Monday, November 15, 2010

What does it mean that I "get" to stay home with my kids?

I am so incredibly tired of being told, “Oh you’re soooo lucky, that you get to stay home with your kids, there’s no way we could afford that.”

Where do I even start?  Well first, let me say, that I know that for some people this is very, very true.  For those struggling to live at or below the poverty line, for single parents, and for a few others, they have no choice but to work in order to provide the roof over their family’s head, food on the table, and to just barely scrape by (as in literally feed their families the most simplest of food and cover the most basic expenses).  I can tell you that most of the people who say this to me are not those people. 

When someone says that I am so lucky that I get to stay home, like it’s some magical gift I’ve been given, they are ignoring the sacrifice and work that has gone into making this happen for my family.  My husband is a pastor.  He makes a fine salary for a young pastor.  It is not extravagant by any means.  We live in a lovely parsonage (which by the way is not free but is 1/3 of his compensation package, meaning he gets paid less than he would if we weren't provided a home.  It makes total sense, right?  Well, those people that tell me how nice it must be because we have a free house to live in and I get stay home clearly don’t understand that part.)  We live as a family of four on one income, not because that income is so big that it can support us comfortably, but because we’ve chosen (for the most part) to make this work.

We live on a very strict budget.  We forgo a lot of things.  I am not a martyr.  These are choices we’ve made.  But I don’t simply get to stay home with my kids like it’s the easiest thing on earth.  I use the time that I have as a result of staying home to make most of the food we eat from scratch because it’s cheaper, particularly because we like to eat whole grain healthier foods which are often more expensive at the grocery store. Yep, I make my own granola bars because I can’t spend $3 (and that’s if they are on sale) for a box of ones without corn syrup in them.  (I know this is not earth shattering to many of you who read this blog but to others, it is.)  We do not do a lot for entertainment that costs money but instead spend time in the woods and in the backyard.  We don’t subscribe to movie channels or netflix.  I keep the heat set at 62 in the winter.  We don’t have a house phone.  We have to say no sometimes when friends ask us to do things or when the kids want to do things.  We try to minimize stuff.  We buy a lot of things used, and we just buy less.  There are days or weeks I don’t drive to save on gas.  I volunteer at my son’s school twice weekly in order to receive discounted tuition.  I do online surveys during naptime to get an extra $20/month that helps us have something for little splurges.  I don’t buy $5 cups of coffee, and we pack snacks and lunches for pretty much everywhere we go.  I cut my kids hair at home, and avoid hair cuts for myself except for maybe twice a year.  We don’t get a lot, or often any, new shoes, purses, clothes, home décor, or anything else that can wait because at this time in our life we are putting every penny into making this work.  This doesn’t make me better or, at least in my opinion, worse than you.  It’s simply what we’ve chosen for right now.

To be honest, now that we’ve figured out how and we’ve lived the benefits of this living, I love living like this.  There’s more I’d like to do to live simpler which would save us additional money.  I’d love to ditch cable, but my husband just can’t handle that jump.  I would love to buy even less as every once in a while we get caught up in the desire to buy (but it’s amazing what that looks like now opposed to what it looked like 5 years ago).  Again, I'm not telling you this so I can be lifted up in martyrdom.  We’ve made this choice.  It’s working for our family for now.  It’s hard some days, as money is for all of us, especially in this economy.  But, think twice before you tell someone how lucky they are that they get to stay home with their kids.  Think twice about what you’ve spent money on recently that maybe you didn’t have to or what ways you could change your lifestyle, because chances are you could make it work too.  If you want to maintain your current lifestyle, you are, in most instances, choosing to work, and you too, could get to stay home if that was what you wanted.  If you don't want that, that's fine!  I will be happy in many ways when we return to a two-income household, but for now this is best for us overall.  The important thing to know is that few of us get to choose work or home without making real sacrifices on either side.

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