Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Lucky Me

Not too long ago, I was invited to a social gathering. When asked what my occupation was by a newly introduced acquaintance, I responded that I was a SAHM.

"Oh," they replied "how lucky you are to get to do that!"


Becoming a SAHM is not necessarily something that you just sort of fall into, especially not if you already have a career.

A few summit meetings had to be held with my husband when I got unexpectedly pregnant shortly after our marriage. Having just started our life together, we weren't necessarily in the best position to lose our double income, and it took a bit of reminding that prior to our marriage, we had discussed that if we were to have kids, I would stay at home to raise them. The pregnancy had come earlier than we had planned, so he was hesitant to lose my income, which was at that time only twenty thousand a year less than his own pay. He tried to talk me out of it more than a few times, but I was adamant. I went back to work part-time for about three months after my son was born, realized how much I missed my baby, and quit for good.

Also, I was very concerned with someone else being the person who watched my child for most of the day, five days a week. In my mind, it meant that I wasn't raising my child, someone else was. I just could not make that scenario work for me, although I in no way judge those that do. It just wasn't right for me, and I gave up my life as I knew it to follow that path.

Then there was that whole adjustment period in which after losing my income, we were very, very poor. My husband makes a good income, but the area where we live has a high cost of living. Gone were the new clothes, vacations, cars and all kinds of other things that can be afforded when both parents work. Some months we barely had enough to pay our bills, and I am in no way exaggerating. And that was still after cutting out pretty much all luxuries, which included things like the newspaper and cable as well as more mundane things like name-brand shampoos. We managed to stay out of the red, but barely.

My life became completely different. I gave up a lot of adult interaction, and a tiny bit of my self-esteem as a “productive” member of society. I quickly got over that, because I soon realized there is nothing more productive than raising a child. I would sometimes count the minutes until my husband got home from work so that I could have just a few minutes of peace to myself. I would sometimes cry in frustration when my son, who had colic, would not stop crying no matter what I did.

But despite all the difficulties and hurdles, I would do it all over again.

It took hard work, patience, and sacrifice for me to stay home.

And luck? Not much more than a bit player, if you ask me.


Laurie said...

I think it's a fantastic thing you did here. I wish more people felt that their children should be their first priority. I respect your decision immensely.

Anvilcloud said...

Goodonya. It's what we did, and we could barely keep our heads above water either. But somehow we did manage, and I think we may be happier and more contented people now because of it.

Glad you're posting. I think a post or two a week might work well for you.

Awesome Mom said...

You are so right, it is very much a choice that has to be worked towards. Where luck comes in for me is that my husband has a job that is such that we are able to afford some luxuries. I am glad that I did not have to give up a lot to stay at home, but I would have because it is that important to us. I wonder how many people that say that they could never afford to do it really could if they were willing to sacrifice more.

Kelley said...

I would have loved to be a SAHM. It just was not possible all the time. I took a year off with all 3 of my kids, and 2 years when Boo was diagnosed with Autism to run his home program. When he started school that was going to be the 'time' for us to make money. I was going to work while he was at school. Then my husband had a breakdown and was at home for 2 years. So I had to be the breadwinner and everything else. Made me see what life is like for a single mum. OMG they are heroes.

Things are happier now. My husband is better, in a new job that he loves and I am able to work part time while the kids are at school. Maybe one day we will have the big house and new car. But right now I am happy that I don't have to work so hard, can enjoy my kids and pay the bills!

SO in my long winded way I say yes you are lucky to have that opportunity but also I know how many sacrifices you have to make to do so.

Michelle said...

Oh my god. This is exactly the headache we're dealing with at the moment with my sister in law. My husband and I have made the choice together that I would stay at home and look after our son, and my second son when he arrives. It was the right thing for US to do. My sister in law has just had a baby and she has chosen to put him into a full time nursery at 6 months and go back to work. Fair enough, whatever works for her. But then she had the gall to tell us that we aren't fit parents because of our decision for me to stay at home, that I'm not a strong role model, that I'm promoting a false image of 'women's responsibilities' that I'm placing an unfair burden on my husband to provide for us, that I'm in some way stunting my child's social skills, blahblahblah. Why do people have such a 'I'm right and you're wrong' attitude about these things?! Sorry for the essay, it's a little offtopic from your post, but I needed to vent :)

karla said...

I know just how fortunate I am to be able to stay home with Nate. It's something that Mark and I decided would be the right thing for us back when we were in highschool. I don't think back then though, that, we knew exactly what that meant in terms of financial sacrafice, but I know this is the perfect thing for our family, too.

Luck? Hardly!

Jess T said...

I admire your path.

Michelle-your sister is completely unfair. Certainly everyone has the right to make their own decisions; however, I completely disagree with her posture. If staying at home works for you, perfect. If it doesn't work for her, great. Different strokes, right?

Beenzzz said...

It is a challenge to be a SAHM. I did it for a little bit here and there during Z.'s young years. I felt bad that I could not do more, but we were starving college students with a baby and needed to work. Now, if we had another (which we won't) we would have the time and resources to stay home and raise the child ourselves. I think it makes a huge difference when you are in complete control of raising your kids and not conflicting with someone elses (babysitter's) way of doing it.

Hope said...

You have my undying admiration. I owned a child care centre for 18 years (licenced for 70 children), which was a great place if i don't say so myself. My first educational background was child development. I chose this option so that my child could be with me. There are parents that must work, single parents, those who are getting educations etc, but our main clients were two parent families, who drove better cars,lived in bigger houses and took wonderful vacations that were beyond our means. Although i am very much in favour of choice for women, I think that the woman's movement changed society forever and not always in a good way.
My mom was a stay at home mom, and our family lived much like you do. You make choices, you budget and yes, sometimes you fret.
In truth, having a job and dealing with adults is often easier than staying at home with your children.
And you single mom's out there.... just my humble opinion, but don't rush back to a full time job when your kids are in school. Teenagers need you to be there when they get home as much as your toddlers..
There is a saying, creataed no doubt to absolve guilt " It's not the QUANTITY it's the QUALITY of your time with your kids", I disagree QUANTITY is QUALITY.
I am not slamming choice here, but in truth, having children is the CHOICE, raising them, being there for them and passing on your values and gifts to them is your responsiblity. If both parents want or need to work, there are many options,such as working opposite shifts. It's all about priorites.

Again, you have my deepest respect.

Sunshine said...

I would have to have a pretty amazing job to offset the costs there would have been to provide day care for four kids. Luckily, I didn't abandon a role as high power mover shaker when I started staying home. I worked part time for about a year when Haste was little but once we had "plural" kiddos, the tradeoff wasn't worth it.
There are challenges and obstacles to being a SAHM too, I think that gets forgotten because with the lack of paycheck, some people forget it is still a hard job.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I say that you made an informed decision that was right for your family, and it took a lot of financial sacrifice, one that many two income folks aren't willing to make. I do understand you bristling a bit at the suggestion that it was an easy choice, made easily, and that somehow you are pampered in the process.

And yet...I think there is some luck there as well. Many families don't have the option at all, because they wouldn't be giving up cable and vacations, they would be giving up housing and food. One could argue that it's not luck, it's choosing a spouse with a job that will support this decision, and choosing well. But I would say, even then, there's some luck involved.

Ana said...

AMEN Gina! I often wonder if those who consider SAHM to be "lucky" truly know what sacrifices went into being a SAHM. But our children are well worth the sacrifice and I wish more mothers would understand this.

Py Korry said...

The choice to live a very spartan life so you can raise your child is one that one that's worth it (despite the material sacrifice you and HH are making). Sure it blows to have to worry about making ends meet every month, but like you said, at least you're the one who is raising your kid. And if you were working, quite a chunk of change would go to Mr. P's day care provider.

Family Adventure said...

Awesome post, Gina! You make your point loud and clear!

Heidi :)

Atasha said...

OH my I can so relate. We were so very poor but we both decided that we didn't want anyone taking care of our child. Also I would be going to work just to pay for childcare. Not worth it for me. I couldn't stand being away from my son. We had a janky car, barely had gas and we couldn't get new furniture and other things as planned but we were doing okay. I am happy we made that decision.

And yes at times the struggling was extremely stressful but thankfully it all worked out. I figure if a couple can get through being broke together then they can get through most any thing.

Great post Gina!

Liz said...

I used to get that "you're so lucky" speech too. Some days I felt like the unluckiest person in the world!

And Hope is right. I can't tell you how much grief I get from certain people I know who wonder why I am still working part-time when my youngest is 15 and a sophomore in high school. It's simple. I still feel like I need to be here when she gets home from school.

Piece of Work said...

Actually, I do feel extremely fortunate (maybe that's a better word than lucky) to be able to stay home, even though, just like for you, making it happen required quite a bit of sacrifice. In the beginning, I had unemployment plus a nice severence package but once that ran out, oy. Scary times. But the truth is that even though I was cutting coupons and skipping vacations and haircuts and whatever, I still felt fortunate that I was able to do it. Because I know plenty of people who, even had they made those sacrifices, still wouldn't have been able to afford it. California is expensive! Things have gradually gotten better for us and now we have a bit more freedom when it comes to expenses, which is nice. And yes, I still feel extremely fortunate. Lucky, if you will.

Cherry said...

We're not there yet, but we've discussed this point for many years. I was raised by babysitters and daycare and I turned out ok but to this day I wish my parents were more involved with my growing up. Eric also had babysitters but his mom stayed home for the first 4 years and he has an incredible bond with both of his parents.

When the time comes, even though I know I will be heart broken, I will go back to work and Eric will stay home. It's simple mathematics in that I make 3x more then him. Hopefully he'd still be able to grow his business part-time and we'll have to find help when he has jobs outside of the house.

That at least is our current pipe dream.

Love Bears All Things said...

I stayed home with my children also and during women's lib, I got a few more cutting remarks than you. I was made to feel inferior because I didn't have a career. Thank goodness that attitude has changed. A SAHM does work, she has one of the most worthy jobs around.
Of course there are sacrifices but worth every one.
Kudoes to you!
Mama Bear

shell said...

I used to really resent SAHM's because the only ones I knew were lazy, good for nothing women. Their husbands worked a ton and then ended up having to do a lot of the work at home as well while the mom didn't do much more than play with the kids and she even complained at doing that. that, i don't have respect for. moms like you, i have a ton of respect for. mom's that stay home and work their ass off for their family are amazing. especially the ones who have to sacrafice a second income to do so. i have one friend whose husband makes a TON of money and she has all the hired help imaginable yet she still complains what a strain it is to be a mom. she is pathetic and gives SAHM's a bad wrap. You, my dear, are a rockstar and i salute you. xoxo

Steph said...

Very well put, Gina. It definitely is not something that you "luck" into, it takes lots of work, sacrifice and cooperation to make being a SAHM work.

gmcountrymama said...

I think it is good you stuck up for yourself and your decision to stay at home. It can be quite a sacrafice but definately worth it. I feel I am fortunate to be able to just work 3 evenings a week and only send my son to daycare for 4 hours total each week. I am able to pay bills and have just a little extra, not enough of course for expensive extras, but I try not to let the Green Eyed Monster take me over when I see people with more material things.

Heather said...

We're doing the same thing (though it's Marcel at home rather than me) and you're right - it's a heck of a lot of hard work and sacrifice to live on one income when everyone around you can afford new clothes, vacations, etc.