One-income living in a two-income world

Evaluating Your Options

by Lucynda Koesters

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According to a national survey by Rob Reiner's I Am Your Child Foundation, two out of three working parents would rather stay home to raise the children than work, if it could be done financially. Many parents wish to evaluate the possibility of trading a full-time away-from-the-home job for part-time work, home-based work or a full-time stay-at-home option. Weighing these options will provide a look at the pros and cons of each, thereby providing the seeker with a list of questions and concerns to be answered prior to making a decision. The following exercise in weighing options was presented in "The Working Parents Line," a syndicated newspaper column. You are going to look at your options and weigh them with an imaginary scale.

First, decide what options to consider. Yours may look something like these:

  1. Leave your current job and come home full time.
  2. Trade your full-time job for a similar part-time position at your current company.
  3. Leave your full-time job to become a free-lancer.

List each option on a separate sheet of paper and leave space for two columns: pros on one side and cons on the other. For example, under the first option, several pros might be being at home all day to care for an infant, less mental stress, greater family time, etc. Cons might include 40% loss of household income, stepping off career track, and more pressure on working spouse.

After listing every possible pro and con that you can think of for each option, assign a weight to each pro and each con. Use a scale of one to ten, with ten being "very important" and one being "not very important." In the above example, the pros to coming home full-time might garner weights of ten (being home with baby), eight (less daily stress) and ten (more family time), respectively. The cons might be weighed as eight (40% loss of household income), six (stepping off career track), and eight (more pressure on working spouse).

Now, total the weights in each option and compare your weighted pros and cons for each. In the above example, we can see that total weight of the "pros" is 28. The total weight of the "cons" is 22. Here, the pros outweigh the cons, giving the seeker a clear view of the desirability of this option. However, this evaluation also provides a look at what concerns will be most influential. If the evaluator decides to go ahead with this plan (coming home), he or she will need to be aware of the added stress on the working spouse, and be prepared to handle the 40% loss of income (by planning a lowered household budget ahead of time). He or she will also need to address the concern of stepping off a career path; perhaps by formulating a plan to stay informed at home via trade magazines, the Internet and professional organizations in his or her field.

Be honest in your evaluation. If the pros are very important to you, list them and weight them high. Also be realistic in listing the cons to each option and weight them appropriately as well. This type of evaluation will give you a good idea of what issues and concerns you may face with each option. Don't be afraid to look at all of your options carefully before proceeding with a decision to pursue one. When that decision is made, go back to your list of cons and review each issue. Realizing concerns ahead of time will be helpful in heading them off as you proceed into a new lifestyle choice.

Lucynda Koesters is the author of Finding Your Way Home, How to Become a Successful Stay-at-Home Parent

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