Many of us in the 40 or over category have the shared experience of having stay-at-home moms for at least a portion of our childhood years. Dad went off to work each day, and mom ran the house. She was responsible for everything from household finances to grocery shopping to kids’ schedules to cleaning, cooking and discipline. There was a strong sense of consistency and structure for my siblings and I, and whether it was summertime or school time, my mother was always present in the home (at least until my teenage years), creating order from the chaos of raising five children. If we had a question, or a problem, or were sick, she was always available, and we were her top priority and full-time job. Home was not necessarily an exciting place, and it didn’t always look like Leave it to Beaver, but it was a safe place and a constant in a world of change.
Much has changed over those 40 years regarding parenting roles and the focus on childrearing, but are our children generally better off today than we were back then? Is it possible to raise healthy, well-adjusted children when both parents are focused on demanding, stressful, full-time occupations outside of the home? You can bring that question to your next cocktail party or family dinner for some lively discussion. For today though, should we consider re-opening the door to the possibility of one parent staying home, at least for a time, to raise their children?
Unfortunately, according to recent studies, nearly half of all children born in the past year were born to unmarried parents. For these children, even if the father is in the picture, the odds of these families surviving long-term under one roof are extremely small. So, before we can even talk about the possibility of a stay-at-home-parent, we must raise our sons and daughters to make choices with the assumption of a life-long marriage commitment. There have been truckloads of so-called experts who have revolutionized the discussion of sexual intimacy over this same time period, all to the detriment of women, families, and children. Teach your children that if they are not interested in getting married (forever) and committing themselves primarily to the raising of children, to avoid sexual intimacy. Free sex and strong kids do not go together.
Another deterrent to the stay-at-home parent role is the major hit that marriage has taken since Woodstock. Even if the mom and dad have college degrees or a very marketable set of skills, individuals now have a new level of vulnerability in regard to leaving the workforce for an extended period of time. What if my spouse should leave me? Could I find a job outside the home? My earning potential is certainly not going to go up if I’m out of the game for 10 years. Again, we need to teach our teenagers to choose wisely when looking for spouse; choose generous over wealthy, hard-working over successful and self-less over well-dressed.
Even if a child is born to married parents who are in it for the long-haul, is it possible to financially afford raising a family with a single income? The short answer to that question is definitely ‘yes’. Our children can get confused as to where they fit in the world because they don’t start paying attention to finances until their teenage years; they have no recollection of the lean years that the family went through when they were younger; they have come to expect that a car for every driver and a very nice family vacation every year is a given. If finances are / were tight for you or your family, share that experience with your teenagers. Walk them through the sacrifices that were necessary and the how you and your spouse had to depend on each other. Tell them about all of the wonderful family memories that were created when you all just had each other.
See to it that your teenagers / young adult children avoid digging themselves into a hole that makes stay-at-home parenting impossible. Do not let them graduate from college with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt; help them choose a career field that they would enjoy but that also pays them enough money to support a family; advise them to avoid purchasing that $60,000 pick-up truck several days after graduating from high school or college. Making difficult but wise decisions as young people will give them the freedom to choose as they begin to build their families.
There are also many cost-saving strategies that make stay-at-home parenting possible. Dave Ramsey, an internationally known finance guru, has many resources and step-by-step processes for you to use; a few of these include: create a budget so you know exactly where your money is going; only use cash / debit card and cut up your credit cards so you feel every dollar you spend; cut coupons, make your own meals and shop on Craigslist and Facebook marketplace; find a part-time job that allows you work from home or after the working spouse returns home. Most importantly, keep your eyes focused inwardly on your family and forget about keeping up with your friends or neighbors. Their lives are not nearly as wonderful as they appear on social media.
Our children face unprecedented influences from a world that is in no way interested in their personal well-being or fulfillment. Now is the time for us as parents to reclaim our responsibility as the primary educators and mentors of our children. They need us desperately.