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Being a SAHM Can Cost Way More Than Just a Salary

Photograph by Twenty20

It's frustrating when people question a mother’s motives after learning that she quit her job to be a SAHM. First, parenting is work; one of the toughest jobs in the world, I might add. Second, it's no one's business. But what about the third reason? The one no one ever talks about: the fact that child care can cost as much (if not more) than your current salary. The same salary you would use to pay someone else to watch your kids if you went back to work.

The average annual cost to send two children to day care is nearly $18,000. For those living in the nation’s capital, that cost is double. Parents with two kids living in the D.C. area can expect to pay as much as $40,473 per year for child care, and most states aren’t far behind. Because of this, many have elected to quit their jobs altogether or, at the very least, find less demanding work. Still, staying home with your kids doesn't mean you don’t have to pay.

When a parent chooses to leave their job or place a career on hold, they lose a lot more than just salary, according to a report from CBS News. They also lose potential earnings and benefits, such as medical insurance, retirement pensions and 401k. These lifetime costs are so high, in fact, that Michael Madowitz, economist and father of two, designed a simple calculator that will add them up for you.

By answering six short questions, this custom-made number cruncher will determine exactly what it will cost you to stay home with your kids. For example, a 28-year-old woman who typically makes a $35,000 annual salary, will lose a total of $505,438 if she plans to take five years off to be a SAHM.

Photograph by mom.me

Although half a million bucks may seem like a good reason to go back to work, the concern over child care remains because someone still has to pay for it, and that someone (yes, YOU) is most likely searching for quality child care. Therein lies every parent's conundrum: Who should you trust to care for your child, and how much are you willing to spend?

Some stay-at-home moms also work from home part-time and may need to hire a babysitter or send their littles to preschool so they can get stuff done—and that can be very costly, as well.

Despite the faith in our own abilities to care for our children, Madowitz warns parents against staying home if you have a high-paying job.

“If you're really high-income, you're going to lose a lot of money because you are going to make a lot of money.”

Either way, child care is going to cost plenty, but will end up costing your family a whole lot more if you need a calculator to figure out where your priorities lie.

Add up your family's costs with Madowitz's hidden child care cost calculator, if you're curious.

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