Understanding the Benefits of Being a Stay-at-Home Parent

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 1, 2022

Published February 22, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

One of the decisions parents make is whether they want to work full-time outside the home or stay at home. Your goals, parenting philosophy and resources can all help you decide if being a stay-at-home parent is right for you. In this article, we review some of the facts and figures that explain the pros and cons of being a stay-at-home parent.

Benefits of being a stay-at-home parent

Consider these benefits of being a stay-at-home parent based on various studies and surveys about the impact of stay-at-home parents:

Improved academic performance

Children who have a parent who stays at home may achieve better academic performance. One study found that 10th-grade children who had a parent stay at home when they were young achieved better grades in school than those who had working parents working away from home during early childhood. This is true even for kids whose stay-at-home parents went back to the workplace after staying at home for a few years or more.

Stay-at-home parents may have more time to support their children's academic development than parents who work outside the home, who may not be able to dedicate as much extra time to helping their children with homework or advocating for their needs with teachers.

Decreased child care expenses

Families that have a parent dedicated to providing child care can avoid the major expense of paying child care providers for several hours of care costs each day. The cost of child care is steadily increasing, with working parents paying an average of $143 per week in child care costs in 2011, a steep rise from $84 per week in 1985. This includes payments made to family members, which may be much lower than the going rate for day care institutions.

Related: 82 Ways To Make Money as a Stay at Home Parent

Lower stress levels for kids

Some studies report that children in day care environments may experience higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, than children who receive care from a full-time stay-at-home parent. One study showed 63% of children in day care experienced stress increases while in daycare compared to their levels at home.

Fewer behavior problems

One study showed a correlation between the amount of time kids spend in child care with behavioral and social issues. A different study discovered that about 17% of kids receiving childcare outside of their home had behavior problems.

Being a stay-at-home parent gives you more time with your children, which can also help you identify possible behavioral or developmental challenges early on. Instead of relying on feedback from outside caregivers, stay-at-home parents can observe their child's behavior firsthand. Stay-at-home parents may also be able to devote more time to help their school-aged children adapt to a new environment.

Social support

When parents don't work outside of the home, they may also have more time to take advantage of social opportunities such as parenting classes and groups for stay-at-home mothers and fathers, allowing them to receive additional support.

Per the Pew Research Center, stay-at-home parents account for about one-fifth of all U.S. parents, and the numbers have been steady since 1989. More than 25 years after the think tank's 1989 survey, it found that 27% of mothers in the U.S. were stay-at-home parents, versus 28% in 1989, while the number of stay-at-home fathers rose by 3% to 7%.

Related: 15 Part-Time Jobs for Parents Who Want to Work from Home

More family time

Many parents feel satisfaction from spending time with their children, and stay-at-home parents have more hands-on time with their kids. A study of mothers with children under 18 found that, on average, stay-at-home parents spend 18 hours on child care each week compared to 11 hours for working mothers. This includes stay-at-home parents of school-aged children, who may be able to spend time transporting their kids to and from school, attending field trips and events, helping them with homework and other parenting tasks.

More sleep

Stay-at-home parents also get more sleep, averaging 63 hours a week compared to working parents that only sleep around 58 hours per week. The extra sleep combined with additional time for relaxation can help stay-at-home parents manage stress and maintain a balance of family time and personal time when they're on-call 24/7 as a parent.

Related: How To Make Time for Self-Care While Working From Home

Possible drawbacks of being a stay-at-home parent

While there are many well-researched benefits to being a stay-at-home parent, there are also some cons to consider before you decide what situation is best for your family and for yourself:

Emotional challenges

Despite its benefits, being a stay-at-home parent can be challenging and emotionally draining. While many parents experience happiness and satisfaction from raising their kids full-time, they also experience heightened levels of negative emotions. One study showed that 41% of stay-at-home parents worry frequently compared to 34% of employed parents, indicating increased emotional stress from staying at home full-time.

The same survey indicated 26% of stay-at-home parents experienced sadness and 19% experienced anger within the last day, while only 16% of working parents reported sadness and 14% reported anger. The stress of raising kids hands-on without breaks can have a significant impact on your mental health and emotional regulation, so it's important to consider ways to offset these challenges if you want to be a stay-at-home parent.

Longer days

Because stay-at-home parents don't get to clock in and out of their responsibilities, this can cause them to have long-uninterrupted stretches of work each day that far surpass a regular work schedule. Some surveys report that parents spend 14 hours per day actively handling their responsibilities as a stay-at-home parent. These long days can lead to burnout, stress and other consequences of overworking, even in a domestic setting instead of a standard workplace.

Related: 29 Family Friendly Positions for Working Parents

Time away from the workplace

Taking time off from your career to raise your children can have an unintended impact on your future job prospects. Employers may look at gaps in employment unfavorably. One researcher discovered that parents trying to get a job after taking time off to care for their kids received calls back for an interview 4.9% of the time compared to 15.3% of employed mothers.

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