Is the Single Income Household Dead?

maxed-outFinances have been on my mind a great deal. Over the past few months, the Armstrong family has been learning how to live solely on my income and finding that we actually can. Our lifestyle is by no means extravagant, but we have food on the table and the bills are paid, which is really all you can ask for, right?

We have to wait on things that we want, but that just means that we have extra time to learn whether or not we really want them.

Thursday morning, I had a great meeting with our pastor, and we were discussing this very thing. And after saying how much he admires the very difficult task that single moms have, earning an income and raising children on their own (I was raised by a single mom who worked really hard to take care of my sister and I, so I wholeheartedly agree; single parents are superheroes), he, in a somewhat resigned fashion, said, “The days of the single-income household are gone, for the most part.”

Thursday night, Emily and I watched a brilliant, but troubling documentary called Maxed Out, which chronicles the abusive practices of the credit card industry in the United States. Watching the stories of people whose lives have been devastated by debt, many of whom were not capable of making financial decisions on their own, and many more that have been struggling to get by, but can’t get out from under their debts, made us keenly aware of our situation and the lessons we’ve learned over the past several years.

While we’ve struggled with debt over the years (today, we have a “small” amount we’re anticipating we’ll have paid off before the end of the year, God willing), we have learned that we cannot allow ourselves to be mastered by it. We’re learning (continually) about budgeting and planning. We’re saving more than we ever have. We’re continuing to prayerfully give out of what we have, because it’s one of the ways we respond in worship to Jesus.

But there are times when it’s really tempting for Emily to try to go find a full-time job, even though we know that were she to do that, we wouldn’t actually have any additional income, just additional outgo.

Daycare, on average in London, runs between $690 and $950 per month per child. That’s up to half the typical monthly net income of the average graphic designer (the field in which Emily and I are both trained). Factor in clothing, additional food expenses, and transportation, there’s not a whole lot left at the end of the month. And that’s ignoring the incalculable costs that this would have on our daughter (and future children).

Right now, we get by. We have everything we need, but not always everything we want. And I keep wondering, is the single income household really dead, or have our priorities become confused? When I read Paul saying, “[I]f anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8), am I wrong to believe that this is a call for me, as a husband and father, to be the primary provider? Not that Emily can’t ever have a job or do illustration work like she does now, but that that money is nothing more than “bonus,” and not required to meet our needs?

Is the single income household dead?

Let me know your thoughts.

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  • Matthew Svoboda


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