Friday, July 8, 2011

Are two-income households really better off?

While discussing the subject of homemaking on my facebook page, my sister left this comment:

" I feel like I am not a good enough mother sometimes because I am NOT a stay at home mom.  I work 32 hours a week (I'd like to work 40 but my employer will not work with my availability as I have to be done by 4:30 everyday to get my daughter), so I have 1 extra day off a week.   It's not enough though!  Not only do I not work enough, but I don't get enough work done at home.  Yes, sometimes I am unmotivated and exhausted!  But most of the time I feel rushed.  I struggle to work in cleaning and grocery shopping, unless it's my day off.   Even then I feel like I am neglecting my child because I cannot play with her as much as I want to because I am cleaning for hours, then we rush to the grocery store, then I occasionally make dinner (Hubby is a better cook than me).  So, not only am I tired all the time, but I feel like an inadequate mother, and an inadequate wife for not working and making enough money, AND an inadequate wife for not doing enough around the house!  PLUS, I have no 'me' time. And now, I have baby number 2 on the way! I hope it comes more naturally with time and experience, but for now it never seems to be enough. I would love to be a stay at home mom, but then I would need a rich husband lol. Then I would seem like a gold digger! It really is the ultimate catch-22" 

The situation my sister outlined in her post is, sadly, all too common in today's world.  Both parents work, both parents are stressed out, and both feel guilt that they aren't able to do all the things they want to do.  Our society tells us that a family can't function without two steady incomes.  It's the only way to be secure and to make ends meet, right?  It's become the norm.  But do two incomes really offer the security we think it does?

I don't think so.  And I'm not the only one with that opinion.  In their book "The Two-Income Trap", authors Elizabeth Warren and  Amelia Warren Tyagi argue that two-income families are almost always worse off than their single-income peers. 

In this interview with, Amelia Tygari states "
those families (with two incomes) certainly make more money than a one-income family did a generation ago, (but) by the time they pay for the basics -- an average home, a health insurance policy, a second car to get Mom to work, child care, and taxes -- that family actually has less money left over at the end of the month to show for it.".

When you factor in how much that second job costs your family (paying for a second car, child care, and assorted other work-related charges), is it really bringing in enough money to make the stress and exhaustion worth it?  In our family, we decided it wasn't.

I've been a stay-at-home mother for three years now.  We are not rich people.  Last year, my husband's income was around 30k - just barely above the national poverty threshold for a family our size.  Would another source of income be nice?  Oh, yes!  But in our eyes, the benefits of having a full-time parent at home outweighs the benefits of a second income.  By staying home, we are able to be a one-car family - so no second car payment, and our gas bill is lower.  Child care costs are non-existent.  I have time to cook from scratch, which is not only healthier for our family, but cheaper.  This year I've started gardening, and I anticipate that in a few years, our garden will provide hundreds of dollars worth of fresh produce - thus, reducing our grocery bill. 

And just because you stay home with the children doesn't mean you can't bring in an income.  Author Wendy Brown makes an excellent point in this blog post about being a WAHM (work-at-home mom).  There are multiple ways to earn money while staying at home (which I know all too well - I used to run a daycare out of my home).  Wendy has a lot to say on the subject, and her blog is well worth following - and her book is a great read as well. 

Wendy also linked me to this cost of working calculator, which is a great tool to figure out how much that second income is costing you.

I know this was the right move for our family - how about yours?

No comments:

Post a Comment