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A Case for the Stay-at-Home Parent

content ballSummer vacation is officially here!  Our kids are out of school and ready to blaze some trails, swim lots of laps, and punctuate the day by “vegging out in front of the tube.” Late nights (by their standards, anyway) and sleeping in also top the list for a memorable summer.

After vacation is over, it will be my turn…sort of.  Next year all three children will be in school full-time (insert happy dance moves here).  “What are you going to do now?” ask my curious friends and family.  I have to admit that the thought of going back to work has tugged at my heart, even during the past thirteen years while the kids were not all in school. I know going back to work is an option as I have stayed in touch with former colleagues and have been assured of their faith in my capabilities despite the hiatus.

However, I also feel like there is a bit of spiritual warfare going on here.  It is no secret that Satan has been on the prowl, finding ways he can destroy the family unit.  He finds vulnerable areas of our lives to latch onto and then proceeds to unravel everything that we once considered sacred.

Maybe this sounds a bit dramatic, but I believe this is an important topic that needs to be addressed.  I was very blessed to enjoy satisfying, interesting work before becoming a parent and I believe it would bring great satisfaction again if I were to pursue it.  So I, like many stay-at-home parents, find this juncture compelling, but also somewhat confusing and daunting.  The question weighing heavily on my heart is, “Is it worth it?”

I called upon a friend of mine who works for a tax preparation firm and posed this question: one income or two?  After running some numbers, using a differential of about $25K for the two-income family, she found that the additional income didn’t do much except increase the couple’s tax bracket.  She factored in typical expenses such as gas, after-school care, a wardrobe for the returning-to-work parent, additional spending on conveniences such as eating out since no one is home to prepare anything for dinner, and a housekeeper and/or a landscaper since everyone is too tired to maintain the house at the end of the day (and weekends are for catching up on sleep!).

Even if the second income proves to be beneficial to the family financially, what are the spiritual and emotional impacts?  Will everyone be able to sit around the dinner table most nights?  Will they still be able to attend Mass as a family, or will one parent have to attend alone due to work constraints?  Granted, we may not always get to enjoy our meals around the dinner table or attend Mass together, but there are usually extenuating circumstances, which make these moments the exception, not the norm.  When we allow our worldly values to dictate our spiritual norms, Satan rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.  He has found his “in.”

Every family situation is different of course, but I encourage all families to thoroughly and prayerfully consider the real necessity of two incomes.  I think many will be surprised at how much more value can be found if one parent is managing the home front. I have been assured that I have a place in the work force if I want it, but I have also seen the last thirteen years pass before me in what feels like the blink of an eye.  The time we have to spend with our children is far too short and I personally am not ready to trade it for a paycheck.

“You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.”—Isaiah 26:3

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