Deciding to Stay Home, Part Five

This is part five of a five-part series about how I went from working gal to stay-home-mom, back in 2002. You can read the other parts by clicking: PART ONE, PART TWO, PART THREE, PART FOUR. (The pictures in this post are current pictures of our family, because I have virtually no pictures from 2002 in digital format.)

As I began sharing last time, when we made the decision for me to be home with our baby, it wasn't because we were in great financial shape, or because my husband had a plum job & we could afford it. In fact, it was quite the opposite. We had student loans aplenty, and had just racked up more than $17,000 in medical debts because our son spent his first week in a NICU that didn't accept our insurance. We moved back to Texas to be near family, but had no job, no insurance, and had saved just enough money to get through a couple weeks (at best).

Everything rested on my husband's ability to pound the pavement and our God's ability to provide.

Doug applied at a wide variety of places, dropping his resume at virtually every place that would accept it, and filling out applications anywhere that he was able to do the work (i.e., from Home Depot to the Dallas Museum of Art). After a week or two, Doug got a call and was hired to work at Kohl's, the department store. He made a slightly more than minimum wage, and received a discount in their stores. We grocery shopped carefully, almost never ate out, lived in a one-bedroom apartment, made it work with one car & one cell phone (no landline), and used his discount to get nicer clothes for him for future interviews. If memory serves, he worked at Kohl's for 2-3 months.

A friend of ours at church told us about a mortgage company in the metroplex that was often looking for people for their bankruptcy department, and so Doug went through the process there and was hired. He worked hard, going in early (he would often leave at 5am to get a jumpstart on the workday and avoid traffic), and we were so thankful that he had a job, with an adequate salary (though I know some people think it's tacky to talk about money, I don't particularly care about "tacky"... I'm writing this story to encourage other families out there with our story, to give you hope that you can "do it", too, if you sense God's leading to stay home). He made $30,000 plus benefits.

We were thankful for his job, and it gave us enough as a young family. We didn't expect to have a designer house, and Ethan almost entirely wore clothes and used baby things that we were given or that we'd gotten at thrift stores. I didn't update my wardrobe, and didn't have a dishwasher or a 2nd car (so I literally "stayed home")... but despite lacking these external things that our society tells us we "need", we were so happy! I was so glad to be with this little person who was fascinated by everything and was, himself, so fascinating. Our new son & I spent our days together, friends came over to see us from time to time, and I tried my hand at cooking more than I had in our pre-baby days, with varying degrees of success. I still think back on those early days and am so glad we sacrificed so that Ethan and I could be together.

It's not a popular thing to say, but it is true-- in our very wealthy nation of America, it is almost always possible for a woman to stay home with her baby if she wants to. If you don't want to, that's your decision. But for those who do want to stay home, and are wondering if you can do it, or thinking that it's impossible, I want to encourage you that it is possible. Like we did, you might need to move to a less expensive city. You may not have "luxury" items, or even what other people expect as "normal". Like mine did, your husband may have to take a job (or jobs) that are outside his area of expertise. But you can make it work, and in the long run, you won't regret making hard choices, or even sacrificing, in order to enjoy these special moments with your baby, and give him a loving, stable, and connected start in life.

From one mom who's been there, you CAN stay home if you want to, and it is so precious to share those days together with the new little person God has put in your family.


Kate said...

This has been good for me to read this morning. $30,000 a year sounds pretty good from where we are. Family of four living in a higher cost of living area. "Comfortable" is not quite the right word to describe our life.

But I can't even imagine leaving my babies for 10 hours a day in someone else's care, even if it is to meet some basic needs that aren't being met. It's not an easy place to be, yet I am hopeful that things can and will get to a better place. In the meantime, how foolish it would be for me to miss so many precious moments and new developments in these little people who change and grow by the hour. They are with me all day and besides their dad, I love them more than any caregiver ever would and it something right in the midst of these struggles.

I know many women out there struggle to reconcile, for example debt that needs paying with staying home with their babies... and sometimes we try to solve a problem with another problem. Life isn't always so neat and tidy, but it has become clear to me that my job as a mom is more important than even some very important things in life (like debt etc.).

Kisha said...

I recently stumbled upon your website and I am very encouraged by it! Please continue to write on your experiences of loving God and your family as a SAHM. I too am a SAHM of 17 mos. going strong in Jesus. I have been struggling with the idea of going back to work so that "luxury" items can be brought. The enemy is working overtime trying to convience me of leaving my precious one in the hands of ?? Please continue to write. It encouraged me so much today.

Thanks, Kisha

Anonymous said...

Amen! Thanks so much for sharing your story. We are kind of in this stage right now...sometimes when things are so so tight financially I am tempted to doubt whether we are making the right decision to have me stay at home, but God has provided all our needs and I am so happy to be here with her (and soon, our son-on-the-way!). Your words are an encouragement! Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

It is funny you posted the salary, because when my husband and I decided we had "plenty of money for me to stay home" 12 years ago, he made $31K plus benefits. We lived in a small house, had no car payments (and we drove old, old cars!), and I breastfed/didn't go shopping/fixed very simple meals. We actually thrived! :) I recently told my friend my hubby's salary when I became a SAHM, and she nearly choked on her coffee. She also added, "That doesn't seem possible."

Ruth said...

Jess, great testimony and great photos!

Anonymous said...

Jess, thank you so very much for opening your heart and encouraging mine. I'm scheduled to go part time August 1st and then stay home with my two daughters when our current house sells. I'm scared out of my mind but God said to do it so here we go. My husband has been great, my girls are excited (frankly, so am I) and God has provided everything. Thanks again and keep up the good work.

Averyswife said...

I, for one, appreciate the fact that you stated your husband's salary. A lot of time women will just automatically assume their husbands don't make enough for them to stay at home and giving them a figure helps give them pause. When we got married my husband made $27K a year plus overtime. Insurance was ridiculously expensive but since we don't use birth control, it was a necessity. Our daughter spent several days in NICU and even with insurance we were left with a huge bill. Still, God provided and we didn't go into debt or starve. In fact, we were able to purchase our own home when our daughter was only 3 months old. Then we took another leap of faith when my husband decided to enter the police academy, which paid even less, and now we were pregnant with our second. Now that he's a full-time police officer things are MUCH more comfortable but many of his co-workers still can't believe I can stay home with the kids (three now) and that's at a salary of nearly $48K a year! I think many families are just not willing to make the sacrifices needed to do what's best for their children.

My life as a Home Engineer said...

I've been following your blog for awhile now and I'm so thankful for you sharing your story of how you came to be home full time. I've been home with our two children since my son was born in December of 2006 and I'm so thankful I made the decision to be home.

It was rough in the beginning but my husband and I figured out how to make it work and it's sooooo true that you can be home if you truly WANT to be it may be hard but you can make it work.

Our son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer when he was just three years old in 2010 and I remember after he was diagnosed I told a friend I was so thankful I'd left my career in 2006 to stay home with him. At the time I didn't know what was going to happen if God was going to allow him to live or not but I remember just thanking God that I spent those three years with him instead of putting him in daycare or with a nanny for 10 hours a day. (He's been in remission since Januray of 2011 btw!!!!! God is awesome!!!!!)

Please keep encouraging women with your blog!

God Bless

Erin said...

Agreed - I work in childcare and it's so hard knowing that the children in my care (whom I love dearly!) spend more awake time in my care than they do with their parents. So many of the parents tell me they just can't afford to stay home even though they'd love to but then I see photos of their latest holiday, I know which suburbs they live in and how both parents have cars.
I know that many women don't want to stay home, but I do think it is possible to do without (but actually live quite nicely) to be able to spend time with their children if families really want to.

Vani said...

Dear Jess,

Thank you for an inspiring and enlightening blog. I have only just found it via recommendation and am interested in reading more.

I am myself a working girl for the time being, but my man and I also aim at me being a stay-at-home wife and mother later down the line.

Your blog seems a great inspiration and I am looking forward to read more as I have time,

In the meantime, congrats on your family and little nr. 6 and have a great day!