I'm Not "Lucky" To Be a Stay-At-Home Mom
“You’re so lucky to be able to stay at home.”
“Some of us have to work for a living.”
“Homeschooling is not financially possible for my family.”
I've heard this so many times that I feel the need to make something very very clear: We don’t have any money.
In fact, both my partner and I have been unemployed for several months now, while he continues to search for a job. Yes, that’s right: Two stay-at-home parents with only a few thousand dollars in savings.
Let me rewind a little, though.
Before I became pregnant with Elan, I didn’t know a thing about children. Still, I somehow managed to charm my way into getting hired in the infant room at a very reputable daycare in my city. So there I was, holding six-week-olds and watching their parents walk off into the distance each day. And after just four months of being with those babies, it was settled. I would never — could never — put my children in daycare.
Fast forward to less than a year later, when I stopped by a clinic and took a free pregnancy test (because I couldn’t afford to buy one myself). This is where I first learned of Elan’s existence. It is where I first saw a glimpse of my life with him. And the image in my head was clear: It was him and I, at home together. My partner was nervous about supporting the three of us on one income, but I told him that there was just no way in hell that I would leave my baby. It simply was not an option.
So, like many other families, we made it work.
And it hasn’t been easy. In the first two years of Elan’s life, we’ve been through a lay-off, two new jobs and eight moves. We’ve had to lean on family for support during some of this time, living with them while we figured out our next plan. We've had many financial ups and downs (mostly downs) and have often arrived at the question, “Okay, what now?”
But each time, we figured it out. And we won’t stop figuring it out, because there is nothing in this world that is more important than me being home with our babies in their early years. My initial gut feeling at that daycare is what led me to make this decision, but in the time since, I've only found more information to reinforce it. Even beyond the loads and loads of child development research, my biology tells me that I belong here with her. I give her milk, comfort, safety. I am home to her.
When people tell me that staying home for a year or two is "not possible", I wonder what they really mean by this. Is it really "not possible"? Do you really need that nice house or car? Do you need to make it on your own to prove some kind of point, or can you get support from family during this time? Do you really need to be a two income family right now? Is it really impossible to find enough money to get by for a year or two?
It can be hard for me to gauge whether someone genuinely thinks it's impossible, or if they just don't want to be at home with a baby. But for those of you who do feel a pull to stay home, here's a glimpse at how my family makes it work.
We made the conscious choice to value relationships over material possessions. This means that we spend with intention. Minimalism has not only enabled me to be a stay-at-home mom, but also a happy one because I'm not wasting my time picking up toys. When you really break down your spending habits and take a closer look at the source of your purchases, you may find that many are culturally driven. The mortgage, the nice car, the expensive clothes, the hair appointments, the TV bill. None of that is necessary. I guarantee every baby in the world would be happiest in a tiny studio apartment if it meant they could see their mama all day, every day.
I have every intention to write a post about why the nuclear family model has ruined parenting for so many of us, but for now, I'll say that it's okay to lean on family when you need them. There is a lot of shame around this. We're made to feel like it's only acceptable to need your parents for 18 years, and then you have to leave the house without looking back. And honestly, I'm still struggling with this subconscious belief. The four of us are currently staying at Grandma's house for a bit and even though the time here is short, I sometimes feel that shame. But what is more important here? My ego, or that my children's needs are met?
Start A Business
During my first pregnancy, I was busy brainstorming how to contribute financially. I had just created a pretty incredible skin serum that had worked wonders for my skin, so I decided to start selling it on Etsy. I didn't dedicate a lot of time and energy to my business, but I did make enough to help with our food costs. Anyone can do this. Think about it: What do you do well? What skills do you have to share with the world? Write about it, make and sell it or teach it!
This is one of the few jobs where it's okay to take your child to work every day. Or even better, you could arrange it so that you watch the kid(s) at your own house. Join some local mom groups and put yourself out there. Or create an account on Care.com.
There's a lot of shame around this one, too, but that shame is misplaced. We all know that the United States is one of the worst countries to be a new mom (or dad). Most companies only give you a few weeks with your baby before you're expected to come back to work. Our government downright disrespects the biological and emotional importance of the mother-baby dyad. This is shameful. Our mothers needs support. So please, know that it is okay to ask your government for that support. Especially if it means that you'll be at home raising a healthy, secure, emotionally-stable child who will eventually become an adult out in the workforce. Most applications can be done fairly quickly online.
Other ideas: Live with other families (single parents, this one is especially for you!). Find a work/trade opportunity on a website like WWOOF, Workaway or HelpX. Rent out a room in your house/apartment on Airbnb. If you want to unschool or homeschool, gather other parents and create a co-op in your community.
I'm not writing this to put down working parents. I'm fully aware that every situation is unique. And yes, I recognize my "privilege". I'm just sharing my experience with you because I want everyone to know that much of the time, it is possible. When you value something so incredibly much, you make it possible. Creative solutions can only come about through a deeply-felt need and once I realized just how much my baby needed me, I knew I needed to be home with my baby. Since then, the ideas and solutions haven't stopped flowing.