You know what they say: A bun in the oven requires some dough. Actually, no one ever said that. Which is weird considering it’s so incredibly true (not to mention punny). And nowhere is it more true than when you’re trying to decide if you or your partner should stay home or go back to work.
The decision may seem pretty clear when you look at the insanely high cost of daycare. Depending on where you live, you could pay anywhere from $800 to $2,000 a month to give your kid the privilege of ignoring an adult other than you while eating crayons. On average that’s around $18,000 for American parents every year. Or, about the price of a base model Nissan Versa.
Surely, then, 2 incomes will help you live the life you deserve, albeit while annually pissing away a perfectly respectable Japanese econobox. And that’s worth putting on more uncomfortable workwear to go back to whatever it was you weren’t exactly super jazzed about in the first place … right?
Not necessarily. When you add childcare to the other costs related to working (gas, lunch, drinking to forget about work), things get a little murky. The fact is, when you make more, you’re likely to spend more, which isn’t a zero sum game but it’s a crappy math problem regardless. Taking a sharp look can make staying home with the kid and luxuriating in your pantless frugality seem pretty sweet indeed. And you can always find a way to earn a little extra while raising your rugrat.
But there’s another side to that coin (check it out quick before your kid shoves it up their nose). Some of those who have decided to stay home have done some of their own calculating and found you’re losing more than a salary — you’re losing insurance and retirement benefits that could total up to $1 million dollars over the years you’ve decided to stay home. Or, a 2007 Rolls-Royce Phantom Mansory Conquistador (it’s no Versa, but still).
You could attempt to split the difference and save yourself a couple grand a year by just enrolling your kid in daycare later, around age 4, and then heading back to work. However, despite your noble intentions to spend 3 years teaching your kid to be awesome at Assassin’s Creed, when you try to rejoin the workforce you’ll find most companies will likely balk at your “hiatus.” It’s not all your fault — software knowledge can go obsolete pretty quickly, as can industry norms — but it just might be tough to go right back to your old gig. Ironically, you might find it easier to enter a totally new career.
In the end you’ll have to do what parents have been doing for just about ever: trust your gut. Trust your partners gut. Take it month by month and see what’s working. As long as your kid is getting the best of you and the world, keep driving ahead. In your Versa or your Rolls.