How to Decide Who Should Work and Who Should Stay Home After Kids

Updated: Oct 31


A stay-at-home father watches his kids

Having a double-income household is what many people think is ideal. But once you bring children into the equation, it may make more sense financially for one spouse to be a stay-at-home parent.


Key takeaways:

  • Deciding to be a stay-at-home parent can be tough.

  • Surveys have shown that these decisions are a frequent source of conflict for parents.

  • In the past, traditional gender roles dictated that the mother would automatically be the stay-at-home parent.

  • Today, women make significant financial contributions to the home, with some even taking on the role of being the primary breadwinner.

  • Unfortunately, women face heavier biases and financial consequences for taking time off from work for longer than six months.

  • Family therapy can empower you and your family to make the best decision for your unique situation and challenges.


Having children means making many decisions – including the possible decision to be a stay-at-home parent. Recent surveys have found that the “who should work and who should stay home?” discussion is a primary source of arguments and tension for a third of moms polled.


Deciding if one of you should be a stay-at-home parent can be a tough decision. We delve into what to consider when making this choice.


What makes the most sense financially?


Having a two-income household is ideal for most couples, especially when you consider how costly it is to raise a child. Research has found that half of households are comprised of mothers who are the main breadwinners or who contribute to at least 40% of household earnings, making it a more nuanced decision than just deciding mom should stay home with the baby because she’s mom.


In the past, families typically followed traditional gender norms and moms were always the stay-at-home parents. However, as women began to enter the workforce out of necessity – and after having won the right to do so – traditional gender roles are not always followed when it comes to being the stay-at-home parent. And that’s fine. It should be about what makes the most sense for your family – including what makes sense financially – regardless of the gender of the parent who will be working or staying home.


It may not be a long-term thing