In a traditional husband and wife household, the man continues to work and the woman stays home to raise the baby.
Due to the need for nursing it is only natural the mother stays home, preferably for at least three months, if not a year like they do in Europe.
Unfortunately, the United States has a terrible parental leave policy. We are the only developed country in the world where companies are required not to provide paid leave.
If a mother wants to stay home longer than three months, it’s often at the expense of the household’s finances. As a result, the pressure on the father to provide goes way up, often causing tremendous financial anxiety.
Why It’s Important For Moms To Go Back To Work
I’ve spoken to dozens of fathers who feel trapped by the increased pressure of having to provide financially after having children. Some really are at their breaking point, which makes them tremendously irritable and resentful given they’re also receiving less love and attention from their wives.
What was once an easy financial union where both spouses worked full-time jobs turned into a stressful one of minus one steady income plus the added cost of raising a child or more.
But what long-term stay at home parents don’t realize is that they are putting themselves at risk of financial ruin if they don’t go back to work. At the very least, they should work part-time in their field of expertise.
Take my friend Janet for example. She went to William & Mary then to Northwestern University for her Masters in Journalism. She graduated with roughly $35,000 in student loan debt.
For eight years after Northwestern, she worked as a journalist and non-fiction writer for a major media publication. Then she had a son and for the next eight years was a stay at home mom.
Unfortunately, she and her husband decided to divorce after 10 years. Although she received alimony, it was limited to three years. During those two years, Nancy tried to find a full-time job in media, but could not.
Why could she not find a job despite her stellar resume? It was because she had not written a single piece of published literature in over 10 years!
She ended up making about $5,000 in freelance income her first year and $18,000 in freelance income her second year. Unfortunately, she had to move out of her Manhattan apartment because she was spending over $160,000 a year on her lifestyle!
If you rely on a partner or spouse for money, what happens if you one day suddenly find yourself alone? You could either go through a divorce, lose your spouse to an untimely death, not have the proper estate planning in place, or fall victim to financial mismanagement.
We all have about a three year grace period to take a break from work to raise a family, go to graduate school, or travel the world before a prospective employer starts souring on your time away.
Convincing Your Wife To Go Back To Work After Having A Baby
Here are some tried and true strategies for convincing your wife to go back to work after having a baby.
- Treat your spouse as an equal partner. If your spouse has worked a lower number of years than you, seek your spouse’s agreement to at least match your number of years worked. Equality is very difficult to argue against. If you are the male, then you absolutely must step up in the parenting department.
- Discuss negative what-if scenarios. We never think something bad will happen to us, but bad things happen all the time. Discuss how having subsidized healthcare and a steady paycheck can be beneficial to your family in times of difficulty.
- Discuss the rewards of work. There has to be something meaningful to work. Otherwise, why do hundreds of millions of people go to work every day? It can’t just be for the money. Maybe your spouse’s work can help improve the lives of the visually impaired due to new technology. Maybe your spouse’s work can help people achieve financial freedom sooner.
- Highlight the positives of letting your child become more independent. Having parents care and play with you 24/7 is nice, but eventually, you want your child to explore on his or her own. Learning how to interact with other kids and adults is an important social skill. Having the confidence to interact without a parent’s watchful eye will also make parenting less stressful.
- Discuss the failure of other relationships. Everybody knows of some relationship that has failed after kids. One big reason is due to money stress. The goal is to psychoanalyze what went wrong and figure out what you guys can do right.
- Highlight the gender wage gap. Given women only generate roughly 82 percent of what men make, if your spouse is a woman, you can help motivate her to close this wage gap by going back to work and climbing as high as possible on the corporate ladder. The higher she climbs the more she will fight for women.
- Discuss the positive influence a working mom has on her daughter. According to a study by HBS professor McGinn, the daughters of employed mothers often perform better in their eventual careers than the daughters of stay-at-home moms. Compared to women whose mothers stayed home full time, women raised by an employed mother are 1.21 times more likely to be employed; 1.29 times more likely to supervise others at work; and they spend 44 extra minutes at their jobs each week. They also earn more money in their careers.
- Admit your anxiety and stress. If you are the parent responsible for most or all of the income, then have an open discussion of how going back to work may help alleviate your stress and improve your marriage. At the end of the day, you guys are a team and need to adjust with the times. For some reason, it isn’t as acceptable for men to express their fears and pressures to provide. We need to break this taboo and allow men to be more open with their feelings.
- Remind your spouse the cost of his or her education. Spending 13 years attending K-12 is a lot of time. If your spouse happens to be a college graduate, then that’s another 3.5-5 years of time spent on education. Let’s not even mention spouses who go to graduate school and spend a minimal amount of time in their field of study after due to parenting responsibilities. By highlighting how much time and money they’ve already spent on their education, this might encourage them to at least do some part-time work in their field.
Make The Team Work
After about six months away from work, a normal baby should grow strong enough to be away from his or her mother for an 8-10 hour stretch. Obviously, it would be preferred if the mother can stay with the baby until he or she is properly weened.
Alas, most of us don’t have endless amount of money to afford one spouse to be a stay at home parent. As a result, eventually, it’s good for both parents to work even if there is a physical and financial cost.
Please get your husband to open up about any financial anxieties he has about providing for the family. The more you can talk about each other’s worries, the better.
Men often close up when it comes to their feelings. Please encourage him to get them out.
Fathers MUST STEP UP and doing more parenting duties if their wives are going back to work. If not, there will be more chaos in the family. Fathers need to do more diaper changing, more feeding, more waking up in the middle of the night to soothe their baby, more cleaning around the house, and more playing with the baby.
One final tip: both spouses should diligently track their finances. Use a free financial tool called Personal Capital to manage your net worth and see where all your money is going. When you have a handle on your finances, you’ll notice a much happier household.