The Pros & Cons Of Our Dual-Income Family

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.

Pro

1. Financial stabilityย 

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.

Cons

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.

Related: The Glorious Life Of A Personal Finance Blogger

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.ย 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.

Conclusion

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.

Related:

The Glorious Life Of A Personal Finance Blogger

How Mr. FAF and I Manage Our Finances As A Couple

The Costs Of Marital Conflict

The Free Article That Helps Our Marriage

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29 thoughts on “The Pros & Cons Of Our Dual-Income Family”

  • Great points Ms FAF! #2 in pros never even occurred to me, a lot of our friends were Jared’s former work friends! That should explain why I have no friends…heh heh heh ๐Ÿ˜„

    How much do you guys think it’s your financially free number? Like someone went “hey faf, how much do I have to pay you so you quit your job and never work again?”

    • I’d say $5M haha. $2M at the minimum. Mr. FAF and I still have to support our parents when they’re good, so we need to factor their expenses into the equation. Mr. FAF wants to have 3 kids, so it won’t be cheap either >_<

  • As a SAHM, I can agree to some points. Itโ€™s tough not having regular adult interaction, but there are tons of other moms feeling the same way. It provides the chance to build up a community of women supporting and encouraging each other, which is awesome!
    But for us, our marriage and family time, along with laying the foundation of being strong influences day to day in our kids lives is bigger than the fear of finances. We live frugally, enjoy our lives, but we do it on one income.
    Things are tougher in some ways, but theyโ€™re also so much better too!

    • I think you made a great point about being a positive influence on our kids, Ember! Each family has a different dynamic, so we’ll just try to make the most of our situation while staying happy ๐Ÿ™‚

  • It’s tough right now because your family is still new. Everyone has this kind of issue when they first get married. I’m sure after 10 years, you guys will be settled into your routine. We both worked full time for 16 years and it was perfectly fine. I only really considered early retirement once the kid came along. He made a huge difference in our perspective.

    • I think you’re right, Joe! Mr. FAF and I just started living together as a family, and hubby just started working. We’re still even trying to figure out our monthly food expenses @_@ I hope we will get into a routine soon. It might get boring, but at least I know what to expect hehe.

    • I asked Mr. FAF that, and he said No. I think he might change his mind in the future. He’s been in school for 6 years, so now his main goal is to do well at his job and make lots of money for the family ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Yeah being a dual-income household definitely has its pros and cons. We could afford to have just one of us work, but honestly I’d rather move toward financial independence first while we’re in our career growth years.

    I think having a kid in the mix would make things more stressful for sure. Kristin and I normally have 3-4 hours in the evening after work/working out and before bed, but if we had a kid on top of that I’m sure it’d cut that down to just 1-2. That can make it difficult sometimes to keep communication open and positive, etc. But we find ways to make it work. Being a one-car house, we get some good time in the mornings and evenings during our commute that we can’t be distracted by phones or TV ๐Ÿ™‚

    • We’re a one-car family too! But Mr. FAF drives to work while I take the metro. My advice to couples who haven’t had kids is: Enjoy life as much as you can! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • In the modern society with such high cost of living in some cities, sometimes it’s not very feasible to be a one-income family. This is a situation that most young couple struggle with when they first start out.

    I think that you’ve touched on a great point that once you’ve built up some financial stability and are more established in your career, maybe by then, it’ll be easier to move to a new city.

    At the end of the day, we all need to find the balance between security, money, personal satisfaction and self-realization. In the meantime, the daily grind will be there until your kid gets a bit older.

    I am struggling with the same thing too :). So it’s pretty normal.

    • You’re always so supportive and offer such great advice, Leo! I think a lot of young families are still trying to figure out their careers, finances, and future plans. I’m glad we’re not the only one ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Seeing how my parents did it for 20 years where my mom stayed at home, I think that it can be done with planning and effort.

    My mom is enjoying here work now that my sisters are old enough where they don’t need her at home, but it’s still a stress and now that much value added to her life.

    • Working is indeed stressful. My MIL has been a stay-at-home wife for more than 20 years. She takes really good care of the family and is here to help us out with our baby at the present ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Solid points and sounds very similar to our situation. It’s also tough when you can’t spend a lot of time with kids in our case, but when they start school it’s helpful to have a schedule so you can drop them off and pick them up yourselves too. We’re fortunate to work in an environment where our management is very understanding of this and allows for a flexible schedule.

    • We send our son to daycare, and I just can’t wait for him to start pre-K so that we won’t have to pay for daycare >_< It's great that your management is so understanding. It's definitely not the case for everyone ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Adult interaction is soooooo important. I am super introverted so were it not for my job, I’d barely talk to other humans. Which in the long term would be awful for me.

    As long as you guys are happy with the pace of life, either seems like a fine way to live.

    • Mr. FAF is an introvert too! He doesn’t even want to go to Meetup events to meet new people. Since he started working, he’s made a couple of new friends at work lol

  • I’ve also contemplated being a working or stay at home mother. The cost of living is extremely high in Hawaii and frankly, I’m not domesticated enough to succeed at being a stay at home mother, lol. We are very fortunate to have both sides parents retired so they can take turns watching over our son. But it’s hard to not feel a little guilty leaving the little guy when I was fortunate to have a mother who would stay at home while my dad was working.

    • We have our parents take care of our son too. My mom she will help take care of our second baby in the future, so I’m counting on her for that hehe.

  • Although it may sound great to be a stay at home, it is very lonely. And also, if two of you decide to stay at home it might drive you nuts.

    The best combination I think is if you have or he has a part-time job, or job that is off for three months or year like a teacher. Iโ€™m thinking out loud that that would be wonderful.

    How Old is your little one now?

    Sam

    • Hi Sam, our son is about 2.5 years told. I remember reading on your blog that your son is almost the same age. ๐Ÿ˜€

      When Mr. FAF and I stay at home with each other for a long time, we drive each other crazy sometimes. I’d be annoyed with some of his habits, and he’d be irritated with mine. In the future, Mr. FAF wants to be a historian or teach at a university (without having to do research). I want to keep blogging and maybe become a YouTuber ๐Ÿ˜€ But no matter what we do, we will need time away from each other to feel the love @_@

  • May I agree with Financial Samurai that being a teacher is a good compromise to being a stay-at-home mom? I stayed at home with my two boys for seven-and-a-half years when they were first born, and it was hard, for many of the reasons that you mentioned (plus I’m terrible at housekeeping! And I hate it!). Then I went back to work part-time, but I was really busy during the summers, so that didn’t work well with my boys being out-of-school in the summers. Now that I’m a (contracted) teacher, I still earn a fairly high hourly wage, can work the hours I want, but am absolutely off summers and school breaks. It’s a really sweet deal. I’m not bored during the day, have a purpose and earn an income, but I also get time off, a whole chunk of summer off, and afternoons to help my kids with their homework, etc (I get off at 3:30 each day). You guys seem like things are going pretty well, though, for the time being! ๐Ÿ™‚ Go, Mrs. FAF!

  • Why not look at self employed or part time work? Thatโ€™s where my wife ended up. Enough work and human interaction to keep her sane. Then again weโ€™re a bit further along in the game and my income is on the higher end so in our case itโ€™s not money but sanity that drives the decision.

  • Great topic! When we started our family we decided that Jeri would stay home with the kids and I’d continue working full time. She has worked on a number of side gigs and part time stuff over the years and I’ve supplemented our income online, but even so there have definitely been some sacrifices along the way. Our two-income friends are always going on vacations and doing stuff to their house and we have to be much more selective in what we do. But in the long run it has worked out for us.

  • Having a dual income from two strong earners really spreads up the path to financial independence. I think if you have a family one person being at home is not a bad thing as kids are a full time job alone. I think working in general although really frustrating at times is healthy for everyone. You could be a happy healthy person without it but I feel like with it you get challenges you would not otherwise face.

  • Haha! Not having to cook everyday? ๐Ÿ˜ƒ *Wise!

    Seriously dual income is kinda superb as per the financial stability fact! No one plans for a family that is kinda unhealthy with money. So we all need to be financial stable.

    Nice pros and con’s!

  • I guess that are pros and cons to both arrangements. But I always feel that the person who is willing to stay at home and take care of the kids and chores is making a huge sacrifice. Because most of their peers will be out improving their careers. It’s easy to feel left out so I always respect people who are willing to do it for their loved ones.

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