I voted that it was not essential, but nice, however I have to make an amendment to that.
To me, it was absolutely essential. I would not have married my husband if he would have expected me to work after we had children. It was one of the deal breakers for me as far as which men I would consider a serious relationship or marriage with. I don’t think it is necessary to a holy marriage, though.
Look at St. Gianna. She was a practicing physician whose husband was frequently taken out of town or country by his own career. However, she had supportive, faithfilled Catholic family to help her raise her family. She lived in a different time and place than I do.
We are the only faithful Catholics in our area that I am aware of. Our family that is local, while fantastic people, are not Catholic. They do respect our beliefs and what we teach the children, but they would not teach it to them if they watched our children while I worked. I know of no Catholic daycare centers. And no one could care for our children the way I do because no one loves them like I do. Not even their dad has the same relationship with them that I do.
I feel very strongly that my children are best served by me caring for them everyday. They do spend plenty of time with their very attentive and loving father and their family and friends, but I am the one caring for them, teaching their lessons, making sure they get enough good food, water, exercise, and intellectual stimulation with a good balance of playtime. No one would invest themselves or be as concerned about my children as I am.
So for me, it was a deal breaker.
My husband has a two year technical degree and I have a BA in biology, so my earning potential is about 2-3 times what his is, but we don’t care. We’re making it work on about $40,000 a year. We own our home (we built it), two cars (hand me downs), my kids wear handmedowns and gifts from relatives. They dont get the latest toys. We watch our pennies and indulge only in what we feel we would really like to have (a basic satellite package, baseball with the office for DH, etc).
I homeschool, cloth diaper, breastfeed, etc. Kids are not as expensive as people make them out to be, espeically if you are careful. We do have some debt, mostly made from bad choices, but we are taking responsibility for it and paying it off (slowly but surely). We don’t live in the city, but we don’t live so far away that DH’s salary is eaten up in gas for a commute, either.
It isn’t impossible. You just have to be convicted about the importance of it to make it work.