A little over a year ago, my husband and I made a huge decision for our family. About a week after making the decision, I wrote this. Now, after some recent editing, I would like to share it in a new space that I call “Happily Struggling”.
When I got pregnant, I was a full-time working wife. Even while pregnant, I knew I wasn’t going to want to go back to work after my maternity leave. But, at that time, staying home was just not an option. Financially, we couldn’t make it work.
When our daughter was about ten months old, I dropped down to working only part-time. I felt much better and so did my Dear Hubby. I had a predictable job that I knew very well and I had an abundance of vacation and sick days to take. I worked three days a week and had twelve paid vacation days and six paid sick days. With this schedule, I had two days off every week to play with our Little Lady, attempt to clean the house, and make dinners for the remaining work days. Sounds pretty good, right? It would have been, if not for my hour and forty minute commute. But for the most part, we were managing well.
Our son was born when our daughter was a little over two years old. Once he arrived, everything got a little more difficult again. Unlike the Little Lady, our new Little Guy didn’t sleep very well. Little Lady slept through the night at about 4 months, just around the time I went back to work. At ten months, Little Guy still didn’t sleep through the night. Juggling two kids relatively close in age and working part-time with little to no sleep was a bit difficult. And the commute was killing me. With the crazy storms our area had in the summer of 2013, my commute home was sometimes three hours long. INSANE! And through all of this, I was still trying to pump because Little Guy was not taking formula very well.
Because I didn’t think staying at home was an option for us, I looked for a job close to home and finally found one. I took a month off between my old and new jobs and it was wonderful. I’m not sure how I actually got myself to go back to work after that month off.
I should have taken it as a perhaps a little sign from God when, on my first day at my new job, a male coworker walked into my office while I was pumping and asked me what I was doing. It was so awkward. I came home crying and really didn’t want to go back. I did go back and I actually liked the job for the most part. I was starting to learn about tax returns, something I had not yet done in my career. (Yes, I am a CPA, but that doesn’t mean that I’m well versed in tax code!) It became increasingly apparent that I would have to do more studying and catching up outside of work. With a baby that thought 4am was a lovely time to wake up for the day and also liked a midnight snack, I just didn’t have the energy at home to put into studying.
One Sunday, I had a bit of an emotional breakdown. I felt like I was becoming too frazzled and stressed and overwhelmed. I felt like I wasn’t the wife and mother that I wanted to be to Dear Hubby and the kids. I told Dear Hubby that I wanted to look at our finances again to see if there was ANY way that we could make it work for me to stay home. I had run the numbers so many times and the numbers never seemed to work out. I even made excel spreadsheets to try to map out what it would take for me to quit my job. (I am an accountant by trade after all.)
The net amount of money that I made after accounting for daycare costs had been decreasing due to a couple of factors. First, I had taken a significant pay cut with my new job and I had fewer paid days off. Second, a family crisis had made my mom less available for her “Granny Nanny” days and we began to pay for an additional day per week of childcare. Although my take home pay was getting smaller and smaller, it was still enough to make us think we needed it.
I prayed for guidance and for some signs that staying at home was the right thing to do. That week, I got them. On a Sunday night Little Guy got up every two hours. Each time I got up with the poor little guy, I was up for at least a half hour. As you can guess, I was totally exhausted at work the next day. My eyes hurt and I could hardly concentrate. Adding insult to injury, I received a letter from my boss telling me that I needed to spend more time outside of work learning tax concepts. Ugh…When was I going to have time or energy for that?? I sat at my computer and just cried.
I’d always thought of myself as someone who could handle anything, take on more than anyone, you get the idea. But that morning, running on only a couple of hours of sleep, I had just reached my limit. I read on a blog somewhere or perhaps heard on the radio that, in these times, women tend to wear their high stress as a badge of honor. In other words, you’re Supermom if you have a million things on your plate. So, let’s flip that and reverse it; is our culture sending the message that you’re not a good mom if you are at home with your kids leading a simple life? (I have no idea if I used that semicolon properly.) I really didn’t like that sentiment and I decided that I wanted “to be the change that I wanted to see in the world”.
Dear Hubby and I looked at the numbers again, via my “Mommy Stay at Home Plan” excel spreadsheet, and late on a Tuesday night, we finally decided that, although it would be a total leap of faith, it would be the right thing for our family for me to quit my job. We knew that this “plan” included cutting a lot of luxuries that many people probably do not describe as luxuries. But, we were willing to make those sacrifices and others because, as I’d been saying to everyone,
We would rather be HAPPILY STRUGGLING than struggling to be happy.
And at the time we didn’t really know what kind of struggle it was going to be. All we knew was that it was the right decision for us at that time. After making the decision, I had the worst night with the kids that I had ever had and had to call in sick to work the next two days. It was like God was giving me more of the signs I had prayed for. He was knocking me over the head with them, actually! My kids needed ME. Then, he gave me another huge sign, just in case I wasn’t listening. After telling our babysitter that we would no longer need her services, something I was so nervous to do, she told me that she had also been nervous because she was going to have to take some time off in the spring due to her third baby on the way. Once I heard that happy news, any doubts I had were totally wiped away. It was all meant to be.
Continue reading my blog to discover how faith played a role in making this decision. I will also be exploring the financial aspects of our decision, along with other random topics, in future posts. I hope to give a little nudge of encouragement to anyone who is struggling with a decision like ours.