Thursday, June 25, 2009

Want to help the economy? Don't work.

Now, I might be totally off on this thought, but it's something that has been swirling around my head for awhile. I have several friends who are out looking for jobs, but don't have much experience and are being beat out of minimum wage job by people who have been forced to seriously downgrade their skills. I have one friend who just lost a receptionist-type position to a women who had been a lawyer's clerk/personal secretary for more then a decade.

I'm starting to wonder how much the two-job lifestyle is hurting our country. And I don't mean in the 'traditional roles' versus 'modern roles' way. I'm not arguing about people spending time with their kids, or volunteering at charities or anything like that. I'm speaking strictly financially. People have access to lots of credit, and therefore purchase lots of stuff they can't afford. Then both parties are up to the hilt in debt, and the family cannot afford to NOT have both parents work. But now you add extra costs to the situation. You are now buying 2 lunches, filling 2 cars with gas, paying the daycare of the younger kids, and all sorts of other expenses. Both parents are busy and the amount of fast food and eating out skyrockets. Instead of helping your finances, you might actually be hurting them. In my job previous to this one, I figured out (as I was quitting) that between gas, food and daycare I was actually losing about $75 a month from working, and that doesn't even include all the pizza and take-out we ate because I was too tired to cook a real meal.

It makes me wonder how many families would actually benefit from one or the other parent quitting their job. Things like health insurance and such make it a bit more complicated, but the theory is the same. It's cheaper to cook from scratch, or even semi-homemade then to eat out. 1 tank of gas is obviously cheaper then two. No daycare/babysitter also saves a heap of cash. Not to mention, if a large chunk of the general public did this, there would be a HUGE letup of pressure on the job market.

I'd like to know what everyone else thinks on this. I know it's not realistic, but I'm wondering if anyone has had a similar experience to this, or thinks I'm just bat shit crazy.


  1. I was 12 when my father started having heart trouble. At the time he raised hogs and milked 8 to 10 cows.

    He sold 60 to 100 gallons of milk a week, back in 1964 or so. The regular milk checks bought groceries, school clothes, gas, and paid bills.

    What I recall is that the doctor told him he had to quit milking - the regular lifting was compromising his heart function. 10 gallon steel milk cans are heavy, and then you add another 80 pounds of milk. I was too small yet to take this over. (Whew!)

    What I recall most vividly of the aftermath of losing that regular milk check - was Mom commenting that the farm made $75 more the year after Dad quit milking cows. That may not have been completely true - one offshoot of milking cows, is yearly calves. While most of the calves were sold and counted as income, we always kept half or so of one that we had butchered, and it made up a bunch of our freezer meat.

    When times are good, you can afford some luxuries, perhaps even a job you do just for fun.

    Just keep in mind - if a parent decides to spend more time with the kids, you have to plan on transitions for the kids. Because a parent *should not* condone kids with much free time on hand, or time to spend with electronics, etc. The real benefit of a home-parent, is building character in the kids, from guiding them through tasks with increasing responsibility and useful skills.

    Just as telling a young college-grad wife that she is going to have to stay home and cook for scratch (expect some resistance at that kind of role re-definition), kids are going to resent coming down off the electronically advertised and wired society norm of conspicuous consumption. They will also resent being diverted from peer and advertiser defined pastimes, to doing chores and learning responsible and courteous behavior, and a constructive work ethic.

    I don't think "don't work" is the answer. I think what you suggest is to transition from the cash-based job, to coming off the cash grid. It is still work, still effort, still responsible, still benefits home and family and loved ones, and indirectly the community.

    Not to mention additional time for target practice, gardening, and knitting and crocheting clothes. It is still work, just a different segment of the economy.

  2. A few years back when my husband was doing construction work I tried to show him, on paper with the numbers, that although he was making really good under the table money, between driving time both ways (sometimes 2 hours) to the different construction sites, gas, and down time just waiting for the boss to show up that after all that he was only bringing home $6.00 an hour! He was shocked.

    We had always been a one income family and we realized it never made any sense for me to go to work just to be able to pay someone to watch our children. Now that he is retiring I plan on going to work and he gets to stay home with the kids.

  3. Brad: I have to agree with the advantages kids get from a stay-at-home parent. I didn't touch on it simply because that is a point people can agree. Cold hard monetary fact, you cannot. Also, although both Gracie and Lila (and to a point myself as the boy comes to work with me) are technically SAHMs. Yet both have side things they do that bring is $$$, but don't really take away from being at home.

    Donna: I know quite a few moms who waited until there kids were older and then went back to work. That makes complete sense to me. As of right now, I'm a single parent, but if I were to remarry I would hope to do something along those lines.

  4. I'm sick of hearing guys say "My wife HAS to work" when they have two new cars, a new wide screen TV, and they just put in a new in-ground swimming pool.

    Avoid the excess "luxury" items and you may not "need" the second job.

    On top of that, does anyone really think that putting your kids in daycare is the best thing for them?

    Having children requires sacrifice no matter how you do it. Either mom or dad should be home for the kids. Especially when they are little.

  5. If it's costing you $75 dollars a month to work then the job is just a hobby.
    Hobbies are important as is getting out and dealing with other 'grown-ups' (rather than just the kids at home.

    Funny how things work out sometimes... It could be that spending that $75 is a necessity to sanity.

  6. Bitmap: that exactly the point I was getting at, it makes no sense to me.

    Rob: I honestly wasn't aware that I was losing money by working until I did the math to see if taking an hours count was worth it. And frankly, if that horrible job was a hobby, count me out of hobbies from now on. I do however agree that for some it might mean their sanity. Work doesn't help my sanity so I can't personally sympathize.

  7. I am very blessed to be home with my girls and to be able to devote myself to our home. It's funny but I think we do a whole lot better financially with me home than we would otherwise. We have a great house, food on the table, decent rigs, and pretty awesome kids. I do lots of little side things to get the "sanity" thing but always our home and family comes first. Many families would benefit from that.

  8. My wife and I both work because we like the advantages it gives us. We can help our kids while they get settled on their own, where if we had only one income, we could not. We can have nice vehicles, and do things together that we might not be able to do. Also, as we recently found out, if both of you work and one loses their job, you can keep going. If one of you works, and that job is lost, you are in serious trouble. When our kids were small my wife stayed home and took care of them, but that was many, many years ago. My wife is a teacher, and loves her work. She likes the children and as a special education teacher she does a lot of good. She would not be happy just sitting around the house. I work a four day week, six hours a day, so my schedule is a sort of "semi-retirement" most of the time. It's a judgment call, and I think it depends on the man, the woman, and their children if they have any.


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