The Devil’s in the Dual Income?


The story: In Praise Of Stay-At-Home Moms

It’s on a new book by Mary Eberstadt called Home-Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Wonder Drugs, and Other Parent Substitutes.

She considers the effect dual-working-parent-households have had on our children. It’s always a controversial idea when someone suggests that mothers (or sometimes fathers) should stay home and take care of their kids. It usually means women giving up personal careers in the interest of their family. Some regard it as sexist or unfair, even.

It’s a hard point to get across to a culture built upon individualism and that values a person (and often ourselves) based on a salary earned or a professional title. But to pretend such misplaced values don’t take a significant toll on our children is wishful thinking.

Yet Eberstadt claims that she doesn’t want her book to make parents feel guilty, not exactly. “The purpose of these pages is not to ask what any one woman or man has decided to do. It is rather to ask what the accumulation of many millions of such decisions is doing to the children and adolescents of this society.” Her hope is “to replace our current low moral bar regarding nurture with a more humane standard acknowledging that individuals and society would be better off if more parents spent more time with children.”

21 comments Add comment

Michelle May 27, 2009 at 8:51 am

I agree completely with her statement and idea.

Rudy Garcia May 27, 2009 at 8:56 am

My wife has been a “career” woman for thirty years and a very successful one. But if you ask her what she most regrets is not having spent the time invested in work with our children. Today, she wants to quit her managerial path and dedicate the remaining years to her children and one day her grandhildren. As her husband I totally agree even if it means diminished income.

Bruce May 27, 2009 at 9:29 am

As a classic Catholic do think that a slight error of time tends to get wider and really the path is narrow. closing the gap is in dogma. An error like the miner who goes crazy over fools gold.

RNadu May 27, 2009 at 10:00 am

In a society that devalues life & women and puts priority on the material naturally leads to our treasured children feeling unloved, undervalued, & unprepared. Resulting in hurt, anger & frustration looking for what they did not recieve from their parents elswhere in risky self destructive & harmful behavior. For many families the dual income is thought to be needed to spend on optional extras.
Why not invest yourselves & trust in your faith & family? That’s what our children need to feel valued & loved as individuals as do adults. Media & social pressure that brain wash people into thinking their net worth is in your bank account. Is a lie!Life is sacred for God gave it to us,Trump or tramp.

Artie May 27, 2009 at 10:22 am

I have not read the book so I cannot comment fully on Mary Eberstadt’s point of view. However these are my thoughts on the matter…

My wife and I have been married close to 5 years now and we have a little one and we are both working. I can see the benefits of one of us staying home with our daughter and keeping up with duties at the house. I have great respect for stay at home mother’s. Sacrificing a career for your children is admirable.

Spending time with our child is very important to us, especially since we both work. All this being said, I know great Catholic families where both parents work and their children are top notch. I don’t know if the argument is work vs. don’t work as much as it is cutting out some time each day to spend quality time with your children. I would argue that having 1 parent stay at home doesn’t automatically result in a moral child. Perhaps some do feel short changed for not spending as much time with their kids by working. I believe that is a natural reaction for any parent to have.

It is important that if both parents are working that you have the proper support system around you. (Parents, suitable day care, and friends)

Provida May 27, 2009 at 10:51 am

I have an unpopular viewpoint that offends many but here goes:

Mothers are meant to be the primary caregivers of their children. Not nannies, daddies, grandmas or institutions. MOTHERS. It’s biology, physiology and theology. Because we’re technologically advanced and can circumvent our nature does not mean that’s a good thing.

Fathers are meant to be the protectors and providers for their whole households. They feed the mother and the mother feeds the children. Working while caring for an infant is either impossible or requires some neglect of the infant.

Think about it- childbirth leaves women physically compromised and so does the constant care a child needs. Women produce milk, Dad’s can’t. Now we have sorry substitutes for breastmilk called “formula,” but that doesn’t mean that children aren’t intended to have their mothers. MOTHERS. Grandmas are not the child’s mother. Day care is not a mother. While I know couples that work opposite schedules so some parent is always with the baby, most working mothers have to employ a non-parent. While stay-at-home Dad’s are preferable to a non-parent, Dads were not the intended primary caregiver- otherwise, he’d have breasts.

I have a great career and one that I could still have while having children (I am a self-employed statistician that works from home), but in most cases, breadwinning requires taking attention away from children to do so. Children should be the center of our attention. Mine will be my sole focus.

Julia February 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm


Working Mother May 27, 2009 at 11:12 am

I wonder if those whose comments come across so critical, so sanctimonious, towards the evil working mother has any idea how that criticism truly CUTS TO THE BONE of those of us who need to work, have to work; where the dual-income is not for “luxury” but for life. I am not a “kept woman.”

I have what I consider to be a successful career (if not entirely a well-paid one) and two children. I have bent over backwards to make sure they had my full attention when I was home. I sought out flexible employers so I could take as much time as needed to help my daughters when they were infants, including nursing them or pumping. I am involved in their lives as a CCE teacher, field trip chaperone, etc. I do everything a SAHM does plus I juggle 40 hours of work and am a wife to my husband.

Would I like to stay at home and do nothing all day but devote myself to my children? I don’t know. I have never been given that option or opportunity and I’m really frustrated that I have to defend myself and my situation to those SAHM who think that if I don’t give up everything for my children that I am a bad mom and my children will grow up immoral.

Jill May 27, 2009 at 11:24 am

As a stay-at-home mother of 7, I surprisingly don’t have a strong opinion either way. I do feel strongly however that a great many women (and men) do not take the issue to prayer and ask our Heavenly Father what He wants them to do. St. Gianna Molla was a working mother (a doctor with a demanding practice) and she did not compromise her faith in doing so. And because we are sinners, there will not be a cut-and-dry answer that ALL mothers should stay home. Every circumstance is different.
Personally, I said I would never stay at home and God had me eating my words shortly after saying “I do.” You see, I quit work and started taking care of my stepdaughter after school when her babysitter moved; and I have never looked back. I enjoy being with my kids so much, I homeschool them as well and this all works wonderfully for our family because that is what my husband and I were called by God to do. Blessings!

Rudy Garcia May 27, 2009 at 11:35 am

Our society has been reengineered in the past forty years to integrate women in the workplace. It has confronted men and women in a competition field that puts them many times at odds with their mutual complementary nature. It has deprived men of better wages and from the moral leadership of their families and households. Male figures have become irrelevant and obsolete when a woman can live without a husband support. This may sound horrible to our new reengineered morality, but men have been emasculated and put in competition with women. Women have been uprooted from their nurturing role and have been sent to the workplace as more “production units” where family comes probably third to the company’s interests and the woman’s career path. It is no coincidence that since the so called “women’s liberation” movement and their integration into the workforce, divorce rates have skyrocketed, illegitimacy has become rampant and all other indicators such as crime, illiteracy, etc., have increase exponentially. The black family has been destroyed as out of wedlock children and single mothers are the norm and Hispanic and Caucasian families are fast on the same track.

Christ is the head of the Church and men are the head of their household. It is not a “misogynist” or prejudice stand but it is the biblical model for the family. Husbands and wives are to submit to each other in a loving complementary relationship, but the male remains the head of his house. Children need their mother’s love and this is irreplaceable by the daddy. Mother’s are feminine, loving, nurturing, they impose order and care in the household, and they are relationship oriented. Men are the warrior figure, protective, aggressive in seeking the welfare of their family, breadwinners, task oriented. It is a complementary relationship of sexes.

But our modern industrial society values men and women as production units, as clogs in a productive machinery geared towards the production of goods and services for a consumer oriented morality. In our society the only good is to be “productive” to “get ahead” to find “fulfillment” in work. This does not even apply to men in the Christian model, much less to women. All so called programs of benefits like maternity leave and daycare are just token concessions to family, company’s (most of all large corporations and bureaucratic government organizations) require a body and soul and 120% dedication to work that is incompatible with a Christian based family worldview. In addition this organizations require employees to sign on ethical codes of conduct that include acceptance of gay lifestyles, family planning programs and other “ethical” practices in opposition to a Christian and in particular Orthodox Catholic worldview

The integration of women in the work force and the armed forces has been the radical revolution of an establishment of government, industry, armed forces, educational, activist policies geared towards the eradication of the traditional family. It has succeeded in transforming our society into a brave new world where faith, most specific, Catholic Christian beliefs and dogma has been all but abandoned, stepped over and thrown in the garbage pile of history. But we know that is only hollow victory; one day the Lord of all will demand an account for all of these things.

Rudy Garcia May 27, 2009 at 11:43 am

Working mother is right in that our current social structure makes it very hard to live on one income. I know, we are struggling with the same issue in our home. But God does provide.

Brian Walsh May 27, 2009 at 1:36 pm

I work from home with my own biz and my wife is a stay at home mom. We have three kids 2yo and under (2yo twins and a 7 month old) so we get LOTS of time with our kids. We make major sacrifices with income and never seem to have enough money… yet we are still eating and have a roof over our heads. Thanks B 2 God! It gets very stressful and sometimes we wish that things were different with income… but we will not be able to take any of our money to heaven… God will judge us by how much we loved and we are doing our best to love our kids the best we can… even if, especially if, we have to do without.

conniedl May 27, 2009 at 1:49 pm

I think the choice should be up to the individual. I chose to work, not because I had to, but because I spent many years getting the education to do my job and it was in the medical field where I felt that is where God wanted me to be. If I had stayed at home, I think my son would have been worse off and had less of my time than he did. He had more socialization earlier, which he needed and learned to be self-sufficient. When I was there he had my full attention because I had so little time during the day with him. I think he benefited by my choice.

However, what I did find was that because I sent him to a Catholic school and that many of the mothers had chosen to not work outside the home, I was cut out of a lot of the activities and it was difficult to participate in outside of school volunteer activities because meetings were always scheduled during the afternoon after school. When I suggested that maybe people who worked, including fathers who might want to participate, be considered and meetings/activities be rescheduled, I was told that wouldn’t work because it had “always been done that way.” I felt that I was considered to be a “bad mother” because of my working outside the home, when I knew that I was doing what was best for my son. I feel this type of judgmental attitude does not have a place in Catholic society, since we should not be the one to “cast the first stone.” You can’t know another’s circumstance. Neither choice should be disdained.

Rudy Garcia May 27, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Of course these days individual choice will determine anyone’s course of action. And yet, my fathers was a Doctor and my mother a licenced midwife (both of them fairly secular persons; we never went to Church then), but they chose to have a home based business; my dad had a doctor’s office and between the both of them ran a baby delivery cliniq. They were always at home. Of course, either one could have chosen to work for a hospital or bigger organization, but family was vital for them. They were old style people.

My wife works and so do my self, I have a daughter in college and two others in high school and elementary and we value education highly. But the reality is that our society has been radically transofrmed and not precisely in the Christian mold.


Artie May 27, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I think everybody agrees that the focus should be on the family and if that means making sacrifices by working 2 jobs to support the family there is nothing wrong with it. (2 jobs = father working and mother working)

I believe as long as we do not make our career more important than our family there is nothing wrong with it. Neglect of children can happen with 1 person staying at home just as easily as both parents working.

What happens when the child goes to school when mom and dad are not there? I know some after school programs that help with child development and social skills. I honestly don’t see a wrong way or a right way in regards to this. I think if the woman wants to work and have a family she should be able to do so, many parents who work 2 jobs can tell you it is much more difficult… but it is also a way of sacrificing for the family.

If vanity takes place over the priority of your children… then that is a problem.

Key points for 2 income families….
1. Make family dinners a priority during the week.
2. Pray as a family (Something simple as the Our Father and special intentions — good way to know what is on your child’s mind)
3. Fun activities / work activities on the weekends – spend quality time with your children and teach them something.
4. Make going to Mass #1 priority.

Thomas Sundaram May 27, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Not being one of the fairer sex, I daresay that I am at a disadvantage in this conversation. But I do believe it could be served if those protesting Eberstadt’s viewpoint on the basis of their requiring a dual income would note that she is not targeting them.

Her thesis is that, owing to cultural impetus towards greater material productivity, people have begun to consider the dual-income situation as licit in every case, and ethical treatment of children seems to have shifted accordingly. Thus, while in any PARTICULAR situation a dual-income may be necessary, UNIVERSALLY this ought not to be the case. It hurts the kids. My mom is a stay-at-home mom. I was homeschooled through grade school. The good that I obtained from her not taking the more expedient dual-income option is inestimable. I am glad that she, a particular mom, did not choose what would not in her case have been essential. Yet some people choose this by default, wishing for more money because they do not realize they ought to spend more time with their kids, for the sake of those same kids, who need their love.

In other words, SOME may need a dual-income, but not ALL. The question then becomes: what constitutes need? In this case, the good of a child must needs be taken into account, and I am certain that no matter how one thinks they “need” that Prada bag, it does not outweigh the good the child needs.

RNadu May 28, 2009 at 7:30 am

I use to be a career woman who also happened to be mother to five children. I thought if I cut out special time for my children that was fair & enough for them. I did not understand the importance of dedication toward God & my family.

How is it that those years fly by with just surface needs being met? I got my wake-up call with the loss of an aquantance at the hands of her son. With much prayer. I now understand how sacred life is & how fleeting the moments & chances are…please, cherish them all.

I did what I never thought possible! Remember Jesus’ words? “If you had the faith of a mustard seed…”, Well, we moved our mountain! I got done from what many would say was a dream career at our local bank. We sold our farm house sold everything not mandatory to life and moved into an efficient small home. Two months after I got done the bank was sold and 3/4 of the staff lost their jobs many with 20 yrs. of dedication & were devistated. Then came the gas & oil crunch if we hadn’t followed our faith & family we would have been broke, spending over $9 g’s to heat it & the taxes doubling!

It has not been easy. It took me a long time to deprogram myself from the scripted media sloga of my human value is what is in my bank account or what I wear or drive. I do recieve income from what I can do at home part-time but God and my family are now my top priority. I have never worked harder than I do now or felt more alive & cherished. I pray daily for God to show me his way.

richard March 23, 2011 at 8:06 pm

thats true about investing ur time on ur children

Jagadeesan March 31, 2011 at 9:24 pm


vidyant ranjan June 15, 2011 at 9:51 am

its a true fact that today what you are giving to your child to make a bright tomorrow for him.

Shahid June 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm

A child can,t express, but he needs his parents care. Without thier lookafter he couldn,t be a good human. He will search the other sources of love and satisfaction.

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