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As you can probably guess, as I’m typing this post I have a cold. I’m also wishing it were a “man cold” and not a “mom cold.” What’s the difference? Let me break it down for you.

What Is A “Man Cold?”

If I had a “man cold” I would be able to take off of work and take a nap. I could drink orange juice and hot soup and take some medicine that would make me sleep the afternoon away. I could focus on taking care of myself.  Instead, I have a “mom cold.”

Sickness Is Not On Our To-Do List

That means I’m up plugging away at the many things on my to-do list, despite my deep desire just to lie down and rest. I have laundry that needs to be done, a dishwasher that needs to be unloaded before dishes start piling up in the sink since I seem to be the only one capable of looking to see that it needs to be emptied, oh and my toddler decided to boycott her nap again today so I don’t even get a few hours to drag my butt through these tasks without chasing her around pulling her off the couch, which she has learned to body surf down this morning.

Hit By A Bus

If you’ve been following my posts for a while you know that I love my husband, like L O V E love him and I’m always bragging about him, but today I’m going to throw him under the bus, along with half the men in the US. And you know who’s sitting in this bus with me, all the other moms I know. We are so tired of getting stuck with the “mom cold,” while you men are allowed to wallow in your misery.

We Helped Create The Monster

But it’s not all your fault. No, we played a part in this. We take care of you when you’re not feeling well. We make you soup and dry toast and bring it to you in bed. We make sure the kids keep their voices down and don’t barge in the room a million times, interrupting the nap which is going to propel you back into good health.

We carry on with every task we normally do and exempt you from it all. Why? Because we’re moms. Caring for our family is what we do. And because thankfully you aren’t sick that often.

As a work at home Mom I know I have it easier than a lot of work outside the home moms. If I were really feeling horrible, I’d just focus on getting my blogging work done and let the housework go and deal with the avalanche of mess when I’m feeling better. Though the day you crawl out of your covers to find that nobody cleaned up the half a box of cereal that spilled on the floor is so NOT fun.

The Part Inequality In The Workplace Plays

Most working moms I know don’t even take a day off of work unless they feel like death. Why? Because they are saving their sick days for when their children are sick and need to take off to care for them. Why aren’t men taking off more time to care for their sick kids?

It may be attributed to the breakdown of differences for men and women in the workforce. Men typically get paid more than women. They take off less time when their children are born and less time when their kids are sick or off of school.

It’s less detrimental to a man’s career that he has a family than a woman’s if she has children. Why? Because we are the caregivers (primarily). Not, that it makes it right.

The “Mom Cold” Mentality

It’s really pretty sucky and it all contributes to the “mom cold” mentality that we have to power through even when we feel really awful. Moms can’t afford to be sick.

Even if this were more than a cold, like say the stomach bug, I know my kids need to eat even if the thought of lunch makes me lose mine. My husband will pick up medicine and take out for dinner if I’m really sick and that helps. I appreciate it. But you know what all moms need?

The Thing Moms NEED Most

Men, we need you to take off work and take over sometimes. We need the same rest and care we afford you during your “man colds.” We need you to put out the figurative fires, take care of the chores and keep the kids alive till morning.

We need you to put your career on the back burner. Not forever, but just for one day. Heck, we’ll settle for a half-day.

We don’t expect you to single-handedly close the wage gap. We don’t expect that you can change the perception of care-giving roles for men and women all by yourselves, but you can do us a solid.

The next time we feel sick, give us the gift of having a “man cold” instead of a “mom cold.” Pick up the slack and do what needs to be done. Why? Because we do it for you ALL…THE….TIME and we deserve it.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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Hang on to your socks, I’m about to say something you probably wouldn’t expect from your resident Hudson Valley Parent frugal blogger. Stay At Home Moms you MUST invest in yourselves. “What the what? You want me to spend money? On myself?”

“I Deserve” Spending

Yup, you heard right. But it’s more than just spending money on yourself, though that is part of it. When you work outside the home, you tend to form the mindset of “deserving” this or that – whether it’s a new pair of shoes, or a night out with your girlfriends. Now this mindset can set your finances back if left unchecked, but I’ve noticed that when you become a stay at home mom, the mindset is sometimes reversed – “I don’t work, so I don’t deserve to treat myself.”

The sad thing is, “treat” for me means buying myself a brand new mop and four bras. Living on one income requires that I always keep an eye on our budget. As I get more years of being a SAHM under my belt, I’ve gotten a little, tiny bit better at spending money on myself.

We’ve paid off all our credit card debt and we actually can make it between paychecks without borrowing from our savings. Ok, so sometimes we squeak by with $25, but it still counts. Those bi-weekly paychecks are tricky.

Addicted To Self-Sacrifice

Moms take care of everyone else in our family first, am I right? We make sure they have everything they need and most of what they want, then if there is money left over maybe we take care of our needs. Do you make self-sacrifice look like an art form too?

I used to think that sacrificing for my family was admirable. In the beginning it was just a matter of survival and as a SAHM I didn’t need to get my hair done or buy work clothes so it was easy to let things slide. The truth is that the longer you live like this, the more the feeling of undeserving grows and you know what else grows, resentment and sadness.

A few years ago my husband would have to force me to buy something for myself and if money was super tight, I’d sometimes return it for a refund. Not investing in taking care of your own needs isn’t admirable so much as dangerous.

Yes, we all make sacrifices for our families. Most of us already put our kids’ need first. But you can’t suppress your own needs forever. They start to bubble up in unhealthy ways. I find myself lamenting in front of my kids that I can’t do this or buy that for myself.

Investing In You Is Investing In Your Family Too

The truth is, the reason keeping me from doing that is me. When you don’t invest some money in yourself, you tell yourself over and over again, “My needs don’t matter,” or “My wants are less important than everyone else’s.” That, my friend, is no way to live. You know why? Because your family needs you.

They need you to take care of you. They need you to be happy. They need you to know that you are important and deserving.

Beyond just spending money on yourself, you need to invest in yourself SAHMs. What I mean is, you need to invest in the things that make you happy outside of your family. When you’re a SAHM the boundaries of work and home are completely blurred. There is never an “off the clock.”

I love my kids, in fact I’ve always done everything in my power to be home with them as much as possible. BUT I’ve learned that I need to pursue interests outside of them.

Find Your Happiness

Four years ago, I started blogging again and landed this tremendous gig at Hudson Valley Parent. It’s been the therapy I need to get through life as a SAHM.

It allowed me to find my purpose in the world. I asked my grandmother once if gardening was her hobby. She spent sun up to sun down tending her flowers like they were her very own babies. She said, “No, it’s my love.” That’s how I feel about writing.

That’s what you need to find for yourself. Invest in finding your love. Yes, I know you love your kids. But you need to find what you love, what motivates you, what inspires you because that passion is going to trickle down to your family.

It’s Not Wasted Money

It was super scary for me to invest money into my writing career. When I wrote my book, “So, You’re Broke?” to help other moms live well on a budget, I paid a professional editor. I started my own blog and put money into running it.

It still terrifies me to think that it all might be a waste of money. I might never make it back. It’s a REALLY slow process of changing my mindset.

Because I’m not investing in whether or not I’ll make money with my writing. I’m investing in me. I’m investing in my happiness. Each day I get to write is a day I get to feel alive. That’s what I need to remember.

Money is money. It’s temporary. As much as I like teaching tips to save it, I know money is made to be spent.

Money may not buy you happiness, but you can use it to invest in yourself. It’s not enough to say, “I’m deserving. I’m important.” If you can’t back it up once in a while. So, I urge you SAHMs, take care of yourself. Buy something you need and maybe something you want just because you know you deserve it.

I’m not saying go on a shopping spree, charge up your cards and then endure an emotional spending hangover. I’m saying loosen the purse strings, go out on a limb and find your happy. Take a class, pursue a long abandoned hobby, do whatever it takes to find your passion.

If you won’t do it for you, do it for your family. They need you happy and they need you to know that you deserve it.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

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Yup, you read that right. It might surprise you that being a stay-at-home mom can help you in your career even though you aren’t in one at the moment. I know not all SAHMs want to return to the workforce and that’s perfectly fine. I’ve been a SAHM/WAHM for the past five years, and I never expected that this gift of being home with my children would give me the time, motivation, and experience to finally achieve one of my life-long goals of writing a book.

For the longest time, I used working outside the home as an excuse not to pursue my passion of writing. I did plenty of writing as a Marketing Coordinator,but it never fulfilled me in quite the same way. I wrote what other people wanted me to write, which was sometimes really hard to do. I spent more of my energy trying to channel and deliver on other people’s expectations of myself than I did figuring out what I really wanted to say to the world.

After some time at home, I picked up my old blogging habit. I connected with Terrie Goldstein, publisher of Hudson Valley Parent, and expressed my interest in blogging for the magazine. I became a regular contributor and have enjoyed writing for this wonderful audience.

Eventually, I began writing a book about saving money based on my experience living on one-income as a SAHM. Two years later, I finished, So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life and published it on Amazon and it’s been an eye-opening experience. I could never have achieved this goal if I were still working outside the home. If I can follow my passion, you can too.

Here are five ways, you can achieve your career goals right now as a SAHM.

  1. Go Back To School – Now is a great time to think about what you want to do with your life, if and when, you go back to working outside the home. If you didn’t love your former career or if you never had one before, this is a perfect opportunity to explore your career options. There are an enormous amount of options when it comes to education or career training and you can pursue many of them online in your spare time.
  2. Pursue Your Dreams – Maybe you’re artistic and enjoy writing, painting, crafting or jewelry making. Whatever it is, pursue it while you have the chance. Even if you can’t make a career from it later, your soul with thank you. You never know if you might end up teaching classes, opening your own Etsy shop, or starting a blog.
  3. Start Your Own Business – When you pursue your passion, you might not want to put it on the back burner to work for someone else. You could use your skills and talents and turn them into a business that fulfills you.
  4. Volunteer – Being at home gives you the flexibility to volunteer your time and talent to local non-profits. While this may not lead directly to a job in the future, you’ll get valuable work experience you can use on your resume. Volunteering also offers opportunities to network with people in your former or future career field. One day you might find yourself sitting in an interview with someone you met at a charity function.
  5. Freelance – You can use your skills to work freelance. You can pick and choose which jobs to take and work on your own schedule. Sometimes you can charge higher rates for the same work you did as a staff member at your former job. Sometimes companies don’t have the budget to hire someone full or part-time, but can pay for a particular project that needs to be done.

I’ll never look back at this time at home with my kids with regret. Not only have I had the honor of watching them grow up before my eyes, but they have been my inspiration to find my voice and pursue my dreams with reckless abandon.

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Staying home with my kids and living on one-income gave me the time and experience to write and publish a book about living frugally.

I have no idea if I’ll end up going back to a traditional job once my youngest child is in school, but either way I know that I’ve used this time wisely, building skills that will help me later.Staying home with kids is not a vacation by any means, but you can use whatever spare time you have to pursue the career you want down the road.

What would you like to do in the future?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life. She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

What do you do all day? When are you going back to work? How do you survive on one-income? Do you like being home all day? These are just some of the questions people might have about being a Stay-At-Home Mom.

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Maybe you’re a working mom who wishes you could stay at home with your kids or maybe you’re a SAHM who wrestles with her decision sometimes. There are always pros and cons whether you choose to stay at home and work or leave the house and work.

So let me just clear up a few things. Here’s what it’s really like to be a SAHM.

1. We didn’t sign up to be perfect housekeepers. At least I didn’t. Every day I fight a losing battle against toys, wayward socks and mysterious sticky spills. I see this as one part of my day, not my entire purpose for being home.

I don’t have an affinity for cleaning. It’s more like a deep desire to keep us from living like hoarders. The things I do very well are keep us in clean dishes, clean clothes and hot meals.

When I first became a SAHM, I thought my house needed to be exceptionally clean because I had the time to do it. But I quickly got over it. Instead I found my standards of acceptable cleanliness for all areas of the house and whenever I feel the limits being pushed, a magical wave of cleaning OCD sweeps over me and I clean for five hours straight. But thank goodness it doesn’t happen too often, because I’d rather be outside playing with the kids.

2. Sometimes it’s REALLY freaking lonely without adults to talk to all day. I do find myself prattling on and on when I do get to talk to someone my own age. It’s so important to get involved with activities in the community and spending time on something you really enjoy outside of taking care of your kids.

I am involved in a number of activities through my church, try to get to the gym a few days a week, and spend time on my writing. If you don’t spend at least a little time taking care of yourself, you could very well go stir crazy at home all day with small children.

3. It’s not a “luxury” to stay home; it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing to be home with my kids and I know a lot of people just can’t swing it financially, but my life isn’t an episode of “The Real Housewives of The Hudson Valley.” The blessing of being home with my kids comes with more sacrifices than most people can or want to make.

First, we sacrifice our paychecks and consequently go through a period where we struggle to redefine our worth without them. Then we sacrifice many of our needs and wants so that we’re primarily the ones on the budgeting chopping block and not our kids. If you want you can come inspect my closet full of aging second-hand clothes that I’ve been meaning to replace for about four years now.

The blessing comes from being able to spend time with my kids while they’re still little enough to want me around all the time. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to be home with my third child from the moment she was born. I’m also glad that it’s never a problem to keep them home when they’re sick or attend spelling bees, science fairs or parent/teacher conferences at school during the day.

4. Your work goes largely unnoticed. I give it up to moms that balance full-time employment and parenting. I struggled with finding the balance when I worked outside the home. The hard part of working as a SAHM is that your work will go unnoticed to the outside world and sometimes even to your family.

Imagine for a minute that your company required you to work permanently on-call without sick-time, vacation or holidays and you never got paid and rarely even got thanked. That’s the work of the SAHM.

We are also the silent labor that allows our spouses to fulfill their hectic work schedules. Their success comes, in large part, thanks to the silent work we do taking care of our children and households. We won’t get the accolades our spouses do even though they couldn’t do it without us, at least not without hiring several people to do our jobs. So it’s pretty thankless, but we hope our family appreciates us, even if they forget to say so.

5. You may constantly reevaluate your SAHM status. The truth is that sometimes we don’t know the answer to the question of if or when we’re going back to work for a paycheck. For some SAHMs it’s an easy decision to stay at home permanently. Others reevaluate year by year or as our children go off to school.

Sometimes it’s a struggle to redefine your worth without a paycheck. You have to find the value in your time and work without a dollar amount to quantify it.

I’ve done so many variations of work since becoming a mom. I’ve worked part-time, full-time, been a SAHM with zero income and been a WAHM with some income.

I’ve loved aspects of all of them and disliked others. No one situation is completely perfect. There’s also a brand of mom guilt for every work/family combination. Maybe it has more to do with the nature of being a mom than the actual decisions you make.

The trick is to focus on your blessings in whichever situation you’re in at the time. They say the grass is always greener on the other side. I say, “it’s greener wherever you water it.”

What SAHM realities would you add to the list?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

Have you ever been multi-tasking so much you completely forget what you’re doing? That was my day yesterday. When you work from home, you’re constantly juggling work and family responsibilities. It’s enough to make your head spin. You start just wishing for bedtime so you can just get a little more work done while the kids are sleeping.

With so many balls being juggled in the air at once, something is bound to drop. I felt like a frazzled mama. Even though I didn’t get everything done between work and the kids, here are 5 simple things I do to keep from missing the little moments with them when I’m struggling just to get through the day:

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I was so busy that Sydney was able to successfully get way more Hershey’s kisses than normal.

 1.Single Song Dance Party – My absolute favorite part of working from home is getting to be silly and crazy with my kids when I need a break from my work. I put on my favorite happy music and dance with my toddler around the living room. It helps relieve the stress because seriously who can resist the giggles of a twirling happy toddler?

It puts work in perspective, even if it’s only for one song. So I encourage you when you’re just living to get to bedtime, take three minutes and just have fun with your kids.

2. More Kisses Please – My toddler used my stress to her advantage by repeatedly begging for Hershey’s kisses. With that sweet face and a lot of work on my plate I can honestly say she ate more than she should have, but it’s ok. Sometimes you have to use whatever you can to get just a few minutes of time to finish a chore or something on the computer. Just make sure you follow up with a barrage of real smooches on those sweet little faces and your stress will melt away (even if it’s only temporary).

3. Take a Real Break for Meals – I pride myself on eating lunch and dinner with the kids, even if my husband is working late. But in the middle of my crazy work haze yesterday, I’ll admit that I wasn’t fully present with the laptop open next to me. I know in the future I need to put it away during meal times. Not only do you feel better when you’re not mindlessly shoving food in your mouth, but you feel more connected to your family.

4. Forgive Yourself – I felt my frustration building every time my toddler threw her food on the floor or started pulling on me for my attention. Then, of course, I felt guilty for not paying as much attention to her as I should have. Normally I try really hard to only work during her nap times, but I had a lot of things I wanted to get done.

One day she’ll go off to school and I’ll miss all these little moments with her. Then again, she’s not quite two, so I think I can forgive myself for one day of not giving her my full attention.

If you find yourself just going through the motions with your kids, while praying for bedtime, it happens sometimes. The key is just to make sure it doesn’t become a habit. Parenting is a marathon and we can’t sprint through their childhoods. Trust me, work will always be there waiting for you.

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This is the memory I want to keep from my very busy day- Sydney’s sweet smile.

5. Take a Picture – Take a second to snap a few pictures of your kids. Years from now, you probably won’t remember what you were working so hard on, but you’ll be able to look at their sweet little faces and remind yourself of why you work so hard. Photos have an almost magical power to remind you of all the things that really matter in your life, while blurring out the things that don’t.

Life is always going to get busy. There will always be days that you’re just praying for bedtime, whether it’s so you can get some work done while the kids are asleep or so you can break out your secret snacks and catch up your favorite show on Netflix. The key is to find a few moments to just be fully present with your kids, even if it’s just at the dinner table or snuggling during your bedtime routine.

How do you cope with days you’re crazy busy?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

One Week Post-partum

There are two things you NEVER ask a woman – her age and her weight. Everyone knows this. Why? Because more than likely they are the things she’s most sensitve about. So I just want to start by saying that the following is MY story. It is in NO way an attempt to make any other woman feel sensitive or bad about her weight. There are certain posts that just flow out of my every day life and then there are those that just pull at me until I get them out. This is one of those that I have been avoiding for quite some time. The only TRUE gifts I have in this world are writing and being honest, but there is one lie I have been telling myself and other people for awhile now and I think it’s time to come clean. “Baby weight” is NOT the reason I reached my heaviest weight.

Do You Still Have A Baby In There?

Six months ago my son Jayden pokes me in the belly and says, “You have a squishy belly.” “I did just have a baby six months ago,” I tell him. “I think there is still one in there,” he replies. Kids don’t mean to say things to hurt their Mama’s feelings, but it’s like they can’t help but be brutally honest. The AMAZING blessing of my life is my family who loves me no matter what. My husband would NEVER make any reference to my weight even though I was stick thin when we met in college. The last time I intentially got in shape was for my wedding. Then the babies started taking over my body, each one carving their own stretch marks on my belly, and creating the pooch that just hangs around my mid section.

The “Baby Weight” Was Gone A Few Months Post-partum

I’m so thankful to have had had healthy pregnancies and my body rebounds pretty quickly from them. The photo above was taken just one week postpartum. Within a month or so of giving birth I usually lose 90 percent of the 20 to 30 pounds I typically acquire with pregnancy. I’m not saying that to brag. I’m only setting the scene for the biggest lie I’ve ever told myself – that my changing body when I found myself at my heaviest weight was because of pregnancy. The truth is I hit my heaviest weight BEFORE I even got pregnant with my third child.

It Was My Right Not To Care (Or So I Thought)

I’ve gained weight since my 30s for sure, but when I started staying home three years ago I REALLY stopped noticing. I didn’t have to squeeze into work clothes anymore. I didn’t have to wait till lunch time to eat. I really didn’t have to pay attention to myself at all or so I thought. I was content to live in yoga pants and t-shirts and spout that I didn’t care and it was my right. I WILL ALWAYS be a low maintenance girl, but that’s where the lie crept in. When I had to buy all new clothes in a larger size, I cared. When my wedding rings no longer fit, despite telling myself that I’m not a jewelry person and I don’t need a ring to prove I’m married, I cared.

Pregnancy Does Change You, But I Used It As An Excuse

Even when I signed up for the gym in June, they asked me about my goals and I offered up my trusty friend – to lose the “baby weight.” I was already at pre-pregnancy weight and was embarrassed it was still high. It’s been easy to feed the lie to myself and others. Most women and men understand what “baby weight” is. We understand that women’s bodies fundamentally change with pregnancy. So it’s been easy to tell others and myself that the reason I was at my heaviest was because of “baby weight.”

The Trusty Cliché

So why bother coming clean at all? I guess it’s because I’ve recently taken a good hard look myself and decided that getting healthier had to start with a clean slate. I had to stop lying to myself if I was going to take ownership of MY choices. Yes, MY choices. I ate without ever paying attention to anything – serving sizes, how much sugar was in something, how many times I was “cleaning my kids plates” for them because they are just so wasteful with food. I also started my quest to get healthy for the cliché reason of not wanting to become my mother. My mom had the biggest heart for others, but for herself she didn’t have much love. More than once I heard her call herself ugly. She was my first introduction to the lie. She used to tell me that my brother and I were the reason she was heavy. Mind you she didn’t put on most of her weight till I was near the end of my elementary school years. Then she started disappearing from photographs and if she did make an appearance she would shove me or my brother in front of her like human shields.

Two months ago I started tracking what I ate with loseit.com and going to Planet Fitness at night while the kids were sleeping and I've lost 14 pounds.

Two months ago I started tracking what I ate with loseit.com and going to Planet Fitness at night while the kids were sleeping and I’ve lost 15 pounds.

Screw Being A Size 2, I Don’t Want Type 2 Diabetes

That wasn’t the worst by far. That was watching her suffer from the HORRIBLE complications of the type 2 diabetes she developed. She called me at work one day and told me she woke up that morning and couldn’t see anything. She went to the eye doctor who sent her rushing to a regular doctor to test for a possible brain tumor. I was out of my mind and bawling. She regained partial vision in one eye though it was forever blurry. Then there were countless stints in hospitals for wounds on her legs and feet that refused to heal and infections so bad amputation was threatened. Ultimately her kidneys failed and she passed away a few years ago.

In It For The Long Haul

I tried to get her to stop drinking soda and eating fast food and sweets, but anything I said only made her mad at me. She was living under her own lie and she didn’t want me to mess with that. When I started tracking my food and exercise with loseit.com and working out several times a week at Planet Fitness it wasn’t because I want to be a size 2. I don’t aspire to be the weight I was in high school. I aspire to live long enough to play with my grandkids; to be able to see every curve of their cubby little baby faces.

So two months and 15 pounds ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of taking a selfie, but I’m ok with it now. I’m living the truth that nothing but hard work, discipline and wanting a healthier lifestyle for myself got me here. No gimmicks, just hard work and a little honesty.

I was thinking about one of my former favorite TV shows, Desperate Housewives the other day and despite all the crazy antics that went on in the show, I was struggling to come up with some good reason for the name. I have felt many moments of desperation as a mom, but almost all of them have come while I was working. Even though I really enjoyed working part-time I recall several instances of panic when I couldn’t quite balance home and work responsibilities. My hats off to you moms that work full-time and manage to do it all because I’ll be the first to admit that I was overwhelmed to the point of being desperate. Here three ways staying home has alleviated some “desperation” in my life.

This is what multi-tasking as a Stay-At-Home Mom looks like. Sydney is my laundry helper.

This is what multi-tasking as a Stay-At-Home Mom looks like. Sydney is my laundry helper.

1. Time – I used to struggle to get my babies up early and drive them to my mom’s house before heading in to work. It seemed like even minor delays like an unexpected diaper explosion or a feeding that ran long meant I was late to work. There were days I had to bring my baby back to the office and finish my work while she sat in her car seat. Some days I borrowed an empty office (I had a cubicle) in order to simultaneously breastfeed my daughter while finishing work on the computer. Though I made it work, it caused me a lot of stress. Now I have all day to do what I used to cram into one weekend and snow days, doctor appointments, or special events aren’t a problem.

I was able to attend my son's award ceremony during the day with no problem.

I was able to attend my son’s award ceremony during the day last week with no problem.

2. Transportation – I racked up quite a bit of debt paying for gas to and from work. If my car broke down and needed repairs it was the end of the world because I couldn’t get to work or pay for the repairs. Staying home has alleviated stress because if one of the cars is out of commission my husband can borrow my car to get to work until it’s fixed or I can do my errands at night or on the weekend using his.

3. Childcare – One night after work, I got a call that my mom had broken her foot and was rushed to the hospital. My first thought after worrying about my mom was sheer panic because she was my childcare for my two kids. I called local daycares who either didn’t want to take my kids on a temporary basis or cost more than my monthly part-time salary.

I wrote a blog post called “Will Work For Daycare” because I literally pictured myself standing by the side of the road with a sign with those very words scrawled in magic marker. What I felt was sheer desperation because I had no other childcare options since I didn’t have the money to pay for it.

Now it’s all me, all the time. Does it get overwhelming sometimes? Sure. Sometimes I’m tired, bored or cranky, much like my kids. But I never feel desperate for someone to watch them. It truly is my job now. I like to think that I didn’t choose “not to work,” but rather I just chose not to get paid anymore.

Snuggle time is the highlight of my day.

Snuggle time is the highlight of my day.

So while not everyone can or wants to stay home with their kids, my advice is to make some Stay-At-Home mom friends, because you never know if you’ll be in a pinch one day for time, transportation or childcare.

Being the Discount Diva is like being a frugal superhero (in my own mind anyway), but as they say- “with great power comes great responsibility.” Who knows better then moms, the immense amount of responsibility heaped upon us, even from the moment the pregnancy test comes back positive? Like most women I do two things really well – responsibility and guilt. I take the former and use it to justify the latter.

Money Is A Factor – But Not The Only One

I find myself holding tight to our finances as if money will solve every potential problem that could arise. While it’s a good idea to make smart decisions like I think I have been, I sometimes wonder if I’m stepping over the border into obsession. The other day after grumbling that I don’t want to buy a costume for myself for Halloween just to participate in Trunk or Treat my husband said to me, “You know Erin, not everything comes down to money.”

I know in my heart he’s right, but this is exactly what it came down to when I wanted to stay at home and raise my kids. We literally went through our household expenses with a fine tooth comb in order to justify why financially it just made more sense for me to stay at home. Now I’m not oblivious to how the world works. It takes money to live and not everyone can survive on one income. It’s sad to have to correct your children’s innocent ideas that almost everything is free. My poor kids are all too familiar with this life lesson every time I have to deny them some toy or trip, but I’ve had to temper it with the lesson that some things in life are priceless.

The Cost of Work

For my family we gradually weaned ourselves from two incomes to one. I went back to work part-time after our first daughter was born so by the time we decided I would stay home full-time it wasn’t such a financial shock. Something really weird happened when I started staying home – I realized just how much work had cost me.

I was about $4,000 in debt from using my credit card to pay for gas to and from work, convenience foods cause I was too damn tired to cook, work clothes, etc. I’ve been home for almost three years now and we’ve paid off about $13,000 in debt on one income. Has it been a cake walk? Hell No. There have been sacrifices – mostly made by me. Hence my yearly hair cut or our now traditional stay-cations, cutting our budget till it screams, and calling our service providers to lower our bills.

It’s a constant challenge and if I thought I was a helicopter parent to my children, then our finances are probably my most needy child. I check my bank account once a day to see what bills have drafted out, what things we’re spending money on and I’m constantly asking myself questions like, “Ok, we got some extra money from my husband working overtime so what do we do – A. pay down more debt, B. sock it away into savings for the inevitable heating bills, or C. use it for birthdays or Christmas which will sadly be here before I’m ready for it. I’m always wondering if I’m doing the right things.

D
ecisions Decisions

I’m a big student of Dave Ramsey who would say that to reach your financial goals you have to have gazelle like focus. But if you watch animal planet you know that the lion always looks for the weak gazelle. The one who is hurt or trying to go it alone. I don’t want to reach my financial goals one day just to look around and realize that I’m alone; that I’ve missed my life. There has to be more than reaching financial harmony – if that’s even possible. There has to be money for fun, right? There has to be money for charity, right? No matter what our situation is, I know there are always those who are worse off.

If you had asked me three years ago why I started staying home I would have told you this – it just doesn’t make sense for me to work to put two kids in daycare. Financially it didn’t add up. I was recently asked this same question in a SAHM group and I recited my work background, as well as my guilt and overwhelming love for my kids which seem irrevocably tangled together. The truth is, there is plenty of guilt on both sides of the fence here. You work, you feel guilty for letting someone else care for your kids. You stay home, you feel guilty for putting the financial pressure on your spouse. I have felt intense guilt either way, but I think maybe it has to do with being a mom and trying to do everything and be everything for everyone all the time. It’s supremely exhausting and guilt is like the temper tantrum that creeps up when your child is overtired. You can be fine one minute and on full tilt the next.

Consider The Possibilities

So why do women stay at home vs work outside the home? Is it really only about the money? For me it was a factor, but it was definitely my grandmother who changed it all, every single thing I thought was inevitable and normal. My mother always worked so that’s what I thought I’d do as well. My grandmother was a lovely hardworking immigrant from Germany who worked everywhere from farms to factories to housecleaning while raising three kids on her own. When she looked at my life she saw possibilities that I didn’t. She asked me if I was going back to work after my daughter was born and and I realized that I had assumed the answer without really ever asking myself that question.

So I decided that if she could see options, well then I would look for them too. I put together a job-share plan and was able to work part-time for four years till my company went through a merger which ended my time there. There are always two things fighting to tip this mommy scale – time and money. Which one do I feed? Which one am I slave to? It seems impossible that they could ever balance.

Owning Your Choices

I read an article yesterday that talked about how staying at home is a “luxury” for your spouse. It talked about the peace of mind a spouse gets from knowing the other is always working to keep the home ship running its course. While it certainly eases the guilt a little, I can’t help but notice that it is still one of many articles that feels the need to justify a woman’s right to stay at home. I know it’s just the cycle coming back around. I know that there was a whole lot of justification going on when women first starting working outside the home. But why are women always caught up in the guilt cycle no matter what we choose?

Here’s what I know. Everyone must make their own choices. Yet every choice comes with the guilt of the thing we did not choose. I don’t think anyone asks more questions looking for validation of their choices than moms. Again I think it comes down to the responsibility. It’s always there, whispering in our ears. I can’t say my husband carries any guilt what-so-ever when he leaves for work in the morning, or if he has to work late or on the weekends, or even if he has to travel for work. He leaves fancy free, without guilt. I’m not sure if it’s because he knows I’m here to take care of the kids. I suspect he’d also be fine if they were in daycare.

Dad’s Got The Right Idea

I think it’s because men recognize that there are different ways of caring for our kids – financial and emotional. I doubt he thinks of himself as less of a father for working. I’m sure it makes him feel like a better father for being able to provide financially. Just as spending time with his kids also makes him a good dad. Maybe men have it right. It’s not an either or situation – time or money. If you get up every day and put on your heels and do your hair and makeup and earn that paycheck for your family – you’re loving them. If you get up every day, throw your hair in a ponytail and throw on some yoga pants and spend the day changing diapers or cooking meals – you’re loving your family.

Make Your Own Happiness

Whatever you choose – the key is just to own it, love it and live it. I think I’m just done having conversations in which I try to justify why it’s better for me or my family that I’m staying home. I’m going to take a cue from my hubby on this and just be at peace with my choice. The best life advice I ever heard was this – if you want to be happy all you have to do is decide to be happy. If you’re unhappy figure out what it’s going to take to make you happy and do it. If you could do whatever you wanted in the world and money wasn’t a factor what would it be? What’s that thing you would gladly do for free? Find that answer and you’ve found your happiness.

Despite my debt repayment plan, my budgeting OCD, and my need to make it all add up, I know that being here with my family – that’s what makes me happy, as is sharing my words and heart with other moms. So since time and money will always be on the scale and I’ll always be weighing and measuring and fighting my guilt I have no other choice. I’ve decided to throw out the scale. It’s my hope that you do too.

I was having a conversation with a lady I met at church and I was saying how awesome it was to meet another Stay At Home Mom. It seems there are a ton of us online, but it can be pretty hard to connect with other SAHMs in real life. We were having the conversation about how we are viewed as an oddity at best and even looked down upon by some. She actually told me her own mother told her that she wasted a “good education” on her since she decided to stay at home instead of putting that education to use in the workplace. I was shocked a mother would say this to her daughter, but I’m not surprised some people think that way.

graduates

 

Motherhood Degree

When I was in college I had a poetry professor who was especially hard and since I was getting a minor in creative writing and there weren’t a lot of writing classes I had to take not one but two of his classes to earn my minor. I remember during one office visit my senior year after reviewing some of my work he asked me where I was going to graduate school. Though I had looked at one in Boston I told him I didn’t think I was going to go. His response was, “What are you going to do then, stay home and have babies.” This of course to him was the biggest tragedy of earning a degree. Never mind that half the people I know aren’t working in the field their degree is in anyhow. But a degree left to rot in favor of motherhood; that was unthinkable. Keep in mind that this very professor had married one of his own students years ago so I wonder if he views his own wife’s choice to bear his children with such disdain. You can bet he’d look at my life and shake his head with a mixture of “I told you so” and “What a waste!” After all, I’m a lowly blogger with no published work and I don’t earn a salary at a fancy job. So I’m a failure right?

Making The Choice To Stay Home

I’ve already written a post about myths about being a SAHM including that you must not have an education or viable work prospects or that making the choice to stay at home is built upon a presumption of luxury the rest of the working gals can’t afford. Sorry but there is nothing luxurious about trying to use a bunch of coupons at the supermarket with your screaming baby and the people behind you in line giving you dirty looks. There is nothing fabulous about shopping at consignment shops – though if you’re frugal like me you probably don’t mind at all. I walked away from a 10 year career in marketing about 3 years ago. I wasn’t making the “big bucks” since I worked for non-profits. I worked around plenty of well to do career women that were all too happy to treat me like the “hired help.” I juggled work and family as best I could, but even working part-time I felt like I couldn’t hack it.

I give women who work full-time a lot of credit. It’s hard. It means having two jobs and one of them is 24/7. By the time I was ready to quit that job my nerves were shot. But even if you decided between you and your spouse that you would make it your job to stay at home and take care of your family and never worked a day in your life would an education be wasted on you? I personally think that investing in yourself is never a waste.

Role Models of ALL Kinds

If my children ask me one day if I went to college I will tell them that I graduated from the same college as their daddy. If they ask me why I don’t have a job, I’ll tell them that I chose to stay at home with them instead. I chose to sacrifice A LOT of things so that I could be there for every milestone. I will tell my daughter Hannah, that having her changed absolutely EVERYTHING about my life. Motherhood changed me. My life was not about ME anymore, but the lives I created.

I’ll tell them that by the time I was 15 I had lost my daddy and by the time I was 32 I had lost my mommy and I learned how precious and sometimes short life is. I will tell them that I don’t regret my decision not to work outside the home because I had been on the other side. I did both and struggled. I’m woman enough to admit it. It doesn’t make me any less because of it. I stopped working when my family really needed me. At my job I was easily replaced, but in my family I’m absolutely irreplaceable. My husband is a good dad, but I’m the primary caregiver and the loss of me would be staggering.

The truth is, I don’t know what the future holds for me. I don’t know how long I’ll stay at home. Maybe I’ll want to go back to work one day. The point of it all though is that it’s my choice. Isn’t that what women’s lib was supposed to give us – the choice to do what we want with our lives? BUT if you give someone a choice you have to allow for the choice to stay at home too without that degrading sideways glance or backhanded comment or even the platitudes of “you’re so lucky.”

The point is that I’m working on my choice every day. I’m raising my family the way I think is best for me. Would you look into the eyes of your daughter and tell her that she shouldn’t go to college or that raising a family is a failure on her part? Probably not. Why does it have to be an either or? Why does career “success” trump family “success?” While others are feeling sorry for my lack of a paycheck, I’m feeling intense sadness for broken marriages and families in turmoil. I have chosen the latter as the form of success to gage my life by. I’m one of the richest people I know. I am the CEO of my household. If the world doesn’t agree, well the world can shove it.

DSC00802
This is my company – Jayden, Hannah
and newest addition Sydney.

The 24/7 Motherhood Shift

I’m not saying that it’s all rainbows and sunshine over here. I feel like there are days I would love to take some time off and not have three little people relying on me for everything. There are days I want to scream when I hear “Mom, what’s for dinner?” Why? Because I know that whatever I slaved away making will just be met with, “How much do I have to eat? Can I be done?, What’s for dessert?” and it’s frustrating to no end. There are days when I just want a nap and a shower and an hour to converse with an adult during the day. There are great days too. It’s not black and white. Staying at home probably has the same highs and lows as a traditional 9 to 5 job.

The key thing is to understand that it is a job. When you send your kids to daycare, you’re outsourcing it. No judgment here. I ran a daycare for a little while. Motherhood is an unglamorous job with crap pay and no vacation or time off, not even for sick days. But if you choose this life, this job then you learn to own your choices. You roll with it and shake off people’s eyerolls or sarcastic remarks. So I dedicate this post to my poetry professor. His prediction was right. I did just “stay home and have babies.” I don’t regret it for a single second. I’m glad I had the opportunity to get a college education. I don’t think it was a waste. It’s made me who I am. Do I recommend going into debt to earn a degree without an income? NO. But there’s never anything wrong with bettering yourself. I still pursue my passion of writing. After all, here I am writing for all you lovely people.

I’m also learning every single day how to become a better mother. Not a perfect one, but a better one. The whole reason we have all these parenting books and magazines is because we want to give our kids the very best of us. It’s a constant learning process. So when you really think about it, we’re all attending Motherhood University every single day.

Some women chart their ovulation with phone aps and some have a birth control malfunction, either way the how you become a parent is less important than what you do once you become one. The same is true for staying at home with your kids. Some women know for a long time they want to stay at home and others have it thrust upon them, but its the what comes now questions that tend to stick out in your mind. Here are the common misconceptions about staying at home and some tips to make staying at home work.

Myth 1: You Must Be So Lucky To Afford The Luxury Of Staying At Home – I’ve heard this plenty. It ALWAYS makes me want to laugh. There is almost nothing luxurious about staying at home and a LOT of women end up staying at home because it so darn costly to work and put your kids in daycare and pay for the MANY other costs of working. While yes you do make money working, you also spend a ton of money on gas, convenience foods, clothing, beauty routines, daycare, etc. I ended up packing on some serious debt paying for my right to work outside the home for the 4 years I did it while raising small children.

Tip: Get On The Same Page As Your Spouse – The number one thing I had to do before even dropping from full-time to part-time work after my daughter was born was to get my husband on board. We had to crunch the numbers and that meant looking at all the income and expenses of our household and also factoring in the costs of my working outside the home – daycare, formula etc. Years later I opened a daycare that lasted exactly 6 months. When it failed I knew we could make the transition from one and half incomes down to one with some more planning and sacrificing. BUT I know that I could not stay at home without my husbands support – both financially and emotionally.

Appoint a CFO

Crunch the numbers, make a budget, and appoint a CFO (chief financial officer) of your household. I’d venture that most couples consist of a spender and a saver so appoint the saver to this job. My husband and I used to have separate finances and we each paid certain bills. Staying at home and living off one income meant that we had to adopt the “united we conquer, divided we fall” approach to our finances. We decided I’d be the one in charge of the budget and paying all the bills and it’s worked out pretty great for the past two years. We’ve paid off close to $9,000 in debt while living off his income. I know we’re lucky that he makes a decent living and not everybody can swing being a single income household. But alternative and part-time work arrangements might be possible. I’ve learned that if I want something bad enough I WILL find a way to make it happen. You can also look for ways to make money from home.

Myth 2: You Must Be Staying At Home Because You Don’t Have Career Prospects – I grew up with many feminist ideas about women and work. I even took a college course on it for a women’s study class. I am college educated and worked in the Marketing/PR field for 10 years before staying at home. Yet I distinctly remember a male college professor who would look at my life now and consider me a failure. When I told him I wasn’t going to graduate school his response was, “What are you going to do then, stay at home and have kids?” I think in our society’s efforts to make things fair – to say women can do everything men can do I think we’ve forgotten that women can do one fundamental thing that men cannot. We can be mothers. But somewhere along the way, women have been made to feel worth less if they aspire to motherhood without a career in tow as well. I feel especially bad for men who choose to be SAHDs because society is even harder on them.

Tip – I personally feel there are no real reasons behind the “mommy wars.” It’s a result of insecurities based on what society thinks motherhood should entail. Should we all be Martha Stewart wannabes creating Pinterest masterpiece art projects for our kids or Corporate titans wearing a baby carrier? The truth is we’re neither. We all fall into the gray areas between and people feel uncomfortable in the gray areas. We look across them to the other side and make comparisons and assumptions. How can we stop doing this? Simple: Own YOUR choices. I’m not saying defend them because if you own them, and if you choose your life every day, there’s no reason to defend it and that goes for whether you work outside the home or not. The truth is moms need a lot of support and it shouldn’t matter whether we get that from other moms who have chosen the same path or not.

Myth 3: You Have ALL This Free Time – I’ll admit I get 3 blissful kid free hours while my son is at pre-K and my daughter is at school. I also know this sweet deal expires when my second daughter is born this July. Not only are you surrounded by little people all day demanding all your time and attention, but a lot of SAHMs volunteer for everything under the sun, take side jobs or work from home. There are many days when I wish I was at work where I only had one boss instead of two (soon to be 3).

Tip – Don’t forget about you. When you stay at home it’s so easy to assume any and all sacrifices need to be made by you alone. It’s truly important to keep doing things that make you happy and get out of the house without the kids at times. A refreshed, fulfilled mommy is a happy mommy. A happy mommy equals a happy family.

Motherhood is a privilege not a right. I know many childless mothers out there. Chances are you do to. So if you want to stay at home and can make it happen then go for it. I don’t regret my choices and neither should you – no matter what you choose. A belated Happy Mothers Day to all of you, because motherhood is truly the hardest and best job there is.

 

 

 

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