Historically, society restricted women to limited employment opportunities. Women were limited to careers such as nurses, teachers, or stay-at-home mothers and housewives. In the modern day, women have complete freedom to study, practice, and join career fields of any kind, yet, many women still choose to stay at home and care for the house and the children.
For some women, additional factors cause them to make this decision beyond the children or household responsibilities. Some have an illness or injury, making them eligible for disability or incapable of working outside of the home. Some have significant others who make enough money to support the family by working outside of the home so a second income is not necessary. Others simply prefer to spend their days working within the household to ensure the household duties and children are cared for properly.
According to Magnify Money, an average of 2.4% of parents were stay-at-home parents in 2021. Furthermore, Magnify Money also reports that adults who consider themselves stay-at-home parents significantly increased specifically between the years 2019 and 2021. While 2021 showcased an average of 2.4% of parents acting as stay-at-home parents, 2019 showcased only 1.5% of parents working as stay-at-home parents. These drastic differences are rarely seen when measuring adults leaving the workforce.
This change is likely due to societal changes between those years. Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic likely played a large part. However, many of these new stay-at-home parents may have always been interested in this sort of lifestyle, but never deemed it necessary or possible until they were encouraged to at least work from home during the pandemic years. When they were given a taste of how flexible being available around the home can benefit their family, many chose to quit employment entirely and focus on their household responsibilities.
Some families require income from both parents. Some adults prefer to be active and to work outside of the home strictly for the purpose of fulfilling their interests. When the pandemic forced all places of employment to send their staff home if possible, many families found that a parent’s availability during the work day opened many new opportunities. Once workplaces loosened up and returned to work or made arrangements for working from home, many parents opted out of returning to full-time employment to continue focusing on their children and household chores.
“I found that my son needed more help with homework than I could possibly give him while I was working full time. The sixth grade is no joke, so I knew that was the year to focus on him,” says newly transitioned stay-at-home mother Carrie Hoffer. “When the buzz between my coworkers was that we could be returning to working in the office starting two summers ago, I decided that they could do so without me.”
While it is traditionally more common for mothers to take on the role of a stay-at-home parent, Pew Research Center reports that more fathers have fallen into the routine in the last 20 years. Fathers taking on this responsibility is only possible due to their significant others and the mothers of their children having more career opportunities. In the past, women automatically took on the role of the stay-at-home parent because they had limited employment opportunities outside of the home. The household income had to come from somewhere – therefore – fathers defaulted to working outside of the home.
One may wonder how being raised by a stay at home parent may affect a child, specifically if they would be more or less sociable or successful in life as he or she grows up. The impact of being raised by a stay at home parent on children versus those who do not have a stay at home parent also comes into question. Researchers have looked into the effect being raised by a stay-at-home parent has on children’s grades, shyness, interests, and even success in their adult life. The overall question has always been whether or not being raised by a stay-at-home parent is beneficial to children.
On that topic, Pew Research reports that 60% of Americans argue that it is best for children to have a stay-at-home parent at their disposal. Many believe that children benefit from having a trustworthy adult that they are comfortable around being their primary, day-to-day caregiver. Having a parent available at all times allows children to use their parents as resources for academic help, labor help, and more.
Harvard Business Review found that children with stay at home parents have higher grade point averages in school. Arguably, this is due to these children having more one-on-one support towards their academic development. Understandably so, a parent who works full-time during the day has less willingness to help their child with homework and studying in the evenings. A parent who has been at home completing small tasks like laundry and cleaning has more willingness to work with their child in the evenings on academic related responsibilities.
“While last year was still hard on Aaron starting in middle school and all, being a resource for him at all hours of the day gave me the comfort that I needed,” Hoffer said about her son’s experience during her first year of being a stay-at-home parent. “He could reach me at all hours of the day while he was in school. When he came home, I was there to greet him, and help him with any homework he would have otherwise struggled with until he gave up.”
Hoffer guided her son Aaron through the horrendous sixth grade, and is continuing the same routine this year as he enters the seventh grade. She testifies to being very happy with the results of her son’s school year while she was an accessible resource.
A parent who works solely in the home is more readily available for their children to use as a resource. They act as childcare providers, drivers, chefs, tutors, and more. Parents who work full-time outside of the home have less availability to provide those services. Some would argue this leaves children who lack a stay-at-home parent in the home at a disadvantage in life.
Further studies have shown that the physical bond is closer between a child and their stay-at-home parent. Such a bond prevents developmental delays, lowers blood sugar, and minimizes stress, as reported by naturallymademom.com. Similarly to the health benefits of skin-to-skin bonding with your newborn, being physically present and available when your child is in need creates a tight bond like no other and allows for numerous health benefits. Additional health benefits for children include the opportunity to eat more nutritiously.
USA Today notes that parents are more likely to step out of their way to feed their children more nutritious foods than schools or daycares. A parent who does not work outside of the home has more time and availability to cook and pack their children a more nutritious lunch than what the child would buy at school or be fed by a daycare facility. While the children may protest the healthy meals their stay-at-home parent prepares for them, they are much better off.
Arguably, the children of stay-at-home parents are at an advantage due to the accessibility of their parents being open widely compared to a working parent. These children have access to reliable homework help, more nutritious food, and a healthier bond with their parent(s). Therefore, it seems all families should consider the advantages of allowing one parent to act as a stay-at-home parent to benefit their children. However, fathers should most certainly be considered for this role equally as much as mothers, seeing as women have equal opportunities in the workforce in the modern day and will be able to contribute to the household income effectively.