When a new baby arrives, young couples face a decision. If both parents work, who should stay home with the child? The mother? The person with the smallest salary? Or should both parents continue to work? Often this decision is about more than money — personal values may determine the best course of action. But sometimes both parents continue to work because they believe they need the income.

In her book Miserly Moms [my review], Jonni McCoy notes that frequently there’s no financial advantage for both parents to continue working. Between the cost of childcare and the cost of working (food, transportation, clothing, etc.), the second salary in the family is effectively negated. But how can you know if you’re one of those couples that can afford for one parent to remain at home?

The Parents.com stay-at-home calculator may help. Enter your income, your expenses, and then include what you spend on childcare and work, and the calculator will determine whether living on one income is feasible. The results page also includes tips and strategies to make the transition easier.

Kris and I have no children — though we have four cats — so we’ve never had to make this choice. Many of our friends have wrestled with the decision, though. For some, it makes more sense financially (and/or personally) for one parent to stay home. For others, the parents’ incomes are large enough that it makes more sense for both to continue working. There’s no one right answer.

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