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Who Will Stay Home?

A new baby means lots of decisions need to be made: What kind of birth? What to do with the nursery? What to name him? And for many parents, who will stay home? In the not-to-distant past, it was mothers who relinquished their jobs when they had their first child and stayed at home to care for and raise the growing family. However, an increasing number of dads are making the decision to stay at home while moms are staying at the office. According to the US Census Bureau, an estimated 143,000 men were stay-at-home dads in 2006. That number is just 2.7 percent of all the stay-at-home parents in the U.S., but it's almost three times greater than it was just 10 years earlier.

For many couples, the decision of who will stay home with baby is an easy one. Some women are less vested in their careers and want to be home to raise their child. Or one parent may make significantly more money than the other, making the decision an easy financial one. But the choice can be more difficult if one parent makes significantly less money but is the sole source of health insurance or a company retirement plan. According to Vincent Iannelli, M.D., author of "The Everything Father's First Year Book," you also need to consider other factors, such as commuting expenses, the cost of day care, and the amount of income taxes paid on that salary.

When trying to make this decision, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who will lose more by taking time off from his or her career?

  • Who has the better salary, health coverage, and financial benefits?

  • Which parent has the stronger desire to stay at home?

  • Does either parent have flexibility, such as the ability to work limited hours or from home?

There are also alternative scheduling options to consider, such as opposite shifts, flexible schedule, and working from home, each with their own advantages and challenges. When parents work opposite shifts, someone is always home with the child. One parent may work during the day while the other works at night, or just a few shifts on the weekend when the other parent is home. While this can be a beneficial arrangement for the child, the parents' relationship can suffer when they go days without spending any quality time together.

If one parent has a flexible work schedule, he or she can work around the child's schedule as well as the other parent's work schedule. This allows both parents to continue working and earning incomes, but also ensures quality time with the child, making it a win-win for the child, the parents, and the family's financial health.

Having one parent stop working and stay at home full-time is only an option if your financial situation can handle the loss of one income. Although keep in mind that you may save on gas and other car-related or commute expenses and day-care costs. Staying at home with a child all day, every day, can also be a hard transition for some parents who are used to intellectual stimulation and lots of social interaction at work.

Working from home sounds ideal, but in reality it can be a tough juggling act. Your ability to succeed with this kind of set-up depends on the nature of your job (are you called on to handle unanticipated emergencies or is your workload regular and predictable?), the age of your child (younger babies and toddlers take up more of your time than older, school-aged children), and the number of children under your care (you might be fine with one, but more may prove too difficult).



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