Is Stay-At-Home Parenting Right For You?

Written by Meg Haley
Published February 8, 2019
how to decide whether to be stay at home parent how to decide whether to be stay at home parent

It doesn’t matter if you’re thinking about starting your family, pregnant, a new parent, or growing by two. The question of whether one parent should stay home with the kid(s) or if the family would be better off with two working parents is bound to pop up. Go to any baby shower or ask any current parent and you’ll get a whole host of answers. So, instead of adding to the cacophony, we aim to guide you to the right answer for your family, right now. These questions have been developed to help you think through the various pros and cons of each scenario.

Does one parent make significantly more than the other?

If the answer is yes, this will at least help you determine which parent might have the option of staying home. If your household income is pretty much split 50/50 with no adjustment options in sight, the odds are good that you’ll both be heading back to work after parental leave. Unless, of course, you can adjust your expenditures to live on 50% of your current income.

Does one (or both) parent’s careers offer work-from-home flexibility?

Even if your current employer doesn't let you switch to working from home 100% of the time, many tech-based and creative jobs have seen a real boom in the current economy. If one or both of you work in these fields, going freelance might be a great option. Many parents have found this to be the key to balancing the two halves of their lives! Note: You’ll want to be honest with yourself about how much hustle you’re likely to do! The freelance life doesn’t come easy, at least not at first.

Do you have a lot of family in the immediate area? (That you’d feel comfortable letting them watch the baby?)

If you’re blessed with great family members who live nearby and are willing to do free childcare for you, your available options just expanded ten-fold. With low or no-cost childcare, you can start talking to your employer about scaling back hours, quit your job and find a part-time gig, or just have backup care for when your new freelance job requires in-person meetings.

Does one parent thrive off spontaneity, but still create and stick to a master schedule?

No? Then y’all better plan to get back to work, because this is pretty much the job description for successful stay-at-home parents! Seriously, even if the finances would allow one parent to stay home with the littles, it doesn’t necessarily mean it would be the best thing. Be honest with yourself and your co-parent about how you’re feeling, what you want, and what you don’t want.

Do you have a lot of friends with kids or babies around the same age?

The answer to this question speaks to the tribe aspect of raising babies. If you’re going to be the only stay-at-home parent you know, and you don’t see many options for getting out and meeting like-minded parents with similar-aged kids in your community, that’s something to consider. Being by yourself all day, every day will take its toll on even the most gung-ho parent. They don’t say "it takes a village" for nothing.

Does either parent’s employer offer extended parental leave or sabbatical?

If so, this could be a great way to "try on" a stay-at-home parenting gig, without the scary commitment level of just having quit a paying job. We recommend taking all the time you can get!

Does the family’s health insurance rely on one or both parent’s current job?

Insurance is another red-flag answer. If one of you carries health insurance for the whole family, and the other person’s employer doesn’t offer similar coverage for a comparable price, this may seal the deal for you.

Does either parent work non-traditional hours?

If one person works nights, while the other person works during the day, it may help you determine who, if anyone, would be a good contender for the stay-at-home parent. Maybe those nights are really tough to deal with, and that person would love a break. Alternatively, maybe if one person stayed home, it would give the other person more flexibility to talk about making a change at their current job.

Does either parent travel a lot for work?

Here again, something to consider! If one of you would be stuck leaving work early all the weeks your spouse is travelling, does it make more sense for you to take this time away from your career and focus on parenting?

Does one parent really want to stay home?

Here’s the deal. At the end of the day, if one of you really wants to stay home, there’s almost always a way to make it work financially. Have a frank conversation with your co-parent, get advice from others in your community, call your financial advisor if you have to!