“Oh, I Wish I Could Afford to Stay at Home”

by GfG on December 3, 2013 · 20 comments

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“I’m going to stay at home with my kids, when I’m a mom.”

“Well, then you might want to date someone else.”

“Ok.”

“Umm… hang on a minute.  Let’s talk about this.”

That is the actual conversation between myself and Paul (my now husband, but then boyfriend) over twenty years ago.    Paul was (and is) a camp director and he knew that particular career is not a get rich quick (or slow and steady) plan, especially if only one camp director’s income is getting thrown into the pot.

I have always wanted to be a mother and knew that I would stay home with my children, if I was blessed to have any.  I don’t remember ever getting any direct teaching on that.  After I became a Christian and grew in the knowledge of God’s Word, I was even more committed.  It surprised me that others felt differently, actually.

Of course, I knew some women had to work outside the home.  I was not naive.  Yet, I knew that being a mother and staying home with my children full time was honorable work.  And that it was important.  And that it made a difference.

Paul and I had quite the discussion that night. I can picture the whole scene.  Where I was sitting.  Where he was standing.  What the atmosphere of the room felt like as soon as I said, “Ok.”

I loved Paul fiercely when we had that conversation, yet I was willing to walk away from a man who wasn’t committed to the idea of a stay-at-home-mom.  That night, we talked about how standard of living greatly affects whether a woman will stay home or not.  We talked about what we would be willing to do.  Ramen noodles was a part of the conversation.

After seventeen years of being a stay-at-home mom, I still believe that with all my heart.

The work I do is hard.  Just about every day. And it doesn’t get easier the longer I do it because the people I serve and work with and for are changing and challenging me at every new curve in the road, there is no consistency at the work place.  I am just as committed, if not more so, to being a stay at home mom.

And… it hurts and offends me when I hear again and again, “Oh, you stay home with your kids.  I wish I could do that, but we can’t afford that luxury.”

It often takes some serious tongue biting and prayer speaking inside my head to not ask the really hard question…

“Do you mean that you wish you could stay home with your kids, but you can’t afford it because you have to eat and have a place to live or do you mean that you wish you could stay home with your kids as long as it doesn’t change your standard of living?”

Why does that bother me?  It bothers me because the mindset that I am lucky to do this completely negates the sacrifice and commitment it takes to stay home for me and for many, many other women.   It’s a smack in the face to me each time a woman driving a brand new car, with expensive and sparkly new clothing, sending her kids to a crazy expensive school looks at me and says, “Oh, I wish I could stay home.”

It offends me when other women or men act like I get to stay home solely because I’m lucky.

To me, that’s like telling a doctor, “Oh, you’re lucky you can be a doctor.”  Really?  I’m pretty sure that doctor worked hard to get there.

I do too.

Brouse Family WEB

I think we look lovely in our wedding attire.  Ross Dress for Less clearance (two of us), resale shops (that day! four of the kiddos), and hand-me downs.  All of it. 

I remember reading this post by a blogger years ago and wanted to hug her.

Am I lucky to stay home?  I’m blessed to be able to do it, but it has always, always meant sacrifice and a standard of living most people I know aren’t willing to live.

  • We eat at home most of the time.
  • We shop a resale stores, Target clearance, and Walmart for most of our clothing.
  • We take a beach vacation with family where we stay for free and do not have to spend money on entertainment instead of destination vacations with lots of activities that cost money.
  • We lived in whatever camp housing was available, including a mobile home that was not in great shape (aka: the toilet almost fell through the floor the last year), for seven years.
  • We make most food from scratch.
  • We worked a second job as a family.

carrots WEB

  • We buy clothes, shoes, and accessories only as necessary or prudent (or the kids buy them with their own money).
  • We cut our own hair or wait three to six months in between cuts.
  • We use birthday or Christmas gift money for treats for ourselves (special hair treatments, wish list shoes, toys, etc).
  • We use our big electricity use time during non-peak hours.
  • We usually only eat meat Paul kills.     😉
  • And more…

Other choices women I know make so that they can stay at home with their children (these are in real life friends):

  • Use washing machine rinse water to water their yard and plants.
  • Make all cleaners from scratch.
  • Never go on family trips.
  • Give a simple gift on gift giving occasions.
  • Never buy meat for meals.
  • Forgo using air conditioning (yes, even in Central Texas).
  • Take their trash to the dump themselves instead of using a trash collection service (in the country).
  • Wash and dry to reuse Ziploc bags.
  • Have only one car as a family.
  • And more…

I share these lists to show that I (and most of my stay-at-home-mom friends) make specific choices to be able to stay home with our children.  There are women who do not have to make these sacrifices, of course.  Yet, they too make different kinds of sacrifices to stay at home.

I wouldn’t change it for anything.  Not even for a big stinkin’ house.  Seriously.

It’s been suggested, since we have been looking since March for a house to buy that is in our single income camp director budget.  People that I thought knew me well have asked why I don’t just go to work so we can afford a bigger house.

Because I already have a job.

It’s not going to pay a mortgage, but it is worth much, much more than that.

And I will continue to do whatever I have to do to ensure I am a stay-at-home-mom for all of my children through their entire childhood, including more or bigger sacrifices if need be.

I pray for single moms often.  I know a very sweet one (hi, C!) that is such a fabulous mother.  She is intentional and devoted.  I admire her greatly.  I am sure that she wishes she could stay home.  I pray that some day God brings her a godly man that will make that possible for her.

I pray for the working moms I know that must work, but who want to be at home.  I know a couple of wonderful ones.

If you are a working mom that says this to stay-at-home-moms, consider holding your tongue and thinking about why you wish something, but it isn’t happening.

Are you one of the women that isn’t willing to change her standard of living to stay home?  Well, then, be honest about that.  Respect the sacrifices others make to stay home.

Are you one of the women that really does want to stay home, but that hasn’t considered really changing, possibly drastically, her standard of living so she can stay home?   Pray and sit down with pen and paper and start looking at how you could change your life to make it happen.

When I stayed home, I was making more than Paul.  I was a teacher for the deaf in the public school system (just finished my third year) and he was a camp director and residential treatment center administrator.  I will never forget the day we turned in my notice.  The look on Paul’s face reminded me of that conversation twenty years ago, but from a different angle.  He was nervous and wondered how we would do it, but he was resolved.

I loved him crazy amounts watching him take that step of faith for our family.  It was absolutely beautiful.  It still is because he has done it each time we see a positive pregnancy test and we knew our cost of living would rise, but our standard would stay the same.

He has never wavered since that July of 1996.  I am grateful and blessed for that.

I pray that God protects our commitment to me being at home by keeping Paul healthy and able to work.  I know that is key.

I am grateful for how that conversation went over twenty years ago because I simply can’t imagine being married to anyone other than my camp director that treats me like a queen and loves our children in amazing ways every day.

I am grateful for the ways God has shown us we can change our standard of living every time the budget shrinks and our family expands.

I am grateful for the seventeen years I have had so far at the best job ever.

Have you ever thought about what that statement implies? 

 

link to Matt Walsh’s post on You’re a Stay at Home Mom, What Do You Do All Day?

and

Life in a Shoe’s post An Open Letter to Working Moms

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Brooke December 3, 2013 at 8:11 am

Love this! I worked extra jobs the entire time I was pregnant so I could finish paying off my college loans. I sent a final check a week before my oldest was born. When I quit, our total take home pay was cut nearly in half. We lived on very little the first couple of years. However, because I was at home and took care of all the child care and home life, Troy could work long hours. That extra work, long hours, and devotion to the job eventually paid off financially as he received promotions and raises. Not every job is like that, of course, but having an at home parent allows the working parent to really devote themselves to their work. They are not having pick up or drop off at day care, take days off for well visits or sick children. I too am blessed to stay at home, but I am not lucky. We planned, scrimped and lived on little to get to this point. Blessed for sure, but not lucky.

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Jennifer Silcott December 3, 2013 at 10:30 am

I absolutely LOVE your post. Everything was so well said. Thank you for posting!

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GfG December 4, 2013 at 8:19 am

Thank you, Jennifer!

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Megan December 3, 2013 at 11:43 am

Well said, I 2nd all of it! Thank you for posting. I think sometimes moms don’t realize just how offensive their comments are, when they have NO IDEA just how much we have given up (gladly, of course) in order to make staying at home work for our family. I know that my hubs feels the same way with each and every positive pregnancy test, yet, here we are, never thinking twice about the decision for me to stay home with the kids. (I also happen to feel the same way about homeschooling, I feel that I have also “sacrificed” in order to do that as well)

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GfG December 4, 2013 at 8:20 am

I’ve always loved and been pleased with how you and Adam decided that early on. Yea!

And, yes, I agree that it’s the similar to the homeshooling gig. :)

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Sam ES December 3, 2013 at 11:43 am

Love this. We sacrificed hugely so I could stay home, and some people don’t understand the choices we made. I made about twice what my husband did but left it to stay home. (Full disclosure: I worked part-time for a year as a step between full-time and home.) God has provided above and beyond what we expected, as well!

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Carrie W December 3, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I too get ircked with those type of comments, especially the assumption we have lots of money. I realized one day that the stereotype will never have a prayer of getting changed if I only raged on in my head. So, I put a smile on my face and say, “Thanks, but actually it is a sacrifice and is worth more than I ever realized.” I leave the conversation happy and if they actually cared, they leave with something to think about for themselves.

Blessings to you & yours!

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Heather December 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Thank you. I want to hug you:) I needed to hear this today, and
It is exactly what I wish I could have responded with so many times.

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Olivia December 3, 2013 at 10:31 pm

I understand what you are trying to say, but I feel that if their comments bother you so much then I think the unresolved issue lies more with you. I sometimes miss the simpleness (yea, you heard me) of being a stay at home mom but I am single now, and that is not my life anymore. My life is more crazy and more stressful than being a stay at home mom ever was. Don’t get me wrong, being a stay at home mom is hard work too. But compared to single mom, it is simple. But none of that matters. What matters is being grateful for the life that I currently have. Recognizing Heavenly Father in all His help that He gives me. Because I am at peace with my lot, when people say things, I can ignore them. I wasn’t always that way, it took time. But I tell you this because their comments bother you for a reason, otherwise if you had peace with your choice, their comments wouldn’t bother you. Because does it really matter what they say anyway? And remember, their comments have more to do with their issues than yours.

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GfG December 4, 2013 at 8:16 am

Oh, I agree to a point, Olivia! Truly.

When I say it bothers me what I mean is that is bothers me because it is so ingrained in our culture. It rarely hurts or bothers me to a personal level anymore, which is different.

It’s similar to the reaction I have when people say horrid things about us having six kiddos. I used to get upset personally. I don’t anymore because, as you mention, I am at peace and confident and more than comfortable with our decision and faith in having a larger than average family.

I am very bothered that our culture views children as burdens though. I am upset at our culture.

Single moms definitely have a much more harried life and more stressful. I can’t imagine being the only one responsible for every single thing in the home. Truly. I started praying for single moms (as my post says, but also for so many other reason) just weeks after I had my first baby. It was so overwhelming.

This post was more about the sacrifices involved to be a SAHM mom, though, and having a respect for those.

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Jan Tessier December 4, 2013 at 6:35 am

Very helpful post, both for encouraging stay at home moms AND opening eyes for the opportunity to become a stay at home mom. I find you, Brooke, and other moms who make this decision early in life to be amazingly wise. Amazingly wise, self-sacrificing, A+ mommy material. I’m also in awe that Paul spoke up. Can you imagine if he hadn’t said, “Um, no esta bueno!” I tend to make things up as I go along…so love that you two had a clear plan (which of course veered all over the place. Ha.) Still, you had a vision. Thanks for the encouragement.

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GfG December 4, 2013 at 8:19 am

Yes, it would have been horrid, Jan! I actually know a woman who assumed her Christian boyfriend, then husband, would want her to stay home. Not until the first year of marriage did she realize he didn’t. They hadn’t talked about it because she assumed. It was a heartbreaking situation for her. For years.

Now I tell ALL dating or courting young people, please make sure you talk about that and you are in agreement.

Thank you for the kind words, friend!

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YLMBreadless (@YLMBreadless) December 4, 2013 at 9:39 pm

YES! exactly. I have a hard time not loosing my mind when people say how lucky I am staying home with my 6 kids. they usually add that I am also crazy.
I love being a mother. I feel like it is truly my calling from God. I mother the neighborhood kids as well. they all call me mom. I have anywhere from 3 children to13 children in my house at all times. I love it.
but, I work hard for it. we buy nothing, we go nowhere that isn’t free, and i make everything from scratch. a treat here is a box of granola bars!

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Bambi December 5, 2013 at 9:54 am

Wonderful encouragement. Will share this !

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GfG December 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Thank you, Bambi!
Always nice to see your smiling avatar! :)

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Kris December 6, 2013 at 10:47 am

I once had a woman tell me that I was so lucky to be able to stay home. She sure wished she could. Then the next week she and her husband bought a $30,000 boat. Ahem, yeah….

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Megan R December 8, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I do find it a bit offensive when somebody says that I’m lucky to stay home, hinting that my husband must make good money in order for me to be able to do so. Usually it’s somebody who doesn’t know me well, although even people who DO know us fairly well might not realize that we’ve lived off sub-poverty annual income every year for the past 10 years. There were only 3 of us the first year, when I quit my job to stay home. We no longer had any health insurance, had a 3-month-old baby, and my husband had a part-time job. We were in a 600-sq-ft apartment. But we made it work. We continued to make it work when income didn’t increase and we added baby #2. A year later, we were able to scrape together money and bought a double-wide. What a blessing!! We had three bedrooms and two baths and 1500-sq-ft! With such luxury that we weren’t used to, we opted to add baby #3.

We’re living faithful to the call God has placed on our lives (stateside missionaries), and even though we are now anticipating adding baby #4 to our family in the summer, we are still making less than $25,000 a year…and have never made more than that in any of the past 10 years. Yet somehow we make it work. No, somehow GOD makes it work. Because we are walking in His will for us.

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Kelly December 14, 2013 at 5:18 am

After reading this article I am praying that God make it ever clear what He is trying to tell me. From my spot, my husband and I worked very hard and were blessed with well paying jobs right out of college. We waited to have children. Prior to knowing the emotions that come with wing a mom and not having that conviction that I would want to be a stay a home mom, we bought a farm and built a house. Once we had children, my heart then knew the feeling of wanting to e home with the kids but having to work to meet the mortgage that we were committed to. God has continued to give me complete discer meant about staying in this house. And my husband is working towards a career change that he has dreamed of, which we pray is wildly successful, but we need my income while he gets the business going. I would try hard to not sound like one of these moms that you talk about, however, I do wish I could stay at home despite having some of the nicer things that was I could do without if through prayer I was led that way. This article has challenged me to do some homework to see if it is truly the mortgage holding me back or if we could make lifestyle changes outside of this to make t happen. And then I think of all the good that is generated from my income, through tithing and sharing with others. I should be erring this in a journal and not here! God is at work, Lord what would you have me do!

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GfG December 15, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Kelly- I’m prayed for you just now. Truly.

Yes, run to the LORD. He will lead you, but our heats must submit to his leading, discernment, and will.

Humbly, I say to you to not let the “good that is generated” from your income persuade you not stay home with your own children. He gave you those children and calls you to serve them first, others second.

Lots of horrid people in the world do horrid jobs and also do amazing things with their money, the good done doesn’t justify the horrid. Just trying to help you see your line of logic. You am sure you aren’t doing horrid job. :)

May God bless your willingness to study and pray about it!

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Rebekah February 14, 2017 at 3:28 pm

I just saw this article. Sometimes I want more money so we can go out to eat, save for nice stuff, and go on more expensive outings. Because I am staying at home, this can’t happen very often. BUT -we have so much already and there are so many economical things to do. My husband is really supportive of me staying home. I realize that even though it is difficult work, it is WORTH it and such a blessing- worth far more than stuff. We are going to have to skimp and save a little more these days and I am ready for the challenge. Your article was encouraging.

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