Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Being A Full-Time Parent Has More To Do With Sacrifice Than Luck

When my wife and I first discussed having children we were both on the same page when it came to determining the primary care provider–their mom. We knew living on one income would take some sacrifice, but it was one we were willing to make. Ten years later we continue to live on one income.

The other day someone asked what my wife did for a living, and I told them she is a full-time mom. Their response struck me, “You guys are so lucky she is able to stay home with the kids.” Lucky? I guess there has been an element of luck to my career success but we’ve made our share of sacrifices to pull off this lifestyle, particularly early on.

We both drive older vehicles (mine is really old!). We did upgrade to an SUV a few years ago, but it was purchased as a used vehicle and came to us with some mileage already accrued. I drive an 8 year-old car back and forth to work. Unfortunately, I have a long commute, and even though the vehicles have been pretty reliable at that distance, the commutes are definately taking their toll.

Our entertainment budget is virtually non-existent. Early in our marriage we had several sets of friends who were double-income families. It seemed like they were vacationing every three months, and often hit amusement parks, aquariums, etc. in between. That’s not to say all double-income families can more easily afford to entertain themselves, but with the extra disposable cash I suppose it is less taxing on the household budget. We try to take an annual vacation, but we usually only get away once every two years or so.

We have less money in savings. Since living on one income tends to be tight we have had less money to save and invest over the years, which will probably lengthen the amount of time I have to work. College savings, retirement, and emergency savings are all behind where they should be, but we are comfortable with this trade off for now.

My wife put school and a career on hold. No reason a woman can’t have a successful career and be a great mom, but for my wife she made being a mom her top priority. My wife may someday return to school to finish her degree, or maybe even return to the workforce when our kids are older. But for now, she is content with her role as a full-time mom.

The opportunity for one of us to stay home with the kids is not granted by luck, rather by making other sacrifices in our lives. Opponents of stay-home parenting often cite the lack of social interaction as a negative aspect of keeping kids out of daycare. All of our kids (well the school aged ones) attend public school where they get plenty of socialization. I think the bond that they have created with my wife and I is better than any benefit of social interaction they would possibly get at a daycare. The bottom line is it is all about priorities. If you are willing to make certain sacrifices, being a full-time parent can be a rewarding experience for both you and your kids.

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