Most families start the thinking about life insurance around the time that their first child is born—now that there is someone who is so clearly dependent on you, the need for some kind of insurance if you’re no longer there seems obvious. The arrival of children, though, can also involve some serious changes in couples’ lives, including the decision for one of the two partners to stay at home with the kids.
It’s crystal clear why the breadwinner needs to have life insurance. But what about the stay-at-home parent? They absolutely need it too — they and their spouses are just less likely to realize it.
Recognizing Stay-at-Home Work
Society already deeply devalues the unpaid work that stay-at-home parents do, and it’s unfortunately not uncommon for the breadwinning spouse to overlook the many ways that stay-at-home parents contribute to the household. But stay-at-home parents are not just childcare providers—they are team members who make it possible for one parent to work outside of the home.
Let’s imagine, for example, a family in which one parent stays home with the kids and the other parent is a doctor. The doctor works relatively long hours, has to be on-call a certain amount of time and has limited flexibility to take time off if the kids are sick. Or, another scenario, the breadwinning parent travels frequently for work, leaving the kids home with the stay-at-home parent.
Even though the stay-at-home parent is not contributing to the family’s finances in an obvious way, his or her death could be financially devastating. In both cases, it would be very difficult for the breadwinner to continue in his or her current job as a solo parent. Without someone home to stay with the kids when the doctor is called in for an emergency or someone to watch the kids when the solo parent travels for work, both breadwinners would likely have to look for new, potentially less lucrative jobs if his or her spouse were to die.
Of course, there are ways the breadwinner might find to continue working—hiring a full-time, live-in nanny, for instance. Live-in nannies are expensive, though—but that’s the kind of thing that life insurance could help pay for.
The reality about the death of a spouse, though, is the breadwinner might find s/he doesn’t want to spend so much time away from their children. In addition, there will probably be several months that s/he won’t feel capable of going back to work. If the stay-at-home parent has life insurance, it means the breadwinner will have the flexibility to pursue another career path and/or take a sabbatical while in the depths of grief without sacrificing standard of living or worrying too much about finances.
The bottom line is that stay-at-home parents (and their spouses) don’t always recognize how much they contribute to the family finances or how expensive it would be for the family if they weren’t there. Smart families, however, should make sure that both parents have life insurance, regardless of how big a paycheck he or she takes home.
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