“Oh you’re so lucky to be a stay at home mom.”
“I’m so jealous!”
“I would give anything to stay home.”
I hear them all the time, and normally I just smile softly and nod my head in agreement. Because yes, I am so lucky and I am so blessed. But once in awhile, normally after a few rough nights of sleep or a particularly hard day of butting heads with a toddler, those simple statements get to me a little. I read into them a little more than I should.
And I know people mean well, they really do. They aren’t trying to make me bite my tongue, they are just stating the truth. They wish they could stay home, I get it. But they don’t see what goes on behind the scenes or how much we sacrifice for our decision. They simply may not know, that luck has absolutely nothing to do with it.
….. Let me shed some light….
Am I blessed for getting to spend my days teaching and raising and loving on my son? Absolutely.
Am I grateful that my husband is willing to work as hard as he does? So grateful I could burst and sprinkle gratefulness everywhere.
And do I feel lucky, because I know that not everyone can do what I get to do? Of course. Of course I feel lucky. I know I am lucky…
But my ability to be a stay at home mom has nothing to do with luck.
People seem to think that being a stay at home parent means your significant other must make some exorbitant amount of money.
I’m here to tell you, it certainly doesn’t.
At least not always, not in our case. I’m sure for some, being a stay at home parent was an easy decision to make. For those families who are very well off, it may have been a no brainer.
For us, it is a choice that took hours, countless late night conversations, and a ton of time spent crunching the numbers. I am lucky to have a husband who has views that line up with mine so well when it comes to our children. I am lucky that he is so on board with me staying home. But, making it work, doesn’t happen simply because I am lucky.
Does my husband bring home pretty good paychecks? Yes. Does he bring home enough for us to live comfortably? Definitely.
But, we are comfortably living paycheck to paycheck.
Our bills are paid, mostly on time. Our fridge is full, with fairly healthy food. Our sons holidays are filled with toys and trinkets that will eventually sit untouched in the toy box.
But that isn’t because we are just lucky. We weren’t just dealt this great winning hand that has allowed us this luxury. It’s because my husband worked hard and got a great job. It’s because we plan ahead relentlessly and we make it work. It’s because we sacrifice some of the things you feel you couldn’t live without.
It is so much more than luck…
It is me sitting down with pen and paper, smartphone in hand, scouring the grocery stores online ads each week. It is me meal planning for several hours every weekend and mapping out my grocery shopping trips, almost down to the dollar sometimes. It is trying to feed my family a well balanced, mostly fresh and healthy diet, while shopping only the items on sale. It is writing 2, sometimes 3, grocery lists for different stores. Because it is worth it to go where certain things are cheaper, even if it means more stops.
It is sometimes skipping playdates or evening drives, which we love, simply because that extra gas isn’t in the budget this week.
It is laughing at the idea of weekly, or even monthly date nights with just the two of us, because sometimes, the bank account won’t allow it.
It is driving cars that need work and holding off on that oil change for a few more days, because we don’t have the extra cash until next paycheck.
It’s giving up on dream homes, and new vehicles, for the time being, and instead shopping the fixer uppers and the nice but used cars.
It is living well within our means.
It is pushing a degree, that I spent 6 years getting, to the back of the pile of important things. It is graduating with honors and then deciding that there is somewhere else you would rather be.
It was a decision to completely lose an entire income because, in our eyes, the pros outweighed the cons.
And so far, for us, our vision could not have been better.
Being a stay at home mom is all of that…
But, it’s also me, not having to miss work when my baby is sick.
It’s my husband and I not worrying about when we can schedule doctors appointments or preschool screenings, because I’m always free.
It is watching all of my sons firsts happen in real time, not missing any of it.
It’s me feeling completely overwhelmed and isolated while simultaneously feeling fulfilled and at peace with my big little life.
I understand that this decision is not for everyone, and I’m not trying to make any role seem less important than the other.
Working parents, stay at home parents, work from home parents, it’s all parenting. And it’s all tough.
Choosing to work is just as tough of a decision as choosing not to. I’ve done both, and they are each rewarding and heartbreaking in their own ways.
But maybe next time you say that you would give anything to be a stay at home parent, ask yourself… would you really? Would you sell that dream house you live in and scale back to a small fixer upper? Would you sell that nice new car you just bought and buy a nice used one instead? Would you stop eating out once or twice a week and meal plan your weeknight dinners ahead of time? Would you sacrifice new clothes, and date nights, and a career you love? It’s all a give and take, and for some parents, those answers are no.
And that is 100% alright.
Plenty of families make it work with two full-time working parents and their children are happy, and healthy, and well adjusted.
And I’m sure Everest would be too, if that was our choice.
But the thought of getting up, rushing him through breakfast, loading him into the car, bringing him to the sitters, working all day, picking him up just before dinner time, and putting him to bed only a few hours later… makes my mama heart crumble.
So for now, we settle on looking for a house within our budget, and driving with our cracked windshield just a little longer, and cooking all of our meals at home. Because it’s what works for us, but only because we make it work.
It works, not by chance or by luck, but by sacrificing and living more simply.
Its feasible for us because we are ok with buying a little less house, a few less toys, and a lot less take out.
I am lucky that both my husband and I are ok with those things. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, it comes at a cost.
The Beautifully Mediocre Stay At Home Mama