Stacy has stayed at home since before we had children. We made the choice that her time and energy would be best spent taking care of our home and family. We have made sacrifices to do this, but it has been totally worth it.
I don’t make an exorbitant salary; we’re not trust fund babies. We don’t live up to our eyeballs in debt; we don’t live in squalor. We are a relatively normal-looking American family that decided we would be willing to live on a single income so Stacy could stay at home with our children.
Important Disclaimer: Before we get into the details, let me make clear I’m not out to hate on women in the workplace. I’ve worked with and for several women over my years in the workforce. I’m perfectly okay if you decide for your situation and for your family that wife/mom should work. Please don’t hate me for using our example and showing the math. I simply want to encourage those who are considering becoming a one-income household it can be done and point out that mom’s decision to go to work isn’t as simple as looking at the salary she will earn.
Important Disclaimer 2: I will use numbers below. They are simply a guideline based on national averages. Do the math for yourself and BE HONEST in your assessment.
With all that aside, let’s get into the discussion. What is the cost of being a Stay-at-Home Mom?
The Income Side
Let’s take a look first at what income we miss out on. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for full-time women in the workforce nationwide (2013 is the latest available data) is $36,712 ($3,059 monthly). That’s a lot higher than the average where we live, but for the sake of easy math, let’s go with an average of $3,000/monthly. So…we’re probably giving up the potential for my wife to earn as much as $3,000 per month (more maybe, but probably less where we live, especially to start out).
The Expense Side
To earn that, we’re totally gonna need day care. We have three small kids. One of them is old enough to be in kindergarten at public school only needing after-school care; the other two need all day care. Asking around at my office, it seems most pay roughly $500 per month, per child, for day care. Since Annie would only require after-school care, that’s a lot less. So, let’s say goodbye to $1,200 of Stacy’s monthly pay. She now has $1,800 of income to bring to the table.
Next, she’s going to need a car. Right now, we have my 1997 Ford Ranger which we use to haul stuff and work with. It isn’t beautiful, but it works. Then we have our daily driver, a 2008 Ford Taurus. Hmm…my truck wouldn’t last me too long driving my 80-mile daily round trip so we’d have to buy her a reasonable used car, and then it needs gas and ongoing maintenance that we don’t have to pay for now. Since we wouldn’t buy new, annual cost of ownership wouldn’t be too terrible, but buying a reasonable, used, full-size car and keeping it for at least five years, KBB.com, Edmunds.com and others agree it will cost at least $3,000 per year ($250/month) to buy it, insure it, and keep it road-ready (probably more). That takes us to $1,550.
Then that car’s gonna need gas. Since where we live you have to drive quite a bit to get just about anywhere, we’d better set aside at least $200 a month for that. So Stacy’s down to earning $1,350 per month.
Assuming my beautiful bride doesn’t go to work as a stripper (…and she isn’t…no offense to strippers…I think), she’s gonna need some decent clothes, shoes and accessories. Could we grant $100/month to that cause? We’re down to $1,250.
Now let’s keep in mind she’s gotta eat. Chances are, the days of her cooking all our meals at home and packing my lunches for work would be mostly over (maybe not). But there would definitely have to be more convenience foods. Our grocery budget probably needs to go up by at least $100 per month, and our entertainment budget, which is where we include eating out, probably needs to go up by at least that much as well. Now we’re making $1,050 for Stacy’s efforts.
Oh yeah…our kids need clothes too! While they aren’t dressed in rags at home, I’m sure there would be necessary wardrobe upgrades for the kiddos + required snacks, etc. for all the school and daycare-related activities and so forth. Kid clothes are EXPENSIVE! We’d better put aside at least another $100/month for this stuff, so Stacy’s making $950 now.
Let’s see here – what are we missing? Oh yeah – the government. They want their tax dollars…and they usually don’t take kindly to being told ‘no.’ So, since we have to pay those off our gross earnings, we need to take 15% of her $3,000 per month (as a bare minimum), which is $450. Now she’s making an even $500.
I’m sure I’m leaving out a few other things that we’ll have to deal with, but I think you get the idea. Assuming my wife earns the median income as a full-time employee and I’ve accounted for all the big extra expenses, we’re talking about a $500/month decision for our family. This is how we decided our lifestyle could better fit a single income situation than having both of us take on full-time jobs. We sacrifice $500/month in income for my wife to stay home, take care of our children, homeschool them, cook, clean and do all the other things the hardcore feminist would chastise her for but is our daily norm. …And that’s the way we both like it.
Some Other Thoughts
My wife works a lot harder than I do. I have it EASY in comparison to my wife. Raising kids is extremely hard work, and there are no real breaks. If my wife has a tough day or feels like crap, she can’t call in and get a day off. If she just isn’t “feeling it”…too bad. Being a stay at home mom is probably the hardest job I can think of.
Some women don’t want to stay at home. That is okay! As I said early on, this isn’t about men dominating women or suppressing their rights or insulting their intelligence or anything else like that. This is purely a mathematical discussion. Women are smarter than men. I admit it. If you are called to the workforce, by all means, get out there and kick tail at the office. One of the best supervisors I ever had was a woman (and come to think of it, I’ve had more women supervisors than men). If being a stay at home mom isn’t for you, NO GUILT. Am I clear?
You have to choose. I can’t tell you that staying at home or being in the workforce is the right thing to do. All I can tell you is our experience and what the math tells me about how the choice for mom to go to work (especially when the kids are small) really does to her potential for adding income to the family budget.
Now I leave it to you:
- If you’re a stay at home mom – why did you choose this path?
- If you’re a working mom – why did you choose this path?
- If you’re a husband – should your wife work outside the home? Why/why not?