Commentary

Why my wife is a stay-home mum

Why my wife is a stay-home mum
Art: Yen Yok
It may not be the wisest financial move, but can you really put a price on hands-on parenting?
Published: January 19, 8:54 AM
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My wife and I are both the eldest child in our families, so both sets of parents were overjoyed when our baby was born. They were less thrilled when we told them that after my wife was done with her maternity leave, she might go on an extended stretch of no-pay leave — or even put her career on hold indefinitely — to take care of Emma.

As one of the Grandmas put it: “You mean you don’t want me to take care of your baby?”

Where the math gets hazy is calculating the intangible cost of someone else taking care of your kid. Or, as I heard someone put it, she quit her job to raise her children “because it’ll be cheaper than bailing them out of jail in the future”.

I grew up in my grandmother’s care, and had my domestic helper for company at home when I was older. My wife, too, grew up in the care of her relatives. The concept of the stay-at-home parent is definitely not something we were brought up with — so why are we even considering such an arrangement?

It’s something I can’t quite explain. Did my own childhood experience convince me that I wanted something different for my child? I did not have a terrible childhood growing up in the care of someone other than my parent, and I‘m sure many of you didn’t either.

Maybe it’s idealism, the thought of raising our own children right from the start, so that we can better bond with them, and bring them up the way we want to. But then again, I wouldn’t say that children not raised in such a manner come out wrong.

Nothing conclusive there. Yet here we are — me at work, the wife likely to stay at home with Emma for a couple more years. And looking around, we’re far from the only ones to make this decision. Why are more and more parents of our generation forgoing our careers, bucking the trend our parents started?

SPENDING ON HER MEANS LESS SPENDING ON US

It seems to me that modern society’s culture of consumption is in conflict with the financial demands of raising a child. We are bombarded with advertisements urging us to spend more on the latest gadgets, holidays, beautiful houses, fast cars. The world talks about the economy in terms of how it grows — letting it remain at its current size is bad, we must always have more, produce more, acquire more.

Used to be you had kids to continue the family line, safe in the knowledge that your children will take care of you in twilight years. Now we have mandatory retirement funds to make sure we don’t starve when we’re old. Children now need to be supported for a good many years before they become economically productive. Throw in a year or two of touring the world after graduation and this extends to more than two-and-a-half decades of parental funding.

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