One Working Parent
Written by: Hillebrand, Jeremiah Posted on: 05/09/2005
Category: Christian Living
29 November 2004
High School Term Paper
One Working Parent
America is a very affluent country. Most Americans want the latest things. They want better cars, bigger TVs, more comfortable couches, nicer houses, better neighborhoods, the latest technology, and most convenient appliances. All of these things cost money though, and this causes many American families to desire two incomes to finance their lifestyles. Most Americans do not mind though; they dutifully go to work, and tell themselves that nothing is wrong with both of them working. To the contrary, they embrace it and state that it is necessary so that their children may have a better future. Either they need to live in a certain expensive neighborhood so that their child can go to a good public school, or so that they afford a private school. Working parents also claim that they both need to work in order to send junior to the right college for him to be successful in life. Usually, however, as long as they can afford a big car and a nice house in a good neighborhood, they are satisfied. Many do not even consider that with a few changes in their lifestyle they could live off one income. Most Americans do not want to change though; they are already comfortable. What they do not realize is that many of their expenses and problems can stem from having two incomes. Thus, for a family with one or more children, it is best if only one of the parents work.
When both parents decide to work, childcare becomes a necessity. This is one of the main expenses of having two incomes. Now of course certain businesses set up reimbursement plans, and the government has established tax breaks in order to help with these costs. The IRS allows people to write off 20 to 35 percent of their childcare bill. So if a family spends $6000 yearly on childcare, and if they qualify for the maximum 35 percent deduction, then they do not have to pay taxes on approximately $2100 (35% of $6000). Since they don't have to pay taxes on this $2100, then they save $500 (the amount of tax that they would have had to pay on it). If, however, the family receives any benefits from their employer, they cannot receive as high a deduction from the government. Also, according to the IRS, there is a maximum deduction of $3000 for one child and $6000 for two or more children ("Child and Dependent..."). According to Detnews.com, the average cost of childcare for one child is between $4000 and $6000 a year. A family with a combined income of $75,000 a year with two young children in daycare can expect to pay $8000 to $12000 a year. If they qualify for the maximum deduction of 35 percent, and they manage to pay only $8000 a year (extremely unlikely), then they could write off $2800 (35% of $8000) on taxes and save $700 [25% (inc. tax) of $2800]. Thus, they have to pay $7300 a year for childcare, which is more than 10 percent of their total income. Even if the second income is as high as $30,000, then daycare expenses already consume one-fourth of it.
Of course, the children will only be in daycare for five or six years before starting school. After school, though, the children will likely need a baby-sitter for two or three hours a day. If the parents pay $2.50 per child per hour, then they may pay as much as $3000 during the school year. During the summer, they may pay up to $2100 depending on how long the parents work per day (combined price for two children). So even after daycare, the parents could still possibly pay as much as $5100 a year for childcare. Obviously the numbers clearly show that even with reimbursement, a family with two working parents must pay a large percentage of their income for childcare. If, however, one of the parents stayed home and cared for the children, then they would not have to worry about this expense.
Taxes are also an expense that need to be taken into consideration. One of the main taxes, income tax, is based on a system of brackets. The higher the income, the higher the tax bracket. According to Smartmoney.com, once a person makes a certain amount of money, he moves up to a higher tax bracket. For example, when a family makes $45,000 a year, they are in the 15% tax bracket. If, however, the other parent decides to work and makes $30,000 a year, they are then raised to the 25% tax bracket. Fortunately, it is only necessary to pay 25% on the income that exceeds the 15% tax bracket limit. So since the 25% bracket starts at $58,101, then they only have to pay 25% on $16,899 of their income ($75,000 - $58,101 = $16,899) and 15% on the rest of it ("Tax Rate Schedules..."). Thus the total tax on the second income [$13,101 at 15% and $16,899 at 25% ($13,101 + $16,899 = $30,000)] is $6,189.90. So if the second income is $30,000, then taxes are one-fifth of it.
Deductions are one thing that have been set up to help lower taxes. They do this by decreasing the amount of taxable income. It is possible to deduct many things, such as the number of children, the cost of daycare, and many other expenses depending on the situation. The disadvantage is that it is possible to deduct them only once. Thus the second income is not allowed to deduct these costs because they have already been written off on the first income.
In addition to income tax, families with two incomes also incur are vehicle expenses. When two people work, they both need a way to get to work. So since public transportation in America is virtually nonexistent or is inconvenient, people "need" two cars. They buy the extra car partly because they can now afford it with their second income and because no other way exists to get to work easily. The average cost of a new car is $20,000 ("Statistics"). Then, a plethora of other related costs exist such as insurance, upkeep, fuel, and depreciation. According to Nevco, these costs may total up to an average of $6000 annually. Insurance can cost from $2000 to $4000 a year (Geico and Esurance) and upkeep, such as changing oil, brakes, and tires, costs on average $1000 a year ("Upkeep: maintenance,..."). Fuel costs are approximately $700 annually (based on 10,000 miles a year) depending on gas mileage and price ("Chevrolet Aveo LS" and "The Complete Car Cost Guide"), and depreciation can be anywhere from $1000 to $2000 a year ("The Complete Car Cost Guide" and "Upkeep: maintenance,..."). Now admittedly the average American household has 1.77 cars, 35% of Americans have 2 cars, and 20% have three or more ("Statistics"). It would seem that if a family already has two cars, then many of the costs do not apply. It is true that when a family has two cars, they are already paying many of the costs listed above. They are not, however, paying as much as they would if they used both of the cars for commuting to work. All of these costs increase if both of the cars are used for work. Since commuting to work causes the car to be driven more often, insurance premiums may rise because of the increase of planned driving, the car will need more frequent maintenance and more gas, and the car will depreciate faster because of the increased usage. Now imagine when a one-income family buys only one car. They instantly save around $50,000 over a period of 5 years ($20,000 + $6000 annually), or about $10,000 a year. So if the second income is $30,000, then the cost of owning and running an extra car is one-third of it.
Besides overlooking unanticipated vehicular costs, people also tend to overlook some miscellaneous costs. One such expense that can add up over time is the cost of clothes for work. In order to follow dress code in the workplace and/or to represent themselves properly and appropriately, people must buy certain clothes. This forced expense can take its toll. For example, a business woman will need to buy skirts, jackets, pants, blouses, and suits in order to have a complete wardrobe. Skirts cost $20-$40, pants are $20-$50, jackets are $35-$80, and dress shirts are $20-$50 (LaneBryant and JCPenney). If the woman buys four of each item, then an average price might be somewhere around $640. Of course she could try to find things used or cheaper, but would she have the time?
Time can also be an expense. If both parents work, then one of them probably will not have the time to search for bargains or sales. A mother in a two-income family does not have the time to stop by the store after work and search for price differences, nor does she have the time to clip coupons from the morning newspaper. She has things to do: dropping and picking up the children at daycare, cooking, laundry, and cleaning to say the least. Same thing goes for the father. Since he does not have time to mow the lawn, clean out the gutters, and do yard work, he has to pay for this to be done. With this lack of time comes deficits, things that just do not get done. So to fix these deficits, people must be hired to do the work. Housecleaning is a good example. If one of the parents does not have time to clean, then dust and dirt will slowly accumulate until it is unbearable. At this point, it is time to hire someone to clean the house. The cost of hiring a housecleaning service varies widely depending on the size of the house, the requested services, and the region where the house is located. An average price may be anywhere from $50 to $90 for once-a-month service, $600 to $~~~~ annually (Cottage Care and "House Cleaning"). These costs would not be necessary though if one of the parents stayed at home.
It is apparent that having only one spouse working is best financially. The second income just wastes away. Take a look: $30,000 - $7300 (childcare) - $10,000 (car) - $1300 (house cleaning and clothes) - $6189.90 (taxes) = $5210.10. Now admittedly, hundreds of variables affect these numbers (amount of children, their ages, the city were the family lives, the kind of car driven, its gas mileage, its price tag, the brand of clothes, the degree of house cleaning wanted, the income earned a year, etc.), but the dwindling second income is the typical result of a two-income family.
It is also best emotionally for the family if only one parent works. First of all, it is better for the children if one parent stays home with them. Now of course children develop more social skills at daycare ("Children of working mothers"). It would almost be impossible for them not to though. They are forced to be with their peers almost all day everyday while their parents work. It is, however, better if the children have the emotional security of a parent at home. The truth is that no matter how qualified the caregiver, they cannot love the children like the parents could (Dunlap). Sometimes a child will feel insecure just because his parents are never around ("Working parents..."). So the children who grow up in daycare often lack the love and confidence that are necessary for feeling secure. As a child grows up securely, he develops into a more stable adult with a higher emotional tolerance than a person who was non-secure as a child (Dunlap).
Besides feeling insecure, children who grow up in daycare are less disciplined. Since familiarity is what leads to habits and behaviors, then children who grow up around their parents act like their parents. In this way it is possible for the parents to influence how their children behave ("Working parents..."). If the child is raised by a daycare worker or baby-sitter, then they are the ones who will influence the child's personality and behavior ("Working parents..."). So if the stay-at-home parent raises their children, then they can teach them right from wrong and instill essential values ("Children of working mothers"). These traits help children as they grow up to know what to do in moral dilemmas. This knowledge helps these children to stay out of trouble and to stay away from the wrong crowds. The children who are raised in daycare do not generally receive the same moral instruction as they would from their parents, thus making them more prone to getting in trouble and making the wrong decisions. A disciplined child will hopefully grow into a responsible adult with stellar character traits.
Children also develop a much better bond with their parents if one of them stays home. According to Page Wise, the first five years of a child's life are his fundamental years. If the parent shows the child love and attention during those fundamental years, then the child and parent will develop a trusting relationship. This relationship is crucial during the adolescent years. As a child goes through adolescence, he is faced with many issues that require decisions which will shape his future. He is more apt to talk to his parents about troubling issues (sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.) if he has a healthy, trusting relationship with them ("Children of working mothers"). A child, however, who has been cared for by other people all of his life usually does not have a close enough relationship with his parents to talk to them about such important issues. He is much more likely to experiment himself in order to find the answers. This experimentation oftentimes leads to addictions, which ruins many teenagers' lives.
In addition to more stable children, it is also beneficial to the parents if only one of them works. When both of the parents work, a lot of stress is created. Stress is defined as pressure, strain, and tension (Hoy). The busier a person is, the more stress they are under. So many things constantly need to be done, such as: housework, shopping, driving the children to and from daycare, getting them ready for daycare, bed, and school, and then finding time to relax. The problem is that neither one of the parents is free to do these things, so they have to try and squeeze them in before and after work. Stress also comes from the workplace. Maybe the boss was angry, maybe a coworker was annoying, maybe too much work still needs to be done, or maybe something just was not working correctly. Tension between the parents also tends to occur regarding money, (the number one cause of marital stress according to Steve Bucci), the children, and other petty things. All of this stress comes together and causes outbursts from both parents toward the children and toward each other (Hoy). To top it off, parents rarely have time to be together, enjoy each other's company, relax, or to just talk and make decisions mutually (Hoy). All of this stress builds up and eats away at the marriage. Even if they decide to go through counseling, only God and/or strong determination can keep them together over time. Now on the other hand is the family with only one income. First of all, the parent who stays home can handle many of the responsibilities listed above, thus eliminating a lot of stress from both parties. Also, both of the parents have stress from the day, but the one who stays home has much less on average. Less conflict occurs around finances and the children because there are fewer issues and expenses to deal with. Lastly, they tend to have more free time that they can spend together. This free time helps to eliminate the stress that exists and to cement the marriage even closer together.
Stress not only creates problems mentally but also physically. Stress develops when people are worried, anxious, hurried, or harried ("Stress Management for Parents"). Stress is a reflex that gets people ready to either fight or fly. So when a lot of stress builds up, the body automatically prepares itself. In the body adrenaline glands release adrenaline to prepare organs for action, the breathing becomes shallower and faster (more oxygen needed), the liver releases glucose (energy), and the heart beats faster causing blood to pressurize. The problem is that the bodies of people who are constantly stressed stay stimulated. This stimulation can cause a rise in cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, blood vessel damage, decreased mental skills, and a weak immune system ("How Stress Develops"). So not only is the body slowly deteriorating, but it is also more susceptible to illness and disease. Daily noticeable effects that can be the result of a constantly tensed body are sleep disturbance, headaches, stomachaches, irritability, and an increased or decreased appetite ("Stress Management for Parents").
While parents may get diseases from stress, children may get diseases, infections, and illnesses from daycare. Some studies do show, however, that early exposure to these diseases can boost a child's immune system. Dr. Wegmann wrote about one study of 1000 children which showed that the ones who went to daycare had one-half of the risk of developing asthma as compared to the children who did not go. Even so, the positive effects do not outweigh the negative ones. Daycare centers handle many children. Often children use the bathroom and do not wash their hands. Then they touch the toys which other children put into their mouths. The children who put the toys into their mouths can then get diarrhea, Hepatitis A, and many other intestinal diseases. These diseases are easily spread by not washing hands after using the bathroom or even by caretakers who change diapers and do not wash their hands. Respiratory illnesses also go around, such as the flu, colds, and even tuberculoses. These are easily spread by a sneezing or coughing child, or a sick child putting a toy in his mouth and then being followed by another child (Wegmann). To top it off, the staff many times does not have the time or is not properly trained to disinfect everything at the end of the day (a health regulation). This leads to even more illnesses. Lastly, there are the conditions such as ear infections and head lice floating around. People assume that parents will not bring their children to daycare if they are sick. This assumption is wrong because working parents cannot stay home sometimes even if their child is sick. Obviously, daycare is not generally as bad as portrayed here, but these illnesses do occur from time to time and can be rapidly spread. At home there is a whole lot less exposure to illnesses. A stay-at-home parent will make sure that if a child is sick, he will stay in bed, recover, and not get everyone else sick.
As shown above, for a family with one or more children, it is best if only one parent works. This benefits the whole family financially, mentally, and physically. In modern society, people do not care as much about the family as they used to. Sure, the parents may say that they are both working for their children's sake. If the parents look at their real motives, however, they will see that they are doing it mainly for themselves. Either they just want to be "better" than their neighbors down the street, or they get satisfaction out of working and want to further their own career. Maybe both of the parents are happier working. Then comes the question, whose well-being should be considered, the child's or the parents'? It definitely seems better for parents to take care of their children than to further an optional career.
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