Being a single-income family in a dual-income world.

I was raised in a dual-income home.  My dad had a successful flooring business and my mom worked for the government. I was an only child most of my life until my parents started fostering children when I was 12 years old and ended up adopting my three brothers when I was a young adult. My husband came from a single-income family. While his dad worked for the government, his mom stayed home and home-schooled the four children.

Growing up, I had a lot of home-schooled friends and it had been a dream of mine to one day get married, have children and be able to stay at home and home-school my children.

I quit my teaching job when we had our first child and have been blessed to be able to stay home with our children. Now, before I go on, I just want clarify that it is God who has provided for our family. He has blessed my husband with enough work in his own business to be able to afford paying our bills. If my husband’s business hadn’t grow like it did, then we probably wouldn’t be able to be single-income.

However, having said that, I think  that living off of a single income as a family is a lot more possible than our society thinks.

Sometimes when I run into people that I don’t see often and they ask me about my work, they are surprised that I’m not going back to teaching and sometimes comment “well it must be nice to be able to stay at home if you can do that.”

I think that staying at home can mean having different expectations in life style than having both parents working.

Having a parent stay home might mean having a smaller house, or only one car, or simple family vacations instead of extravagant ones.

In the book, The Flipside of Feminism by Suzanne Venker, she writes about the difference in standard of living between American families before the 1970 (when more mothers stayed home) and after 1970 (when more mothers went to work.)

“Before then (1970), American families lived differently. They owned one car, one television, and one stereo. Their houses averaged two thousand square feet; their children shared bedrooms; and a typical vacation might include camping. Then American women joined the workforce, and their incomes slowly created a ‘new norm.’ Today, the average home has 38 percent more square footage; kids have their own rooms; each member of the family owns his own cell phone and iPod; televisions are in many rooms; toys abound; and a trip to Disney World is considered a rite of passage. How did this happen? Employed mothers caused a dramatic change in lifestyle. Families can afford posh lifestyles because both parents are producing and income…Therefore, to say dual income families are a necessity is misleading. Parents are working to support the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed.” pg. 110-111

We are pressured by our society to keep up with the proverbial Jones. Own a bigger house, buy newer cars, go on lavish vacations, keep up to date with the latest electronics.  But it seems that most of the Jones’ families have both parents working…and maybe they don’t have more than two children.

It is possible to stay home. But you might have to change your expectations.

At on point in our married life we were renting an apartment near the edge of the city that was close to wealthy suburban neighbourhood. During the day, I liked taking our baby for walks through that neighbourhood in a stroller. It looked so beautiful and perfect. The houses were all new and sat on nice big lots with meticulously manicured lawns. But I noticed that the neighbourhood was very empty. I hardly saw anyone there during the day. They were all at work so they could afford this.

There certainly are some very well-off homeschooling families who are on one income and have lots of kids. However, sometimes letting go of an income can equate with having different expectations for standard of living. It has its costs and its benefits. Those benefits are usually not in material things, but most stay-at-home parents would say they far outweigh the costs.

What do you think? Are you a stay-at-home mom? How has that decision affected your family’s standard of living?