For many couples, the traditional family model of one partner working, and the other staying home with the children, seems like an unrealistic situation. It certainly was for us, until a couple of years ago, when we made the decision to sacrifice some things for others.
When we were younger, my wife and I dreamed of wealth and status. We were certain that we would move up in our careers and be able to afford a huge home, nicer cars and travel at our leisure. My how things change.
Over the years, we were asked repeatedly by some of our family members if we ever thought about one of us staying home to raise the kids and care for the home. We would quickly dismiss this in favor of our level of income and perceived wealth. We have learned some valuable life lessons since then, not the least of which is that money will never make up for lost time with your children.
“One door close, another one open”, said Cicely in her beautiful Caribbean voice as she crafted a necklace for me out of wooden beads (as seen in my profile picture). “Everything happen for a reason” she said. She was talking about hardship and what it’s like to be poor in paradise. I knew in talking to her that most people did not spend the time to get to know this person who made jewelry on the beach, but that is another story for another time. With the ocean waves lapping at the sands in Antigua and our faces warmed by the sun, in the middle of February two years ago, we made the decision to change our lives drastically. My wife would quit her job as an executive for a major retail corporation and stay home with our children.
We are not wealthy, we do not live in a huge house and some months are financially leaner than others. Our vacations now typically consist of car trips with the kids or the rare weekend when my wife and I escape to a nearby bed and breakfast while the kids stay with Nana and Papa. But what we do have, in great abundance, is love and a life that is more fulfilling than we could have ever imagined. Our decision has improved our relationship as a family, as well as our marriage and our relationships with other family members.
We know what it feels like to take our children to a daycare for them to spend their days with strangers while we work more hours than we would like. We know the pain and guilt of feeling as though we are not giving them enough attention or spending enough quality time with our children. So after that wonderful vacation, we decided to weigh the options and see what we could do to change all of our lives for the better.
Here are some of the factors that we analyzed:
1. Combined income versus tax bracket
2. Daycare expense
3. Quality of life and value of time spent at home
4. Transportation costs including insurance etc.
5. Adjustments to living expenses to reduce cost of living
6. Potential for additional income through entrepreneurial endeavors
7. Peace of mind
You can easily see that not all of these are quantitative factors that can be measured in dollars. But, each one of the qualitative factors listed is just as important to consider in the overall formula.
Having done the detailed analysis and crunched the numbers appropriately, we calculated that we would lose about 22% of our household income if my wife quit her job and stayed home. (This does not take into account our various entrepreneurial endeavors that have yet to earn us any money.) This figure was the result of taking our previous household income (less total expenses) and comparing it to what our income would be with me working (less total adjusted expenses and including tax and cost of living changes). Of course we had a bit of reluctance at first, but we knew it was the right thing for our family.
When I talk about cost of living changes, there are a lot of factors that are included. We no longer dine out for work day lunches, I pack a lunch instead. Our auto insurance was greatly reduced, as was the cost of transportation which, at roughly three dollars a gallon for gas really adds up. We cut coupons and look for sales at the local grocery stores. We were actually able to reduce our grocery bill by nearly forty percent. And, we also find that now we spend less money buying our kids gifts out of guilt. Instead we are there for them, we spend time playing, laughing, eating together and enjoying the life that we have. The life that God has given us.
Of course this staying home with the children scenario will not work for everyone. Many families are living paycheck to paycheck as it is. Some families are struggling, even with two incomes. We have been very fortunate in our marriage to find a way to make this work for us. We know what it’s like to struggle and to worry, but this time it’s different. This time it’s for our family. It will be another lean Christmas, but we will give more of ourselves, worship fully and celebrate the birth of Jesus together. That is the most amazing gift I could ever receive.