Deciding whether to have one of the parents stay at home after the birth of a child can be difficult. There are an abundance of short and long term variables to consider and even after careful consideration the answer may not always be clear. Initially, wifey and I did not anticipate her becoming a stay at home mommy, but here we are, a stay at home mommy of three!
Sometimes the decision to have a stay at home parent can come down to the family’s financial situation, other times there are different contributing factors. There is never a right or wrong option, and ultimately each decision rests with the individual family unit, each with their own set of unique needs and resources. What follows are some interesting facts about staying at home that can help you and your partner be better informed about the pros and cons of stay at home parenting.
Save Money! Stay-at-Home?
Most people assume that a parent staying at home is always the smarter financial move rather than using paid child care. Count this is as a myth about parenting, as this is not always the case, and there are often a few more things to consider.
According to The Care Index the national average for in-home child care is around $28,5000 while in-center care is about $9,500. (Additional breakdown by state, quality, and availability of resources is also available on their site.) When faced with those numbers, many parents balk, and understandably attempt to avoid the financial burden by staying at home. Often, especially for younger parents, the cost of child care is about the same as the monthly take home salary of a parent, making the decision to stay at home a no-brainer…right?
When considering the financial benefits of designating a stay at home parent, remember that a parent staying at home will also lose employer contributions to 401(K), insurance, work experience etc. Lucky for you and me, there is a simple online calculator that you could use to estimate potential lost earnings by taking time off. If you’re curious, you can also see how much you should be making as a stay at home parent. Just remember that this calculator and other advice are generic and do not consider additional factors like the number of children or their ages.
In-House v. Out-of House Childcare
There is research on developmental psychology, a favorite topic of mine, that shows children with stay at home parents can perform better in academic and social situations. A recent study found that children can benefit well into high school age from a stay at home parent. The National Home Education Research Institute maintains a list of studies that point to a strong benefit of a stay at home parent on a child’s education.
However there are also drawbacks to stay at home parenting, like the fact that the stay at home parent works the equivalent of 2.5 jobs. Parents that leverage child care, especially those that use child care centers, help their children learn how to follow rules, schedules, and socialize with peers. Not to mention, center based child care does a great job preparing kids for preschool and kindergarten.
Ultimately a set of studies found that the mother’s sensitivity and the family’s socioeconomic status have a greater influence on children’s behavior than did the amount of time spent in child care vs at home care. So love on your kids when you can and the rest will work itself out.
Tots and Trends
So far the evidence for at home parenting versus child care has been mixed, and rightly so because every family situation is unique. But one thing is clear, stay at home parenting has regained some popularity. The latest research from the Pew Research Center shows that the rate of stay at home mothers increased after decades of decline. Although the Pew research is from a couple of years ago, recent 2017 data from Bureau of Labor Statistics shows little change in stay at home parent rates since 2014.
A 2015 State Modern Motherhood Report showed that 83 percent of all new moms are millennials, meaning that millennial mothers are the ones bringing back the popularity of stay at home parenting! A trend that was hardly expected. However that trend can be explained with the rise of work from home parents, with recent polls indicating that as many as a 25 percent of stay at home parents run a home business, and 35 percent report working from home.
Technology, finances, and social trends will always be around to influence parenting decisions. As always, in the end I urge each family to evaluate their unique position and pursue what’s best for them.