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.