Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom, the Hard Way
I updated a post from 2016, in the hopes that everyone would know my “story” a little bit better. These days I blog about recipes, my children, DIY projects, and vintage dishes. The journey to becoming a stay-at-home mom is still an important part of who I am. Being home for the last two decades gave me the time, inspiration, and fullfillment that allows me to enjoy the abundant life I have 22 years later as a blogger, wife, and proud mother of 5 amazing children.
The Career Woman
As a young married woman, I wanted to be successful. Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom was not part of the program. Success meant earning a degree, starting a career (rather than merely getting a job), then possibly having two, or maybe three children.
Our plan was for me to graduate from college, and teach one year before having children. We had everything planned to a tee. But, things did not go as planned. I had preeclampsia when I was 7 months pregnant, and had to be induced. Our daughter was born early and flown to MUSC by helicopter. At that point I realized that I wasn’t in control. My husband and I accepted Jesus when our daughter, Augusta, was six months old. Our whole world changed.
By the time Augusta was 8 months old, the new school year had begun. Staying at school until 5:30 pm to create the perfect bulletin board lost its luster. The only job I ever really loved paled in comparison to moments spent with my beautiful baby.
All of the things I thought I wanted had changed. I still liked teaching, and we needed my check to pay for all the bills we had, but I longed to be home with our child.
My husband was worried about me coming home, and rightly so. I explained to him that all the books claimed that it only took six months for a two-income household to adjust to one income. Surely a large portion of my paycheck went toward childcare, clothing, and other expenses that we could eliminate, right? WRONG.
Our situation was complicated because we a had a house, a $300 car payment, student loans, and an unimproved lot on a golf course- purchased for our future dream home. Plus, we were too stupid to sell that stuff before I came home. We wanted our cake, and to eat it too.
My assistant was a Godly woman. She was the type of person who would stand in the rain while holding her umbrella over a child’s head, to prevent him or her from getting wet. I was the person who didn’t want one drop of water on me, lest I melt. She said that God would make a way where there was no way, and I believed her. I wanted to be home with my baby so badly.
I finished the school year and took a part-time job at a day care center. Naturally, I read a book that suggested this course of action. it was titled: The Part-Time Solution: The New Strategy For Managing Your Career While Managing Motherhood, by Charlene Canape. It wasn’t a solution for me though. The director pressured me to work more hours, and I didn’t like my job.
To make things worse, my new job sent me to a conference in Dulles, Washington, for a week. I missed my child terribly, and felt that I had nothing to live for, and nothing to look forward to. I called my husband crying, and he agreed that I should come home for good.
Going For Broke-Literally
My last day of work was Valentine’s Day 1997. Two weeks later I found out that I was pregnant. We slowly (way too slowly) sold our car, and our lot on the golf course. My husband stopped playing golf, and we stopped taking family vacations and eating out. Each step towards letting go of our worldly desires was painful. Things looked bad, we fought a lot, and had doubts about the decision to bring me home. There seemed to be no respite from the financial strain we were under. However, every time we got in a really, really bad pinch, God rescued us.
For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 NASB
We worked many part-time jobs to pay our bills. I tried to do things that were itinerant, with a defined beginning and end, so that I could one day be home permanently.
We worked for a caterer together before our third child was born. My husband was much better in the commercial kitchen than I was. I taught migrant children for several summers, tutored at Huntington Learning Center, became a camp counselor on Parris Island one summer, and babysat a neighbor’s little girl for two years.
I even worked in Walmart layaway one Christmas season. My son was two months old, and I was still nursing. I spent my breaks pumping milk in the bathroom. Whenever I would see a fellow teacher approaching our department, I would run upstairs and pretend that I was looking for a layaway package. I wanted to hide, because I was embarrassed. Most people did not understand our vision, or the sacrifice required.
Along the way my husband was lucky to get an extra job in his career field on Saturday and Sunday mornings. He still has that same job, and it is a great blessing to us all. He has worked long and given up many things to keep me at home. I know that our children will look back on this with appreciation as they get older.
Going Broke Again
After 10 years of scratching, we were finally able to add on to our house. By that time we had four children in an 1,100 square foot home, with only one bathroom. Thanks to my father-in-law and his carpentry skills, we added a fireplace, a master bedroom, and another living area. Things were looking up, but unfortunately, not for long.
Right after we received our certificate of occupancy, home values fell. The recession that began in 2008 took its toll. Our home appraised for less than before we added 500 square feet.
As a result, we couldn’t put the addition debt into our mortgage. We spent the next four years paying off the debt, “eating beans and taters,” as my mom’s family would say. We had to miss the weddings of several out-of-state cousins during this time, but we just couldn’t bear any more expenses.
Since 2013 things have been good, and we are grateful. For me, one of the hardest things about being poor was the shabbiness of our things, and I don’t mean shabby-chic. Ripped upholstery, old, dirty, rugs, and tired bedding did not make this home-loving girl very happy!
However, when I look back on those extremely hard, first ten years, I mostly remember all the fun we had. I had a neighbor that home-schooled her children too. We had parties for all
of the holidays, even President’s Day.
As fellow homemakers, we improved our sewing, cooking, and Bible knowledge together. We also had a beach day one day a week in the summer. I don’t think I have ever been so happy as when watching my children frolic in the tide-pools and in the sand. They were never allowed to go in past their knees, so I can’t write about them frolicking in the waves.
I wouldn’t trade one hour of one of those days with my older children for a million dollars. I have been lucky enough to get another time around with my younger children, so I am twice-blessed.
We have several like-minded families who are sharing the journey with us. We do community service together with our kids, go on field trips, and have holiday celebrations as well. This time I know how fast children grow, so I want to savor every moment.
The Lord Worked Everything Out
Today we have five children, ranging in age from 10 to 24. I don’t have to worry about picking up part-time jobs, or babysitting, although I do try to earn extra money on the side working from home. I can rest in my role as a stay-at-home mama. We can pay our bills, the Lord willing. We are still in our little cottage, and our best car is a 2010 Dodge Journey.
For entertainment, my husband and I go on dates on Friday nights, and take a family vacation about once a year. I can order brand-new homeschooling curriculum from Amazon, with two-day shipping, and buy all the crafting supplies I want. These days, that’s what I call success.
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