Over the past few decades, the definition of what makes a “perfect family” environment has changed drastically. When the parents of today were growing up, most lived in two parent households, with one parent staying at home. Statistics from the late 1970’s, show that around 86% of all households at the time had a stay at home parent. As women began entering the work force and seeking employment outside of the home became more acceptable, the trend has toward dual working households has begun to increase yearly. Yet, whenever changes in the normalcy of societal expectations and cultural norms begins to take place many people are left pondering whether the changes are beneficial or negative, and question their choices in a more magnified manner.
The question now becomes, is one method of raising a family better than another?
The answer is one that is not so clear-cut and differentiates based on many factors for all families.
One of the most important questions is to decide whether you can actually afford to be a single parent working family or not. In today’s economic haze, many families cannot make ends meet unless both parents work outside the home. And yet, as much as 66% of the salaries made from one of the working parents can be devoted almost entirely for childcare purposes. This is why it is absolutely important that families take a good, hard look at the financial picture before making this decision. Many families find that they can actually balance family better, and have more money left over when there isn’t the need for childcare. On the other hand, two professionals that make decent paychecks may find that childcare consumes much less than the average 66%, especially once the kids enter public school and that the increase in salary enables them to afford a better life.
Author Eric Edelman, in his book, The Truth About Money, also warns parents to look at other issues that may be beneficial in dual working households. For instance, job security and professional success. After being out of the work force, stay at home parents find it very difficult to resume their old positions and old salaries and remaining employed is considered a feat of protecting your career. For those in specific industries, with collegiate educations protecting your career can be an important factor. Additionally, health insurance can be an issue. Medical costs are exuberant, and many couples either BOTH, have insurance – or get insurance from one employer who offers it for free or much cheaper than the other does. Long-term, retirement can be more comfortable in dual working households as well. In order to decide which is better, these considerations have to be understood closely.
Additionally, parents should consider their personality type before deciding to be a stay at home parent. Just because you had children, does not mean that you will be comfortable living in the clutches of domestic bliss. Today, men and women from an early age, are taught to understand that it is acceptable and satisfying to pursue professional and personal goals outside of the realm of raising a family. And statistics show that men and women in the workplace today, are successfully remaining professionals and parents. In an interesting twist, the New York Times recently published a study that concluded today’s dual working parents are spending more time with their children today than they were in 1967. The study performed by two economists from the University of California showed that before 1995, mothers averaged around 12 hours a week tending to the childcare needs of their children. By 2007, that number according to information received in the survey had risen to an average of 15.9 to 21.2 hours per week. And these were for working parents.
This change comes as a more hedonic lifestyle is taking place between married couples, where responsibilities of the home and family are split equally. Plus, parents today realize the importance of quality time with their children versus quantity of time.
Many stay at home parents (both mothers and fathers) argue that staying home to raise a family is a fleeting, once in a lifetime opportunity for parents and children alike. The compromises they make in regards to money are well worth the time spent with the kids. Several prominent child development research studies released over the past few years seem to show little indication that children are developmentally challenged based upon the working status of their parents.
This last statement perhaps speaks the most volume about this issue. If parents are committed to raising a happy, well-adjusted family regardless of whether they both work or not, the children will fare fine. And if parents feel strongly that staying home with children is essentially, those kids too will flourish. The reality is that the decision of which path to follow when it comes to your family is completely personal, and should be based on your personal values alone. Sure, there are many things to consider and often the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. But in the long run, the happiness of children depends upon happy, satisfied parents rather than which career path they chose, or chose to give up.
Kids today, are offered a lot more opportunity for their own futures when they see parents working together for more good than simply fulfilling gender roles around the home. Trends show that in 2010, 57% of all entering college students were female, and around half of all degrees earned each year in the United States are earned by females. These numbers have drastically increased from just ten years ago, and seem to be on the rise. The fact that women are realizing their potential to be both a mother and a working professional, and provided the tools to successfully do both families in the future may very well be better off than at any other time in our societal history.
As long as you are happy with the decisions that you make then you are raising your children in the best way that you know how.