Before I had kids, I remembering referring to the option of being an at-home mom as a luxury. I hate to admit that I even used that term when explaining to a frugal and sacrificing at-home friend why we planned on my return to work after babies.
I suppose I thought of it in terms of a formula: If dad's salary minus mom's salary equals the two-income lifestyle we currently live, then we're approved.
I honestly didn't consider the fact that when people chose to stay home it actually might mean a massive change in lifestyle. And I'm not talking about skipping the Caribou coffee on the way to work, I'm talking no new clothes, no dates, no convenience foods, no non-family vacations. I know our parents lived like this when we were kids, but I though at-home moms today were supposed to dress cute and go to the gym every day with a Starbucks in hand.
I do not care if a family chooses to be double-income or not. I believe it's a SUPER personal decision, one that each family has to weigh for themselves. I went back to work after the twins were born, but when they were 7 months old our company went through a merger and the staff were all permanently laid off. Since I'd just found out I was pregnant with Hayden we decided it was best to test the at-home waters. We laughed at the budget and the bare-bones life we'd have to lead, but for that season we thought it was the best choice.
The old me would have said that I couldn't stay home, that it was ridiculous to live so frugally and kind of sadly. I assumed it would be bad for my mental health to feel beholden to the budget and live in outdated cargo pants. I assumed it would be ridiculous to ask me to forgo my salon color! (For the record, Revlon Colorsilk Medium Blonde, $6.99. Livin' frugal, baby.) Somehow for me, this has all been fine. And to the mom who gets the gorgeous, layered color by a stylist? Good for her, truly. (I should have enjoyed it more when I did it!) And let me be clear: we still have cable, I just bought some new shirts, and my hair looks just fine.
I guess sometimes I feel defensive when I sense someone thinks like I used to, that being home is a luxury, one they couldn't possibly consider. Again no judging, but I wish I could tell then what I know now, that living within some tight means has opened our hearts and increased our faith beyond measure. It's not sad, and it's not impossible (I know there are exceptions), it's just a choice. If you say you want to go back to work because you're sick of coupons and cheap dates and fixer-upper cars, then I say go for it. It's a choice. On the other hand, if you truly want to stay home, I bet it can also be a realistic choice. Just don't sell yourself short, it's amazing what you can live without.
I really struggled with this when first having Catina. I desired to stay home but couldn't understand how we could make it on one income. Somehow I felt I would be considered lazy if I stayed home with one child. What is really strange is that I knew friends that did stay home and didn't consider them lazy! Double standard I guess.
After June was born it didn't make sense for me to work. I told myself that I was staying home for at least this time while my kids are young. It took me a year and a half before I felt comfortable being a stay-at-home mom. Even now there are days where I start wondering what I will do when they are in school all day. Not because there would be nothing to do; I know it would be easy to fill my time with volunteering in the classrooms, maintaining the kids' schedules, and our home. I am already thinking about what I can do so I won't feel this nagging at the back of my mind that I'm still a stay-at-home mom and wondering if I should be doing more.
Sometimes I feel guilty I am not contributing financially, but like you said we need to live in faith that He is providing! That doesn't mean we should be foolish, but we also need to know that nothing is guaranteed. The Lord is our provider and even if I were to get a job today there is no guarantee that I wouldn't be laid off the next week.
You know what is even crazier? I really love being at home! I have no desire to work anywhere at this point. It's weird and odd to admit this because I never in a million years thought that would be me. I'm not sure how much of the "guilt" was from the expectations I thought people had of me, the expectations I had of myself, or my worry over not having enough money for all that we needed. I write this after having some time to myself today...as you know I totally have those moments where I want to just walk out and live on my own in a loft apartment somewhere fancy and eat nice food in peace.
I struggle at times with wanting more. I'd love to think that if we had more money I'd totally be fit because we'd belong to a gym, and we'd take these awesome vacations to Europe. I do love that our family can have a life full of joy without that stuff. We can improvise, be creative and live our lives not holding these things as necessities but thanking God for the luxury of having a home and a variety of foods to eat. I want to always be able to hold our hands palms-up and not just spend the money we do have but choose to give it away.
You and I could talk forever about this topic! We both know there are exceptions to all of this. I know my sister would love to spend more time at home but in this season she is working so her husband can finish nursing school. This is a wise decision. Her husband can begin a career he enjoys because of this education and then she can choose whether or not she should return to working part time or not at all depending on her desires and her family needs.
What I know we both hope is that we can choose to stay at home or not, and feel free in that choice and not worry about judgements. And for those that want to stay at home, we hope they would truly know whether or not it's something they should do, and they would feel the peace to take a leap of faith and try it. I also know there are moms who are staying at home because they feel it is expected of them and they really wish they could work. Hoping for freedom for all in their choices.