11.24.2015

on staying at home with a baby when you can barely afford it



When people hear I quit my job to stay home with my baby, most assume James makes a lot of money.

That is not the case.

He is not a doctor or a lawyer or any other career that means we have student loans the size of a mortgage. He does not make heaps of money. But he works for a good company, he's really good at what he does, so for now, it works.

I have nothing at all against working moms. Different things work for different families, and I commend working moms for doing what they feel is best for their families. We all have different values and priorities and goals. We knew the right thing for our family was for me to quit my job. It's becoming counter-cultural for a woman to quit her job and forego a nicer lifestyle to stay home with her child, but we knew this was the path we were meant to take. For many reasons it made sense, not to mention daycare and gas would eat most of my salary. We knew it was going to be extremely difficult and would require a lot of sacrifices, but that's ok. I thought it would be much harder than it is to make these sacrifices, but having a baby completely changes your priorities and perspective. There are no more concerts or weekends away, and that doesn't even make me blink anymore. Most of the time, I don't miss those things. On paper, we shouldn't be able to swing this, but somehow we do. Quitting my job was a huge act of faith, and I haven't looked back for a second. For anyone out there who needs encouragement that it's possible, I'm here to say that it is possible.

We live very small and simply. It's kind of good timing, as minimalism is trendy these days. We don't eat out. We don't go on vacations. We don't go shopping. None of these things happen. Sometimes it's hard, like when none of my clothes fit me and I cry once a week in my closet, but most of the time I don't even notice anymore. There are days where I would give anything to order a pizza instead of cook dinner, but not having a lot of money has been strangely liberating. It's empowering. It's a constant exercise in self-discipline. It's easy to say no to things I would previously have wanted. I cook and bake as much as I can from scratch, and I love it. We eat so much healthier that way, and it's forced me to get more creative. Someday I want to be that crazy person that even makes her own bread, but that won't be happening just yet. We make do with what we have. We don't spend money on anything we don't absolutely need. The only extra thing we pay for is Netflix, and if push came to shove, I would cancel it (but please don't make me!). We are learning to be content with what we have. I think that is a very important lesson to learn, and it's one we have to learn over and over. Our friends and family have been so generous with us that we often feel completely spoiled. We are so grateful to everyone who has helped and supported us.

Honestly, I've kind of become obsessed with this way of life. I love it. Everything is prioritized. Everything is very purposeful. Every penny matters. You know the tiny house movement? I love it. If we didn't have a baby, I would be all over it (let the record show that James thinks I'm a little crazy). I've fallen in love with the concept of having things you love and need and nothing else, not to the extent of the crazy KonMari lady, but I like the underlying concept. It's something that started stirring in me years ago, something I wanted to work toward, and I firmly believe it was to prepare me for our current lifestyle. When we do buy a house, we want a small one. Not TINY, but small. We want to live below our means. We want to be self-sufficient. I don't want to fall into the trap of thinking we need big houses and every new thing. Because we don't, and that is an exhausting mindset to live in. We live in a 2 bedroom townhouse, and several people have commented to me that we don't have enough room, and I completely disagree. The size of our house is the size of the average home in the 1950s. Not once have we thought we needed more room. Kids do not each need a separate bedroom and a playroom. They don't need $200 iPhone-controlled contraptions to swing and rock them. Kids do not need $40 leggings with arrows on them from Etsy. I know they're cute, but your kid will never know the difference, and those leggings will be spit up on, pooped on, and will stop fitting by next Wednesday. I have a daughter; I know how much fun it is to dress babies up in bows and cute clothes. I'm here to say it is possible to dress them in clothes not covered in pastel baby animals and to do it affordably. It's all about priorities. None of these things are wrong, but they're not necessities. Not everyone can or wants to live this way, but it works for us.

We did everything we could to prepare for this before Gracie was born. We saved and stocked up on things we knew we would need. Aside from my car which will be paid off in the not-too-distant future, we have no debt, and we are adamant about staying that way. We are still learning how to make this work. Some days I feel like we're flying by the seat of our pants while we pray for better days ahead. Some days I get frustrated I can't go buy this or that. But it's exactly where we need to be, and we both know it. Things won't be like this forever. We won't have insanely high rent and a car payment for the rest of our lives. We are planning and looking forward to having a little more breathing room, but not once have I ever regretted quitting my job. There have been times when something happens or we get an unexpected bill, and we look at each other and think "this is going to be what breaks us," but it never does. God has always provided for us. We have never lacked a single thing. Countless times we have been given exactly the thing we need exactly when we needed it. We are trying to do the best we can to be good stewards of what God has given us, because we have everything we need: nothing more and nothing less. I can think of no better lessons for Gracie to witness firsthand as she grows up. Someday I would love to find a way to contribute to our family financially, but right now I have a little baby to tickle and snuggle. And to me, that is so much better than any vacation or fancy dinner.

18 comments:

  1. preach this. I hope to be able to stay home with our kids full time, by baby #3 if we're blessed with one. it can be frustrating because we actually do live on one income, even though I work. we put everything I make into savings, I work because we need to have benefits and our income would not support individual healthcare benefits. we started living like this right when we got married, no kids or house, and it felt silly to not be using all our money. but we have so many blessings because of our sacrifice, and it doesn't even feel that hard. sure, date nights are a splurge, and that whole ordering pizza thing would be amazing to do more often, but it's not that hard. proud of you for sticking to your guns.

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    1. Ugh, health insurance is a major reason we're strapped for cash right now. It's so expensive. It would've been cheaper at my job, but it just wasn't worth it for me to keep it. That is so awesome you're saving your paycheck! I am impressed.

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  2. This is awesome, Michelle. I hope one day that we have the guts to make those sacrifices! -I really want to be able to stay at home! It's crazy though, the more you make, the more you spend!

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    1. You can do it, girl!! It is so worth it.

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  3. All I can say is AMEN! I think it's so hard to imagine quitting a job (talking to myself here) but when it would mainly be used for paying daycare to raise my child instead of me? No thanks. I agree 100%. Sounds like you two are very disciplined!!!! I applaud you!!!! Gracie is lucky to have you two as parents :)

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  4. YES. My parents lived this way - my mom quit her job when I was born and never went back, my sister and I were both homeschooled, and our family "vacations" were weekend camping trips. I fully intend on quitting my job when we have kids, too. Sometimes it's fun to be a double-income-no-kids family but I would MUCH rather have kids and live simply than not have kids and be able to travel the world at the drop of a hat (which, if we're being honest, we don't do anyway!). And, they won't be babies forever.

    Side note: I think people who consistently buy $40 leggings for every stage of growth off Etsy are crazy even if they CAN afford it.

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  5. This is not at all what you're saying, but I've read a few posts like this, and they all end up making me feel guilty for going back to work. Like maybe I should suck it up and cancel our internet and sell Jordan's car and stop being so selfish. Pretty much once a day I think about R going to daycare and cry. But the thing is, my job pays for our health insurance, puts money in a 401k (Jordan's job doesn't offer retirement benefits), and even paying for childcare, we still come out with money to put in savings. So for us, while I'm sure it would somehow work out if I stayed at home, it seems like better management of our resources to keep working. We hardly eat out, and I rarely go shopping, although I admittedly have gone a little crazy buying hair bows! Jordan is cutting me off in Decemver ;) I'm so happy it's working out for you guys, and maybe in the future it will work out for us. I'm praying daycare isn't horrible for her. It's hurtful when people say that someone else will be raising her. Nothing will start the waterworks faster than hearing that.

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  6. Me. I am the one that needed that encouragement. I am now staying at home with Paisley, and for as much as I love it, it wasn't really my choice. My company filed bankruptcy and I was laid off. I was making a considerable amount more than Dean, so we are now figuring out how to pay off a huge amount of debt and live off of one third the amount of income we had before. One month in and we are doing better than I expected. We know this isn't sustainable, simply because we live in a one bedroom apartment and really need to get a place with 2 bedrooms. For now, we are okay. I am glad to know you are thriving, it gives me hope.

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  7. Amen sister! We were right where you & your husband were when we got pregnant with Evelyn. The only difference was my husband already owned a small 2 bedroom ranch (which we still live in with 3 kids) that he bought when he was 19. Actually when I gave birth to Evelyn he was unemployed unless you count being in the Air National Guard & working 1 weekend a month. It was scary, but we still chose to have me quit my two jobs & stay home, because what little I was making wouldn't cover childcare. God provided a job that exceeded what Nick was expecting to be able to make when Evelyn was 6 months old. Those months of scrimping and never spending more than the bare minimum were hard, but we did it & now we know we could do it again if we had to.

    I dislike when I hear women say that their family could not afford for them to quit their job to stay home, because majority of the time (not all of the time) that's just not true. If your goal in life is to stay home with your kids you can make it work you just have to adjust your lifestyle.

    Keep at it momma, you're doing great!

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  8. I don't have a baby...but I have debt and student loans and Justin has spent the past 3 years teaching me how to budget. And MAN it has been tough, but I totally feel you on this. I'm not great with self-discipline in any aspect of life...but I am getting a little better at it! My sister wants to quit her job and stay home with her littlest...she swears they wouldn't make it but I know they would if they budgeted!

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  9. Maybe it's weird to say, but I'm so proud of you. You guys are doing an awesome job, and yes, this is an awesome way for Gracie to grow up. I know, because my parents were the crazies who had 7 kids with one income and homeschooled and lived in small houses, too.

    Having Angel work and me stay at home was always our plan. As you know, he's a nurse in the states, and I think nursing is an awesome job if you want to be able to support your family with only a bachelor's degree. We lived way under his income in the USA, because, like you said, we pretty much just didn't buy anything unless we needed it. We did go on vacations, but the majority of vacations were roadtrips to visit family, and we'd save for vacations for months ahead of time, making them seem easy to go on. I got a lot of criticism for not having a job in the USA from my relatives, which seemed ridiculous to me because 1) I was in school our whole marriage, up until less than a year before we moved overseas. and 2) what did we need more money for? Even if I'd been earning money, it would have just gone in the bank. We had no desire to live at a "higher" level.
    Now...Angel earns about 1/4 of what he used to make as a nurse. And while Malaysian bills are lower, they are not 1/4 of American bills. So, his income no longer fully covers our monthly expenses, and we're no longer socking away savings, and I teach students at home everyday to make up the deficit. I won't lie, there's been 2 or 3 times in recent months that I've cried about why did we give up a comfortable easy life for a life with only a fraction of the money and no more retirement account and no more savings. But I never really forget "why" we did it--that whole God's call reason. I wouldn't give up this life for my older, more comfortable one where I wasn't doing what He really had for me to do. On paper it looks like we've made a very stupid decision, financially, and yet, just like you said, God and His people have provided everything we need at every step of the way. We haven't even needed to really furnish our apartment because people gave us the vast majority of our furniture (we've bought a couch, that's it), and someone even donated to help us buy a car. Whenever I get all "uppity" as if to think I gave up anything in moving from my old, more independent way of life, to this one, God has gently come in and humbled me. I couldn't take care of myself, not really, even if I did have a high-powered job in the comfy USA. But this new lifestyle has shown me all the more how much I need Him!

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  10. So try THIS on for size. We moved across the state of Tennessee when I was 22 weeks pregnant knowing that we would go from two incomes to one (mine!) so that I could pursue the big things happening in my career and HE could pursue one of his dreams while taking care of Presley at home. Yeah... I don't think people realize that we're on one income either. (S is in the business plan/investor stage of business, so it's not revenue-generating yet.) I think it also confuses people into oblivion that HE is home with her, and I'm not. I didn't have it planned out this way in my mind when I got pregnant, but it works for us... and we're happy... and Pres is healthy and loved and sooooo smiley... and we make ends meet. :) It's totally possible, but the thought terrifies people.

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  11. I loved this post! I stay home with Reuben and we definitely don't struggle with money but I do stuggle with a lot of the other things you have mentioned. Go you for making it work. I would never give up staying at home with my children for anything. My mom worked and while I never felt neglected when I was young by her, I know it wasn't ideal and I know she wanted to be home with us. I love being a mom. Even if it is hard so hard sometimes. I love it and I also love your blog.

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  12. I needed to read this. I'm newly inspired to stick to a budget! We don't have credit cards but we do have some school debt and I definitely have a hard time prioritizing sometimes ;) My husband doesn't make a whole lot but I quit my job to stay with Ben. It's something we always planned to do but woah is it hard sometimes! AND Josh just got laid off so I might have to go back just part time and it makes me sad but you gotta do what you gotta do and I'm trusting that God has something better down the road. I'm so thankful that we have a loving family that can watch Ben so there's no daycare and who are always willing to help us! And yeah $40 leggings...people are nuts.

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    1. Oh no!! I'm so sorry! It is SO hard sometimes, but totally worth it when you can make it work.

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  13. I love that you and James intentionally chose this life for your family. Also, take the plunge with bread making, it is the best. Also, watch "The Great British Baking Show". They have 1 season on Netflix, and 3 (I think) on Amazon Prime. And then we can talk for hours about how American food culture is seriously deficient in baked goods. I had no idea, and now I just want all of the British baking books ever made.

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  14. Another great post. Once baby 2 arrives (in 5 very short weeks) I am going to stay home full time. With Elle, I was still working part time (Monday & Tuesday) but it was a way to contribute and use my expensive degree. With 2 babies under 2, it just doesn't make sense for me to work. Although I know it's the right decision, I still struggle with some things you mentioned in your post. Thank you for keeping it real and making me feel less alone!

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    1. Awesome! Good for you! I still struggle too...all the time. It's a huge adjustment and learning curve, but we got this.

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