Should a parent quit working after the birth of a child?

There are some grey areas in personal finance and there are some downright dark areas. One such dark area is how a couple should prepare for parenting duties once a child is on the way. Dark, because there are several possibilities and each would impact the present and the future in several ways.

Child birth will impact a families cash flow (salary, expenses  emi etc.) in several ways. One question that will influence cash flow, lifestyle and future goals is,

Should a parent quit working after the birth of a child?

More importantly, it would influence the way in which the child grows up.

My answer is yes, one parent should quit a full-time job, if this is possible. Not necessarily the mother (lest you call me a conservative caveman), but a parent (at least one!).

Some of my friends and relatives are shocked to find out that my wife did not resume work after she gave birth to our son. She is just as qualified as I am and more accomplished that me. It irritates and upsets us to hear them say, “why do you waste your education (Phd)? Please resume work. The child is big enough now”.

To be frank, I am relieved that my wife chose not to work after my son was born. Both my parents worked and I was raised by my aunts in a joint family. Although I was raised right (hopefully!), I longed for my mother. I did not want my son to go through what I went. So yes, I was relieved.

Relieved because it is not up to me to tell her what to do. She chose to put her parenting duties in front of her career.  Taking care of our son mattered more.

She is certainly not wasting her education. Her education is devoted to making my son a ‘civilized human being’ (as my nearly 5 year old son puts it!).

To think that education should only result in a fat pay cheque is not quite civilized.

The Thinker. Photo Credit: Brian Hillegas (Flickr)

The Thinker. Photo Credit: Brian Hillegas (Flickr)

I am also thankful because we had the luxury of choice. We could manage expenses and investments on my earnings and she could choose to stay at home at least for some years – until the child grows up (we just realized that it could a min of 18 years!)

Should only those couples who can manage on a single earning, have a child? I wish I could answer yes, but that would mean I was never born.

My parents did not have the luxury. Both had to work. Had they not, I could never have spent 10 years after school getting an education and two more to get a stable job. I would have been forced to take up a degree that I may not have liked. Forced to work instead of studying more.  Like I said, dark area!

If a couple can manage their long-term needs with a single earning after becoming parents, I think one parent should quit their full-time job and take care of the child. Careers be damned. Nurturing the child is of paramount importance.

Molding the child’s value system and encouraging the child’s curiosity are 24 x 7 tasks and  best done by a parent*

*there are two assumptions here. One, the assumption here is that the parents have some values in the first place! Otherwise it is best done by a grandparent (assuming they have some!). Two, see below.

Like they say in the movie ‘9 months’, you need a license for driving a car, hunt game, own a gun, get married, but you don’t need one to become a parent! (Unless you are in China)

Many thrust their child with the grandparents and go to work. Many invite their parents to the US only after they become parents! How justified is that? Dark area!

Look before you leap, they say. That applies to before and after marriage.

Before we get that joint home loan, before we procreate, I think the possibility of managing the family with one parent at home should be seriously considered.

Thankfully staying at home does not mean not earning an income. The stay-at-home parent can work part time (some choose work-from-home but not sure if that is smart) and engage themselves.

Yes, this will impact the possibility of a better lifestyle in future, but I think that is not as important as spending ‘quality time’ with the child, as they call it.  I don’t think this is possible if both parents have a full-time job.

Does the desire to create progeny imply we destroy the career aspirations of someone?

Perhaps yes, perhaps no. There is however no free lunch. The extra cash will have to come at the cost of something. Should that involve a child is up to individual couples to answer.

When I told my wife about this post, she said, ‘you are assuming all stay-at-home parents would actually spend time with their child!’ Dark area!

I am glad that  “she’s got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.” (P.G. Wodehouse).

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About the Author M Pattabiraman author of freefincal.comM. Pattabiraman is the co-author of two books: You can be rich too with goal based investing and Gamechanger. “Pattu” as he is popularly known, publishes unbiased, promotion-free research, analysis and holistic money management advice. Freefincal serves more than one million readers a year with numbers based analysis on topical issues and has more than a 100 free calculators on different aspects of insurance and investment analysis, including a robo advisory template for use by beginners. Contact information: freefincal {at} Gmail {dot} com He conducts free money management sessions for corporates (see details below). Previous engagements include World Bank, RBI, BHEL, Asian Paints.

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Updated: August 7, 2016 — 2:39 pm

35 Comments

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  1. And my eyes were looking for the excel sheet to plot the risk associated 😉
    Very nice writeup.

  2. And my eyes were looking for the excel sheet to plot the risk associated 😉
    Very nice writeup.

  3. Indeed thought provoking. Thanks Pattu sir for putting this nicely together.

  4. Indeed thought provoking. Thanks Pattu sir for putting this nicely together.

  5. Pattu,
    Nicely Put.A nice lesson for many of the youngsters in the current geenration
    Any such investing workshop in chennai??

    1. thank you. The chennai workshop was held on Nov 1st. Can have a future workshop if there is enough interest.

  6. Pattu,
    Nicely Put.A nice lesson for many of the youngsters in the current geenration
    Any such investing workshop in chennai??

    1. thank you. The chennai workshop was held on Nov 1st. Can have a future workshop if there is enough interest.

  7. Pattu sir, thanks for this thought provoking post. When me and my wife have a discussion around this (she had quit her job post our child and in dilemma now to return or not), I put her up with this argument. Suppose she stays at home and rises our child well, like you said we will have to sacrifice one source of income. When the same child grows up and compares herself with kids, who have both parents working, will the kid be happy about having one parent at home to take care of her or the kid will envy her friends whose lifestyle or luxury are different due to additional source. We shouldn’t put them in a peer pressure situation, something I am not sure how we can handle it.

    Like you said, it’s a big dark area.

    1. true very dark area. I think the initial years are crucial for childs development. So would personally prefer one parent at home

  8. Pattu sir, thanks for this thought provoking post. When me and my wife have a discussion around this (she had quit her job post our child and in dilemma now to return or not), I put her up with this argument. Suppose she stays at home and rises our child well, like you said we will have to sacrifice one source of income. When the same child grows up and compares herself with kids, who have both parents working, will the kid be happy about having one parent at home to take care of her or the kid will envy her friends whose lifestyle or luxury are different due to additional source. We shouldn’t put them in a peer pressure situation, something I am not sure how we can handle it.

    Like you said, it’s a big dark area.

    1. true very dark area. I think the initial years are crucial for childs development. So would personally prefer one parent at home

  9. Fantastic post Sir. Feel like my thoughts are composed into a very well understandable post. Will share this with my friends 🙂

  10. Fantastic post Sir. Feel like my thoughts are composed into a very well understandable post. Will share this with my friends 🙂

  11. 1st time I would rather disagree(respectfully) with this post … Yes, I do have 2 kids and mom stays at home, but I would rather want her to be a model for kids .. Standing in their own feet with me or without me. Waiting for her to get into some work (not necessary to increase house hold income though 🙂 )

    1. I understand. One can be a model without working too. Working does help spend time productively if the work is right

  12. 1st time I would rather disagree(respectfully) with this post … Yes, I do have 2 kids and mom stays at home, but I would rather want her to be a model for kids .. Standing in their own feet with me or without me. Waiting for her to get into some work (not necessary to increase house hold income though 🙂 )

    1. I understand. One can be a model without working too. Working does help spend time productively if the work is right

  13. True when you say, “it is not up to me to tell her what to do.” but did she listen to and consider what you had to say?

  14. Great blog post !(as usual on this blog 🙂 ). I am saying this because is very well composed and consummate argument and not because I came to know something new here (rare scenario with Pattu’s post).

    This issue is currently on the anvil (even though not in exact relevance)and we both have been thinking about this. Moreover, like Pattu, had this rule be followed so far, I would not have born in first place. Similar to him, I have seen how much it takes for a working mom to balance home and office front simultaneously. Today with nuclear family set-up the situation is even more worse.
    However here are some other point worth consideration as well:

    1) What is the goal of the couple in real life – to bring up ” civilized responsible souls” or “someone with materialistic yard stick to measure accomplishments”. Note that there is also possibility that extra income of spouse finds its way into achieving charity and philanthropy related milestone.

    2) The social pressure and unfortunately stigma for the parent who sits at home after being well qualified. I appreciate Pattu’s wife’s resolve, sacrifice, and mature thought.

    3) As mentioned in the earlier comment – what if the child finds itself financially compromised when compared to its peers who had both parents working ?

    4) what if the child tomorrow questions you back about ruining a carrier?

    5) what about the benefit that child gets due to the wisdom achieved by the working parents via continuous exposure that they get by being continuously interacting with the professional real life world outside?

    6) In case of working mom, child is less likely to become Mamma’s boy/girl who just refuses to face the world independently. If both father and mom gets back to work after sufficient duration post-pregnancy, but not too much, it is also easy for the child to accept the fact. I have seen examples where Mom delayed getting back to work post-child birth by few years, and now the child is not letting her of it’s eye ( 😉 ). No need to mention, the couple tried an unsuccessful attempt to get back to work.

    The best line in this blog was the goal parent should have. Rephrasing it more explicitly (in somewhat grandiose fashion) here:
    To facilitate an joyful upbringing that results into a well civilized responsible soul as an asset for the man kind!

  15. I m unmarried and very skeptical about anyone advising me nt to work aftr marriage but ur article made me reconsider my investments and my priorities frm a new angle . Can’t thank you enough fr the perspective u provide along wth all the help .

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