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

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

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

Many parents have careers they love and spent a lot of time and energy to be successful in. Just because you take on the role of a stay-at-home parent doesn’t mean that your career is over. Being a stay-at-home parent may be a temporary thing – and there are plenty of people who have had successful transitions back to their careers following time off to parent their children. However, this is a gendered issue, as women struggle more than men to make this transition.

The gender wage gap

Unfortunately, there are biases against women returning to the workforce that have gaps in their resumes. Many women do return to the workforce, primarily because of a need for income, which is understandable. Sadly, studies show that across a 10-year period, women who leave the workforce for more than six months may earn up to 46% less than their peers who never took time away from work. There are ways to overcome this. You should keep your skills current and continue to network and stay on top of your industry.

There are lots of benefits to being a stay-at-home parent

While there may be some downsides to being the one who stays home, when it comes to the impact it can have on your career, there are a plethora of benefits, too. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

  • Being a stay-at-home parent may be more cost-effective, as childcare costs can be up to $16,000 per year in the U.S.

  • You won’t miss any major milestones with your child.

  • You’ll never regret the time you spent with your children and your family – can you say the same for time spent at the office working?

  • It may be less stressful than trying to do it all and manage a career outside the home in addition to parenting responsibilities, which may lead to burnout.

  • Having a stay-at-home parent present can make the household and its roles and responsibilities easier for everyone, including the working parent and children.

  • Staying home with your children means you’re their primary teacher and can focus on educating them about values and things you find important.

And, of course, it can always be a temporary situation. You may choose to go back to work when your child is old enough to attend school, for example.

Family therapy can help you figure out your plans

If you’re feeling indecisive about making a decision – or experiencing relationship conflict as you and your family try to decide what’s best, family therapy can help. Family therapy isn’t just for families that are experiencing a crisis. Family therapy can help you and your partner:

  • Improve communication

  • Parent consistently

  • Develop conflict-resolution skills

  • Assist with adjustment to major life transitions

  • Learn how to make healthy decisions

  • Learn coping skills to manage stressors

Get support from a qualified, caring therapist in the South Florida area

Navigating the workforce while parenting can be incredibly stressful. Family therapy can help you and your partner manage life transitions such as who should work and who should stay home. It’s a wonderful way to work on conflict resolution skills, strengthen your relationships, improve communication, and create healthy patterns and roles in the relationship. Having the help of a highly-trained therapist as your family transitions to its next phase can be a huge game changer.

The team at Love Discovery is ready to welcome you with open arms. If you’re ready to get started in therapy to answer the tough questions, make an appointment with any of our therapists today. Feeling hesitant about how we can help? Call 305.605.LOVE (5683).

We are here to help you improve your mental health, your relationship, and support you during a challenging time in your life.


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