It really is mind boggling to think of the changes in our society in the last three or four decades. Our family structure is completely different. Access to affordable and effective birth control reduced family size. New technologies in household appliances reduced the physical workload necessary to maintain a home and care for a family. And the women’s liberation movement paved the way for women to leave their subservient role as housewives and gave them the same opportunities for employment as men.
That was a good thing, wasn’t it? Being a housewife was tantamount to slavery. Women deserved to get an education and a career just as much as men. An advertizing campaign for cigarettes in the 1970’s used the slogan “You’ve come a long way, Baby!” The message to women from society was that we deserved everything that men had.
Unfortunately, some of what men had wasn’t so great, like lung cancer and heart disease. Equal pay for equal work was a good thing. The old mantra that men deserved to make more money because they had wives and children to support is rarely heard today. But the ideal that many women held, that they could have a career, and that their husbands should share the household chores equally has been a source of much more conflict than the women who were burning their bras in the 60’s could ever have imagined.
True, there are families where both mom and dad work and share responsibilities 50/50 and it works quite well for them. But for the other 98.5% of families, the stress of getting everyone up and moving every morning, getting everyone where they need to be, with clean clothes, lunches, homework, signed permission slips, and matching shoes can be a nightmare. And that is just the first hour or two of the day.
Mom and Dad both need to focus on their work for the next eight hours, so what happens if someone gets sick or hurt during the day? Some jobs are flexible, and some bosses are understanding, but many are not. Then there is soccer practice, music lessons, homework, dinner, and on and on… then a few hours of sleep (hopefully) before it starts all over again.
And that is a family where everything is going well! With half of all marriages ending in divorce, single parent families are becoming the norm. Perhaps without the added stress of a two-income family, there would be fewer divorces. One of the conflicts that causes a great deal of stress is the frustration over the division of labour in the home.
Right about now, about 72% of you are saying, ‘But I have to work! We could never survive on one income.’ I believe about 36% of you. Before you ask if that is 36% of the 72%, I’ll just say that I never was very good at math, and 93% of people think that 87% of statistics are just made up anyway… but I digress. Perhaps you could take a close look at your budget to see what having a second income is really costing you.
Besides the obvious costs of child care for preschool children and for school age children on school holidays and when they are sick, there are a lot of costs that you would not have if one parent stayed home:
- Clothing. A wardrobe for a career woman can be much more expensive than that of a stay home mom. Plus, you may need to have more clothes (especially underwear) for the whole family if you only have time to do laundry once a week.
- Meals. Busy families tend to rely more on convenience foods and fast food. This is not only more expensive, but less nutritious than home cooked food. Kids who come home after school to an empty house tend to eat junk food and veg out in front of the TV after school (not all do, but I did when I was a kid). Experts (people who don’t make up their statistics) are telling us that for the first time in recent history we are facing a decrease in life expectancy in North America.
- Commuting Costs. If one parent is staying home, that is a pretty short commute.
- Standard of living. It doesn’t take long to get used to a higher standard of living. A bigger house means a higher mortgage, a newer car means higher car payments, and then those become fixed expenses. If you think you couldn’t afford your standard of living on one income, maybe you should consider lowering your standard of living. If you think of luxuries in life as your just rewards for working so hard, then perhaps you are as bad at math as I am.
Every family is different, and your family situation will change over the years, but I think that it really does make sense to have a parent at home, at least part time, while your children are at home.
What is eternally significant to you? Someday, if you and I meet up in heaven, do you think you would say, ‘Hey, look down there, that was my office building. Those people are the clients I brought in. And you should have heard the eulogy my boss gave at my funeral – it almost made me cry. You know I would never go back to earth for anything, but sometimes when I think of my office I just wish I would have spent more time there…’