Originally Posted by MCsMom
But, if the SAHP (mom or dad) has already been out of the work force for 3,4,5+ years already does the general analysis change?
Because then it is not a matter if the person 'should' stay home with the kids, they already did. Now it is a question of going back in (or maybe entering for the first time even) and it seems like putting the cost of the care for the kids into the one person salary makes more sense if that is an expense that is being added simply because they are now going to find employment out side of the home instead of continue to stay home. As well as the additional costs of maintaining the standard of living that the SAHP was able to provide (gardening, cleaning, cooking, etc.) by virtue of the fact that they were home and able to do it.
I think at that point it depends on the job and her long-term goals, as well as the economic needs of the family.
If the SAHP wants to go back to work over the long term, sometimes it's a good or even critical move to take an opportunity where you're just covering your costs to get there. From a sheer career perspective, the sooner you get back in the better. There's also the idea that some people take a job, even any job, because they need the break, and that's how they fund preschool or a sitter or whatever. I think that's fine too.
I have to say that some of the "standard of living" argument gets lost for me. And yes, I read Your Money or Your Life years ago and really thought that staying home would result in these big savings. But - not really. Commuting costs, definitely. Clothing, a bit. Childcare, no question.
But for us when we're both working full time, there is no "trade off" on cleaning, cooking and yardwork in an economic sense. Those things still get done, by us, when we're working. They may not be quite as well done (some weeds in the garden, some long grass, grass between the stones longer -- not forever, but not quite as spic and span, as an example), but we definitely do not start paying someone to do it. So when I'm home I'm not saving the cost of a gardener.
Also, when I'm at home I start to see a lot of projects I want to do and that takes some money. Not as much as hiring someone to do it but more than just leaving the paint colour the same or not redecorating in the first place! When I'm home all the time every day my environment becomes something I focus on differently and inevitably, even if it's second-hand finds, I end up spending some money on it that while I'm working I just honestly don't have time to do at all. And yes, it's nice to have an upgraded look, but it's not critical.
I think there is a different pace and I can see how people value the pace when one parent is at home.
But for us, all pitching in on the yardwork on Saturday morning for an hour or two is quality family time so it's not a huge huge deal that it wasn't done during the week. The playdough mess might've happened at daycare so I didn't have to clean it up at home...that kind of thing.
I know lots of families spend more on food when both parents are working but for us it works out the same or better. That's partly just because of how we roll (I prioritize cooking, cook on weekends some and use the crockpot a lot; I eat at my desk 95% of the time unless it's a work function in which case i usually am not paying), but also because when I'm at home I really do need to get out now and then and that's where we spend the money we might spend on "eeek two deadlines; order pizza" time when we're both working. I don't often buy lattes at work at all (we have free coffee there and I'm cheap) but as a SAHM I get invited to lattes out -- and I love it and I go and buy them cheerfully. :)
This is my second mat leave and I've tracked our spending both times and it seems to be falling right in line.
What I do have more time for when I'm at home, and I really value it, is to reach out a bit more to community. That is something that as a two-FT-job couple we have not integrated as well while our kids are small. And there is value to that, it's just not so much hitting our bottom line financially.
All that said, every family is different. I just find it one of those things people say -- "if I stay home we'll save so much money!" -- that doesn't actually work out that way for everyone.
I am not arguing for or against working. I'm just sharing how things have worked out "on the ground" for us and how I've decided things - so far. As my kids get older, there may be totally different tradeoffs, both personal and economic.