Are you wondering how to get your spouse to go back to work after having a baby? I am since having our second child.
Ever since my son was born, I've felt increased financial pressure to provide. It didn't matter how much I had in the bank or how much our net worth had grown since the financial crisis, the pressure to earn more money was a constant.
It makes me wonder whether this type of pressure is simply hardwired into a parent's brain in order to ensure the survival of our species.
Asking My Wife To Go Back To Work
When I asked my wife about whether she feels the same pressure to financially provide, she admitted she did not. After all, she has me.
Her pressure is to ensure that our children gets cared for and loved as much as possible. As a father, I feel that same pressure, but probably not as intensely as she does.
We both agreed that we'd be stay at home parents at least until our boy was eligible for preschool at 2 years 5 months old. After he comes of age, we'd have the freedom to do whatever we wanted.
As the sole financial provider, one of the logical ideas I had was to go back to work. This way, we could earn more money, get subsidized healthcare, and let me assimilate back into the Borg after more than seven years of being away.
Going back to work isn't my favorite idea because I dislike commuting, office politics, and being told what to do. However, it is a responsible option for my family.
Since we both believe in equality, I asked my wife whether it would be OK if she went back to work instead of me? After all, being a stay at home dad is easier once a child is weened.
My wife responded with a frowny face. She didn't want to leave our boy and go back to work. Further, she tried to allay my fears that everything would be alright. Finally, she told me we had enough passive income to support our frugal lifestyle.
I wasn't quite convinced, so I came up with a plan.
The Risk Of Never Going Back To Work As A Parent
I've spoken to dozens of fathers who feel trapped by the increased pressure of having to provide financially after having children.
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.
Risk Of Not Going Back To Work After Having A Baby
Take my friend Nancy for example. She went to Amherst College and then to Northwestern University for her Masters in Journalism. These are two extremely expensive private schools and she graduated with roughly $45,000 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 10 years was a stay at home mom.
Unfortunately, she and her husband decided to divorce after 13 years. Although she received alimony, it was limited to two 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!
Not Enough Money To Make Things Work
She ended up making about $8,000 in freelance income her first year and $22,000 in freelance income her second year. Unfortunately, she had to move out of her Manhattan apartment because she was spending over $100,000 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 2-3 year grace period to take a break from work. The time can be spent to raise a family, go to graduate school, or travel the world before a prospective employer starts souring on your time away. This is why it's imperative that all of us continue to keep our skills sharp despite being stay at home parents.
With the proliferation of freelance work through the internet, there is simply no reason to ever let our skills become irrelevant.
Related: Financial Dependence Is The Worst: Why Each Spouse Should Have Their Own Financial Accounts
How To Get Your Spouse To Go Back To Work After Having A Baby
I've consulted with many parents on ways to convince our spouses to go back to work, and here are the best strategies we've come up with.
- 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.
My Wife Is Going Back To Work!
After much negotiating, I've convinced my wife to go back to work after being a full-time mom for two years! She will be looking for work as either an operations manager at a financial firm or large technology firm here in San Francisco.
With a target salary of $200,000 + RSUs, this old man can finally breathe easy again. As the professional driver in the family, I will be responsible for all school transportation. I might even give my wife a ride to work if she's en route.
Having my wife go back to work helps her long-term employability. She'll become an awesome independent working woman who will blaze her own trail. Her income will also significantly ease my stress of being the sole income provider for our family.
It's time for her to bring home the bacon! I finally want to take a load off and relax. I promise to be the absolute best dad possible while my wife works in an office.
She will always have a hot meal waiting for her when she gets home. Further, the house will always be hand-cleaned every week. I’ll even massage her feet upon request.
One Last Positive Of Going Back To Work After Having A Baby
There's one last positive for Financial Samurai readers now that my wife is going back to work. The temptation to cash in and sell Financial Samurai declines. I no longer need a significant windfall to relieve my financial anxiety. I can also write more freely without the desire or need to make money online.
Let's all give my wife some enthusiastic encouragement! The more she can work the longer Financial Samurai can live.
Heck, I might even rebrand myself as an early retirement blogger now. I like the sound of that.
When in doubt fight for equality every single day.
Related: How To Get Your Spouse To Work Longer So You Can Retire Earlier
Readers, have any of you successfully convinced your spouse to go back to work after having a baby? Did you feel more financial pressure to provide for your family once your baby was born? If so, how did you manage to cope?
Update 2022 – Early Retirement And Wife Going Back To Work
My wife wasn't successful in going back to work after having a baby because we had another baby in December 2020! We are now blessed with a boy and a girl. Further, the pandemic made finding work more difficult. Instead, my wife is back to working on Financial Samurai. It's much easier and more efficient.
Even though my wife has gone back to work working on Financial Samurai, the pressure is still on for me to provide. Luckily, we've been able to amass more wealth since the pandemic started and boost our passive income by another $50,000 a year or so. Therefore, I'm planning on re-retiring early in the Biden administration and taking it easy again!
45 thoughts on “How To Get Your Spouse To Go Back To Work After Having A Baby”
If this is not an April fool’s post, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on what it’s like to be a stay-at-home spouse after one whole year of doing it (assuming your wife works outside the home that whole year).
April fools joke? Or maybe you start talking to her about it on April fools day so you can always play it off as a joke if it doesn’t go well.
Sam, I know you did not marry a fool!
Awesome! The ROI on the spouse should = prime +.05% at minimum. The PV of the spouse over their useful life should be = the cost of wedding plus possible divorce loss. Then you are back to even. Everything else is profit!
What is not an April fool’s joke is the drive and pressure parents feel to provide the best for their children. As our wealth increases, we have resisted lifestyle inflation in all aspects of our lives with the exception of our children. I feel like we spend an incredible amount on time and money on their education, enrichment and activities–far more than anything I could have imagined and certainly more than would be possible if we had not achieved some level of wealth.
I still fight it on a case by case basis, and it causes some friction with my wife. We typically don’t care about keeping up withe Joneses, but with regard to “investing” in our children, we are leading the pack among our friends.
My wife returned to her full-time job within months of giving birth–both times–but she had the benefit of working mostly from home. Since I worked at a real office, it was important for our peace of mind for a parent to be able to monitor the kids and nanny.
When our kids turned 4 and 5, I was laid off and I decided I no longer wanted to be an employee. I became a part-time stay at home dad and entrepreneur/investor. My wife could never face the risk of being an entrepreneur or the burden of being a full-time mom. She spends plenty of time with the kids but needs a professional outlet and career validation. For me, I arrange my professional schedule around the kids’s schedules.
I’d like to think my wife would have been supportive of our roles even if it meant a step down financially, but as it turned out, my semi-retired status has produced outsized financial returns beyond where would be if I continued to be somebody’s employee.
Glad you guys figured out the pre-school and work situation. And awesome to see you guys had a genuine fair and equal conversation and came to a mutual decision! You guys are awesome keep it up :)
“Discuss the positive influence a working mom has on her daughter.”
I believe this is one of the main reasons that motivated my wife to get back to work. She wants to be a great role model for our kids and wants to show them one can be both a personal success as well as a professional one.
Hi Sam. Based on what I’ve read about your wife and how you two split responsibilities around the house, caretaking for your son, and responsibilities for your site/business I think your wonderful wife is contributing an incredible amount. I forget what the post was called but you listed out a bunch of things that each of you are responsible for. Both of you are doing a stupendous job and you should be very proud! :)
Being a stay at home parent is a 24/7 job 365 days a year with young children. You’re lucky if you ever get a day “off.” I raised two kids at home with a lot of help from my husband and I was still exhausted. There’s just a lot of things to do all the time every single day but it’s so worth it if it works well for your family. My husband and I wouldn’t change our arrangement if we were to ever go back in time. And you get more breathing room as time goes by and your kids get more independent. What I do know is that one day both of you will truly miss the young days, even the really hard days because that’s when your kids really needed you the most.
I can sympathize with the financial and business growth pressure you feel. My father ran his own business while my mom raised me and my brother and he seemed to have a lot of the same feelings when he was younger. He passed the business onto my brother one year at Christmas and I remember him saying he couldn’t have been prouder to keep it in the family. He also said he wished he hadn’t worried so much for so many years. We always had enough money to live comfortably, eat well and stay healthy and things really did turn out just fine for all of us. My husband and I feel the same way in the sense that we could have had more money if I went back to work or if he worked more hours but we had enough and we felt we would have much less stress and arguments if I stayed at home and he kept a reasonable amount of work hours. Worrying doesn’t get you anything except more gray hairs and ailments after all!
It sounds like you and your wife have built more than enough for your family to sustain a comfortable lifestyle for a long long time even if no more income kept coming in the door. That also seems quite unlikely with the success of your site and all the various passive income streams you’ve built. So you are blessed indeed.
I hope you can try to worry less and enjoy each precious moment. You’ve worked so hard to get here. And if your wife isn’t ready to go back to work fulltime then perhaps part time is plenty or more than plenty. Seems like she’s definitely working part time on your business already and that’s wonderful especially if it’s something she enjoys. Keep it in the family if you can is what my father would say. What a blessing. Maybe she can write another guest post on the site sometime later this year. It’s fun to hear from her.
All the best to you both and thanks for so much great content over the years. Now please try to breathe easier and smell the roses!
Great comment Deb! Thank you.
Being a stay at home parent is indeed incredibly taxing, but rewarding. It’s one of the reasons I am considering going back to work in order to take a break from full-time parenting.
But I thought this was kind of selfish, as a result, I’ve given my wife the option to take a break from FT parenting by going back to work instead. By 2 years 5 months old, our boy should be weened, which should make me taking care of him FT better, especially when he goes to preschool for several hours a day :)
One thing I can tell you is that I’m proud that at age 42 this summer, I still have no grey hairs or wrinkles. Whoo hoo! This must mean I can’t be too stress right? The body doesn’t lie.
I am past this stage. But my daughter is a couple of months pregnant so I forwarded this post to her husband with a note saying he may need to refer to this in 7 months
7 months seems too short.
9 months to create, 9 months to rest and heal I say!
why in the world would she agree to go back to work as a back office ops manager at a financial services firm… To have to go back to that after having enough passive income to be fine? I’d rather suck down 9mm of lead.
Sam, despite given today’s date, I sincerely hope you were NOT joking regarding many of the valid points you’ve made in this post.
Way back in my pre-retirement days, I worked days and my husband worked nights. Although we were like ships crossing in the night, barely seeing each other, I’m convinced our two sons have a much closer relationship with their Dad than if I had been a full time stay at home Mom. While I would have liked to have worked only part time while the kids were in school, that just wasn’t done in my male dominated industry (Aerospace System / Software Engineering) in that era (1984 to 2000).
Over the years, my regularly increasing salary allowed my husband to retire in 2005 due to a life threatening health issue just before turning 50, while our young adult sons were still living at home. Although he felt a bit guilty staying home, I had no qualms about him doing so while I was still working. I told him that he had supported me while I wasn’t working during the time I was going to school for my Computer Science Bachelor of Sciences degree and now it was my time to support him. I also told him the person who hates their job the most (him) and who makes the least amount of money (him again) should be the one who quits their job. (He “retired” a couple years before he was eligible for his pension.) Not to mention the fact that our investments were making more money in a year (2004) than he did working 6 days a week! He and our grown sons became even closer during that time; he practically went into a mild depression when they eventually moved away from home.
Since my husband had worked for 33 years – 6 days a week for the majority of those years – I wanted to put in at least 30 years before retiring to make it at least somewhat “even”. Alas, due to a life threatening health issue in 2008 at age 50, I retired as soon as I was able to in 2013 just after turning 55, about 6 weeks before my 29th year work anniversary.
We have been enjoying our dual retirements for the past 5.5 years, and recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. Our philosophy has always been we are a team, and we should use the strengths of the individuals within the team, whether that meant hubby was the only man in a group of people waiting to pick their children up from school, or I was the only woman in a group of people attending an engineering meeting at work. Given our individual dispositions and confidence levels, I know being the only woman in that meeting room was much more difficult for me than it was for him being the only man waiting for school to get out.
I think this is April Fool’s but I like the arguments a lot. I’ve seen too many women struggling to go back to work after being a long-term stay-at-home mom for more than a few years. Nothing’s more empowering than seeing a working mom (or even better a breadwinner mom) in the family! I rather enjoy following your employment “saga” Sam: you considered going back to work, then you talked about having a 2nd retirement and relocation then you posted about convincing your wife to go back to work. I look forward to knowing what you guys ultimately decided on.
And you’re moving to Northern Virginia too! Everything is coming up Sam!!
re: “assimilate back into the Borg” and “As the professional driver in the family”
I don’t believe this is an April fools post even though it’s written like you snap convinced your wife to go back to work with the bullet point strategy.
I’m sure the reality is more like you guys weighed the pros and cons and made the more financially sound decision for your family which happened to be her returning to work.
But I do agree all stay home parents and even early retirees with no kids should continue working to keep their edge. You never know when you’ll need it.
My book link is under website.
Another April 1 classic from Sam – well done again! You’ve kept up your standards over the years.
Is it for real???
It is easier to work after 1 child – a bit more challenging the more kids you have. Quality babysitting is very expensive so you have to weigh ALL the costs- when your child calls your nanny “mom”… let me know how that feels.
Ouch! How did you feel when that happened to you? And what do you say to all the mothers out there who went back to work after the standard maternity leave of 1 – 3 months?
Very hard! But loved saving money for their future college costs.
Hmmm, quite a trade off to deal with. What about the solution of working part-time so the parent has more time with the child than the nanny?
Should be quite solvable given weekends are generally 100% nanny free?
Part time was best!!! I jobshared for 5 years with another co-worker and it was perfect.
I hope she finds exactly what she’s looking for, all the best.
My wife is on the hunt too (not easy and yes pressure is there). May I ask how long yours has been out of the workforce?
I’m glad this is an April’s Fools joke. Otherwise I feared for your marriage’s future.
Hmm, do you think this is why there are so many spouses divorcing because moms are deciding to go back to work soon after birthday for the sake of their careers over their babies?
I don’t know. My point is that if a couple communicates in such a calculated (manipulative) manner, it doesn’t bode well for the future. Nothing I have ever read from Sam makes me think he deals with his wife in that manner.
No one seems to take issue with Dads “deciding to go back to work soon after birthday for the sake of their careers over their babies”
Agree! Which is why it is strange that Randy think Sam’s marriage would be in peril if his wife goes back to work after 2+ years.
What’s wrong with that? It’s as if the only way Randy thinks it is for the mother to stay at home forever. Which is exactly what Sam is arguing against in this post due to financial stress and future unknowns.
It has nothing to do with whether his wife goes back to work. My wife went back to work after 6 weeks when our first child was born. We are at 25+ years. My point is that there is a bit of “tricking her into doing something she doesn’t want to do” in the post. I don’t think that’s healthy for a marriage. That’s why I think it’s April Fools related. Not consistent with Sam’s character (from prior posts, I don’t know him personally).
Oh April Fools Day… The mighty allure you cast on us unwitting… ;) I’ll admit it took me a few paragraphs until I remembered what day it was. LOL.
You almost got me until I read the comments then I thought ha! This is a joke! I was about to say tell her to get in touch so I can refer her to my company! I too recently went back to work. I was off for 6 months after our 2nd baby and I was soooo ready to go back eat a hot meal and drink a hot cup of coffee without a baby clinging to me.
Great advise for those who really do need to think about going back to work.
That target salary looks great. What’s also great is that this site will continue on!
Took me about 5 minutes and some re-reading to realize today is April 1st.
We could be in for a 30 year bear market for financial assets. Anybody catch Russell Napier’s latest?
So many that think they’ve achieved FIRE will be in for a shock.
Indeed. So proud of my wife for stepping up not only in motherhood, but in full-time work as well.
Already, I feel my lower back pain dissipating from less financial stress.
I wish more guys thought like this. I didn’t take a break from work, and my two kids (now 17 and 14), had nannies which we were lucky enough to be able to afford and I worked part-time three days a week (running my own business). I’m so glad I stayed working – the kids are great, they remember their nannies with great fondness (mainly because they let them get away with way more than either of their parents did!) and my daughter is this juggernaut of ambition following in my footsteps, I’m having to work harder to keep up with her. Kids follow the example you set.
All this debate about women working when working is not really the issue: time and understanding your kids is the issue. The question then is, ‘how much time?’ and I think the answer to this is ‘the amount of time you can do before you get pissed off or annoyed.’ Positive interaction is what swings the dynamic: talking, learning, enjoying, having fun. You can’t do that 24/7. No-one can. It’s only recently that kids have been looked after by mum and dad, this never used to be the case, there was always the extended family for times when parents were frazzled.
But the other thing that’s crucial here is I can see what’s happened to the other mum’s I know, and the ones that gave up work? Just like your example, they have really struggled to get back into the workplace, and if they have, it’s often in low level jobs for which they are way over qualified. I am now chairing of a tech start up and my career is an enormous source of satisfaction to me, as are my two great (but still annoying!) teenagers.
Sam – I wish you lots of success with this article and your wife lots of success in work.
I hope this article is a rallying cry for women to lean in and men to support then wholeheartedly.
“the amount of time you can do before you get pissed off or annoyed” – Awesome!
Yes, juggling parenthood and work time is different for everybody.
I hope everybody figures things out and has open discussions. Don’t keep those feelings in. Express them and come to compromises.
Sam, I loved the article, but I can’t help but think this is an April Fools joke?
I can’t believe I fell for it…
Wow I got as far as the bullet point section before…
Interesting tactics of always pointing out the good and espousing the equality point of view. If your spouse goes back to work then your responsibility increases in the parenting department. Being ignorant to the responsibilities of parenting, I’m not sure which is more taxing, having only experienced the office environment.
In a purely egalitarian society, I suppose those arguments pass muster. It sounds as though you are both willing to step up on your respective responsibilities.
Also, it’s good news to hear the OG Financial Samurai remains on air for at least another 12 months.
Ohh, good luck! I hope she finds something she likes and I am happy to hear you’ll keep writing!!