Monday, March 12, 2018

The Dual Income Dilemma, Daycare, & the Wage Gap

The Dual Income Dilemma, Daycare, & the Wage Gap
Disclaimer: I should start by saying that I have a penis. As such, I'm pretty unqualified to talk specifically about issues that impact women. I'm going to be wandering into those areas a bit today. I just want to note that I'm really just talking about our household, and about the things that Mrs. Done by Forty and I think and talk about when it comes to our family, and how we personally feel about things like time away from work, options like dual incomes, daycare, and the fucked up wage gap.

With that out of the way, let's dive in.

As you might know, we're about to have our first baby. In the next two or three months, Mrs. Done by Forty and I will each take some time off of work. I'll take five or six weeks off (part parental leave, part PTO) and Mrs. Done by Forty will take the summer off from her graduate research assistant (RA) position. 

But what happens after is up in the air. We don't have a great idea of what's best.

One option would be for Mrs. Done by Forty to again take an R.A. position for the final semester in her PhD program. She'd get phenomenal health insurance, for free, albeit only for her and not for our baby. Additionally, her tuition would be covered for the semester. And finally, she'd get paid: around nine thousand dollars for the semester, working twenty hours a week for twenty weeks. To put that kind of pay into context, it works out to $22.50 per hour (or what would be $46,800 if she worked on an annualized, full-time basis). After taxes, it nets us about $1,600 a month for four weeks of half time work.

One downside is that this work doesn't come with any sort of tax-advantaged retirement account option. Another is that these wages do not count towards Social Security credits, thanks to the school opting not to chip in their half of FICA taxes. (Don't get us started on that.)

And, of course, there's the reality of having to pay for daycare while both of us are working (not just, "while she is at the office" know, since I, too, am choosing to work). Our good friends have given us a benchmark for what we could expect for daycare: $550 a month for three days a week, with before and after care.

With all that, we are trying to decide what's best for us, both in the short run and the long run. Will we feel like we're getting a good trade off of time (at work and with our baby), effort, and money, if we both work? 

Would one or both of us feel happier if only one of us worked? 

Who can and should stay home if only one of us was working? 

And what sort of guidelines should we use for making this decision together? That is to say, should a husband have any say at all in the career decisions of a wife, just because their finances are linked? 

We're very, very new to all of this. I mean, we talk about this stuff all the time, and have been since way before we tried to get pregnant. But our feelings on all this change from day to day. And there's part of us that knows we won't have a great way to prepare for the situation ahead of time. We might have to just decide as we go, and stay flexible.

With all those caveats out of the way, I want to use this space to be real about our decision process. So, and I hope I'm not about to offend people with my thoughts now, here it goes.

Here's the worst part: I often have a hard time imagining myself being the one to quit my job to stay home with the baby, because of the existing wage gap in our own household. My full time income is many times higher than that of Mrs. Done by Forty. There are a couple decent reasons this is the case (I'm six years older, and have been working full time in my field since 2002; Mrs. Done by Forty has been in a PhD program during a lot of this time instead of working) and also some shitty reasons for this (I'm a half-white, half-Asian male, and all three of those descriptors happen to correlate with higher than average wages because...racism and patriarchy).

Still, I am the one who has this whack ass goal of financial independence, if not outright early retirement, by the time I am forty. I am in a better position to give up a career to stay at home with our child than most men. So why isn't this option on the table?

I think part of the reason is that we're not quite financially independent yet, and that it might be good for our family, if not also the goal of financial independence, to keep earning my income for a few more years. And we don't know what kind of job, or pay, Mrs. Done by Forty will get after she has her degree. 

Or at least those are the supposedly rational reasons I keep telling myself. I don't know if they are bullshit excuses or not. It could be that I just like being a "good earner", or a "provider", or whatever. I'm not immune to any of the stereotypes that make me feel like a good husband or father, just by virtue of having the requisite number of zeroes on my paycheck.

On top of that, the dumbass, male personal finance blogger side of me sometimes thinks, "Well, if one of these two people is earning less than ten grand this half of the year, and the other person is earning many times that, and there's going to be an ongoing cost for daycare, then if the couple wants someone to stay home with the kid, then it should be the lower earning spouse." 

Then that douchey side of me piles on with some sort of cost benefit analysis, which would argue for there being a wage at which it's no longer 'worth' the lower-earning spouse to work. That if we're not both earning at a certain rate, and if we have to pay $550 a month for part time care, or maybe $1,000 a month for full time care, then it might just make more sense to specialize: one of us will work, one of us stay home with the kid. And you can guess which of the genders ends up working in these scenarios.

Here's the final, jerky kicker: taxes. Your 'final' dollar is going to be taxed at your highest marginal rate. It's the reason I'm currently lukewarm on getting a side hustle for myself: delivering pizzas might be an easy job, but my entire $10 hourly rate is going to be taxed at 22% for federal income tax alone, plus state taxes, plus FICA. The progressive tax system puts some pretty strong incentives for the second job in a household if it pays way less.

I know this makes me an asshole, but I apply the rationale above to Mrs. Done by Forty's potential wages. Might she just be happier not working, since all of of her wages are being taxed at the higher rate, while "my wages" are taxed at a lower effective rate.

But I know this isn't the right way to approach things. 

For one, I'm obviously taking a biased view when it comes to the progressive tax system. Just because I personally view my job as the one we'd keep and her job as 'optional', that doesn't mean that I get to put her wages in the higher marginal bracket in order to make a point. Why not view her wages as the ones getting to be taxed at lower marginal rates, and my 'last dollar' being taxed at 22%?

Second, these speciously rational arguments help perpetuate the wage gap. Without any way of knowing what job opportunities are out there, the wage gap's impact on our own household finances (wherein the husband earns a lot compared to the wife) might be nudging us towards decisions that, ironically, just make it harder to close the wage gap going forward. Sure, we might be acting in what seems like our own best interest right now by having the higher earner work while the lower earner stay home; but in the process we're also contributing to the gender wage gap on a broader scale. 

And Mrs. Done by Forty's R.A. position, even if it's only for the next six months, might lead to opportunities for full time work afterwards. We don't have a good way to know what the opportunity costs would be from her leaving work for that period, but they're potentially huge.

Regardless of what we do for the final semester of Mrs. Done by Forty's PhD, we're going to have to figure out a work and child care situation. This isn't a six month decision, really. It's an ongoing decision that we're going to have to figure out, just like a lot of parents do.

Let's put aside the decision of what we want to do in the final months of Mrs. Done by Forty's PhD program. We want to have a second child, too. What are the impacts of getting a job after baby number one, then taking maternity leave a year or two into your new career for child two? 

What happens if Mrs. Done by Forty takes three full years off, then enters the workforce afterwards? Our own household wage gap will likely just have grown further: I'll have worked for three more years, getting raises and maybe a promotion in the process, while Mrs. Done by Forty has been building a gap in her resume.

It's kind of a shit situation for which we don't have an easy answer.

It's also a rich person's problem: we get to wrestle with this enviable problem because we earn enough from one job to view a second job, and the paid childcare that might come with it, as potentially optional.

I also want Mrs. Done by Forty to make the decision based on whatever career option she wants to pursue, not based on my whack-ass, outdated views on work, family, and child care. I have opinions (as evidenced by this too-wordy post) but this is clearly a case where I think I should just support whatever she wants to pursue. Right?

I mean, we're a team. Always a team. But in this case, Mrs. Done by Forty is the quarterback. She's the one in a position to best see the field, call the play and, when needed, make an audible. 

In this game, I'm the center. My job is just to hand her the ball, block for her, and make sure she's in a position to make the play without some asshole trying to pull her down.

*Photo is from taberandrew at Flickr Creative Commons.


  1. Just going to put my own experience out there to chew on:

    I was extremely career driven until I had to return to work when Kenny was 13 weeks old. Rob was in school (also an RA), and in no way earning enough to support our family. Had he been working full-time, I would have quit.

    I think planning for an audible is the best plan. I can present you with pretty convincing evidence that a resume gap is only as bad as you make it out to be, but that really doesn't matter if your wife wants to go back to work.

    PS I will put it out there that you should keep quitting on the table. I'm pretty convinced that the reason that women aren't as successful in the workplace are because most don't have stay-at-home wives who run everything but their career.

    PPS- But don't quit until you're sure she doesn't want to quit. That would be a bummer.

    1. Hi Hannah! I'm excited that you were able to comment as I know you're coming at this from an academic background, too.

      We, too, are wondering if Mrs. Done by Forty might feel differently about things when she goes back to work, somewhere around 13 weeks as well.

      That's encouraging to hear that a gap might not be all that bad. Would love to read an article or book if you have something to recommend! She's someone for whom data and information are soothing. :)

      And yes, I do think that maybe me being a stay at home dad might be just what we need to close the wage gap in our own house.

    2. One of the more interesting books on the topic is probably "XX Factor" by Alison Woolf. She's taken a deep dive into gender differences, but also how gender differences vary by class. She specifically differentiates between women of the top fifth (ie in households that earn about $125K+ here in the united states). This group tends to take shorter (and less-complete) career breaks to raise children, they tend to step back in their career (under-earning their husbands for as long as several), but later in their career recover their earning power. By and large, women of the upper class tend to get to make the best trade-offs in terms of family and career.

      Her research covers more socialized countries (Most of Europe including the UK) and the United States, so its really fascinating. I could go on and on, but I won't. I think if you google Allison Wolf, XX Factor, Podcast, you can listen to her work without having to buy the book if you don't want to.

    3. Man, that sounds right up our alley. And they have that book in the Tempe library! Woot!

      I'll probably check out the podcast, too, but Mrs. Done by Forty is oddly anti-podcast and is one of those annoying folks who "reads books".

  2. Oh man I have no idea what to say to this or any advice. Hopefully things get clearer as they approach. And maybe, I hope, the good news is one decision doesn't have to be permanent. If you go one way and it doesn't feel good to either one of you, then you can try something else! Either way you'll have a gorgeous little life to raise!

    1. That's probably the best plan we can make, Tonya. As you said, we might just need to remind ourselves that we can always try something else.

  3. Hmmm... well, I haven't got much experience to draw upon for this one. My only thought is that from the outsider's perspective it seems like the point of Mrs. DBF's career is something other than money - since she's still finishing her PhD, and you (meaning the plural you) are nearly ready to retire. If that's the case, then whatever money she does or doesn't earn is sort of moot in the big picture sense, isn't it? I guess what it looks like to me is that you're looking at winding down your career just as she's looking at winding up hers - and somewhere in the middle are one or two kids.

    You haven't mentioned what field she is in, so it's hard to know what her next steps might be... post doc? teaching? research? corporate something? And since her academic work involved a great deal of travel, would paid positions be the same? How might that figure in?

    Anyhow, I think you're probably gonna have to play it at least somewhat by ear if that's possible. From the experience of my Ex and his daughter, I can say that handing an infant over to full time daycare is a huge emotional decision, not merely a financial one, so if it's possible to delay that decision until after the little one is born, so you can see how you feel about it, I would try to do that. I think it's really hard to predict exactly how you and she might feel about the relative importance of careers and money once you get a taste of parenting.

    Maybe it would be good to explore what sorts of middle ground options there might be. Could you cut back to part time? Could she finish the PhD ad a slower rate? What are her advisor's plans? Will he/she still be there if she decides to postpone finishing, or will she have to start over with a new advisor (not generally conducive to finishing a PhD on time.)

    Anyhow, those are my thoughts - random though they might be. But mostly I think you guys should trust your collective guts on this one and remember that these decisions are bigger than money.

    1. Hi there EcoCatLady,

      I know we're sparse on the details of our careers, and that's somewhat by design so that we can keep our anonymity.

      Our plan re: 'retirement' has changed over the years. My goal, at least, is to reach financial independence but I'm not sure I want to leave the workforce. Same with Mrs. Done by Forty -- I think, even more than me, she might want to continue working.

      I do hear what you're saying about the money being moot, and that rationale probably applies more to me than to her. For Mrs. Done by Forty, I think we both want her to be paid well/fairly even if we don't really need the money, for some of the gender wage gap reasons we discussed in the piece. If an employer is paying her less than what they would a male employee, we'll still view that as a major problem even if we're just donating or investing the funds.

      I agree that we'll probably just have to wait and see how we feel once the little one is here. We'll unfortunately have to make some decisions soon re: next semester, but I imagine we might have some flexibility to change our minds afterwards, too.

      I think she wants to finish up her PhD this fall semester no matter what, but what happens after that is way, way up in the air still. Full time, part time, stay at home, etc. etc.

  4. If you have any idea that may want to put the kiddo into daycare, start looking at places NOW. Don't have to know for sure, but there is limited availability in Tempe,Mesa for the best places, no matter what price you are willing to pay. We were lucky to find a place near my work (so I could continue breastfeeding baby at lunchtimes) that had infant availability.

    The main drivers for the decision for mom to continue working was health care costs and the income - maxed out insurance deductible with the birth and some maternal complications. This decision has worked out well so far, but we re-evaluate every 6 months - hopefully I can shift to part-time work by the end of this year, when our baby is ~18 months old.

    1. Those are all great tips, thank you. We'll make a call today to see if there's availability for infants at some of the places we're considering.

  5. I don't know about your wife, but if she has the drive to get through a PhD program, I'm surprised she'd be okay with putting her career on hold (the career she went to school for so long to get to) any more than it's already been.

    I'd also wonder what her earning potential truly is. A PhD is still a good indicator of a higher than average earning potential, so it may make sense to get her into the workforce as quick as possible because her earning potential should be relatively decent.

    A few years of you both making good money means that your FIRE dreams can happen sooner.

    But this is soooooo hard. It's one of the main reasons my husband and I are DINKs by choice. Good luck on everything.

    1. Hi there, BasicBitch (man, I feel like I am typing an insult right now).

      Yeah, only Mrs. Done by Forty can really speak to the career drive she feels. (I asked, but she is shy about typing out contributions here on the blog.) I get the feeling that she wants to pursue a career that's meaningful, but she also feels a desire to be home with the baby for some amount of time. The tradeoff is difficult: no real easy answer.

      As for pursuing FIRE more quickly, that's probably true! But we're so close that we're hoping to take that aspect off the table. Neither of us want to do something specifically because of the money...we're like maybe 8 months from FIRE, or maybe 28 months....a lot depends on what the market does, and very little depends on the contributions we make to the retirement accounts now.

      You hit on something I wish I'd put in to the post, but we are very much used to DINK life and transitioning to something different is proving to be, well, kind of a dilemma.

    2. I would love it if you would eventaully write about that transition from DINKS to parents. I haven't seen much written about it and I bet it's a really tough (but rewarding) transition.

      Ah, you are soooo close to FIRE then. Best of luck hitting those numbers!

    3. I'm writing a quick 'draft' so I'll remember the idea!

      I should note that there's a downside risk to when we'd FIRE, too. If we hit a recession very soon, it could be something like 4 years away.

      I guess what I should have said is that when we hit it will have a whole lot more to do with the market's gyrations than whether we rock a 2nd income for a while. We've gotten to the point where our contributions are, like, almost inconsequential.

  6. "Why not view her wages as the ones getting to be taxed at lower marginal rates, and my 'last dollar' being taxed at 22%?"

    That's what I do because the default position is to prioritize the male earner and the higher earner. I don't make THAT much less than PiC but it's the principle of the matter ;)

    My only suggestion is to try and keep her options open just as much as you would your own because you won't know how you feel about parents working and how much until the baby is here and you see the impact that the kiddo has on your lives. Some people realize they NEED to get back to work for sanity's sake, some people realize the opposite. Infants are a ton of work and not everyone enjoys spending all day and night with them. No shade whatsoever, because I didn't think I would be that person at all - I wanted PiC to be the SAHD! In the end, I actually liked a compromise of working while taking care of our baby because I COULD - it was the best (and worst) of both worlds. But it was awesome to be able to cuddle my kid AND keep my career because I've spent a hell of a long time and energy building an amazing professional reputation and I was not ready to give that up. Bonus: texted PiC pictures all day long of the weird and wacky and fun. Unbonus: oh god the lack of sleep.

    Going back at 12 weeks was way too soon for me physically. Maybe 5 months would have been perfect.

    Overall, the opportunity costs are such an unknown. For me, a resume gap would probably sink my career (maybe) (probably) (I don't know for sure). For other people, I've seen them come back from a five year gap so well that they were able to let the other spouse be the SAHP. It varies!

    1. I'm so glad you read and commented, Revanche. I was hoping to get your perspective.

      I wanted to write out an entire separate post about how unfairly I apply the rationale of "whose income is all going into the higher marginal tax brackets". It's my own weird sexist nonsense and it's, um, not good. But I guess it's at least good to be honest with myself: I do tend to view my income as the 'default'...because who would give up the higher income job, right?

      The advice about 12 weeks possibly not being enough is good. We worry that might be the case as well...but are hoping the RA-ship could be WAH for that semester, possibly? Too hard to tell yet. She's considering everything right now: full time work starting in the fall, part time in office, part time at home, full time at home, not working at all for like 1.5 or 3 whole years...

      As you said, we probably just need her options to be just as open as mine. I love that framing.

    2. Trying again ...

      Here's an alternate take that might help you reframe the incomes with relation to higher tax brackets: By itself, it's nonsense to give up the higher income job. BUT we never take or give up jobs in isolation.
      We choose them for many reasons so the salary number alone doesn't qualify it as the best job of your two jobs.

      PiC's job pays about 15% more plus has amazing benefits while mine pays me reasonably well plus gives me incredible autonomy and independence and flexibility. His is flexible but not like mine so my stress levels are WAY lower. It comes out to about equal!

      The biggest takeaway I had from the first year was: options are good! ALL THE OPTIONS!

    3. Yeah, that's a great way to look at it. One of the big benefits Mrs. Done by Forty has is the insurance and tuition being covered by her RAship, if she takes it. That's huge. Her deductible is like $250, and out of pocket max is $1500. It's nonsense how good it is -- having a baby while in the PhD program saves us many thousands. Plus, you know, no tuition!

      As you said, options that each job (or not having a job) is a great way to view the positives, instead of me focusing on the downsides/inequality alone.

  7. I wouldn't overthink it too much at this point. The important thing is to talk to your wife and plan together. Life is going to change so much and you don't know how you'll react. Just plan the best you can and roll with it. I'm sure you'll do fine.

    For us, I quit my career when our kid was 18 months old. That was a couple of years earlier than I expected. We hated putting our kid in daycare from 7am until 6pm. It worked out very well for us. You'll have to figure it out as you go along. Get your sleep now....

    1. Truth! I was also hoping you'd write in, Joe. Love having some FIRE friends who have kids.

      I think you and the other commenters are right. We just have to wait and see how we feel about this stuff as we do it. The rub is that we have to make job acceptance/application decisions now, before we really know how the baby will change our point of view. But I guess we can just say no or quit later!

      Okay, off to take a nap. :)

  8. All I can really add is, when we started focusing on how both my wife and I want to live our day to day lives, rather than getting too fancy with the financial analysis, life has found a way of feeling so much better overall.

    My wife is looking after our kids - but she loves it, and isn't focused on a 'career', but rather just doing what's important to her. I treat my work pretty similar - not so much as a career, but more like 'what interesting and useful things can I do today'?.

    I see too many friends and colleagues in constant stress because they're just not focusing on what they actually want to do. Their kids become another 'thing' to be managed in the hectic rush to keep making money. So I guess all I'm saying is - your wife should do what she wants to do! But one thing's for sure - you'll never, never regret any time you spend with your child, no matter now many dollars you give up for it :)

    1. I can see that perspective, Frankie.

      I hope I didn't make it seem like we'd be chasing money, per se, by Mrs. Done by Forty potentially working. But rather, we both feel like work is probably part of a fulfilling life...for both of us. Of course, that feeling wanes from time to time, but I don't know if either one of us is really ready to fully retire just yet.

  9. Didn't get the memo about you guys expecting! So sorry to have missed that and a belated congratulations to the DBF household.

    My personal opinion is that you're in a great position with options, which have been down to years of earning and saving. So as others have said I would try to sweat it as little as possible and just see how you feel once junior comes along.

    We are no where near as far along our FIRE journey as you guys are when we had TFS Jr so we had to be pragmatic about things. Mrs T earned far less than I did so she gets to stay at home with the baby while I get to go back to work, and she is now working part time so we can get free childcare from family . Worked out nicely in the end but we're very lucky to have that support network close by to make it work.

    Anyway. It seems to me all you both really need to decide is what you actually want to do, and then do it. It doesn't matter about earnings or money at this stage as you're so close to FI. I would totally quit work and take as much time with the kid as possible personally, if the Mrs had any kind of inkling to have a career, and you can always get your intellectual stimulation from blogging and other ventures. But YMMV of course. And again as others have said there is no reason why you can't change path multiple times if what you originally thought you wanted turned out to be wrong.

    Apart from the kids of course! Can't send them back! :)

    Best of luck mate and very excited for you.

    1. Wait, we can't just drop the kids off at the fire station if we have a change of heart? Stupid t.v., lying to me again.

      There's a part of me that agrees with the idea that the lower earning spouse would stay home with the kids from a pragmatic perspective, if anyone was. But I also know that's kind of a not-great approach from a fairness perspective, and it would just exacerbate the wage gap in our own house.

      As you noted, we can (and probably will) shift gears a lot in the next few years. Lots of changes on the horizon...

    2. "There's a part of me that agrees with the idea that the lower earning spouse would stay home with the kids from a pragmatic perspective, if anyone was" - I guess my (rather laboured and unclear) point was that you guys don't have to be pragmatic about things as you've already earned most of the income you will ever need to sustain your spending.

      So you can just do whatever you want. If Mrs DBF wants to continue working then she can have at it, likewise you or if you decide you'd rather stay with the baby (or both of you!) then you can also do that. Then there is nothing stopping you both picking up some more work in a few years time when baby(s) are a bit older, and you don't have to worry about lower earnings due to being out of the workforce anyway because you will not be working for the $$$ anymore but because you found something you enjoy and want to do it anyway.

      Cheers :)

    3. Right on! That makes sense, FIREStarter. I'm walking on eggshells with this topic, due to my maleness, which is probably making my points more convoluted than they need to be.

  10. From an outside perspective, having her keep working and doing part-time daycare is the best. Especially if otherwise you have to pay for marketplace insurance for the baby (you said the baby can't be on your wife's insurance).

    But that's an impartial observer. Not someone who has to leave the baby I just had and want more time with. That said, some moms are happy to get back to work. It's not that they don't love the kids, but they need a bit of time away, being themselves, working on their identities apart from "Mom." So Hannah probably has the best advice of being ready to call an audible.

    I'm impressed how much privilege you were able to take note of. Even stuff I hadn't thought of.

    I'm glad you have the options that you do, but I'm sorry the choice is so hard.

    Hope to see you at the next Phoenix meetup!

    1. Hi Abibail! I have been wrestling with getting my first ever 'personal' Facebook account just so I can join groups like ChooseFI and actually participate in those meetups. I don't think I can join with my blog's page as it's a 'business' page or whatever. As you can tell, I'm pretty much useless when it comes to all things Facebook.

      I think your take is a good one to start with. It's probably easier to work for a hot minute and then decide to quit if it isn't working out, than to build a gap and try to jump into a good work situation afterwards.

      And yeah, we're definitely anticipating an audible. We're plan 'optimizers' so we end up changing our minds a lot over time.

  11. I meant to comment on this post when I first read it, but I was in a parking lot, reading it on my phone, and put it aside because it's hard to get thoughts organized when typing on a phone. Also, I was likely to shoot from the hip with a knee-jerk reaction which, while often gets me good results in my own life, can come off as a bit abrasive to others (it's the ex-military officer in me....we have to make important decisions super-fast, be correct (or at least "do no harm") 90% of the time, and can't always take the time to bring people along our mental journey).

    The fact that you are even asking these questions in such a thoughtful manner is a huge plus and frankly, is more than half of the battle. Too many couples just stumble through these moments without proper consideration. And don't even get me started on the abusive situations where the male tries to dominate all decision and choices (that is NOT just a 1950's phenomenon, it still exists today).

    You say you are half-Asian. My wife is Chinese-born and my son is thus half-Asian. My wife too is a PhD graduate (science field), although when we had our one and only child we were both fully employed doing jobs that put us on about equal financial footing. We were overseas at the time of the pregnancy though (during the 2008 financial collapse too!) and so there was some job change stress as we both simultaneously scrambled to find different jobs back in the U.S. as we didn't want to raise a child during the formative 0-5 years in pollution saturated air and water and soil (but that is another story).

    One thing I do like about the Chinese culture is that they do tend to be financially pragmatic. For one thing, that really meant there was never any question of if or when my wife would go back to work. She immediately optimized for going back to work. Have baby, move back to clean environment, go back to work. The only question was how.

    Here's the thing, we had in-laws that picked up the daycare slack. Not only was my mother-in-law willing to provide early year daycare, she pretty much demanded to do so, knowing she a) wanted to be near her grandchild and b) knowing how important it was financially to us (i.e., she didn't want us to "waste" money on daycare).

    Even though she and I don't get along very well, I was perfectly willing to have her, as I wanted my kid to get raised bilingual (and also, I appreciated what she was doing to help us out financially). My own parents had passed away but I'm sure my mother (not so much my father) would have done the same. Now there are all sorts of reasons why this is not always possible, but it boggles me when I see some grandparents check out BY CHOICE. What a gift they could bestow on their kids, with HUGE financial ramifications both near term (daycare savings) and long term (ability for both parents to excel in the workforce during their most productive years). I personally have come to view the lack of more in-law involvement in child rearing as a bit of a cultural weakness in America today (save certain immigrant communities, who get this right).

    Sooo, to summarize this verbose comment I guess I'm saying in my militaristic "just do what I say" way, I would tell you to a) Optimize as best you can for both of your careers to flourish (and do it NOW, not tomorrow, as now is the best time, given the great state of the job market for college graduates presently), b) Get trustworthy help if you can. I totally understand the lack of enthusiasm for infant daycare and c) Regardless of what help you’re able to acquire for yourselves, change the game for you own kid(s). Don't be so quick to adopt the "if it worked for us, it will work for them" attitude, which can be a mistake in this fast-changing world. When YOU are grandparents, make sure you plan to be there for them. I can think of no better way to help a young couple get a head start than helping them with infant care. That's our plan anyway.

    1. First comment hit character limit (hmm...maybe I should start my own blog...).

      Fast forward to today, and I'm no slouch, but my wife makes more than me...and we do view MY income as the incremental dollar income that must be held up as "is it worth it" against other choices. I actually have come to really like that though, as it makes it makes picking certain consulting gigs much more straightforward (i.e., if I don't REALLY love the work or if the payout isn't really good, I decline). That's being half-retired right there.

    2. First, thanks so much for that thoughtful comment, Tin. I really appreciate that, and apologies for Blogger having a character count on that. Maybe there's a way I can adjust it.

      FWIW, I didn't think your post came across poorly at all! Maybe I have an affinity for ex military?

      Like your son, I have one parent who is American and white (my dad) and one parent who is foreign born and Asian (my mother was born in the Philippines just as WWII was ending). Growing up, I, too had my Asian grandmother living with us (we flew her in from the Philippines) during those early years. I think it's an awesome system, and one I unfortunately don't know if we can replicate this time around.

  12. My comments here are going to sound harsh versus the rest of the comments but understand I enjoy your blog and want to helpful. My family of 4 hit FI a few years ago, we're not FIRE yet but it’s on the near horizon.

    1. Your wife should definitely keep until she gets her PhD. Period. I have a terminal degree and most folks get to the ABD (all but dissertation) stage, then fall apart and never finish. So to your wife I say: FINISH THAT PhD AT ALL COSTS. Your lives as parents will change far more than you might expect; you want to have that PhD part finished.

    2. $550 in child care costs aren't bad at all. Here in Chicago, we paid about $1,500 a month per toddler and we pay far less than our friends. Tin is right, if you can get any relatives in the mix - do so. My wife is also foreign and while her parent's only come to visit for months at a time, they are a godsend for childcare. Also they help re-enforce the 2nd language skills.

    3. (I might catch some hell for this comment) I think you're being way too hard on yourself - Men normally keep working and women don't. There are multiple reasons for this (wage gap, personal preference, tradition, etc.) and acknowledging as much is just reality - no need for any hand-wringing. You both can keep working - there's no reason for either of you to walk away from your careers if you don't want to. If it’s a push money wise, so what? I mean a lot of people don’t want to spend 24 hours of their day raising their children and that’s normal (though not often admitted). Also, honestly, the societal issues with the wage gap be damned - it's not your problem to solve; just do what's best for your family.
    Also no matter how driven your spouse is, her priorities (and yours) may change drastically once your child arrives. In our family, my wife was steadily and ambitiously climbing the corporate ladder until our 1st child showed up. Thereafter, work became just work for both of us (much more so for her). Now that we have two kids, both of us would be fine just working part time (I’d be fine not working at all) - our incomes would allow for it but unfortunately the type of work we both do don't easily translate to part time gigs. Thus FIRE is looking better and better and is more of a goal than before.

    4. You don't need to take years off for each child; my wife took off 3-4 months after each child and was back at it full time thereafter. I only took 1-2 weeks off each time b/c self-employment doesn't equal any kind of paid leave. It was fine; do what’s best for you – you guys might find yourselves missing work if you leave it for much longer than 5-6 months.

    5. Lastly, flexibility is the key. Hit FI and then adjust... I'd just make sure to finish the PhD because a few years gap in employment is better than an unfinished degree. Chances are you won't be as flexible schedule and lifestyle wise once your 1st child arrives and even less so after #2. So try to be as flexible with the income options as you can b/c folks typically become more risk adverse with children and age, not less.

    I hope this is helpful and Godspeed.

    1. Hi Dave!

      Nothing sounded too harsh, honest!

      Yeah, Mrs. DB40 will definitely finish her degree (over half done with dissertation writing already). I guess I'm at a loss at how the RAship will make writing easier. It certainly will make it cheaper (no tuition, plus we get paid, and get insurance) but those 20-25 hours a week could be spent writing.

      I sometimes wish our families were close to help with the childcare but, honestly, that probably is just not in the cards for us. And we're okay with it, too. I don't know how I'd handle family in the house with us long term.

      On #3, yeah, we don't see eye to eye on that one.

      We're still figuring out the time away but the current plan is for Mrs. DB40 to work as an RA part time but all at home, starting after about 3 months off (the whole summer). And as you said, flexibility is the key.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  13. Speaking from personal experience, Let Mrs DB40 make the choice - she may *want* to continue working for her own reasons (mental health, adult time, feeling like a contributor), even if the money part doesn't quite work out. I know, I would have gone back to work as soon as I could even if my salary didn't cover daycare, because I *needed* to be away from Daughter Person and be an adult for my own mental health.
    Stay flexible, work together, and for the first year or so, as long as your bills are paid and you're not going into debt, forget about the money - or at least don't let it play the largest part of the decision.

  14. Oh boy! This reminded me of our times when we were just having our baby and the #1 topic of worry was none other than money. We had decided to plan it out well but being preggers is not the easiest period for a couple, and over time, the third trimester set in. However, we took a week off sometime during that and planned out how things would go.

    The end decision was that she would take the whole 6 months maternity leave and I would cut back to 2 weeks. It didn't feel like a good plan once we started it so I took another 2 weeks and changed my work timings so that she could grab some sleep. Finances, however, fell in place for us, thanks to our side property which we leased out.

    But I will say this, having a plan is the best you can do in such a situation. And you have time.

  15. Hi - I know this post is from a while ago, but I read it and it resonated with me so much that I went back and read the entirety of your blog (massive kudos for your long-term dedication btw) before commenting here (I know, who does that?).

    Thank you very much for being willing to have such an honest breakdown of your thoughts and feelings on this particular issue/challenge/new adventure in public. My husband and I have started to have this particular conversation (although it's still abstract for us) and we also run into complications sorting out the conflict between what the image of our ideal parenting and money situation might be, and the reality of the structure of our finances. As a woman and feminist, it can be frustrating to reconcile my own 'of course I can have it all' attitude (yes, I am that egotistical!) wtih the are actual household finances. Due to a larger than normal age gap and careers in different industries, my husband outearns me by a lot. My salary absolutely matters to our household income (without it the belts would need to tighten), but his matters more in a way and it underscores many of the decisions we need to make about all matters money. Not in a bad way, but ignoring the fact that our quality of living would suffer far more if we lost his salary than if we lost mine would be foolish indeed.

    I think your question about 'what sort of guidelines' to use for making these decisions is where we spend the most of our time in discussion. Talking about people's decision processes when confronting how to spend/not spend joined-up money is of great interest to me at the moment, but it is hard to find people comfortable in pulling back the curtains on their private household finance conversations (fair enough) who also actually think strategically about money. This is one of the things I love most about the PF/FI communities - getting a peek into other people having these same conversations.

    I don't know that I have a point to make - I feel like this has been a very unstructured comment - mostly I just wanted to say thanks, and that you have a new reader!

    1. Aw, thank you so much for that comment! And it's making me smile to think someone would go back and read the whole blog. Thank you, sincerely. That really made my evening.

      It's cool to hear how similar our situations are in that regard, both in having an unequal income, while still trying to find a way to have equality in the household and equal footing upon which we both make decisions together.

      I suspect there's no one right way, but without trying to take the easy, cop out route...there are certainly a lot of 'wrong ways' -- ways that don't acknowledge that women ought to be earning the same income for the same work, and are men's equals in every way, for example.

      Anyway, I'm so glad you left that comment and sorry for my delay in seeing this and writing back. I hope you stick around!