The following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai
Kerry and Corey were married ten years before they had twin sons. Kerry had always expected to be a working mother, but after the children were born, she wanted nothing more than to stay home with them. She discussed staying home with Corey, but he was firmly against it.
Corey had a clear picture of parenting, and it involved exposing his boys to as much as possible. He wanted to enroll them in sports, take them to the zoo, the aquarium, and pro sports events. All of those experiences cost money, sometimes a lot of money. They would need two incomes to parent the way Corey wanted to parent.
For five years, Kerry went to work and was miserable. She was burning out working as a social worker, and she wanted to raise her boys and just be there for them. Meanwhile, the boys were involved in many sports leagues, and the costs were increasing.
How could these two individuals make it work?
Set Your Expectations Before Having Children
The simplest thing to do to avoid this type of conflict is to discuss how you would like to raise children before you have them. Before my friend, Joyce, dated her now husband, he declared that he could never be married to a woman who didn’t work outside the home. Joyce had wanted to be a stay-at-home mom since she was little.
Joyce and I drifted apart and are now only Facebook friends, so I don’t know how Joyce and her husband resolved their differences, but I do know that Joyce has been a stay-at-home mom since her daughter was born 11 years ago.
I told my husband when we were dating that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and he agreed. However, I wasn’t able to achieve that until our oldest child was seven. Still, when it was time for me to come home, we didn’t have any disagreements; we both knew that this was what we had been working toward.
However, even when a couple agrees before having children as Kerry and Corey did, they may change their minds. A wife may think she wants to go back to work until the baby is born and then change her mind as Kerry did. (And the opposite happens too. One parent may want to stay at home, but once the baby is born, the parent finds that they miss work.) Still, having a discussion early on in the relationship is always a good idea.
Compromise, Compromise, Compromise
When the inevitable parenting conflicts come up, the best strategy is to compromise. As Kerry grew more miserable, Corey agreed that she could stay home. However, he first insisted that they bulk up their savings significantly so their lifestyle wouldn’t be affected. After they reached this agreement, Kerry worked for another 18 months so they could save up the money.
Kerry stayed home for three years with her boys. Now, she has switched careers and is back at work as a teacher’s aide at her sons’ school. In this position, she is off school with them for every break. She still gets time with her boys who are now 12, and Corey is still able to lavish the boys with experiences and sports leagues because the family has two incomes.
My Question for You
Have you and your spouse disagreed about the finances of raising children? Does one of you want to spend money on the kids and buy them experiences and toys while the other wants to spend less money on but more time with the kids? If so, how did you handle the conflict?