Thursday, February 12, 2015

Reflections on Staying at Home

My letter confirming my year leave of absence at work re-surfaced and got me to thinking.  It was about a year ago that Ty and I decided I would stay at home with Carter this school year and most likely continue to stay at home until our youngest heads off to school.  Before making the decision I was torn.  I felt guilty staying at home, not bringing in money, and not contributing to our income.  I wanted to put money toward Carter's college fund and my retirement.  I wanted to provide Carter with experiences I felt like we wouldn't be able to with just one income.  The flip side was that some of the experiences I wanted to expose Carter to I couldn't because I was working and our schedule didn't allow for it.  I struggled a lot with the idea of leaving work.  I was afraid.  I was scared I would regret the decision because I missed working.  I was afraid I would feel unfulfilled.  I was worried I would get lonely.  Looking back on my reservations now my mind is blown.  Everything I felt sick to my stomach fretting about has been a total non-issue.

Obviously Ty's income is what gets us by and pays the bills, but I hadn't factored in that I would still have opportunities to bring money in on the side.  I watch a little boy a couple days a week and that money goes into our budget, helping to pay bills and buy essentials such as groceries.  I also tutor and that money is bonus money that I don't put into our budget because it can be unpredictable with cancelled appointments and I don't want us to rely on it.  That money has been going into our savings and I've been tracking it as a "baby fund" to pay for our hospital bills when Elise is born.  Once we have enough to cover that it will go into my retirement fund.  Although I don't bring in much money to contribute I don't feel guilty about it.  Staying at home saves us the cost of childcare which once Elise is added into the equation would be almost the entirety of my monthly income.  What I would make over the expense of daycare is about equivalent to what I bring in by babysitting a couple days a week.

I feel like one of the greatest things I've learned from this whole experience is what we can live on, still paying our bills and having enough to eat.  When we first started on our budget minus my income I was terrified.  We had a few practice months where we started trimming out expenses and attempting to hit our monthly budget while I was still receiving a paycheck.  I wasn't sure how we were going to make it work because we kept going over budget a little bit here and there.  But after a few months and lots of discussions on how to get back on track, we are now consistently under-budget each month.  I'm able to then take that money and pay extra on Ty's student loans along with putting some in savings or extra in Ty's retirement fund.  Last month I felt like we were bleeding money with all the plumbing repairs, a new garbage disposal, and a new dishwasher to solve our leaking kitchen issue, but we were only $100 over budget because I squirreled away all of our extra Christmas money and we used some of our baby fund.  Now that we are living tighter I realize how much money we were wasting before on non-essentials such as eating out, potato chips, or organic produce that wasn't on the dirty dozen list.  I'm so glad we've had this experience so when I do go back to work we can really utilize my income to make smart decisions, like beefing up my retirement fund and the college funds for our children.  

Now that I'm home with Carter I'm able to expose him to so many great learning opportunities that I had wished I could before.  We are currently enrolled in a Nature's Buddies toddler program at the zoo and Carter has a blast.  I've joined a stay-at-home mom group which provides Carter with lots of interaction with children his age.  I also have a couple friends we do playdates with and Jake comes twice a week.  Carter definitely isn't missing out on social interaction and I'm able to be right there to help him make appropriate choices and teach him how to problem solve.  Thanks to lots of playdates and outings I can honestly say I haven't felt lonely at all as a stay-at-home mom.  I also haven't missed my job.  I've been up to school a few times this year and while I've enjoyed it, I always leave feeling extremely grateful for where I am.  Being with Carter is the most fulfilling way I've ever been able to spend my days.  Each day ends with a happiness in my heart and the knowledge that I'm right where I should be.  I have never once wished to be anywhere else and I've never once second-guessed the decision we made.

Although my time as a working mom was very difficult for me and I spent my time at work feeling broken, I don't completely regret it.  I honestly feel that having to go through that enabled me to fully appreciate what we have now.  Even on days where I'm not feeling good and things aren't exactly going my way, I think back to what I would have been doing at that time at work and my mood immediately shifts.  Having had to spend all day away from Carter really helps me appreciate getting to spend each moment with him now.  When I'm frustrated he's not following directions, running away from the car rather than to it, and making us late for a playdate, I'm able to step back and laugh.  I'd rather be late to a playdate than on-time dropping him off at daycare.  Then I'm able to enjoy him standing in his car seat doing the booty bounce along with the radio when what I really need for him to do is sit down.  Because what's a few more minutes late? So I let him dance while I stand there laughing and we leave one minute later because it's just a minute and it's not like before when a minute difference was the difference between arriving to a quiet classroom and arriving to a hallway swarming with children needing monitored.
This was one of the most difficult days of my life.

As I look forward to Elise's arrival I am so grateful that I won't have to go through what I did with Carter with her.  I am so glad I will have the opportunity to nurse her rather than pump and her be fed at daycare with a bottle.  I'm so glad she will be able to have her own schedule (for the most part), being able to nap when she needs to nap.  Not being woken up because the baby in the crib beside her is hungry.  I look forward to holding her during the day, wearing her while Carter and I play, being with her and hearing her sounds.  I am so thankful I'll get to be the one covered in her spit up, changing her diapers, rubbing her bottom with diaper cream, snuggling her close as her eyes slowly drift closed.  All of those moments I will appreciate even more because I didn't get to have them with Carter.  There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not thankful for my new normal.  For spending 24 hours a day with Carter and so soon, Elise, rather than just 16.  When I think back to a year ago and what we were worried about, I am so glad we were brave enough to do what we both knew was best for me and for Carter.  It took courage to walk away from my dream job, for Ty to take on the sole responsibility for providing our family with what we need, and I'm so glad we were both able to agree this was what we needed.  Being a stay-at-home mom is a dream come true!
We started this journey about 9 months ago and I'm grateful every single day!


  1. I loved this post-especially reading about your budget! I'm a numbers nut and it always amazes me to watch our budget! I think we would probably save money if one of us quit working because then we would be forced to cut out the excess, non-essential junk! I also loved the first day at daycare picture! I forgot about him being a chunky monkey! Mobility does one's waistline good....and chin-line! ;-) Hehe.

    1. It is amazing! We are actually under-budget more often now than we were when I was working. It's kind of mind blowing! I am so ready to have another chunky monkey around here!