If 2 parents work, how do you do it


This is not meant to be a debate. I’m just really confused by the math. If two parents work outside the home, how much money does the second person need to make in order to beat the expense of childcare?


That would depend on what childcare was available, and where you live, and how many kids you have.


Oh MY, that question has a million answers! It is going to be different in every situation. Of course, you need to do the math to figure out what expenses besides child care would need to be covered (lunches maybe, clothes, transportation, office incidentals like a birthday fund, etc.) and then subtract that from your take-home pay.

That gives you a base-line number, but there are other considerations. Perhaps the job offers good benefits that you don’t want to be without (heath insurance, tuition, company discounts). Perhaps the spouse is in the kind of career that requires constant updating of skills. It may even just be that working allows that spouse to get the adult interaction he needs to stay sane! lol

The Church doesn’t tell us the woman cannot work outside the home when they become mothers. As parents, both need to be sure the children are safe, happy, and being raised as Catholics, there is more than one way to accomplish those goals.

Remember too that we have examples of saintly women who worked while raising a family, like St. Gianna Molla who was a pediatrician and St Terese’s mother who ran her own business–even sending her daughters out to wet-nurses when she couldn’t breastfeed because of her health issues (she died of breast cancer).

In my own case, I worked part-time for 10 years when my children were little. We had wonderful child care and my salary was able to cover that and other expenses. I then went to work full-time after they were older and in school all day. It was the best decision for our family, but others made very different decisions based on their own circumstances.


My husband and I own a business together. I have an office in the home and I go in to our business office two to three days per week. My husband and I alternate schedules. If I have an infant, the infant comes to the office with me as I have breastfed all my kids (and feel babies should be with their mothers). This schedule is getting harder and harder because my husband has to be out in the field often. To remedy this, my mother in law is moving in with us and will watch the kids on the days I’m in the office. I personally don’t believe day care centers or minimum wage babysitters are good for kids, particularly young ones. Just my opinion!

Having opposite schedules or having a family member babysit are two possible solutions. I think paying for childcare can only work if the mother and father have good paying professional jobs. If mom is working the bakery counter at Walmart, I don’t see how the math can work out. I think many women would find that if they DID do the math, they would be better off staying home. When you are home full time you have the time to shop at multiple stores for the best grocery prices, sew clothes, shop garage sales, make food from scratch and all the othe things that are time consuming but make a single salary household work.

Remember too that we have examples of saintly women who worked while raising a family, like St. Gianna Molla who was a pediatrician and St Terese’s mother who ran her own business–even sending her daughters out to wet-nurses when she couldn’t breastfeed because of her health issues (she died of breast cancer).

To my point above about needing a salary to make it worth it- these were both professional women. I have been reading about St Terese’s mother for inspiration… she had flexibility because she owned her own business. Her “office” was in her home. I’m not sure what wet nurses have to do with working. She did that because of her physical condition, not because she owned a business. And it deeply grieved her. I haven’t figured out what St. Gianna did for childcare; but again, she was a doctor and probably had alot of options most women of her time or ours do not have.


We figured out that the majority of my salary would be going to child care, so in the end, I would be just working for childcare. Didn’t make sense. (we live in a high priced area). So anyway, we made the decision that I would be a stay at home mom. Plus the fact that we didn’t feel comfortable with someone else watching our baby. It’s really hard because we really need my income so we are struggling day by day. I looked for work at home work but anything that I can find that is legit requires a quiet enviroment. My baby is 9 months old, needless to say, it’s not quiet.


Good replies. Like I said, not trying to debate. But with my part time work I realized that even at $25-$35/hour (part-time) it’s just not enough to pay for a nanny. It doesn’t seem so, anyhow.


It depends on the salary and the cost of childcare.

When we had 2 in daycare I was bringing home over 1/2 my salary. When our oldest started elementary school and the 3rd child was born (same summer) we had to make the decision on how to move forward. I could have stayed home with the younger two and sent the oldest to public school (very good schools locally), or gone back to work and paid for Catholic School (truly Catholic, academically outstanding). We decided to go the Catholic School route and have me still work… so now we’re paying for 2 in daycare and 1 at private school… now over 3/4 of my salary goes towards those, but we’re glad to make that sacrifice for the kids to go to Catholic school.


Typicaly child care at the cheapest is $100 a week per child for the typical 8 hr a day though I have heard about it being as low at $75 dollars a week per child but it did not include snack or meal. so at base per month with no frills for a 2 child house hould is about $800 a month plus transportation. As a single mother who was working and had 4 children at the time. It was $1600 dollars a month daycare plus transportation which worked out to about an additional $40. My take home from work Net was $2100 a month. I Grossed $10 a month to much to qualify for help with daycare so I ended up having to quit my job. If I went back to work now it would be $2000 a month for child care. Though I now qualify for help there are no jobs that are available. As for married couples I noticed the ones who were successful were the ones who staggered thier work schedule to where one parent was always home with the kids ( no daycare expenses) but they paid an awful price in lost time with each other. Some couples had very helpful families that pitched in with care for the children.


One other thought I had about looking to St. Gianna and Bl. Zelie Martin as examples of working moms… they had house help! No matter how wonderful the husband, in reality I believe that with working moms, most of the childcare and housework still falls to them (in varying degrees). My husband does laundry, but he is not wired to care about the condition of the house as much as I am. When he is home with the kids, their day is much less orderly… sometimes he lets them stay in their pajamas if they want to (this drives me nuts!) I have a house cleaning service come in twice per month. I do my best to keep the house semi-orderly during the rest of the month. The kids have chores and that helps. My point is that I think the burden on most working mothers is much too great. The fact is that raising children is a full time job and if possible I think women should postpone their careers and devote their attention to this most noble and important job. If you’re going to make being a work-outside-the-home mom work, you have to realize you can’t be supermom and you have to find all the help you can. If you don’t have a good support network, you will buckle under all the pressure and your children will suffer.


One of the reasons we decided for me to stay home is that about half of my take home pay would have gone to the babysitter. My commute was an hour each way so the babysitter would have been needed for at least 10 hours a day. It wouldn’t have been worth it financially.

On the other hand, the friends and family members that work are fortunate enough to have a grandparent be able to take care of the child. Grandparents tend to not charge high childcare costs. :smiley:


If you work opposite shifts and/or family helps with child care there is no added expense.


Well, as an example, a couple I know are both mid-level Canadian military members. The wife has told me she would like to be at home with the kids, but her salary, besides covering childcare for two kids (military childcare so it’s on the cheap end of about $125 a week), will pay their mortgage - her husbands salary covers everything else plus savings and fun.

So to her, that is worth it. It wouldn’t be to me, but I know her parents were always financially unstable and I think she felt very insecure as a child, and sees them now with no savings or way to take care of themselves if they had no income. So I can see why she feels that way.


When my youngest was one-and-a-half, we were able to find a daycare provider who operated out of her home through my company’s childcare referral service. She was subsidized by the state and we paid $75/week. She had excellent references and had been providing daycare for nearly 20 years.

Bringing a nanny into your home will cost more.


Correct! Their house-help was the equivalent of our childcare, house cleaning services, washing machines, frozen dinners, etc today. They also made sure that those caring for their children were trustworthy and responsible, but both had problems with one or more household servents–just as we might with a child care arrangement today.

I do not say that working while your children are young is an ideal situation (I believe strongly that it is not!), but I do want to point out that it can be done and still raise children who love the Lord and turn out well.


I agree with your assesment-especially about the difference between a professional salary and minimum wage. However, there are still other factors–especially the mom’s job carries heath insurance and the father’s does not. That is why I orginally continued working after we had our first. Thankfully, we were able to find an excellent, Catholic childcare provider who even took the kids with her to daily Mass on occasion!

I understood St. Gianna to have had a live-in nanny/housekeeper. I believe she also had help from her husband’s relatives. I brought them up to show that the Church does not necessarily say that a working mother is sinful (as some protestant denominations seem to teach), but that each family needs to assess their own situation and make a judgement specific for them.


My youngest one is the only one I’ve had in daycare. When she was a baby I used the daycare that was onsite at work and left my office to nurse her. It was $170 a week.

She’s four now and I moved her to a what I felt was a better, smaller daycare when she was 1. It’s $130 a week, but has gone down every year as she gets older. I have been in the workforce for ten years now and earn an upper middle class income salary by myself. I could never have afforded daycare 19 years ago when my oldest was born and I was waiting tables.

My personal feeling on salary and the very minimum you would have to earn for it to be worth it is it should not be more than 10% of your gross annual income. At that point, you are working for only 60% of your salary, since you lose about 30% through payroll taxes, insurance premiums, and retirement savings.

My daugther’s current daycare is excellent, and it has not been bad for her in any way. She is very well-behaved and happy. Her daycare is small, clean, comfortable, has an interactive, hands-on Montessori approach, and she has had the same teachers since she enrolled and has bonded with them.


Yes, so if I’m paying $10 out of $35 (before taxes) for a sitter, I’m not gaining much by working (except experience in my field).


I’m not sure if I worked for much more than health care when my kids were little in all honesty. So while my take home home pay wasn’t a budget windfall, if we would’ve had to pay the extra $ for my DH’s insurance which didn’t provide as much coverage, it would have been tough to live on his salary alone.

I’m a teacher so once the kids hit school, my child care expenses were almost non-existant since my hours matched my kids for the most part. I don’t consider Catholic school tuition as part of my child care since they would’ve gone to the same school whether I worked or not. I actually got a “raise” when they hit high school since they attend the Catholic school I teach at for free and we would’ve found a way to pay the tuition if I wasn’t there.

In the end, I don’t know what amount a working mother needs to “net” in take home pay to make working out of the home monetarily worthwhile. For some families, I know $100 a week can be a legitimate budget balancer versus merely providing for luxuries.

Was it worth it to our family? For the most part, yes. I take a lot of satisfaction in knowing my DD wants to be a teacher herself so I figure that at least in her mind, having a teacher as a working mom wasn’t the worst thing I did to her (I’m sure she could name many awful other ways I ruined her life though :D) if that’s what she wants to do with her own life.

Good luck with whatever works best for your family situation.



It ultimately is very individual, and the non-salary items count on both ends. Health coverage, as you’ve pointed out, is a huge issue for many American families. On the other end, a mom, or dad, at home can accomplish many money saving things that a working parent can’t - a penny saved is a penny earned. The book “The Tightwad Gazette” gives good examples of how to calculate the pay rate of things like making bread or saving tin-foil - things people sometimes overlook.

I’ve worked part time as an army reservist up until now - I am planning to leave this year because I am expecting a third child and grandma baby-sitting all three would be too much for her (and I am getting too old and slow.) But it had advantages: few hours, one evening a week and one weekend a month; relatively high pay for part time work; opportunities for little courses, for example I took a Harassment Adviser course; opportunity for extra work on a short or long term basis if I needed it; it got me out of the house doing something different; a gym membership; and also if I had needed them, access to dental care and very reasonably priced health plan and life insurance.

I think a little part-time work can have a lot of advantages, especially if dad can be the childcare. Even if the pay isn’t great, it can be nice to have a change of scene and pocket money.


For families where both parents earn a decent income, there are normal childcare options like daycare or a nanny, which runs between $10 to $25 an hour around here. Obviously, not everyone earns enough to cover these expenses (and taxes, transportation, work clothing, convenience costs to free up time of 2 working parents, etc.). However, it’s not unusual where I work - Microsoft - to have both parents earning over $30 an hour with just one or two kids, and childcare is often a very realistic option for these dual-professional families. Also, professionals often have flexible hours, work benefits, and other advantages that make it much easier.

Smaller families (including younger couples) also can more realistically manage two careers - most large families with SAHMs that I know had the mother working until the second or third child was born. Many long-term two-income families around here don’t exactly have traditional Catholic values and aren’t welcoming to all new life that they are blessed with, although there are definite exceptions.

Here are solutions I’ve heard of families using when they needed or wanted a second income that didn’t cover childcare, or just didn’t want to use or spend the money for traditional childcare:

  • One parent works “shift work” on graveyard or swing shift while the other parent works days
  • One parent works at a daycare and gets a discount for their children’s attendence there
  • One parent operates a daycare in their home
  • A family member or good friend offers uber-cheap child care
  • Child-care exchanges with other working parents or SAHMs
  • Bartering
  • One parent WAHs
  • One or both parents uses a flexible work schedule to minimize overlap - this way, childcare may eat up some hours’ wages but other hours will still bring in some money; for example, two parents working four-tens with different off-days can have only 1 day of overlap. If they also stagger their schedules so one works a little earlier and the other goes in a little later, it could be as little as 4 to 6 hours a week of overlap.
  • One parent works part-time, in combination with one of the other methods

Six months ago my sister was working one full-time job day shift AND one part-time (12 hours a week) job night-shift on one of her husband’s nights off, and he was working full-time swing shift while they homeschooled their eight-year-old (who is very advanced and mature) and their four-year-old . . . AND she was pregnant with their third child!!! They are great about passing on their blessings and are not materialistic, but do also have an amazing house for ages 27 and 30 parents due to the combination of having two incomes, little overhead cost due to the schedule-juggling and having two parents who are capable in the home as well as the workplace, and being very frugal. They do have to constantly work at their marriage and staying connected since they have little time together, but by now they are getting pretty good at it and really work like a team. They also contantly re-evaluate their workload and financial situation to make sure no one is over-burdened. This mainly works because my sister is high-energy and ambitious in both career and home spheres. I imagine St. Gianna had a very similar high-energy temperament.

For my family: My DH is starting a part-time minimum wage job in two weeks, and I will be leveraging my flexible-hours perk from my professional job so that we don’t have to pay child-care. I will work in the office on Saturdays, and then work from home (over the Internet) for shortened hours on Thursday and Friday while my husband works a minimum wage position. It’s not our ideal situation, as we would prefer to have one parent at home full-time, but our family really needs the extra money to get us through the next few months. I’m also expecting, and my current job ends in March . . . so we need DH to do whatever he can to increase our stability through all those transitions. We have two 3-year-olds and one more due in January. .

[quote=Angels Unaware]My personal feeling on salary and the very minimum you would have to earn for it to be worth it is it should not be more than 10% of your gross annual income. At that point, you are working for only 60% of your salary, since you lose about 30% through payroll taxes, insurance premiums, and retirement savings.

Kwitz already responded to this, but I wanted to point out that we are also in the situation where a small income makes all the difference to our family’s health. The value of $50 a week when you need it is more than the value of $500 a week when you don’t need it. My husband will be working 2 days a week and spending two nights away from the family while I care for the children alone because his work is so far away, and he will only be netting about $50 a week for this after transportation and taxes. That $50 a week, however, means we can keep making the payments on our reduced interest home loan - we only get to keep the lower rate if we make payments consistently for the next 6 months. That lower rate means $1000 a month to us, so even though his take-home pay is $50 a week, his take-home value is a minimum of $250. Add in that we could be facing foreclosure without this loan, and . . . I don’t even know how to begin estimating that. So even though his take-home pay is $50 a week, the take-home value of that $50 is HUGE.

Of course he will also continue to look for something better, but he’s been looking for 9 months and now he just needs to get some money doing anything he can (that is moral :wink: ).

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