When Catastrophe Strikes | Why a Backup Plan May Save Your Family

I see trends and patterns, and, when followed to their logical conclusion, their results. They are everywhere we look in the world.

One that worries me is the idea that one parent must absolutely not work or otherwise earn an income when a family has children and/or chooses homeschooling. It is a choice like many others we make on a daily basis; and choosing to stay home with your kids is admirable. It is kind, generous, and shows dedication to family—all traits I admire in a person.

That said, many of these same people do not have a backup plan, which I believe is irresponsible.

I can think of several examples of where a backup plan would have saved families:

  • A woman’s husband became incapacitated due to an accident and could not work. They were in danger of losing their home (for which they had nearly paid off completely) if the wife couldn’t find a way to bring in enough money to make up the difference between his disability checks and their bills.
  • A couple of other moms, who had not worked in over a decade, lost their husbands due to illness and accidents.
  • Still another’s husband ran off with another woman, leaving his family and wife of over 15 years in the lurch.

These are just a few of which I am aware; there are more, and I hear of more on a regular basis. In nearly all cases, the mom was a stay at home mom with no measurable way to pay bills without her spouse.

These events are heartbreaking and my heart goes out to them. I sincerely wish I could do more than offer condolences and advice on moving forward. Being the pragmatic person I am though, I also wonder: What were they thinking? They had no backup plan, no savings, no life insurance policy, little to no family on whom to lean, and no way to quickly scale up income to become the bread-winner their children needed.

Backup plans aren’t for the paranoid

I think back to our homeschool beginnings: Money was tight, so my working was a necessity. Still, as Dave and I talked it over, I realized that even if he made enough to completely support us in that crazy state of California, I would still have worked.

We discussed how to go about this homeschooling thing, and at one point I looked at him and told him that even if money were not a problem, I would still want to work. Things happen, and without a massive amount of savings, we would be in deep trouble if something happened to him, and I had no current skills. I needed to be able to step up. He, also a pragmatic person, agreed. It made sense then, and still makes sense. While depending upon one income is a great thing, it also has drawbacks if not addressed appropriately.

Even then, I had seen the consequences of one working spouse with no backup plan. These moms (and sometimes dads) had made the commitment to put their children first, and focus on raising them, while their spouse worked. It all worked well, until a major problem derailed their lives.

Tragedies like those I mentioned happen every day. They don’t just happen to homeschooling families though—they hit all families equally. In order to prevent them—we must prepare.

Backup plans require admitting that life often tosses lemons at you—
it’s up to you to make them into lemonade.

Preparing does not mean working long hours

Being prepared for those days where “stuff happens” only means that you take steps that will mitigate the damage caused by an unforeseeable event. I do not recommend working 12-14 hours every day, just in case. That is silly, and self-destructive. What I do recommend is that you and your spouse take real, measurable action that position your family in a place where you can survive.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Keep job skills fresh by either volunteering or working a few hours a week.
  • Volunteering at your church, a local non-profit, or other organization that needs people-skills can help keep your skills sharp.
  • Take a per-diem job doing something as a substitute. Nurses, teachers, and others can work on a limited basis to keep their credentials current, while still being home for their families.
  • If you and your spouse decide that one of you will absolutely stay home, and not work at all—make sure that you work to build significant savings and set up a life insurance policy for both of you, not just the breadwinner.
  • If you are a teacher, consider tutoring privately. You can control your schedule, and keep skills fresh.
  • Create a side-hustle that you can scale up; it doesn’t matter whether it is a blog, photography business, or something else entirely.

You see, I am an advocate of doing what is right for your family—and that may not be the same as what my family needs. However, I am absolutely against setting a family up for disaster. That means I will always advocate for having a backup plan. Your backup plan can include one or all of these ideas, or maybe you have something else entirely. There are numerous ways to set things up so that your family can survive—and even thrive after a catastrophe, but you must make deliberate decisions and take action.

How do you prepare for the unforeseeable?

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