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The privilege of being a stay-at-home parent in Canada

By Josie Simon, March 27 2024—

The debate over whether being a stay-at-home parent is a privilege or a financial sacrifice has raged on social media platforms like TikTok. For many Canadian families, the ability to have a stay-at-home parent remains an unattainable privilege, a luxury reserved for those who can afford to survive on a single income. As the cost of living continues to rise, affording even basic necessities has become a daunting challenge. 

According to Canada’s annual Food Price Report, the average family of four is expected to pay a staggering $16,297 on groceries alone in 2024, a $700 increase from the previous year. Despite moderating inflation, food prices are projected to rise between 2.5 and 4.5 per cent, with bakery items, meat, and vegetables potentially surging by up to seven per cent.   

This added financial burden comes at a time when nearly half of Canadians are already living paycheck to paycheck, with savings rates declining. Historically, the savings rate was 7.69 per cent from 1961-2023. However, in the third quarter of 2023, households only saved an average of 5.1 per cent of their income, leaving little room for unexpected expenses or the ability to absorb rising costs.

The high cost of housing further compounds the financial strain. A report from RateHub revealed that homebuyers in Toronto would need an annual income of $217,000 to afford the average home price of $1,118,500 as of March 2023. In Vancouver, the required income exceeds $200,000, while the rest of the country demands between $75,000 and $170,000.

The debate over whether being a stay-at-home parent is a privilege or a financial sacrifice has sparked conversations on social media platforms like TikTok. 

Lorraine Kamesha (@lorrainekamesha) has been an outspoken voice arguing that it is not a privilege but a “financial partnership” where couples trade unpaid labour for paid labour, with sacrifices from both sides. However, many critics contend that this viewpoint glosses over the underlying privilege of having the choice and means to have one parent stay at home in the first place. 

Further, the sacrifices made by families with a stay-at-home parent are undeniable. Tiff (@yabishtiff1) has provided a candid look at what her family has given up, including her car, gym and Pilates memberships, and other subscriptions and luxuries. While daunting, the fact that her household can still survive on her husband’s single income is a privilege that countless working parents can only dream of. 

At the same time, being a stay-at-home parent is not a life of leisure. TikTok creators such as Amanda Rose (@_amanduhh__) and Kaylla Spencer (@kayllaspencer14) have documented their labour-intensive days filled with cleaning, cooking, caring for children, and other arduous tasks. These videos shed light on the complex and demanding responsibilities of stay-at-home parents, debunking the misconception that their role is easy or lacks significance.

However, while the dedication and sacrifices of stay-at-home parents are undeniable, it is crucial to highlight the privilege of choosing to leave the workforce and prioritize unpaid labour. This decision may have implications for future job opportunities and financial stability, but having the ability to make this choice is a rare luxury many families cannot afford. 

At the end of the day, parents face many challenges and decisions that shape not just their own lives but also those of their children. By acknowledging the diverse experiences of parents and striving for a more equitable society, we can ensure that all families have the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.

This article is a part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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