Plan B(aby): Stay-at-Home Parenting
Trend is Growing
You have a job. You have a baby. After your parental leave
is up, you find day care for your baby so you can go back
to your job. That’s “Plan A” and it’s
what everyone does, right?
Well, not exactly. “Plan B”—staying
at home with your child—is a growing trend. While
many parents return to their jobs for personal or financial
reasons, others find a way to stay home for a few months,
a few years or indefinitely. A 2001 report by the U.S. Census
Bureau states that in 1998, 59 percent of mothers with infants
worked full time. By 2000, only 55 percent of mothers with
infants worked full time.
And it’s not just moms with
babies staying home. Today’s two-parent families are
exploring alternatives to the full-time, stay-at-home mom.
Dads are staying home in some families, especially when
mom earns more money or has a more promising career. In
other families, both parents work flexible schedules so
the children are almost always in the care of one parent.
And some parents of preteens are opting out of the workforce
to reconnect with their young adolescents.
When making a child care decision,
these are the key considerations to make:
Income Can you live on less? Some
parents wisely work out the books to see if they can accommodate
a reduced-income budget. Kate and Dave, parents of two in
San Francisco, tried living only on Dave’s income
for several months before they had kids to make sure it
worked. Another advantage: they saved Kate’s salary
for a rainy day.
Career Are you willing and able to
step off the career track? And if so, how can you keep your
“finger in the pie” as Laurie, a Bellingham,
Wash., lawyer, put it? She decided to stay home with her
three children for a few years but volunteers on a local
government committee and does part-time consulting from
Gender For moms: Are you comfortable
with a “traditional” gender role of mom-at-home?
For dads: Can you break the mold of dad-the-breadwinner
and become dad-the-caregiver? For both: What kind of support
do you need from your spouse in terms of personal time,
housework and childcare?
Personality Would the pace of life
at home—naps, repetition and routine—satisfy
you? Would you miss adult interaction too much? Some parents
report that they enjoy at-home parenting much more than
they ever imagined and wouldn’t trade the home zone
for anything. The reverse is true for others.
Daycare What childcare options are
available and affordable? Jo, a mother-of-two in Columbus,
Ohio, is confident about her decision to return to work
in part because her children are enrolled in an ideal day
care situation. Available through her employer, her day
care is close to her office and staffed by university-trained
child development specialists. But many parents question
the reliability of day care options or simply don’t
want to deal with the added stress and expense of the day
Over time, any one of these key factors
can shift, causing parents to reevaluate their decisions.
Deciding whether to stay home and who should stay home is
both an emotional and a financial cost-benefit analysis.
There is no single solution to this puzzle; each family
must strategize about what works best within the context
of its own particular needs and circumstances.
Editor’s Note: Kris Berggren
is the author of “Strategies for Stay-at-Home Parents”
(Meadowbrook Press). A stay-at-home mother of three, she
is also a regular columnist on family life for the “National
Catholic Reporter.” Her articles on family life have
also appeared in such publications as “Catholic Digest,”
“Twin Cities Parent” and the “Minneapolis
Star Tribune.” Berggren has also been a frequent guest
on the nationally syndicated public radio program “MOMbo.”