Stay-at-Home Parents

by Brenda Sparks

This is a response to the person who wrote in about staying at home with your children versus working...

I personally feel that every child has the right to be raised by a close family member - mom, dad, grandma or grandpa, uncle or aunt , in a loving environment - rather than strangers. However, our society is not set up that way. We give parents financial breaks to breed children and zip them through our industrial-based educational system, but do not set up the rest of our social system to support raising them. It becomes financially difficult to choose one way or the other, much less emotionally.

I think that ultimately the decision to stay at home doesn't come down to dollars and cents. It comes down to what you deeply feel is right and what you really want to do and if you can 'indulge' yourself in doing what you feel is right and what you want - and to confuse things further what you feel is right may not be what you want!!. Certainly for us, it IS cheaper for me to stay at home rather than work, because I was only doing temporary work and a few assignments out at the National Guard. Daycare plus all the little incidental expenses two tired working people incur (more eating out, more lunches out, more work clothes, more gasoline, guilt gifts for your child, etc.) would have been more expensive than it was worth. Not to mention that I am a terrible grouch when I am working... Staying at home is what I really want to do, and s probably would have unconsciously found any reason to stay at home.

I will mention, however, that BOREDOM and the things we do to combat it can be sneakily expensive. My husband works 60 hours a week and we don't get out much. My son is only 15 months old and while he is entertaining, he is not adult company... Boredom sets in quickly, in between bouts of housework and 'household organization'. I try to restrain myself but sometimes these four walls just are too dull and I go to the local thrift store and buy toys for my son. Or clothes. Or, gasp, both! Too frequently I reward myself for all those meals I cook with lunch out - I am going to turn into a darn french fry soon! I take Neil to the zoo and such, which is educational, but still an expense that we would not have if I were at work. My husband chides me for my expenditures and I try harder to be thrifty, but within a couple weeks, I spend all my allowance (I get my guard check for an 'allowance' and he gets an equal amount out of his check for his spending money) on the same old stuff. I will also confess that I also cannot stick to a 200$ a month grocery budget. I buy too many 'exciting' and 'easy' foods - again, out of boredom. I am improving, but this is a consideration that you need to think about. I spend money as entertainment, really, and although I am cutting corners where I can and trying not to be such a spender, it is hard to change my whole spending 'personality'.

If you are going to have one spouse quit working and stay home, definitely, absolutely have a budget. Include a getting-out-of-the-house-from-cabin-fever category. It may just save the rest of your budget, and many meaningless arguments. Consider all the nifty baby items that you might not be tempted to buy if you weren't spending the whole entire day with your little one. Consider all the places you might be tempted to go and things you might do that cost money, just so you get out a little. And remember that cooking, night after night, on top of all those breakfasts and lunches, might lead to more eating out than you expect. My basic suggestions are make lists of pros and cons and contingencies, plan well, and don't burn any bridges because what you decide now may not be what you want a year later! Most importantly, decide together and communicate continually about the 'state of the union' as it were. Good luck!

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