We were in a tight situation. We had $156,000 in student loan debt and a car loan ($318/mo). In 2008 my husband’s salary was $35,000 a year. Between my part-time job the first 5 months of the year, the seasonal grading of standardized testing I did and 3/4 time teaching position I had that fall I brought in another $12,000. For us rather than me looking for a new job when budget cuts ended mine it made more financial sense for me to stay at home to care for the children and find ways to keep costs low.
If I were in that situation you described rather than take on a loan for daycare I would look into where we could cut back to live off of one full-time salary. The parent who doesn’t work full-time could get a part-time job either working from home or an evening/weekend job. Income based student loan payments would reduce that cost some to help until there’s either more income either because the full-time worker earns more, the at home parent has found an income source or the child is school aged and the at home parent can return to work.
The parent who stays at home most of the time would have more time do money saving things. When we were just a family of 3 solid food eaters and a nursing baby I was spending $300/mo to feed us mostly organic food. I had the time to look for sales and make most everything from scratch. Although you don’t have to be an at home parent to cook from scratch. I was a single Mom until the oldest was 8. While I was in graduate school I went to school full-time and worked part-time. I was able to feed the two of us and my Mom who lived with us at the time on $125-150 a month from Aug 2005 to Aug 2007 using the same strategies.
We adjusted our energy usage. In the hot steamy summer months. We set the AC at 85 degrees. When we were out of the house the AC was shut off. It doesn’t save energy to cool a place that no one is in. In the cold winter, we kept the heater set at 62 to 65 degrees and wore layers. If we were going to be out for most of the day we’d set the heat to 50 degrees and turn it up when we got home. We used only CFLs, although now we use only LEDs, We washed everything in cold and hung clothes to dry on drying racks indoor due to allergies.Made sure the water heater was set to 120 degrees.
The social interaction that children and the stay at home parent needs could be met by attending, or hosting so you don’t have travel expenses. Library reading times, parks and walks could also help with social interaction. The at home parent could start a home daycare to get the social interactions for the little one, some extra money and gives some tax write-offs for the home business.