I’m A Stay At Home Mom Because It’s Too Costly To Not Be

I woke up this morning with a start, realizing it is November 2nd and the gas bill was due two days ago.

I’ve been so swamped lately, it just slipped my mind. This was the last of the bills to go on autopay, I just hadn’t gotten around to setting it up yet. Fortunately, I called and the gas company said I was within the 5 day grace period. So the bill wasn’t even really late. And they set up autopay right then on the phone, too, so now I literally never have to make the effort to pay bills anymore. It just happens.

It got me thinking about the costs (financial and otherwise) of working, though, because the reality of the situation is that for about four weeks now, I have been working even though I’m really a Stay At Home Mom.

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Well without going into all of the emotionally exhausting and – quite frankly – mind numbing details of my husband’s attitudes with regards to me and the children, and money, I decided to try and start doing some work on the side of my full time mom gig, just so we had a little extra money so that the kids didn’t have to miss out on anything (fun or otherwise) when he gets into one of his moods.

There was a problem, though, with the whole arrangement. Well, several problems:

  1. My husband works overnight, and long hours, in film. It’s not like he can be counted on for anything with the kids. He can’t. He leaves for work at 4:30 in the afternoon, gets home when the work is done, then sleeps until it’s time to get up and go back to work. It isn’t like he comes home and takes over with the kids. I do everything. Everything. Cooking. Cleaning. Yardwork. Errands. Driving. Everything.
  2. My two oldest kids homeschool. I am their educator.
  3. I went back to school in August, after a ten year hiatus, to start working towards finishing the graduate degree I (foolishly) stopped working towards all those years ago. SO now I’m the teacher. I’m a student. I’m the only parent most of the time. And I’m working?
  4. I have no real childcare whatsoever, and no budget for said childcare. My two oldest kids had to free babysit my toddler, while I worked. Or my dad, who lives with us and is 76 did, but he’s old and has limits. (I’m sure you can all imagine how healthy that is for everyone involved after a couple hours of Grandpa time; my dad has to nap for an average of 3 hours after just an hour with my little guy…)
  5. I was already stretched thin scheduling-wise and getting only about 4 hours of sleep a night.

So for one month, I started writing part time in a freelance writing position. I used to do this before I had my third child, and was relatively successful. But things are different now, and three kids is no joke, so success isn’t exactly how it went this time.

Within a week, I stopped having time for almost anything. No more gym. I was driving my kids around town on virtually no sleep. I even started skipping meals and showers, just to keep up with the schedule.

I worked about 6 hours a day, but got only minimal work done because I was trying to juggle everything while doing the writing. The worst moments were when my toddler was running around, crying because I was on the computer. He would run up and slam the laptop screen shut. Stay up until 2 in the morning to have playtime with Mommy. Within a week, he was getting even more clingy, too. He still nurses and was suddenly nursing double what he had cut back to.

The best moments were when I turned my freelance writing profiles on “out of office.” I did this twice in the four weeks, for two days each. That means I took exactly four days off in the entire month. But it wasn’t really time off, because it’s when I had to catch up on all of my other stuff. I cleaned the house, did heavy yard work, caught up on grocery shopping.

The first two days “out of office,” I realized towards the end of the two days that I had gotten behind on planning the kid’s homeschooling. So I stayed up for 36 straight hours to make sure everything was set for the rest of the month. I literally had no other option, the clock was ticking and there was just too much for me to do.

That is the first time I considered forcing my kids into public school. When I finally went to sleep after 36 hours of working and catching up on everything, I did so crying.

In the four weeks, I made a lot of connections and got almost 100 positive 5-star reviews.

After taxes, site fees, PayPal transfer fees, and getting screwed by not one, not two, but seven people who decided not to pay their bill, but publish my work as theirs anyway, I brought home exactly $46.

Forty. Six. Fucking. Dollars.

I felt so guilty for all the time away from them and everything that had sort of fallen apart, I used it all to take my kids to the movies.

Here were the costs:

  1. I spent less time with my kids, and by “less time,” I mean virtually no time. I went from Stay At Home Mom to Mombie, sleeping less than 2 hours per night, and just going through the motions to get through each day.
  2. I had no time after the kids went to bed to work on my blog, and for the first month in – I don’t know, the entire time I have blogged – my blog was not self-sustaining (because my clicks and social media ticks went down).
  3. That thing about my toddler being sad.
  4. That thing about my two older kids losing their educator, and having to become almost full time babysitters.
  5. I forgot about two assignments for school, and didn’t have time for a third. So now I’m unsure that I can even do this school thing with the kids and everything else.

And then there were the risks. I was driving around town on virtually no sleep, with three children in my car. Several times I caught myself thinking I could close my eyes for just a second. On more than one occasion, I was driving faster than was safe for the conditions, because I needed to get home to get the work done so I could get school done so I could make dinner so I could finish the laundry so I could …

My blood pressure went from its normal and healthy 110/68 to an alarming 148/92

People said my older kids could pitch in more. I disagreed. They had already all but quit sports and school to help with my toddler, pick up the slack with cleaning and laundry and dinner… And while I know that kids do that all the time in a variety of situations around the world, I started to ask myself: why would I ask that of my kids when there is absolutely no necessity whatsoever? No necessity, and it’s actually costing more?

But I digress…

There are two issues, as I see it. One is that I don’t really want to work, I want to be with my kids. I know, I know…what mom doesn’t? and all that jazz. But here’s the other thing: it cost us significantly more money and other stuff for me to work last month in a semi-regular position (unlike my blog and books, which can be done here and there as I please), and I didn’t even get into childcare.

To work in any capacity for the long term, we would have to completely change the children’s lives, most importantly there would be paid childcare needed and paid help with transporting my older kids to and from school and other activities, or if they continued to homeschool we would have to pay someone else to educate them.

At a minimum, for me to work and have that help, I would have to bring home – net pay, after everything – around $30,000 a year. And that would leave nothing, not a penny. Again begging the question: why do it?

(Not to mention the fact that $46 a month is not $30,000 a year.)

And there’s also all the other stuff. I’m one person, managing a lot, and I do it all alone. Adding this was just too much. To allow myself the indulgence of a cliche: it really was the straw that broke this camel’s back.

So I notified my regular “clients” today that I just can’t keep up with this anymore, and I’m backing out. My blog and my books are sufficient; school is sufficient. Being a mom is enough.

I’m a Stay At Home Mom because it’s too costly for me to not be. Costly in terms of money. And costly in terms of who I am and what’s most important.

Wine Is No Longer A Part of My Narrative

I remember the general time period when I started to question whether or not my husband and I were drinking too much, too often. It wasn’t one incident in particular, rather a group of them.

It was Easter Sunday several years ago when I walked into a back room at my in law’s home to find my husband had passed out, drunk, on fruit-infused vodkas.

It was a Monday when “Sunday dinner” had included more wine than food, and that day was a special hell of feeling too headache-y and nauseated to do much in the way of parenting. So I called a babysitter.

It was wine in a coffee mug, even though I don’t even drink coffee.

It was selecting restaurants based on whether or not we’d be able to have a drink with our meal.

I wouldn’t say that I had reached the point of interventions, Betty Ford clinic, and AA meetings for the rest of my life. But I could see it going there, quickly. I had no ability to moderate or regulate my drinking.

So I quit drinking, altogether. Wine is no longer a part of my narrative.

It is still a part of my husband’s, which is a little weird. Since I never got to the point of having an actual problem, I guess it seems innocuous.

But still, it’s weird because in the grand picture, deciding to no longer drink alcohol is a pretty big life decision; one that isn’t taken lightly and certainly requires support. Most of the time it doesn’t matter to me, though. I’m not – like – salivating at the thought of a glass of wine; and I still cook with wine or beer and vodka. I even occasionally take a drink and hold it politely to lessen having to explain myself at parties.

I get it. Drinking your way through the hardest years of parenting (or just adulting, in general) has always been a thing.

Ladies used to drink their martinis after serving dinner in the 50s; and they’d down wine coolers all day to get through the summer months in the 90s.

Alcohol is to motherhood as fish are to water.

And yet, to me, it seems more now than ever before.

Probably – at least in part – thanks to social media, just how much women drink to get through the trials and tribulations of motherhood is in your face. It’s everywhere, every day. Having a bad day? How about some rosé. Midweek got you down? WINESDAY! Stressed to the max just getting your kids out the door for school? It’s 5 o’clock, somewhere, right?

It’s everywhere.

Making matters worse is the attitude the general public takes when you stop drinking.

We don’t live in a society that supports quitting. Anything. Giving up alcohol in 2019 is like showing up for an AA meeting only to be greeted by shots of tequila and motivational handouts that say “it’s okay once in a while…”

It took me about 6 months to actually quit the sauce, altogether. Every time I told myself that this was it, I’d have another bad day and meme after meme on Facebook justified (in my head) that wine was the Land of Milk and Honey for mothers. Or we would go out to dinner with family that orders by the bottle, and that was all I needed to postpone my cutback another day.

Then, in 2016, I got pregnant, so wine was officially off the table. That’s when things got weird.

It’s either I was too tipsy to realize how weird things were before, or the result of me no longer drinking – when I used to be a regular partaker – was that things became uncomfortable between me and the general crowd in which I find myself often.

Nonetheless, uncomfortable.

There were the people that wanted to prove to me that it was perfectly safe to drink in pregnancy.

There were those that – after I was no longer pregnant – made a big deal about how I could drink again. And when I told them I was breastfeeding, they went into the prove-it’s-safe mode again.

Now they run the gamut.

There are the people that I never realized get sloppy drunk every. single. time. I. see. them.

And there are those that ask what I’m drinking, then joke that since there’s no alcohol in my cup I must be pregnant (again).

Then there are the people that ask stupid questions when I say I stopped drinking. Like “well what do you do to have fun?” (As if the only way to have fun as an adult is to get shit faced.)

And finally there are the people who use it as an opportunity to justify their own drinking (“oh I just couldn’t do that”) or even get outright hostile towards me. As if – at the end of the day – my personal choices with regards to my body and what I put in it have anything to do with anyone else but me.

If that makes other people uncomfortable, I guess that speaks more to them and their own issues than anything else.

Wine was such a prevalent part of my narrative for years. It no longer is anymore.


My Book Is Out, Here Are All The Ways You Can Get a Copy Of It

My book is out!

I could vomit with delight.

With Easter around the corner, and my birthday earlier this week (my family – except for my kids – didn’t do much, so I had to be real bitchy and crabby for a few days to make sure they knew I was pissed), I am a little on the swamped side. But I don’t want my ever-faithful blog followers to feel like I am just *assuming* they are all sitting around hitting REFRESH on Amazon until it pops up.

So here’s my quick diddy on all the ways you can get it.

First, here’s the cover. In case you didn’t see it before.

Now, here’s the trailer. It’s less than a minute. Just a little bit of snark, you guys know your gal here wouldn’t be able to do this whole thing without some of that.

So if you want to purchase it on KINDLE, you can click HERE to do that. This one is $2.99.

If you want to purchase a paperback copy, click HERE. This version is $5.99.

You can also enter the Amazon giveaway!!! I’m giving away 5! Click HERE if you want to wait and try for that.

And…if you are in Southern California, I’m having a little book tour out this way, where you will be able to come, schmooze, watch me nervously fix my hair and pick at my face, and then you can buy a signed copy. (That schedule is TBD.) Those will be a little more, but if you buy your book ahead of time, the signing is free (unless you want to call dealing with me in person payment, I would).

PS: I broke it into three parts to keep the cost and length down. So this is a cheap book, a quick read (no real time commitments), and there will be two more coming out in July and November!

SQUEAL!!!

More updates after Easter.

Mark Your Calendars

My next book is coming out, in exactly one week. One. Week. That’s seven days.

And since I’m posting this so late in the evening, many of you won’t read it until tomorrow, making that LESS than a week.

Exciting stuff, I know.

So at the mark of the one week countdown, I am thrilled to share with you guys my cover and trailer.

*scream*

So here’s the cover, and please be kind with regards the appearance of my almost-37-year-old face… I am tired and old, and having a toddler has worn me down.

And of course you can watch the trailer too, which is a sentiment to just how jaded I have become on the topic of trailers, in general:

And don’t forget you can get entered to win one of two swag bags with a copy of the book by playing along with my caption game over on Facebook or Instagram!

Caption This: Giveaway Game Day 2

Hey guys!

If you didn’t get the MEMO, I’m hosting a giveaway of a swag bag, which will contain my new book – coming out April 15th. There are several ways to earn entries to win one of the two randomly selected raffles – outlined HERE – but the easiest is to caption three days of photos on either the Facebook EVENT or Instagram POSTS.

Here’s today picture , please click one of the links above and play along!

Apply to Review My Newest Book!

Hey everyone!

If you – like me – love free shit, then I’ve got just the thing for you:

You can receive a signed copy of my new book, a Starbucks gift card, and a free swag bag of book-themed items. The value of this package is $100!

The return is that you agree to review my book no later than July 1st, 2019 on Amazon.com with a copy of your review sent to me (I promise, I won’t be offended by blatant honesty).

Apply to review it by clicking on the link below, to answer just a few questions and be entered in the selection process. I will be choosing 10 people to review my book, and of those that didn’t make the cut will be holding a raffle of the same value.

Thanks so much for joining me on my next adventure!

Here’s the linkie: https://goo.gl/forms/YhQkFBgzWfs4CyEq1

Well I’ve Had A Week. What About You Guys?

Well I’ve had a week. And by that, I mean a pretty awful one.

It isn’t one particular thing, it’s just thing after thing after thing that’ve gone wrong. Extra appointments. A lot of driving. And a frustrating series of phone calls with AT&T to resolve something that they did wrong.

There was also a terrible scene in the doctor with my dad, who was forced to undergo a strep test. He mentioned that his throat was a little sore (turns out he has bad allergies), but they took one look at my 2 year old and jumped to conclusions, assuming my dad must have strep (didn’t you guys know toddlers are disease bags?). A ton of gagging and awful sounds later, and we learned that my dad has a terrible gag reflex, and he in fact does not have strep throat (his throat wasn’t even sore anymore at that point).

To be honest with you guys, I can’t even believe it’s still January. Like there’s still another day this month. For people in the Midwest, where it’s snowy and cold and miserable, this never ending January thing is pretty status quo. But I live in California, and there is literally no reason for it to be dragging on like this, save for all these pain in the ass problems rearing their heads, what seems like every single day since January 1st.

Here’s what I think is the hardest thing about having a bad day or week or month, or even year, though: people always say shit that makes me feel like I am not supposed to feel bad about a rough time.

They say things like “oh just be happy you aren’t dealing with …..” or “just be grateful you aren’t…”

Or they turn it into all of their problems and why there’s are invariably a million times worse than mine. And you are right, Janet, I just will never understand how hard you have it.

It’s always so shocking to me that people (in general) don’t seem to be able to accept that you can be capable of both 1. lamenting a shitty situation, and 2. also be totally grateful for your situation on the whole at the same time.

It may come as a surprise to some people. But I can be super grateful that I have a roof over my head and food on my plate, and also still be pissed that AT&T keeps screwing up our plan and sending me a bill for double what it should be.

Here’s another one: I can have gratitude for my opportunity to stay at home with my kids, and also feel like I’m isolated from the world and doing the work of twenty people for – essentially – basic room and board and absolutely no breaks.

I can be stressed out and burned out about my toddler’s daily meltdowns, and also enjoy my kids on the good days.

[Screams in absolute shock and awe.]

I think that the worst I have ever felt is when I’m trying to pretend like everything is perfect. To be honest, it’s even harder to acknowledge what is great when I can’t even allow myself to accept what is bad.

And the people I despise the most are those that have to shove their nonstop positivism down my throat. I don’t mean that they are nice and positive and whatever; I mean that the de facto response to me having a bad day or a pejorative tone to my voice is to lecture me for twenty five minutes about how wonderful life could be if I would just remove the rain cloud from over my head.

Why does this upset me? Because it makes me feel like my totally human and totally normal emotions, some of which are not perfect and positive and oozing with gratitude, are abnormal. And moreover, that I’m some heinous, ungrateful monster for having a shitty day, week, or month.

Being human is such a weird thing because we have all these complex emotions and there is so much in popular culture telling us to stop having so many of them.

Well I’ve had a bad week. And last week was pretty terrible too. To be honest, 2018 and 2017 were both kind of a disaster; and 2016 wasn’t too much of a peach either (more of a rotten orange, if you know what I mean). What’s great, though, is that in that time I’ve learned to accept and acknowledge the bad with the good; to be OK with not being OK, and also to enjoy the moments in between when everything really is nice.

So are you guys having a bad week too? Or month? 2019 getting off to a rough start?

I’m right there with ya.