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Should Both Parents Work? Should One Stay Home?

By Gordon Bellows

In today's economy, there are more and more families with both parents working. This article offers a few things to think about and how to determine what may be best. There is no right or wrong decision; each family has to evaluate their situation and then decide what is best for them as individuals and as a family.

There are many things to consider:

• Do both parents really want to work?
• If one stays home, which one should it be?
• What is future earning potential in current position?
• Which job offers the best benefits and medical insurance?
• Is there opportunity for advancement?
• What are the job-related expenses (clothing, transportation)?
• How much of the income goes for child day care?
• What are the ages of the children in the family?
• How long is the daily commute to work?
• If only one works, what happens if they're suddenly laid off?
• Should one or both parents have some type of home business?

Start with a list of all things that need to be considered for your specific situation, coming up with different scenarios, and then list the pros and cons of each scenario. (By the way, the number of stay-at-home dads is on the increase, so don't hesitate to consider that as one of your options.)

Income vs. expenses
For many families, having both parents working is almost an economic necessity. But you may want to review the income versus the expenses to really see how much you come out ahead.

I know of two families that did just that. They took a close look at the expenses tied directly to the second income.

Both families had similar situations: Each family had two children under the age of 10, and the mother returned to the workforce after their youngest child was out of diapers. Both women earned the same annual income and had very similar expenses. Mindy was a customer service supervisor for a marketing firm, and Cedara was a caseworker for a social services agency.

They looked at all expenses directly related to their jobs:

Transportation -- gasoline and car upkeep or bus/subway
Child care – day care or after-school care
Clothing -- several outfits worn only for work
Dry cleaning -- some work clothes required special care
Food -- morning coffee, lunch, tips, afternoon snack, etc.
Beauty salon -- hair/nails were done more often because of job
Miscellaneous -- gift for boss, flowers for sick co-worker, etc.

Both women knew about the major expenses, but they were shocked at how the little things added up week after week -- the morning coffee, the afternoon snack, a dollar here, a dollar there.

They could see their take-home pay (the amount of their check after taxes and any other deductions); however, they really needed to find out what was left of the take-home pay after all of the job-related expenses were added up.

After careful review, Mindy and Cedara both discovered that after taxes and all job-related expenses, what they had left as a net result was less than one-third of their salary! That means somebody with a salary of $15 per hour would realize a net result of less than $5 per hour.

That shocker really got their attention. Mindy and Cedara had some decisions to make.

Bottom-line decisions
Mindy knew there was little opportunity for advancement in her position as a customer service supervisor. She was often required to work evenings, which she wasn't comfortable with. She felt the net result pay was not enough for the long hours she put in.

Mindy decided to stay at home. She would now have the time to shop the sales and make home-cooked meals instead of buying the more expensive heat-and-eat meals. With some careful planning, she could make the household budget stretch enough to do just fine.

Cedara liked working in social services and felt she was making a difference in the lives of many clients. She wanted to continue working. She took a close look at her expenses and saw ways to cut back and get a better net result. It was just a matter of being aware of where the dollars go and spending more wisely.

Each woman made her decision based on what seemed to be best for her and her family in the long term.

Eliminate double standards
The portrayal of the family as seen on some old TV shows like “Leave It To Beaver” and “Father Knows Best,” where the husband/father puts on a suit and goes off to work while the wife/mother stays at home, is only one of many scenarios. I would like to see double standards eliminated -- but unfortunately, I don't think it will happen anytime soon.

One example that comes to mind is that it was okay for women to do heavy labor during World War II (think of “Rosie the Riveter”), but when men returned from the war, women were expected to go back to being housewives and file clerks. Who says women can't do labor or drive a truck or that a man shouldn't be at home raising children? Sorry, but prejudice and narrow-mindedness are a couple of my hot buttons.

Again, it should be emphasized that there is no right or wrong decision. It comes down to doing what is best for you as an individual and for the family as a whole. Taking the right action is not always easy but usually well worth it in the long term.

© Gordon Bellows

Gordon Bellows is a home business advisor. Success Tips, a handy how-to guide, is free, loaded with tips that get great results. See what works, what to avoid. Discover the keys to success for your home business or MLM.



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