While I most often write about being a stay at home mom, being one myself, I’m quite aware of the number of stay at home dads out there. I’d better be. Two of my sisters have husbands who are stay at home dads.

Which brings up the question. How do you decide which parent stays home with the kids?

Personal Preference

Often one parent wants to stay home much more so than the other. For one of my sisters, it was a part of the deal that her husband would get to stay home with their kids.

You don’t want a parent who is going to be miserable to stay home. They won’t be happy and probably won’t do as good a job at being a stay at home parent as one who really wants to be there. That’s not to say they’ll do a bad job or anything, but miserable shows even when you do your best to hide it. Kids notice.

Income

Who brings in the most income is a simple way to decide. If one parent is unemployed or earns significantly less than the other, it makes good financial sense to have that parent stay home.

But you also want to consider income potential, especially if the current difference is small. If one career has much greater potential in the long run, that’s probably the one to stick with.

And don’t forget stability. Just think of all the people who have been laid off in recent times. If one job is far less likely to suffer that way than the other, you need to consider that factor.

Ability to Earn Money from Home

That I was training to be a medical transcriptionist at the time I got pregnant was a big factor in the decision that I would be home with the kids. We didn’t have to sacrifice my entire income potential to have me there. Instead we sacrificed and continue to sacrifice quiet evenings together after the kids are in bed, as that’s a big time for me to work. But we make it work.

Ability to Keep Up Skills

Most families don’t have one parent stay home forever. You’re both going to want a retirement income, after all. Staying at home can mean taking a break from a career.

That doesn’t have to be all bad. The at home parent can take the time to take classes to update his or her skills. He or she can freelance to bring in some income and keep up those skills. It’s important to make the most of what you have and what you’re going to need to have for your future.

All these considerations assume that you have the financial ability to have one parent stay at home. If it’s going to ruin your family’s finances, think very carefully about what you’re doing. You may need to take some extra time, pay down some bills and build some savings before you can have either parent stay at home.