Paying for childcare vs being a stay-at-home parent

With the cost of childcare skyrocketing in Australia, many parents are faced with a tough decision; whether to have one parent stay at home and look after the baby or both working and be a two-income household?

Two-income household … it’s got a nice ring to it, conjuring images of family vacations in the Caribbean or new season shopping sprees. But the truth is, even families where both parents work can find it a, struggle to pay the childcare fees. Recent research shows that middle-income families spend up to $458 a week to raise just one child, with childcare fees being the biggest single cost.

There’s a lot to weigh up when considering being a stay at home parent vs a working parent.

Should I stay at home or go to work?

The question is asked by many, many couples, but unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer. So much depends on individual circumstances, but here are some of the common issues to consider:

The case to re-join the work force

  • Professional satisfaction: There’s no getting around it – some of us thrive on challenges and the satisfaction of a job well done.
  • Financial: The obvious – and for some, only – consideration. Will the extra income you bring in cover the costs of childcare fees and possibly contribute even more to the family budget?
  • Future earnings: Often overlooked as it’s not an immediate cost or expense, but when your child is eventually old enough that you decide you’d like to re-enter the workforce, you might find your time away has lowered the salary you can command.
  • Adult company: Again this one is easily overlooked, but not by the parent at home who is singing “Dorothy the Dinosaur” for the umpteenth time!

The case to be a stay-at-home parent

  • You have the chance to share in your child's developmental accomplishments, along with the security of knowing you’re in charge of your child's care.
  • Recent studies suggest that children who spend all day in lower-quality childcare have more behavioural issues than children who are cared for at home.
  • Many people can save some money by staying home, after the cost of transportation, parking, work clothing, dry cleaning, lunches, etc, is factored in.
  • You’re willing to make the necessary emotional and financial sacrifices in return for the joy and satisfaction you’ll feel by being there for your child as they grow and develop.
  • And Dorothy the Dinosaur is actually a pretty good song.

Whatever your choice, recognise it as your choice

There are no easy answers to the stay-at-home or go back to work question. But whether you choose to stay at home, work full-time or even part-time, you may end up making a choice that proves difficult at first for your household to adjust to.

In such cases you need to be strong within yourself, remembering why your choice is the best for you, your situation and your family. Once you recognise that, you can then think more clearly about how best to cope with the inevitable challenges that result from your decision.

However, if you choose to go back to work and your family is dependent on your income, it’s always wise to make sure you keep your family safe, whatever happens. Why not find out the different options you have to secure your family financially?