I am a stay at home mom. I work 3 part-time jobs and blog, but none of these take me away from my kids for very long (or earn me very much money). I’m there most nights to put them to bed (sometimes I take a night off), and I’m here for them all day.
I have been a stay at home parent since my first child was born. At the time we were making less than $20K/year, but I did it anyway. I was 21, had no degree, and after spending lots of time looking around, found that the best scenario was working my a$$ off, and making just enough money to cover a sitter or day care.
It was a choice we made, and one that came with many sacrifices. I had to be extremely frugal, going as far as carting dirty cloth diapers in my car to my mom’s house so I could wash them. Date night was renting a movie, dinners out were unheard of.
In some ways though I felt (and still feel) like it was a choice I HAD to make. The boy was a high-needs baby. Oh boy, was he! Maybe it’s because he has Asperger’s Syndrome. Or maybe my boys are just wired that way, since the little one was also high needs.
When I had one child, I worked here and there, whether it was picking up a family friend’s children from school, working at my friend’s gardening business, or starting my own business. But the priority was always the kid.
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As our lives settled down (we got married, saved up and bought a townhome, and were expecting our 2nd), I quit my side gigs to focus on the new baby. We lived as cheaply as possible, but as our income increased so did our expenses. We were also young and somewhat foolish. Every time we got a windfall (tax refund, extra income, etc.) we spent it.
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We had #2 just after moving into our townhome, and 15 months later I was pregnant, again. #4 was born 22 months after #3. In case you’re keeping track that’s 3 kids in less than 4 years.
If you’ve ever been in the company of several kids below the age of 3 you will understand me when I say the next 2 years were a blur of nursing, tangled bodies in my bed in the morning, constant cooking and cleaning, and exhaustion. Financial matters were the last thing I thought of. I just wanted to SURVIVE the day without someone getting fatally injured or me exploding.
I joined a parenting group for social support, and that helped tremendously. I no longer felt the need to be working, and really enjoyed my time at home mostly.
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We’ve always had some immediate thing that needs attention in our lives. A crying newborn, a house that we need to find, a mountain of clothes that needs washing, or a schedule that must be kept. So of course we added more work!
The kids are old enough that they will play on their own for an hour or more at a time (though as any parent will tell you as soon as I need them to be quiet they won’t).
The din and demands of constant needs are dying down. I’m left with this feeling of what’s next? (Other than the mountain of laundry, floors that needs washing, a car that needs cleaning, and a lawn that needs mowing.)
Some days being at home makes me feel backed into a corner. I still long for social interaction, a paycheck, and time where I can be ME, not just mom/household manager. (aka butt wiper, dish cleaner, bill payer)
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I have the opportunity to work at a near perfect part-time job. Fun atmosphere, decent pay, the chance for growth, working some from home, and honing new skills.
BUT the job requires me to find a sitter for the kids, someone who can be here for them, manage their needs, and their schedule. Easy right? The reality is I have a high energy preschooler, 2 kids in elementary school but one for only half a day, and a special needs homeschooler who needs direction constantly.
This is not a job anyone can step into, this is not a job I could pay someone to do. Stepping into my shoes would not be easy for anyone. Even if I pay someone well, I know that for my kids, it won’t be good. They still need me. Or Mary Poppins, but something tells me she’s not available.
I long for work, I want to work, but I am not sure it will work for us. We tried a few months ago, and that ended badly.
I don’t feel the same passion I used to have for being home with them. I need to find that again. I miss being delighted by the small things we do together, and planning fun things for them.
I’m spending so much time thinking about money, saving it, paying debt off, that I sometimes forget that we financed me staying home with them. Was that the right thing to do? Probably not financially, but it’s not always about the bottom line.
I’ve come to think of this time as my retirement. It’s not an easy or leisurely retirement, but it is what I want to do. It’s forcing me to get creative, to live a more frugal life, and remember that the grass is not always greener on the working side.
No matter what you choose for your family, embracing your choices is the key to success. After all if mom is happy then everyone is happy.