to dry. We can heat our house with wood, because I’m here during the day to tend the fire. We can get by with one vehicle. I can shop around for better insurance rates, interest rates, etc. I have time to shop at thrift stores. I make my own natural cleaners, which cost pennies, and are not toxic to our children. I meticulously manage our finances, so that money doesn’t slip through the cracks (my Grandmother always said “take care of your nickels and dimes, and the dollars will take care of themselves!). I cut everyone’s hair (except my own – that would be tricky!). I bet if I added up all of the money I’ve saved our family while being home, it would equal more than a full-time income. Also considering every $1.00 you save is equal to $2.00 earned (because of deductions and taxes). We are also putting ourselves in a good position because by learning to do so many things ourselves, we are less dependent on a money economy, and thus are able to get by on far less income. By having me at home full-time, I carry the vast majority of the work load at home, which frees my husband up to focus on his career, which ultimately enables him to earn more money. And if anything were to happen that my husband was unable to work, there is someone to fall back on. I have a degree and could get a job that would pull in a reasonable enough salary to meet our needs. When families are dependent on two incomes to meet their expenses, there is no fall-back person, and one person’s job loss could spell disaster. So, in many ways, I don’t feel we’re making a sacrifice at all. I feel that, by the choices we’ve made, we’ve put ourselves in a better financial position than many 2-income families. Just some food for thought.

  48. Right on! I’m SO tired of hearing how LUCKY i am when i spent $90 for 17 days of meals and need new unmentionables but don’t have it in the budget right now :)

  49. for those that live on one income I’d be curious to know what your left over income is after all your fixed expenses (mortgage debt but not utilities) I don’t care what your gross is or your mortgage payment just what is left over to live on after fixed expenses are paid. That would be a more clear answers on if one can lives on one income.

    My personal theory is it really depends on the husband earning power. As my niece mentioned before neither of them earns enough money to service there debt, so living on one income regardless of how frugal you is isn’t feasible.

  50. Rob,

    When we decided that I would be a stay-at-home mom, my husband was not earning enough money to make ends meet. His income barely covered our fixed expenses, there was nothing left over after we paid our bills. But we knew that it was important to us to have one parent home to raise the children and run the household, so we did whatever we could to pull in extra money. We have done many different things. In the evenings, my husband and I taught music lessons in our home. I babysat during the day. I sold products for a home party plan company (I would go into people’s homes in the evenings and do “parties” to sell products, and earned a commission on those sales). I sold stuff on eBay. I currently tutor at the local university in the evenings. I’ve taken sewing jobs. I sold things that we were no longer using so that we could buy things we needed (taking clothes to consignment stores, etc.). Doing these things in conjunction with reducing expenses wherever possible has a very powerful effect.

    I guess because we had made a decision that I was to be the one to raise our children, we were willing to do whatever it took to make ends meet. Sometimes you just have to get creative and think outside the box! There are lots and lots of opportunities to make cash from home. The perk is that lots of those opportunities often provide a good tax write-off as well, because they would be considered a home-based business (in Canada, anyway). Lots of times doing it this way puts you further ahead anyway, because you can still earn an income from home, while avoiding the childcare and transportation costs associated with going out to work. Since any work I was doing outside the home was in the evenings, my husband and I have gotten along just fine with one car.

    Now he makes a little more money, so we don’t have to do as many extra things, but I do still tutor in the evenings. I find it stimulates me intellectually, and it’s just a little bit of extra money that helps with some extra expenses.

    Hope that helps!

  51. Thanks for this post. When my husband and I originally planned to have our first child he was slotted for a promotion and I would be able to stay at home by the time our first child was 1 year old. Then 9/11 happened and my husbands job didn’t work out and we decided he would go back to school. I continued to work full time and he worked a part time job while going to school. I always hated when I would read the magazine stories about how you could stay at home for cheaper than you could work as a mom. It seemed all the Dad’s in these articles made 75000 or more a year. Yeah I could stay at home if my husband made that. Well — to cut myself short — I’ve finally realized my dream of staying at home. We have very little money left at the end of the month but I could not be happier. I do hate when friends think this is about luck. It is going to take a lot of sacrifice and discipline. If you want to stay home, once you get debt in order (that was our hurtle) you can find a way. You have to live with less but I know for myself I will not regret one single moment.

  52. Ah..you’ve hit on one of my pet peeves with this article. Well done!

    I’m a full time mom, and I HATE it when people say..”you’re so lucky”!

    Which is not to say that I don’t feel that my situation is really fortunate. I love being home for my kid, and all my kids friends, and all of our friends, and my husband, and everyone’s pets, and all the teacher’s at the school, and etc..

    My house is neat as a pin, there are home-cooked meals every day, there are always clean socks, and almost everything we buy is bought on sale, or at thrift shops.

    Why? Because I have time. Time to shop the sales and stock up. Time to turn the cheapest cut of meat and a few veggies into something amazing. Time to run so-and-so’s cat to the vet because they can’t get out of work. Time to organize and throw all the birthday parties,holiday parties,pot luck dinners (we call them stone soup nights), or just to sit for an hour and talk to one of my kid’s friends about birth control, or why parent’s can be such jerks when they’re getting divorced, or losing their job..

    But it isn’t luck..and it isn’t sacrifice either. It’s prioritizing. Being the nucleus of our family, and our little circle of friends is worth the “cost” in money per hour that I’m not earning.

    It is the same as someone implying that you’re lucky to have a good job, or lucky to have a happy marriage,lucky to have gotten a college degree. There is certainly an element of luck in those things since we can’t control everything that happens in our lives, but mostly it’s determination and clarity. We know exactly what we want our life to be like, and my husband and I have taken determined steps to make it that way.

    I am not sacrificing a new car, I am CHOOSING a happy family.

  53. Thank you for giving us dads hope that living off of one income can work. We are thinking of downsizing our house so my wife can stay home. This is giving us hope.

  54. Actually there is an element of luck in it. My niece is expecting her first baby in the next few weeks and would love to be a SAHM but the fact that her husband works for the auto industry (a supplier not a UAW worker) and is on 1-2 days a week and at risk of permanent layoff has had a huge effect on there finances. Simply put they can’t risk her quiting her job.

    It has had a positive side effect, they don’t know how but they are living on much less income, they’ve really learned how to be frugal.

  55. Almost 2 years ago with the birth our first child wife left the workforsce to stay home. You are right no luck.

    Our life style was cut and I admit that I miss the freedom at times. However, knowing that someone is watching my lil guy that cares about him as much as I do is worth it.

  56. I agree! It’s alla about priority.

    I am a single, work-from-home mom, and I love it. My son, who is now a 16-year-old high school senior, has benefited from me being able to work from home for most of my career. I love the flexibility and the reward of being a hands-on mom. I am able to earn a living, while still being accessible to my son when he needs me to run up to his school, help with homework or bonding time. After all, in a few short months, I will be an empty nester as he’s off to college–and will still be working from home.

    For me, my son has always been priority, so it is natural for me to work from home. Interestingly, I just wrote a post on how I, as a single mom, have managed to work from home for most of my career, so that I can continue to focus on my son–my priority:

    http://nosinglemamadrama.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/real-work-at-home-job-posting/

  57. This brings up an interesting, if sexist, point. While for men it makes sense that they peruse a career that will provide for their families, women often peruse careers which make mixing motherhood and work very difficult. Let me illustrate my point with two examples from people I’Ve meet over the years.

    One friend, graduated with an advanced degree in Math top of her class, natural for Googgle or Wall Street, could have made a killing in the real world. Yet, as I mentioned in spite of graduating at the top of her class she’s NEVER worked a day in her life (even thought they waited quite a few years to have children). On the other hand I have someone else I know who is a fabulous seamstress, runs her own business. And what she told me about being a working mom, even when I’m rocking the cradle I can still sew. In other words she choose a career that was compatible with motherhood.

    I’ve met many women (probably because I’m an expat) who have done the university/career thing only to drop out once the kids come. Seems to me to be a waste of money to go to college university if you only plan to drop out of the workforce after a few years.

    It does seem odd that Men can mix fatherhood and work but women can’t. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the way God made us.
    As I said, a rather sexist comment, but an issue that isn’t discussed very often.

  58. FD here’s an interesting delimia, I assume like most parents your saving hard to put your kids through college. Does it make sense to put you daughter (this assumes you have one of each) though college knowing in a few years she’ll probably leave the workforce to care for the grandkids. When you could put your son into a better college knowing that the chances of him being a SAHD are pretty slim and a better college will give him a good headstart in life.

    Interesting delimina isn’t it.

  59. @Rob: It is an interesting dilemma. I will try equally hard to get both kids (boy/girl) through college, because I want them to be free to do what they want to do. If my daughter chooses to pursue a career outside of the home, that degree will surely help. However, if she decides to stay home with the kids, I’d whole-heartedly support that, too.

    At some point the kids will grow up, be involved in school, and then move out, so my wife/daughter might like to pursue a career at that time.

    To turn the sexism on its head, my wife and I have discussed me working from home in the future and taking on more childcare duties while she works for health insurance. We’re weighing the costs of such a move, but it’s something we’ve considered.

  60. Rob and FD. Interesting points. My view is that the education and experiences gained in college can help anyone in whatever field they persue (including SAHM). When people with advanced degrees (or rich experiences) stay at home with their kids they have the opportunity pass their knowledge and rewarding experiences on to their kids. When the best and brightest stay at home, they raise the best and brightest kids.

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