I came across this blog post on the cost of staying home with young children, linking to another post on the cost of staying home with young children, referring to a series of articles on the cost… Not exactly a new topic, is it?
In the interest of full disclosure, I will mention that I sacrificed a potentially successful (I will never know) and highly paying (heck, why not?) legal career to stay home with my four oldest children. I returned to university when my fifth child was born and started working while pregnant with my sixth. I like to think of myself as a specialist in matters of family-work balance or (more often) lack thereof.
Let me make one thing clear to all the mothers, working or otherwise, thinking of “opting out:” this is not an economic investment. You will not be better off financially if you stay home with your children instead of working for remuneration. Kids don’t pay. If they do, it’s with your money. Anyway, they cost way more than they bring in. Until they grow into successful hockey players and hip hop artists and buy you a house, you will be out of pocket. And even then. This is an investment in yourself, your family and your children, rooted in deep-set values and a sense of doing the right thing.
That being said, you cannot pay the rent with good intentions. If you decide to leave the work force to raise your children, someone will have to support you financially. This role generally falls on the other parent, often the father. And for each millionaire who can acrimoniously support his ex-wife to stay home with their children, I can name you 10 000 regular guys who cannot pay their rent as well as yours. As a result, your ability to stay home with your children hinges on a solid commitment between yourself — the caretaker — and the provider, also known as marriage (or something like that–civil union, nuptial agreement, memorandum of understanding, I’m not fussy.)
Women don’t find themselves suddenly “post-divorce, with two adolescent sons to care for, no job, no job prospects and a seriously dated resume that looks less-than-stellar in the middle of a recession” because they stayed home with their children but because of the breakdown of their marriage. Don’t get me wrong: my resume is less-than-stellar and I am working an entry-level job for an entry-level salary in my late-thirties. Staying home for ten years has kept me from building-up my resume and networking in the workplace. However, it should be understood that the most important decisions of your parenting career are the myriad of choices, small and large, that build-up (or destroy) a solid commitment between you and your spouse (or whatever you call the person you reproduce with). A solid, respectful — ideally loving — relationship between parents is the bedrock of all parenting decisions. The rest, including the loss of income and work experience, will fall into place.