Staying-at-home: does old-school parenting have a future?

Posted: April 20, 2012

Parenting in a different light

Graduating from Minnehaha Academy in 1998 Heidi Carlson attended DePauw University in Indiana where she received her bachelor’s degree in geography. With more hard work she was able to receive a masters in philanthropy and development from Saint Mary’s University in Winona.  Her fast-paced life lead her back to Minnehaha where she worked for eight years. After some time she decided to leave for a more meaningful job, working as a stay-at-home mother.

“Stay-at-home parenting” is when one spouse stays home to watch children while another parent goes to work (away from home). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of stay-at-home mothers in 2010 reached five million; a drop down from 5.1 million in 2009 and 5.3 million in 2008. The census also showed that stay-at-home mothers were more likely to be: younger (under the age 35), Hispanic, foreign-born, living with a preschool-age child and lacking a high school diploma.

According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2007, 60 percent of mothers would choose to work even if it was part-time.

So what made stay-at-home parents, like Carlson, make that choice if the percentages showed otherwise? Stay-at-home parents Cari Gregory (‘98)  and Tim Brown (‘98) gave some answers . Husband to a stay-at-home mother social studies teacher David Hoffner also had some input.

Some questions concerning stay-at-home parents would be: How do they survive financially? What are the reasons behind making that choice? …to the above parents it all came down to building strong relationships and being there to see their children grow.

Cari Gregory shared with the Minnehaha students about her profession during career day. Many students signed up for the session thinking, what a joke, why would someone choose to do be a stay-at-home parent with a Minnehaha education?

Gregory made that choice and she has remained true to her decision for seven years. Her three boys sat in the corner of the room doing puzzles, playing games and occasionally adding into the conversation.

Gregory and her husband Peter have three sons. The oldest is seven, but before the three came to be, Gregory and her husband talked about the idea of having a stay-at-home parent household while they were dating.

“To spend the day with my children, nurturing and caring for them is what I want to be doing,” Cari Gregory wrote, “Bottom line is being home with my kids brings me a lot of joy.”

Carlson also found it important to stay home with her children when they are young. Her two boys age two and seven months are still in the stage of playing, learning and exploring.

“My mother stayed home with my sisters and I and it just felt natural to me to do the same,” said Carlson.

She wanted to be there as her children grew and as they entered school and later pursue going back into the work force. But like any job, stay-at-home parents have duties. These duties are accomplished through routines that run the home: cooking, doing the dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning and going on errands, social and educational outings.

“You have to be organized, patient, flexible, creative and have a lot of energy,” Carlson said.

Friend of Carlson and a stay-at-home father Tim Brown (‘98), has an 11 year old daughter, Phoebe. Now that his daughter is in fourth grade, Brown is able to work part time. Through the years of being a stay-at-home father Brown came to the most important realization, the realization: the love he has for his daughter.

“It’s the opportunity to watch your child grow and change every day over a long period of time,” Brown said.

Social Studies teacher David Hoffner had contemplated being a stay-at-home father, but through the course of life, Sarah Hoffner (his wife) took the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mother.

Financially the Hoffner, Carlson and Gregory family would not be considered rich. The spouses of the stay-at-home parents have normal jobs with normal pay. David Hoffner is the upper school Social Studies teacher, Jey Carlson is a general contractor and Peter Gregory is an attorney.

“We [are] willing to make cuts somewhere in our budget if we [need] to,” Heidi Carlson said.

To have a stay-at-home parent was what these families knew they wanted, nothing would get in the way. If the motive behind it was relationship building, how would the working parent build a relationship?

Jey Carlson, Peter Gregory and David Hoffner work hard to be involved and invested in their children’s lives when they are home.

“I just try to be a dad,” Hoffner said.

To the Hoffner, Gregory, Carlson and Brown family being a stay-at-home parent wasn’t a chance not to work, but a chance to build their families in a way they found familiar.

Stay-at-home parenting is not for everyone. To them, being a stay-at-home parent offers flexibility, relationship building and memories.

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