I realized something quite surprising the other day.
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.
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 boy 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. She tried to allay my fears that everything would be alright. 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.
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!
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 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.
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 dropping off our boy and picking him up safely from preschool this fall. 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.
If we are blessed with another child, we can revisit the decision again for her to be a stay at home mom. But for now, it’s time for her to bring home the bacon while I finally take a load off for at least the next 12 months. 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 and the house will always be hand-cleaned every week. I’ll even massage her feet upon request.
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 as I no longer need a significant windfall to relieve my financial anxiety.
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.
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? I’m curious to know if any parents took an extended leave of absence after having a baby and how hard was it to transition back into the workforce?