Open Relationship Benefit #6: A more flexible life

For the last chapter in this series, I am going to move beyond the basic concept of an "open relationship" to that of a family of choice that shares expenses and responsibilites.  The members of your family can choose to live within the same household, or they can live in different physical locations (depending on space issues). In a traditional family arrangement, the couple has a limited amount of resources available to take care of household obligations. One or both members need to earn an income in order to maintain their lifestyle.  The need for income and financial stability may cause either partner to work in a job that may not be the best fit for them. In addition, the birth of children not only bring joy but also additional needs upon the household, most significantly that of constant supervision and care.
Flexible child care options
If your family chooses to have children, one of the issues you need to consider is day care.   In a household of two adults with no additional support, the couple typically must choose between paying for day care services or have one adult stay home.  The first option is typically expensive. The average cost of day care varies by region, but it's not uncommon to pay $125 per week.  Babies need more attention from their caregivers, and thus day care costs for infants may be closer to $200 per week.  The second option, having one adult stay at home, may have a deeper impact.  As a result of social conditioning, the adult that stays home is typically the mother (professional women - be warned!).  Also, this option not only reduces the household income but it may also hinder the non-working adult when they try to re-enter the work force years later.  Unless the family has an adequate cash reserve, periods of economic crisis can become a real concern, as the loss of the wage earner's job means a total loss of household income. Some families are blessed with a third option: family and friends that can care for the children.  The extended network of adults can provide a loving and familiar environment.  Also, if everyone is currently cohabitating, there is the option for one or more members to choose to work part-time or to stop working alltogether to become the at-home caregiver.  If your household chooses this option, consider treating the daytime child care and housework like a full time job.  For example, the multi-partner household featured in an article on Tango.com provides a salary to the adults that take care of the children and tend to the home. Corey and I are not at the point where we need to address this, since we haven't had kids yet. However, when we do choose to have children (in a few years), I am not going to be a stay-at-home parent.  I am too driven with my career to take more than a few weeks off. Our current plan is for Corey to be the at-home caregiver.  If we add additional adults into our family of choice, they will have the choice of helping the family in whatever capacity they prefer (being home caretakers, wage earners, or a mix of both).  
Flexible career options
Ever wonder if the job that you currently have is the one that you should have? Do you feel that you are utilizing your talents and have a sense of purpose with your career, or are you doing it simply to earn a paycheck? If you're doing the latter, why haven't you taken steps to pursue the job that you really want?  In some cases, people resist the desire to change their career due the fear of the unknown - whether or not they'd suceed, and if they can pay the bills.  In a multi-partner (and multi wage-earner) household, it may be possible for one or more people to leave the work force to go back to school, start their own business, or seek out a career that meets their passions.  The members of the household that remain in the workforce provide additional financial stability, which (hopefully) means less stress while the unemployed member works towards their future career goals. If you plan to go with this option, consider having all of the adult members of the household sit down and formulate a plan. Review the budget to make sure that the income of the employed adults is enough to sustain the current household expenses. In addition, establish expectations for what will happen while the unemployed adult pursues their desired career path:
  • How long they'd expect to be in school and how much that may cost
  • A business plan (if they're starting their own business)
  • A job search plan if they are seeking new employment 
  • Additional security in a volatile job market
  • Contingency plans for if they can't reach their goals by a certain date
 Having a written plan will help to ensure that expectations are made clear from the beginning, and will hopefully prevent unnecessary drama.

Randy F (not verified) wrote:

Wed, 05/27/2009 - 16:21 Comment #: 1

I have to put a nod in here to your flexible career options comments. In our family of choice (four employed adults) I am the beneficiary of this option. I work as a personal care assistant (basically I get paid to hand out with an ever changing collection of grandparents). I love the work but it has the disadvantage of being highly variable in the amount of work I get at any given time. I wouldn't be able to have this career if I was the primary income for my family. But because I live in a household where three other people have full time steady income I can have those times where the clients run thin for a few weeks without destroying the family budget.

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