"What do you do?"
"Oh, me? I stay home with the kids."
"Well now. That must be nice. IF you can afford it." (Imagine, if you will, just the slightest of sneers as the person says this)
I have gotten this response quite a few times over the years. Every time it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. (Not to mention the questionable taste of the people who said it)
I have been staying home with my kids for almost 6 years now. That is about 5.99 years longer than we ever dreamed we could have afforded it. I had intended to go back to work after my daughter was born. I put her on the waiting list for quality daycare while she was still the size of a lemon living the good life in utero. Staying home was something that other people did. How could we afford it?? I had a good job that I loved dearly but the take home pay for my position was so-so. My husband did better but he was in college at night. Staying home was something I always wanted to do - had planned to do - but seemed unattainable when the time came.
Now, almost 6 years later I look back and shake my head at the memory. I am not a financial guru by any stretch of the imagination. Goodness knows I have a hard enough time balancing the checkbook. I have learned a few things over the years about budgets, realistic expectations, sacrifice, and waiting for things. I have also learned that sometimes, when something is important, you have to hold your breath and jump in with two feet. That no amount of planning can prepare you for what you cannot predict but that is just life.
So, yes, it is nice to stay at home. We also live a completely different life than we did 6.5 years ago when we had two incomes. Many of the habits that we had gotten into had to go. We liked to go out and eat often, we liked to go on vacation, we liked to buy nice work clothes, we liked to do renovation projects before things were broken and duct taped together. We were spoiled rotten but we also worked hard and had no one else depending on us, so that was okay too.
One of our first projects we did after we found out we were pregnant was sit down and made a budget (because before, heck, who cared) and took a red pen to it with no mercy. We made a current budget. A budget for if I continued on with my job after the baby. A budget for the unattainable dream: staying home with the baby.
We found out some surprising things. One was that the cost for me being a working mom was high. Remember I loved my job, had great benefits, but my take-home pay was less than stellar. Between the high cost of child care (there are no relatives nearby to help out) not to mention the hidden costs of working: transportation, clothing, food, eating out when you are running late, etc, it didn't make much financial sense.
If I stayed home so much of that lifestyle would be superfluous. I wouldn't need the nicer clothes, we could downgrade one car to an older model, keep just one dependable car for the family, and eliminate car payments. Eating out was nice but with babies, let's be realistic, the date nights of the past are few and far between. The red pen was ruthless. Cable? Fancy cell phone plan? Gym membership - What's that? Home renovations turned into home repairs only. ('If it ain't broke, don't fix it' is our current mantra) The extras were slashed. We found that, at the time, we could survive (survive being the key word) comfortably on one income. We took the plunge.
I am happy to say that, 6 years later, life has become a little more comfortable again. My husband is out of school, little raises and promotions here and there have given us the wiggle room to have our second kid and still be okay.
Basically you never know what people's financial situations are. It is frankly no one's business. You never know the sacrifices that people make to live the life they want. What little items they think way too hard about and then put back at the check-out register to make ends meet. I don't miss the cable, or the cell phone (our pre-paids cost us $12/mo and work perfectly), eating out at restaurants only very occasionally (my waist-line thanks me too). All of those slashed items? Well, they seem really silly now in retrospect. They were nice and maybe had a place in our life once upon a time but not anymore. We are in this thing for the long haul especially with our new homeschool adventure just beginning. My idea of going back to work after the kids go to kindergarten has been scrapped and, you know what, I don't mind one bit. I am good at this homemaking thing. I'm not supermom and I don't want to be, but I am good at it. I have found what I really want to do. We live a simpler life, that's for sure, but we also live a very full life. What is worth more than that??
**Let me add a note that this post in no way tries to make the decision to stay home superior to working and having kids. I know, love, and respect some of the most awesome working mothers out there. Their time management skills are beyond amazing; balancing it all everyday and still pulling it off with love and style. Staying at home was simply my decision for my little family.**