Stay-at-home-parenthood may be on the rise.
A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that 21 percent of parents between the ages of 20 and 35—millennials—were stay-at-home parents. This marks a significant increase, as only 17 percent of the previous generation (within the same age range) stayed at home with their children.
Additionally, the real numbers may be even higher. The study defined stay-at-home parents as those who were not employed. It did not account for parents who work at home while taking care of their children. According to FlexJobs, 3.9 million U.S. employees work from home at least half the time.
Given the flexibility technology allows and, perhaps, changing attitudes towards parenthood, more parents may be considering whether staying at home with their children is the best option for them.
Being a stay-at-home parent offers priceless rewards and unique challenges. Here are some considerations.
Not Missing Childhood
Childhood is fleeting, but stay-at-home parents point to one of the greatest benefits they experience: they are not missing the big and small moments of their children’s lives.
“I love that we’re there for all the milestones. We get to be the ones cheering and teaching and kissing bruises,” said Roseanna White of Keyser, West Virginia. White and her husband both work from home and homeschool their 10- and 12-year-olds.
Jessica Haddock of Raeford, North Carolina, and her husband also both stay at home and homeschool their children, ages 9 and 6. “I miss nothing and that is something I can say on my deathbed one day that I do not regret. As parents, we cannot get this precious time with our children back,” Haddock said.
The Cost Savings
When parents consider whether or not to stay-at-home with their children, the financial implications are an obvious consideration. Many cite the loss of a second household income as a downside.
However, the potential cost savings of staying at home should not be overlooked.
The cost of day care in the United States is high. BusinessBroker.net recently compiled their findings on a state-by-state basis.
While the average cost of child care varies widely across state lines, with Washington, D.C., the highest at $35,000 per year and Mississippi lowest at just under $8,000 per year, the costs are clearly significant.
In addition to child care considerations, there are other expenses that can accompany working outside the home. Including the cost of commuting, possible wear and tear on an automobile; coffee, lunch, and other work-related meals; a professional wardrobe; household help you may need; and a potential increase in taxes (should your second income put you into a higher tax bracket than you’d otherwise be in).
When many parents add up the true financial expense of working outside the home, they find the financial benefit of a second income almost non-existent or simply not enough to make up for the sacrifice of not being home with their children.
What’s more, parents can make the most of their time at home to find ways to live more frugally, for example, by cooking more meals at home and using coupons. They may also find creative ways to generate income by selling things online or even starting an at-home business.
Stay-at-home Iowa mom Brigitte Brulz of Iowa said, “I am able to save money since I can cook meals at home, don’t have to buy work clothes, don’t have to pay for gas to get to work, have never had to pay for daycare, and can strategically shop and budget. I have recently started pursuing opportunities I am able to do from home, such as publishing two books and writing for some magazines and websites.”
The entire financial picture should be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to be a stay-at-home parent.
The Opportunity to Homeschool
Increasingly, parents are considering homeschooling a viable educational path for their children. Many of the stay-at-home parents I heard from also homeschool their children.
“Not only am I a stay-at-home parent, but I am also a homeschooling parent,” Brulz said. “I love watching my daughters learn and grow, being available when they need me, teaching them, learning new things with them, having more time to volunteer, planning lessons, taking care of things around the house, finding ways to save money, preparing homemade meals on a daily basis, spending time with my entire family, and much more.”
Freedom and Flexibility
Stay-at-home parents enjoy more freedom and flexibility in their lives.
“Working remotely on top of being a stay-at-home parent has been such a blessing,” said John Shieldsmith of Taylor, Texas, a father of an almost 2-year-old. “Not only do I get to spend time with my son, I enjoy work more than ever before. Instead of having lunch in a break room, I get to sit down with my wife and son every single day and eat. I also get to help with diaper changes, take breaks to play, and so on. It’s simply amazing.”
But There Are Challenges, Too
Of course, being a stay-at-home parent is not without challenges.
Many stay-at-home parents struggle to balance working from home, managing the household, and taking care of the children.
“With the entire family home all day, the messes can accumulate fast. Keeping up with that is a real challenge, as is finding the balance between house tasks, kid tasks, homeschool, and the work we do from home,” White said.
Others find it lonely, especially with very young children.
“It can feel lonely when staying home with babies and toddlers since they can’t communicate as well or do as many activities; however, there are library programs and other groups available to get together with other babies, toddlers, and parents,” Brulz said.
Most find it (at least sometimes) exhausting.
“Because my schedule is usually wide open, it is very easy for me to try to take on too much and get tired out,” said Los Angeles-based Lisa Alemi, a stay-at-home mom of a 1-year-old. “It’s challenging to try to get things done around the house like cooking and cleaning when my son wants my attention all of the time. There are days when he just wants me to hold him, which makes it hard for me to complete tasks.”
It’s Worth It
Despite the challenges, though, every parent I heard from expressed that they loved being stay-at-home parents.
“I want to be the one to shape them, teach them, and watch them grow, and I have been. I wouldn’t trade that for the world,” White said.
“The times you’ll share with your little one are priceless, ”Shieldsmith said. “There’s always another week to work. Your kids are only kids for so long.”