Two Incomes but no Trap?

dvfmama recently took a part time job working the third shift in a group home for the elderly and mentally ill.  She claims it isn’t that hard and she gets to nap on the job, so I’m not too worried. But I’m sure that she is only going to be working temporarily.  A few months ago I found this interview with the author of The Two-Income Trap in Mother Jones:

More and more families today are sending both parents into the workforce — it’s become the norm, it’s what we now expect. The overwhelming majority of us do it because we think it will make our families more secure. But that’s not how things have worked out. By the end of this decade, one in seven families with children will go bankrupt. Having a child is now the single best predictor of bankruptcy, and this holds true even for families with two incomes.

Most poignant for me was this prodding point from the MJ interviewer:

In the past, it seems like a stay-at-home mom could act as an insurance policy for the family if the dad was laid off or whatnot. But today two-income families have nothing to fall back on in the event of a disaster.

I remember when I first tried to prop up her self-esteem a bit when she was feeling low because she wasn’t working.  “You’re our backup plan!” I told her.  Little did I know she would have a chance to use it against me. Tonight, I gave in to my reddit addiction and found this story on the two income trap, with a detailed explanation of the tax problems involved when you have two incomes in addition to the other, more mundane, problems like increased daycare expenses.  Money quote: When you throw two kids in the mix, … you would get to keep $8,000 a year of a $40k wage. (Of note, Teri Newton, the author of the bit, writes that it is her husband who stays at home with the kids.)

4 thoughts on “Two Incomes but no Trap?”

  1. It’s not always about the money

    We certainly have given a lot of consideration to the possibility of me staying at home to watch the kids. After taxes and paying the babysitter, we only get to keep a fourth of the gross income I earn. We could still live quite comfortably without my job.

    But after each weekend spent with the kids, I realize that I’d be miserable having to watch them all day long. It’s hard work and not intellectually stimulating. I think I’d keep my job even if it wasn’t bringing in any additional income.

    1. Re: It’s not always about the money

      Jeff! Of course I was thinking partly about you and your situation when I wrote this.

      I do recall earlier years of fatherhood weren’t as much fun as those I’ve got now. I’m not sure, though, that it is the children who’ve grown or me who has changed. After all, I enjoy spending time with my two-year-old and (sometimes provoking) her antics. I don’t think I had the same appreciation when my ten-year-old was two.

      Regardless, everyone’s situation is unique. Even if it doesn’t make economic sense, sometimes the best thing is for both parents to work.

      1. Re: It’s not always about the money

        Spending time with my (almost) 3-year old daughter is great. I can interact with her, and from time to time she’s content just playing my herself. Last week, she suggested that we read together: she read her book while I read mine. Granted, it only lasted about 5 minutes, but it was still a nice break.

        My 1-year old son, on the other hand, demands a lot of attention. He wants to be held and expects to be walked around while holding onto my finger a lot. He’s beginning to walk now, but it’ll still be a while before we can carry on a conversation.

        I may change my opinion in a year or two. Watching them full-time could be a lot of fun by then. For now, though, I’ll keep on working.

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