Stay-at-Home Parents & Child Support

I read this article, Moms in 'Survival Mode' as US Trails World on Benefits, which provides the statistic that only 12% of workers get paid time off to care for a baby or a sick parent. Most people I talk to about taking time off when they have a baby have explained that they do not get paid leave from work unless they use up their paid-time-off...and even then end up depleting their savings to survive during that time. But what about people who don't have PTO or savings to rely on?

This also makes me think about child support in Washington. Child support is calculated based on the ages of the children and the income of the parents. If a parent is not working, that parent's income is imputed if the court determines that the parent is "voluntarily unemployed or underemployed." (To impute income means that an income is listed for that parent although the parent is not actually earning it.) In the majority of cases, parents who stay home to care for their children are considered voluntarily unemployed (there are, of course, exceptions). I understand the state's interest in making sure that children are supported by their parents instead of by public benefits when possible, but I also can't help but think that this policy of saying that a stay-at-home parent is voluntarily unemployed helps support the idea that parenting is not considered important or respected by our society.

Too many times I have heard from stay-at-home parents that they are often faced with comments and questions about what they do all day, and there seems to be this idea that they sit around eating bonbons all day. This general idea that stay-at-home parents are doing real "work" or that what they are doing is not as "valuable" as what parents who work outside of the home are doing must affect the lack of policies in place to provide paid time off for new parents. It also means that parents really need to do a cost/benefit analysis about whether or not working in the home is worth working out of the home, especially if there is a possibility that you might end up needing child support at some point.