I truly believe for a relationship to work, it has to be a true partnership. This is especially true when it comes to a couples finances. I've heard a few stay-at-home moms say that they didn't feel like they have any say over their finances because they don't bring home the money. What I think they are overlooking though is the value that they bring in to the home that isn't measured in financial terms.
There are only two ways to increase your disposable income. Either by generating more income or by reducing your expenses. Whether the couple has done so consciously or not, the stay-at-home parent has opted for the second choice. Although, I'm sure the decision is more often than not an emotional decision about personally raising your children. Some things you just can't put a price on.
The jobs that this stay-at-home parent is doing, could all be done if you paid the money to do so. You could hire a maid service, pay for day care, pay to have the groceries delivered, hire a cook, and so forth. I don't think most stay-at-home mothers or fathers consider it that way until they start to consider going back to work. Then you start comparing your potential income to these additional costs. You could then value the total of these services as the money made for doing all this yourself. It might help your self-esteem to see how much money you're saving the family each year.
This isn't limited to parents either. Any work that you do, that could be hired out, is "paid" for with your time in lieu of money. Mowing your lawn, painting your house, etc all require time that you could spend doing something else. When you elect to do these things, you've decided that your money saved is worth the time lost. I'm not saying that's wrong, only tht it's important to recognize the cost that is paid. Nothing in life is truly free.
Besides the benefits of respect that come from recognizing the roles that each person brings, it's also important to recognize the impact this can have on your future. Is it financially beneficial to return to work? Does it make sense to take on a second job? If I don't want to pay for these services, can I afford to give up the time required to do these myself? Instead of seeing it as being stuck and not being able to afford to work, I see it as making the decision that is the most beneficial to your family.
I realize that some things can't be measured so simply. Like the joy you get from spending time with the kids every day. Watching them take there first steps and so-forth. I even play poker with a guy who enjoys cutting his own lawn and wouldn't pay anyone else to do it for any price. These things are up to the individual and can't be measured. The important thing is to recognize your contribution and your partner's contribution to the family.
Do the math and see how much you're saving your family each year. If you're brave enough to share I'm sure people would enjoy reading it.