The topic of whether I should quit my job and become a stay-at-home mom has come up in my conversations with Mr. FAF before.
I seriously considered it at one point when the house I was sharing with two other roommates got broken into three times in two weeks.
I got so scared that I just wanted to go back to Vietnam to stay with my family.
But then I started thinking about Mr. FAF and how he couldn’t move with me. I gave up on that idea.
At that time, Mr. FAF and I lived in two different cities that are more than 10 hours away from each other.
I felt so alone and scared that I told Mr. FAF I wanted to quit school and moved to his city.
I am usually a rational and stubborn person who wants to stick with my goals.
But I was so shaken by that whole experience that I wanted to give up everything just to be safe by Mr. FAF’s side.
Mr. FAF convinced me to reconsider that idea and continue working towards my degree.
Thinking back on that experience, I am thankful that he encouraged me to stay in school and get a job instead.
That said, sometimes when life got tough and when I got tired of our 4-year long-distance marriage, I thought a lot about whether I should follow Mr. FAF and stay at home to take care of our son.
At the moment, both Mr. FAF and I work full-time. Since Mr. FAF started working after six years of being in grad school, I have noticed some major changes to our lives. Some are positive, and some are not so positive.
Below are the pros and cons of our two-income household.
1. Financial stability
As an extremely risk-averse person, I like to know what will happen tomorrow, in a week, in a month, in a year, and ideally in my lifetime.
Routines can be monotonous and damaging to many people’s life quality. But not for me. I thrive on stability while having the freedom to be creative and map out a predictable future for my family and myself.
One of my biggest fears is to have no or little money in our bank account to the point where our family might end up on the street or go hungry for days.
We have good friends in America and loving family in Asia. But at the end of the day, no one else can live our lives for us. We need to act as responsible adults to ourselves and as caring parents to our children.
Growing up in a low-income household, I know exactly what financial stress can do to a family: endless arguments about money between the parents and a lasting psychological impact on the children.
My hope is that Mr. FAF and I will be financially secure to provide our children with a good education and help them explore their full potential.
Of course, we don’t need to both work to make that happen. But I can’t bear the thought of putting all of my hope and dreams into one income whether it’s Mr. FAF’s or mine.
It terrified me to think about the possibility that Mr. FAF wouldn’t be able to get a job after graduation, and that I would be the only income-earner.
Maybe I just worry too much, and I’m trying to not overthink everything. But that’s part of who I am no matter how much I try to change myself.
When both of us work, if Mr. FAF loses his job, I will still have mine. If I lose my job, Mr. FAF will still have his. And the likelihood both of us becoming unemployed is not as high as only one of us getting laid off.
With two incomes, we’re also able to take advantage of our employers’ 401(k) and 403(b) match as well as other benefits such as employer-provided life insurance.
2. A larger social circle
One thing I really like about my current job is the interaction with my colleagues. Not everyone is perfect, and I’m sure I have some traits that other people might not like. But in general, my colleagues are the ones I turn to when I have problems in my life.
I only have a couple of colleagues that I talk to on a daily basis, and they tend to be the ones sitting close to my cube.
I value our conversations since I can learn a lot about how they handle work, stress, life, and kids. I have friends outside of work, but we all have our own families and just can’t meet on a daily basis like I do my colleagues.
I know Mr. FAF feels the same way as I do. Before starting his job, Mr. FAF stayed at home for about a month and often told me he felt a bit depressed. He had a couple of friends he could call and meet up with, but they all worked full-time and didn’t have time to see him until the weekend.
That all changed after Mr. FAF started working. He often tells me about how his mentor motivates him to work harder and smarter.
Mr. FAF is very shy and doesn’t usually go out of his way to make new friends. But when it comes to work, he needs to be professional and carry on a conversation with his teammates.
When we had some conflict about whether we would need to move to the West Coast for Mr. FAF’s new job opportunity, we mentioned the possibility of either of us working from home. Neither of us liked that idea, contrary to many people’s preferences.
I think one reason is because we were students for a long time. Now we just want to be in a real professional setting where there is a fixed schedule. We can just relax and work on what we want at home without feeling like we always need to do our jobs from morning to night.
At least, that’s how I feel about my job. It starts at 8 and ends at 5. The rest of the day is mine to spend. I don’t need to feel guilty about watching a YouTube video or blogging instead of working.
3. Not having to cook or clean every day
If I become a stay-at-home parent, there will be an expectation both from Mr. FAF and myself that I will cook hot meals and clean the house every day.
When both of us work, I clean the house every weekend. Mr. FAF and I also cook the main dishes for the week on the weekends. We will make a simple soup or side dish for a change, but cooking won’t take up two hours of our time every day.
My mother-in-law is staying with us, so she’s helping with the cooking. But she will need to leave for China soon. And we will need to resume our cooking schedule.
I have to admit that doing housework makes me feel a bit depressed sometimes. I’m not sure why, but I know taking care of all the chores is what I need to do, not something I want to do or look forward to.
4. Not being stressed out about the lack of adult interaction
I learned about this from other stay-at-home moms. I know they love their children dearly. But they also mentioned the fact that sometimes they miss the interaction with other adults.
I love my son and want the best for him. But when I spend the whole weekends with Baby FAF, I sometimes yearn for that conversation with my co-worker about our projects or career plans.
Monday sounds depressing to a lot of people. But after a long weekend, Monday is when I return to my work and don’t need to worry about watching what my son does or whether he will hurt himself all the time.
Despite all the wonderful pros of a dual-income family, I’ve also observed some cons when Mr. FAF and I both work.
1. Less time with family
Our morning routine at home consists of Mr. FAF, Baby FAF, and me eating a quick dinner and heading out of the house at 7:15 AM. We barely have time to have a meaningful conversation with each other.
Mr. FAF eats a quick breakfast. And I try to feed Baby FAF something while he is throwing a tantrum because he’s still sleepy.
We spend most of our waking moments being away from each other in three different places. When we get home from work and school, we spend about 3 hours eating, doing the dishes, taking a shower, and taking care of any chores that need to be done that day.
When we wake up the next day, the cycle repeats itself. In total, I think we have about an hour every day talking and hanging out together as a family. Any other fun activities will need to wait until the weekend.
2. Bring home stress from work
Although I like my colleagues, there are days when I come home feeling unhappy about something that happened at work earlier that day.
I know it’s important to separate work and family. But emotions are not something I can easily switch on and off depending on the context that I am in.
Usually, Mr. FAF will be on the receiving end of my frustration. Sometimes he can tell right away if something is off and asks me if I had a bad day at work. Sometimes he has no idea why I am so irritable and just wants the day to end fast.
When Mr. FAF is stressed out about his work, I can usually tell. I will either try to talk to him about it or be more quiet than usual waiting for a new day to start. And needless to say, it is not a happy day for the whole family.
Related: The Costs Of Marital Conflict
3. Less flexibility to move
When only one spouse works, relocation means only one person changing their job. The working spouse tends to have more say in whether they want to move the whole family to a different location depending on their job prospects.
For the stay-at-home spouse, moving means saying good-bye to their friends, neighbors, and possibly extended family who lives nearby.
When both spouses work, however, if one spouse wants to change jobs or gets promoted and has to move to a new location, they usually needs to convince the other working spouse to change their current job.
The conversation might go smoothly if the couple is on the same page. However, it could cause tension, frustration, and possible breakups if the other spouse does want to leave behind their stable job for something they are uncertain about.
Mr. FAF and I have talked about moving out of the DC area. Whenever that topic comes up, the first questions that come to my mind are: Will I be able to get a job there? If yes, will it be as good as the one I currently have?
I realized that it’s important to make a sacrifice for our spouse to develop their career. However, I’m sure you’ve heard about cases where one spouse sacrifices all their life for the family and ends up with bitterness because of betrayal and broken promises.
I personally know some women who left their careers behind to follow their husband all over the world. They later on wish that they hadn’t done so.
I was torn between supporting my husband and being independent as a woman. Sometimes I think that I’d be more willing to move with Mr. FAF if I weren’t so focused on developing my career in one specific location – Washington DC. We would have had so many more enjoyable conversations and a happier marriage.
One reason why Mr. FAF and I both work full-time is because we are trying to build our finances and a better future for our family. On our journey to financial freedom, we have and will make many sacrifices, some of which we might regret later.
We have had multiple conversations about where we want to be in the future and what we need to do to get there. For us, spending time with family is important. But we also need to make sure that our family has a strong foundation to grow and stay happy in the long run.
One crucial pillar of that foundation is financial stability. We work hard now so that in the future we can have the option of spending more time with our family and working on our passion projects.
When we’re financially free and can retire early, we will revisit the plan of becoming a one-income family.