All of us have likely had a few of those moments in our life when everything we know to be true changes quickly. For me, this moment happened with a few simple words “There are two heartbeats,” spoken by the ultrasound tech at the doctor’s office. Before this moment, my wife and I had a plan, life made sense, we had one child who for the most part fell into our life’s rhythm. He was on 18 flights before he turned 2, supporting our love for travel. He enjoyed trying new foods at restaurants, supporting our love for food. He had fun playing with the toys readily available at breweries. And most importantly, he loved daycare and found joy in both drop-off and pick-ups.
My wife and I made only two slight adjustments to our life to add in Baby Boy #1.
- We placed some boundaries on time at the office (8:30-5) so we could drop off/pick him up every day.
- We committed to a 7:30 p.m. bedtime routine and replaced eating out with dinners in after baby’s bedtime.
We were excited about Baby #2 to and expected him/her to similarly jump into our life routine. We had a pregnancy scare early on that had us both bracing for the worst. When we went to the doctor’s appointment, we both expected for her to say that they couldn’t find the heartbeat and that this was the end of the road. We were anxious as we sat there holding hands, holding back tears and awaiting the worst. Then the doctor said “Well, I see a heartbeat….but I have a surprise……There are two heartbeats.” TWINS! We were going to have twins, and all of our plans suddenly changed. I really don’t remember the rest of that day, just a blur of thoughts from “OMG, we’re going to be family of 5” to “We need a bigger car.”
Then the babies arrived mid-December 2018. It was the first night in the hospital I realized that our life would never be the same. My wife had stayed at home for 6 months when our first son was born and she planned to do the same with the twins. I was fortunate enough to be able to take 2 months off which allowed us to settle into our new routine, but also solidified that this was not going to be the same as our first boy and a different living arrangement was needed for us to survive and enjoy this time. It all centered around how we’ll manage to care for our kids and work. We came up with four viable options:
- Full-time daycare
- Stay at home parent
Option #1: Full time daycare
Similar to our son, we considered full-time daycare. It offered the most flexibility in terms of the drop off and pick up time and it’s extremely reliable. Daycare centers are almost always open. However, the thought of the dropping off and picking up three kids was a bit daunting. We also remembered how guilty and sad we felt keeping our son in daycare for 9+ hours a day – it would be brutal to do the same with the twins. It would cost us approximately $70,000 to keep all three kids in daycare. For many reasons this just wasn’t an option for us.
A full-time nanny could watch our kids in our home, probably just the twins. Lots of upsides here – the kids would be in our house, we work from home, and the issue with drop off and pickups would be totally eliminated. But the one really hard thing with nannies is if they are not always reliable, they’re humans who have appointments, get sick, and the good ones are extremely hard to find. The cost of a nanny is somewhat comparable to the cost of full-time daycare.
Option #3: Family
A family member to watch our kids was an option for us. A lot upside with this option, we’ll know our kids are loved, fed, and well cared for. However, asking a family member to watch babies full-time, especially two babies, is extremely challenging and taxing. We needed our family to help support us with date nights, evening and weekend activities.
Option #4: Stay at home parent
For some couples, this is the prime path from the day they are married, and one person is always designated the ‘at home parent,” usually the wife. We sometimes discussed this as an option, but never seriously. We have very successful careers in corporate America, both make very good money and both more or less enjoy what we do. How would we even decide who steps back? We both devoted over 7 years to our education, both completed masters degrees, both clocked 60+ hours work weeks, and built our careers.
Even with the investment we both had made, for us, the decision was incredibly easy – SAHD! stay at home dad. While I like my job, my aspiration to climb the proverbial corporate ladder had dwindled the higher I got. My wife is on a run with her career, she really enjoys her job and makes more money. When we compared career trajectories, it was clear she was the shining star and investing in her career made the most sense for our family.
From there the decision came down to the math of my salary versus daycare for 2 more, plus the unquantifiable freedom and flexibility, and a peace of mind that comes with caring for our children full time. We ran the numbers through our life spreadsheet several times (more to come on this in future posts) and due to one of our life principles to live well within our means, we were still able to save money on a monthly basis and maintain roughly the same lifestyle.
This was a hard decision to make, we talked about each aspect, debated, asked others for input and slowly the decision became clearer and clearer… I was going to be a SAHD.
I created this blog to document the journey, maintain sanity while raising 3 boys, and to join my two passions, being a father and personal finance.