Thursday, February 16, 2012

On How I became a Stay at Home Mom

I thought about calling this post "How TO Become a Stay at Home Mom," but you know what? That really didn't work for me.

Because it isn't true.

I know that the reason I was able to become a stay at home mom has a lot to do with my husband's job. And frankly, that didn't happen by accident, and I didn't marry money. I married a graduate student, and I worked two jobs while editing everything he wrote and taking full care of the house for three years. Then he graduated and he made more money than the two of us had ever made combined. I put in my time, and I helped to make his earning potential what it is.

But I still know that I am fortunate. Many people live in a situation where it is simply not financially possible for a family to live on one income. It makes me sad when I read sites that imply that if you JUST did this one extra thing (clip coupons, make your own laundry detergent, use a certain kind of savings vehicle) you SHOULD be able to live on one income.

There aren't any one size fits all solutions. Some people have to work outside the home, even if they don't wan to. And if that's you, and you're reading this, I don't want you to feel judged or criticized. You are doing what you must for your family.

But this is my story.

As I said above, I worked two jobs for the entire three years my husband was in grad school. We lived in fairly small apartments, we ate at cheap restaurants with coupons if we ate out at all. We lived on less than we made, and we were always putting money away.

The year my husband graduated and we moved, I tried hard to find a job. It's not easy to find a teaching job, particularly when you have to move after the school year begins, but I hustled. I picked back up my part time job, and at the peak of it, I worked 19 hours a week at it. At the same time, I was applying to teaching and subbing jobs, cleaning up my resume, and making phone calls, and eventually landed a long term sub job that paid the salaried rate for the last three months of the school year. And every chance I got, I would write online or take advantage of some other money making opportunities.

During that time, I made our monthly budget so that it counted only my husband's income. This was pretty easy since he made more than we'd ever made before, and we still lived in a small apartment. Anything I made either went to pay off student loans, or went into a savings account. We were piling up money for both emergencies and for a down payment on a house.

So, we started trying to get pregnant. And succeeded on almost the first try.

We shopped around for houses for a while, and finally settled on one. Before we bought it, though, I wrote a new budget, taking into account our new house payment and all the added expenses that would be involved with living in a new house. We made sure we had 3 months of expenses saved and could still put down 5% on the house (I would have liked it to be more, but oh well). We included items in our budget to save every month for recurring expenses like insurance payments, and small savings for things like Christmas, travel, and improvements to the house. And all this had to work within DH's paycheck.

And it did.

It's close, though, and I have to be a lot more careful than I ever did. In my head I know that we are not really falling behind, that if the budget got closer I could just stop saving for Christmas or vacations for a few months. But when I run the numbers, and I see the margin getting smaller and smaller, it's hard.

And I still do work part time, although the 19 hours a week isn't happening with a one year old in the house. I work 3 hours or so most weeks, and that money still goes either towards debt reduction unless we have a specific savings goal we are trying to meet. The progress is slower, but for me it's worth it.

And I do plan to go back to work full time again, and if we haven't accomplished our financial goals yet by then, we should hopefully be able to make a lot of progress very quickly. And until then, I'm rocking my baby girl, and we're doing just fine.