I’ve been a Dave Ramsey fan since I first discovered him during COVID. Anyone who listens to my podcast knows I reference his work often and very much agree with his money advice.
Wanna get out of debt? I highly recommend Dave’s 7 Baby Steps.
Need a great online budgeting tool? You can’t go wrong with Dave’s EveryDollar Budget App.
In fact, as a marriage and relationship coach I often encourage my clients to follow Dave’s plan. Most couples who reach out to me use the phrase “his and hers,” rather than “ours,” in reference to their money, and I point out that that’s the problem right there. Married couples cannot get ahead financially and relationally if they don’t pool their finances and aren’t working toward the same goal.
But if you’re a parent who’s looking for advice on how to stay home with the littles while simultaneously trying to get out of debt, don’t call The Ramsey Show.
To be fair, Dave almost always encourages parents to stay home with the kids if that is what they want to do. Where he gets it wrong, big time, is when he tells parents that it makes no difference if one of them is home or not during the first three years because kids that age “don’t know the difference” anyway.
As an example, on this episode, Dave tells a mother with student debt who wants to stay home with her two-year-old that the time to work like a mad dog is when kids are “little bitty” because “they don’t even know” [that their parents are absent].
“I’m not a child development expert, but they’ll live while you go crazy [working] for a short period of time so that when they’re six you can be available.”
This is just one of countless similar calls, and Ramsey’s “personalities” have been schooled accordingly. They all give great advice in their respective areas; but when it comes to early child development, they follow suit with Dave. Here’s a comment from career coach Ken Coleman:
“I get that you’ve got small kids,” he tells a husband and father who’s struggling with whether or not to make a job switch,” but they’re small kids. They don’t know how much time you’re spending with them.”
To which Dave adds, “The kids will be fine.”
I’m all for getting out of debt, but this is terrible advice. If the choice is to live with debt five years longer and be present for your babies and toddlers, versus prioritizing debt and being absent in the early years, the former must win out every time.
This is good for the child, for the parents, and for society.
Of course, this assumes one understands the significance of what goes on in the early years, which Ramsey does not. While he was busy building his empire, his wife Sharon was home with their three kids, doing all the work that goes into building emotionally healthy humans. In fact Dave talks openly about those days, saying his wife felt like a single mother because Dave was never around.
Countless moms and dads have called in to The Ramsey Show with questions about work-life balance and parents’ ever-present guilt and stress, and Dave’s response is always the same: “Ditch the guilt” or “The kids will be fine.”
Actually, Dave, the kids won’t be fine.
The widely held belief that babies are resilient is just flat-out false. A mother’s presence in her child’s life during the first three years greatly improves the chances of his or her growing up emotionally healthy, happy and secure. If she is not physically and emotionally present, a child is at a much higher risk for social, emotional, and developmental issues—both immediate and in the long term.
This is a provocative truth in this day and age. But it’s crucial that young women, and young parents, have this vital information in their back pocket, as being aware of it will allow them to map out their lives accordingly.
It’s one thing to give a nod to parents who stay home, thinking it’s cute or sweet that they want to do so—as if that’s the end of the conversation. In reality, avoiding the work that goes into this task can result in a lifetime of problems and a boatload of parental regret.
Today’s America is saturated with adults who never bonded with their primary parent because he or she (usually she) was either emotionally unavailable or simply never around.
Few high-profile people, on both sides of the political aisle, have the courage to address this subject. Fortunately, there is one. For those who want to understand more about the significance of the early years, I highly recommend psychoanalyst and parenting expert Erica Komisar, author of Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters.
In the meantime, Dave & Co. should stick with what they do spectacularly well: giving money advice.