Friday, July 6, 2012

Adventures In Staying Home

So I've been staying at home with my kids for the last two months and it has taught me a LOT about myself.  After working for the past ten years and simultaneously raising kids, I suddenly found myself unemployed, well for pay anyhow.  With the cost of childcare for two kids and the high cost of gas, it seemed to make more sense to stay at home with my kids and put my frugal nature to the ultimate test.

I find myself simultaneously fighting guilt and enjoying my life in a way I really haven't before.  I feel a bit guilty that my husband is now the sole provider for our family, even though I wasn't making all that much before.  It's hard to change the mentality of a worker, that feeling that a paycheck is the one and only culmination and validation for work.  When people suggest this job or that to me, I feel that stab of guilt all over again.  I find myself feeling the way I did right after my daughter was born, the impending sense of doom that I will have to find daycare and lose precious time with my child (now children).  Let me tell you something -  the guilt that attaches itself to the role of motherhood is a LOT stronger than the guilt I feel for not bringing home my meager paycheck anymore.

Instead being home has given me this amazing sense of peace I didn't have before. I thought I was going to be stir crazy for sure, but there is always something to do.  I'm no Donna Reed don't get me wrong.  I don't spend my day scouring and cleaning and then beautify myself so my husband comes home to a wife in heels and lipstick.  But I think that I'm beginning to redefine work for myself.  My job now is to raise my amazing kids to the best of my ability.  My house is far from perfect but also far tidier than it was while I was working outside the home.  I'm also now fully in charge of all our household bills so I have the unique opportunity to see where every penny of our income is going. 

The first week I was home I set up family budget and over the course of my two months at home I have cut a little more than $1,000 from our monthly spending.  I've consolidated some of our debt and I'm working hard to push forward with the refinancing of our home which will save us a few hundred dollars a month.  Part of this new stay at home gig means that though I'm not bringing in any income it's my job to utilize the income we have in the best possible way.  In my next post I'll talk about some of the ways I'm working on that.  I am thinking of doing some babysitting and freelance writing if I can to bring in some extra income.  Now that I'm home I also see a house just full of stuff we don't use anymore that can be sold for a little extra money.

My daughter starts school in a few short months.  I'm looking forward to being able to take her to school her first day and reassure her if she feels nervous.  I find myself now reaching out to other stay at home moms for the same type of reassurance.  It's a new adventure I'm on as well.  Though it is not without sacrifices, our entertainment budget was the first category that went up on the chopping block, my heart tells me that I'm where I'm supposed to be.

Occasionally I still  look up jobs online and I try to weigh what they would probably pay me versus the cost of working.  Beyond the actual cost of daycare for two kids, gas, work clothes, lunches, eating out or buying convenience foods for dinner because I'm too drained to cook, there is an unspoken price I just cannot bear to pay.  My children are still little, 4 and 2 years old, and I know I will blink and their childhoods will slip away.  Time is what I can't get back.  I lost my dad at 14.  I would give anything for one more day.  I would pay anything for a do-over.  For the time that was wasted, taken for granted and then lost forever.  Time with my kids is not something I'm willing to exchange for a paycheck, one that will most likely be used to buy things that I don't need to cover guilt I cannot bury.

A word of advice for those that would like to make a stay at home mom feel like she isn't "really" working- when I ask you for money then and only then can you chip in your two cents about my choice.  Until then, my bills are paid, my children are loved, my husband has a wife that doesn't want to murder him for not helping me with the housework and instead appreciates him and supports him, and I am more relaxed than I have been in.. well my whole life.  Not that my worrying nature has or ever will go away, but I have made a lot of things happen for myself that I never would have imagined before and my children gave me that gift.  They gave me the undying motivation to make it happen, whatever it is that I need to do to make happiness a reality.

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