“Does not work out on paper” and a little more on making that big decision

When I was a working mom who longed to be able to quit my job, I often looked on the web for stories of women who had already succeeded in making this transition.  Of course I found some inspirational stories, but often they involved women who didn’t need to work for the money and were just choosing to be home instead of working. It was a preference to work for these women, not a necessity. This was not my story.

I would hear all the time that once you factor in all of your daycare expenses, cost to commute to work, and cost of buying lunches and coffee, really, a working mother doesn’t bring home very much. Well, I had already cut out the buying lunches and coffee a long time ago. And at this point my cost of commuting had already been slashed when I took a new job close to home. The money that I brought home was still substantial enough to keep me working, or so I thought.

As I mentioned in the previous post, one Tuesday night I came to my husband with my computer in hand and presented him with my “Mommy Stay at Home Plan”. I had reworked a couple of things and had figured out a way for quitting to be a real possibility. It took a little creativity to shuffle things around.  We would use some of our savings to pay off more of our car loan to lower monthly payments and we would rely on our annual income tax return to pay for our property taxes, which also lowered monthly expenses. (No more fun income tax return spending!) The budget I had drafted stripped us down to the bare necessities. It was going to take major financial diligence and a lot of faith to actually implement this plan.

We were both a little scared to really take that leap of faith.   In a romantic sense, I loved the idea of putting our faith in God, trusting that this was His plan for us. I loved the idea of my husband being the traditional breadwinner and of me being the homemaker and sole caretaker and teacher of our children. However, in reality, the idea of literally cutting our gross income in half was terrifying.

What were we scared of?   A huge concern, of course, was that we would not make it month to month and then would have to dip into savings so often that we’d have no money left.

We were also concerned about saving money. We really would not be saving much of anything on this plan. We could possibly still contribute a little to college funds for our children. Beyond that, we wouldn’t be saving anything. And since I had always been a huge saver, this made me quite uncomfortable.   It also broke my heart that I might have to stop setting aside money for a future family trip to Disney World, something I’d been saving towards since we got married. It sounds totally silly, but this was something that held me back a little. And yet, I knew that saving for a vacation should not be a reason for me to ignore what I felt God was calling us to do.

Another fear I had was budgeting. I mean REALLY budgeting. I had NEVER followed much of a budget. As a single gal, I had made a good salary. And in those single days, although I was very prudent and saved a lot of money, I was also able to splurge here and there and take multiple trips within the U.S. and even in Europe. Some of these splurges soon became “normal” expenses to me.   Of course, getting married and becoming a mother had already helped me relearn the difference between a splurge and a normal expense.  But for the most part, because I worked, I could still go to Starbucks on occasion and buy a new book or CD without much thought or guilt. There could be no such purchases in the future if I stayed at home. Every little thing I purchased would have to be out of necessity. Could I really be so mindful??

The other remaining fear that I had was of being able to give to others. This may sound a little strange, but it was a serious concern. I had always prided myself on my ability to give good and thoughtful gifts to my family for birthdays and Christmas.   For example, when I was single I usually got my mom tickets to some sort of Broadway in Chicago show or bought her a cool piece of art. It was incredibly humbling when I thought that I might not be able to give these types of gifts anymore.

Dear Hubby and I had to remind ourselves that all of these fears were just that, fears. They were not real…yet. We did not know what the future was going to hold, good or bad. We did not know if it would be hard to say no to certain expenditures once I was staying at home. There was no way to know any of this unless we just took a chance and lived on one income.

As my husband and I sat there staring at the numbers on the computer screen, trying to make a final decision, I thought back to an online conversation that I had had with a former high school classmate three years earlier. During our online correspondence I told this devout Catholic woman, whom I really did not know very well, how much I admired her for staying home with four kids in this modern age. Her husband was a teacher at a Catholic school and I just couldn’t comprehend how they were making ends meet. I told her how much I wished I could stay at home and trust that, if it were God’s will, everything would just work out. She responded with advice about tithing (another topic I’ll have to touch on later) and about looking into a specific financial planning class. I’ve always been extremely responsible with my finances, so that wasn’t the problem. What she said next is what really stuck with me:

“…I would just tell you that staying home, most of the time, does not work out on paper. Meaning, it does not always seem like the sensible thing to do. I have seen that it is not until I actually stayed home and we felt the pinch, were we able to make things work out financially…”

DOES NOT WORK OUT ON PAPER???

How could I be okay with it NOT working out on paper? I wanted to be responsible and felt that I could only quit if I was totally positive that it was all going to work out. Obviously, this is just not how faith in God works. There are no guarantees. My husband and I decided that we would take one day at a time, with no guarantees, and have faith that we were being called to a different way of life. We decided that I would quit my job and once a year had passed we would reevaluate everything.

Here we are, a little over a year later, and I’m still at home. By the grace of God, what didn’t seem to work out on paper has actually worked. What I’ve learned is that once you truly TRUST in God’s will, blessings pour forth.  For us, blessings came in many different forms this year. My husband increased his income by 17%. (Praise God!)  My mother generously provided new clothing and gifts for all of us throughout the year. My cousin and sister-in-law gave us bags of gently used clothing. And perhaps most importantly, I believe my husband and I were graced with a stronger faith life.

How can you increase your faith to make a daring decision? Well, I think the key is that YOU must make the first move. “Seek and you shall find.” You have to open yourself up to God, open up to His grace, before He will show the way. Like the Cheap Trick song, God wants you to want Him! Okay, that’s not the song exactly, but you get the idea. If you open yourself up, you will not be disappointed. I believe a particular person helped me open myself up to God. She led me to Jesus.  If you want to find out who this lady is, read my next post. (Oooh a teaser!)