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.

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“Day Care’s Note to Parents to ‘Get off Your Phone’ Goes Viral.” Sanctimonious Moms Everywhere Rejoice.

COME ON YOU GUYS.

I was on Facebook yesterday, and I saw an article shared by Parents magazine, both in the newsfeed and the stories (so you know this is – like – a real clickbait one for them). It read:

“Day Care’s Note to Parents to ‘Get off Your Phone’ Goes Viral.”

In my head, I immediately thought the follow up sentence: “Sanctimonious parents everywhere rejoice.”

Now, in spite of the fact that the article was originally posted on Parents, and then picked up by its syndicates, back in January of 2017 – over two years ago, making it not exactly “news” – it seems that the sanctimonious parents of the Internet were just waiting on bated breath for something like this to enrage and empower them all over again.

Which they did. Comment after comment, and share after share among my personal Facebook “friends” list, proved exactly what I said about you fucking people years ago: ya’ll are overly critical assholes lacking the most basic of understanding and compassion.

Honestly! When are you people going to learn?!

This all started years ago, when some bullshit open letter went viral, titled something along the lines of “Dear Mom at the Park on her iPhone” (I will not do it justice by searching it out now for the exact title, again). It was a long, judgment-laden diddy about how the mom at the park on her iPhone was ignoring the most precious stages of childhood. That the mom’s daughter wanted nothing but for Mommy to watch her go down the slide, or to push her on the swing, and this mother, this terrible being, was sitting on her phone instead. Horror! Shame! Shock! “Why even have kids if you…?!:”

[Long, audible groan]

This note to parents at the daycare pick up is just more of the same. Your precious little gems are waiting, big eyed and excited, for you to pick them up from childcare, like puppies. And you have the nerve to be looking at your phone, instead of their precious and adoring faces?! Well this is clearly the way you manage literally every other minute of interaction with your kids. “It is appalling.”

Okay, Debra. Would you like to know what I think is appalling?

I think judging a book by its cover is incredibly appalling.

Judging a parent by a 2 minute interaction with them is worse.

I think that assuming a parent’s career or job, that pays for that expensive daycare whose drop off and pick up hours are probably completely unreasonable as compared to a world that no longer has the basic 9-5 day job, is appalling.

I think that assuming a parent can just leave work in 2019 to conform to those daycare hours, assuming that those parents don’t have remaining calls or emails to attend to that allow them to maintain that job and pay those daycare costs is appalling.

I mean, the note even makes that claim: “when work is completed.” Again, Debra: get the fuck off your high horse. This isn’t 1950. Very few employees anywhere will tell you that when they leave the office, the work is done.

I think it is appalling to be so ignorant so as to assume all parents stare at their phones instead of their kids for an insidious or irrelevant reason. There are a ton of reasons why a parent may choose to look at their phone over their kid(s).

Maybe they have social anxiety and are trying to not spread it to their kids with nervous and socially awkward behavior.

Maybe they recently lost a loved one, and are trying to hold it together in the face of their children.

Maybe their phone is down literally every other minute of every day, and that is actually the only time they take a break.

Fuck if I know why a parent chooses a cellphone over greeting their child at the daycare, or watching little Susie go down the slide at the public park for the 5,985th time this week…I just think it’s appalling to tell other people that they are wrong for not running their parenting show the way that they want to.

I get it: technology addiction is a real problem. I’m pretty certain my husband is addicted to his technology. He spends upwards of 8-12 hours on weekend days sitting on his cellphone. I know there are a lot of parents out there just staring at social media or mindless articles about Kylie Jenner’s latest perfume line. I get it.

But that isn’t to say that everyone looking at their phones isn’t working their own shit out in their own way. Mom at the park could also be Mom sitting in on a conference call. At least she got the kid to the park, even if she had to work while sitting there – right? Parent at the daycare pick up is always on his phone, but couldn’t he feasibly also have some similarly justifiable reason to be on his phone?

And I’m a Stay At Home Mom. If anyone should be enraged by parent at the daycare on their cellphone, it’s me – right?

I don’t know, it just really annoys me that really stupid, divisive, and judgmental things make the rounds on the Internet and daily conversation; when other, amazing and cool things go largely unnoticed. Artwork, poetry, amazing essays, all ignored for the latest viral post going further viral by way of an article announcing its status as such.

In the comments section of that Parent’s article, someone said “it’s a refreshing reminder,” and I think I agree, though probably not in the way the commenter meant. The article may be two years old, but it is a reminder that we still live in a time in which everyone is ready and waiting to criticize others for the way they live their lives, including and especially how they parent.

Honestly.