In making the decision about a permanent reduction of one partner's income, there are many factors to consider. Some women will feel the maternal pull and want to be a full-time mom and caregiver. Others will want to get back to work as soon as they can. So the decision for mom to stay home is an intensely personal one for both parents to make, together.
I have to admit my bias here. Julie and I chose 28 years ago for her to be a stay-home mom and for me to be the principal provider. And it has been an incredibly rewarding experience for both of us. It was hard, but the outcome, at least to date, has been a positive for our entire family.
But, while I believe it is best for the children and family, and that a dad should do whatever he needs to do to make that a possibility, I know that it is a decision that the couple must make together for their family-no one can make that decision for you.
To make that decision, dads and moms should consider a number of important factors.
Do the Math. Each family should take a hard look at their financial situation and see what makes the most sense for them. Prepare two family budgets - one with both incomes and one with only dad's income. Then realistically consider your expenses. The fixed expenses like housing, utilities, and insurance will be about the same regardless of the income. But variable expenses like food, transportation, clothing, child care, and leisure activities will vary depending on whether or not mom works. You may well find that mom's income will not cover the increased variable expenses of her working.
Consider the Emotional Factors. Moms with a strong maternal drive will find great personal rewards being an at-home mom. Other moms will find their personal fulfillment in the workplace. And there is another important category of moms-those who anticipate going back to work after the baby comes and then finding a change of heart after she is really here. We dads tend to look at the economics and logic of a situation; our partners will often look more at the emotional pull. Realizing and accepting that both are important parts of the decision equation is important for a dad.
Adult Connections. Many at-home moms report being starved for daily adult interactions. Your stay-at-home mom may depend on you being that connection for her. But she will likely need more than you can offer. Are there other at-home moms around with whom she can interact? Are there playgroups in the area that might help?
Working at Home. Many at-home moms I know have a part-time job that they can do from home. Several of our About guides are at home moms. Barbara Whiting, the About Stay-at-Home Parents guide has some great resources on finding these kinds of at-home employment opportunities. The right kind of home-based employment opportunity can help bridge the gap between a full-time mom and a full-time job.
The transition for a man into fatherhood is a complex effort. Take heart that millions upon millions have made the transition well over the millennia. But in our fast-paced world with its lofty expectations of fathers, it has probably never been more difficult or demanding. But the rewards of fatherhood are absolutely unbelievable, and the experience of selflessly giving yourself to another person as provider, protector and caregiver will make you a better man. It is worth more than all the effort you will make.More on the transition into fatherhood for a new father.