In an online question on an Orthodox Jewish website, I read the following:
"My wife and I are the parents of two young children, one is 2 years old and our new baby is 3 months old. We are now deliberating whether my wife should go back to her work, as her salary will be close to nothing, daycare costs deduced. What do you think?"
The reply this man got was this:
"It's highly advisable that your wife goes back to work, even if the immediate financial gain will not be large, to enable her to grow as a professional and provide future prospects for a higher paying job."
I, of course, don't think this advice is at all wise, financially or otherwise. If my opinion was asked, I would have said the following:
Nobody promises that your wife will indeed get a pay rise or a higher-paying job in the future. The stress your entire family will experience due to both of you being out and about and your children in daycare, however, is guaranteed.
There are other work-related costs apart from daycare and commute, which are the most obvious. To name just a few: likelihood of buying expensive convenience foods increases because there is no time to cook; some women need work clothes that are more expensive than what they would have worn at home; there is a tendency to "treat oneself" for "working so hard".
When one of the children is sick, sometimes the parent who stays home is the one with the higher salary, because the parent with the lower salary is forced by more pressing responsibilities to go to work (example: a teacher must prepare her class for an exam, so the one who stays home with a sick child is her husband, whose day at work is worth three times as much as hers, money-wise). And of course, children who attend daycare with a group of other infants are more prone to get sick in the first place.
Unless one of you is a teacher, you will face the issue of how to occupy your children during summer vacations, which often involves expensive summer camps and study programs.
And, perhaps the saddest of all, working women are often forced to give up breastfeeding their child, which introduces the cost of formula.
You are an Orthodox Jewish family with only two young children. God willing, you will have more. Daycare payments might well be an issue for you until your wife is in her forties. This means not a year or two, but decades of working for free. It doesn't look like a very good bargain to me.
On the other hand, if your wife stays home, not only the direct costs of daycare will be eliminated, but your wife will also have more time to do things that take time and save money, such as cooking from scratch, mending the family's clothes, and perhaps growing some of the food you eat. She will be more readily available to play with the children and make up games with them, eliminating the need for expensive toys. She will have the physical and mental energy to stretch the family money in creative ways you wouldn't think of otherwise.
She will also have more time to make the home a pleasant place, not a cluttered, messy corner you all want to escape (usually to places where you are likely to eat out and spend even more money, such as shopping malls).
Your wife might even research ways of doing something creative from home that will enable her to earn money, once she has more help from the older children and some of her time is freed up.
This is my advice to this young family, and other families in a similar situation. I can only hope they follow their hearts, as the heart of a mother will almost inevitably lead her to stay close to her children whenever at all possible.