Let’s say that you decide that it would be a good idea for mothers to stay at home with their children.
This is a good summary from Lori Alexander:
If that is not enough for you, consider this book by our recent presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren:
It might seem like there are fewer problems when a family has two full-time parents. There is more money. And also, if one person loses their job, there is still another income. But, it doesn’t quite work out that way in practice. What often happens is, a family spends all its money. Now it has a financial disaster when either parent loses their job. In other words, it is now two times more risky.
Plus, there are additional problems. Having two people with a career creates issues when career opportunities appear in different cities, or when you are trying to find a home that is a tolerable distance for two commuting parents. If a wife has a career, and a man loses his job (which often happens to any working people), unfortunately many women would quickly divorce this man, thus breaking up the family. A stay-at-home wife is more likely to keep the family together.
Today, many American families have been having a hard time. It might seem difficult to get by these days, on one income. But, somehow people did it, back when incomes were lower than they are today, even in real terms.
It is easy for a wife to say: “Well, it would be nice if I could stay at home with the kids, but we don’t have enough money because of yadda yadda yadda.” Basically, a stay-at-home Mom is a luxury that only the upper-middle class can afford, and even then, these women often choose to work even when they can afford not to. The basic problem is that a stay-at-home Mom is not prioritized. It is a nice thing that is somewhere way down the list of priorities, a few steps past a two-week vacation in Italy.
But, if you prioritized it — if you were willing to give other things up so that you could have it — I think a lot of families today could afford to live on one income.
For example, we often prioritize a “big house in the suburbs with a yard.” Yes, we would like to live on one income, but our three-bedroom 2,200sf house costs a lot, and even then, we have to live 60 minutes from work, so there are a lot of costs of commuting as well. But, it is worth it because our kids get their own bedrooms.
But, if we were willing to give that up, perhaps we could live in a much smaller and cheaper situation, closer to work. Maybe it is a one-bedroom condo. That is a big step down, but maybe it is worth it, so that we could have a stay-at-home Mom.
There would be a lot of other savings from having Mom stay at home. Daycare and other childcare expenses plummet. Costs of working — transportation, clothing, lunches in restaurants, coffee from Starbucks, etc. — disappear. Then there are the “soft” costs of working, such as dinner from Chinese takeout or a frozen pizza instead of a homecooked meal; and, later, the health consequences of so much processed/restaurant food.
Then there are the big-picture costs of working mothers. Four years of college education. Maybe more vocational training on top of that. Many years of peak fertility and peak attractiveness squandered on climbing the career ladder.
When a woman stays at home, she (and her children) don’t really cost much. A man can pay for a wife and two small children for about $1000/month more than living alone.
You might be able to get by with one car. A smaller home also has a lot fewer costs in terms of maintenance, utilities, yardwork, etc. A woman’s income is also, typically, taxed at higher income tax rates, since it comes on top of the man’s income.
But, the biggest savings might come from homeschooling. Elizabeth Warren found that one reason that families were overstretched financially is that they were spending big $$$ to get a house in the most desirable school districts. But, if you are homeschooling, then even if you still want to live in a nice neighborhood, the school district is not so important.
You might have to give up a lot to get by on one income. You might have camping vacations rather than something involving an airplane. You might spend time in the park rather than spending money on dance lessons. You might have to learn to cook. But, you might get a lot too. You might get the most important things.