Sunday, November 7, 2010

Don't you tell me I'm lucky

I got back from the grocery a little bit ago.  While in the checkout line I saw Zane's classroom best friend's step-Mom.  We said our "hi"s and she said she hadn't seen us around, so I informed her that we started home schooling last month.  She said, "I wish I could do that, you're lucky!"  I said, "Why can't you?"  She said, "I have to work."  I said, "I'm lighting the torch under the NEW feminist movement so stay home if that's what you feel you should do and the economy will catch up."  She said, "I wish my bills agreed with that, you're so lucky."

I shook my head and it was my turn to cash out so I did my stuff and we said bye.

I wish this was a rare occurance.  But, it's not. At all.  I hear it all the time, even before we were home schooling, but just because I choose to be home with my kids.  And you know what?  I'm pissed off.

So, this is kind of a rant-ish post, k?

Firstly, I'm not lucky.  I haven't bought a new pair of underwear in 2 friggin years.  True fact.  And every time I need to buy razor blades for shaving I cringe at the $9 JUST TO SHAVE MY LEGS!  We're hardly swimming in money.  Don't get me wrong, we're also not impoverished by any means, but what I'm getting at is that we choose this.  Consciously and intentionally.  A couple of months ago things were rough enough that I was looking for a PT job and I was looking hard.  I decided, instead, to throw my heart and soul behind Rumptastic!! so I didn't lose focus.

Now, I'm pretty open, like I've talked about before.  I'd be happy to share with you all exactly my husband's salary, but his work kinda' frowns on it.  So, I can't.  But, in the few circles that I have shared it (usually making my point as to why people need to quit assuming stay home Moms are in wealthy families) I A.L.W.A.Y.S. get a "Wow!"  And, it's always a "Wow" that means... on *that* salary you make it work with a mortgage, 2 kids, 3 pets, and ZERO credit card debt (which is now no longer true as we did put something on them for the first time ever, but it's for Rumptastic!!, not for our every day living)!?!?

Yes, yes we do.

How??  Well, I get a new purse when mine breaks, not when it's no longer in style.  We buy a lot of stuff used (and this month-everything!) and this is more for the environmental impact, but it sure does help out in the wallet division!  I make food more than buying food.  Ya' know... I buy ingredients then make meals, I don't buy meals in a box or meals in an envelope.  When we need things for the house (like a toilet) we go to ReStore, again more for the environmental impact but a big saver as well.  I don't "go to the hair dresser" but even if I did we'd definitely go somewhere like Great Clips.  We don't have cable tv(although we mostly don't want to watch it anyway, what we do like we can get on Hulu).

Does this mean we go without?  No way, Jose!  Our bedrooms are all filled with things we need/want/use/used to use, as are our living rooms, but we haven't been able to afford putting siding on our house or doing the landscaping in either of our yards.  It's all a balancing act.  What we can do now vs. what we can't and what we need to do now vs. what we don't.  It's funny when we really take a look around we realize how much we really have!  We moved into an apartment together 5 years ago (this month) with next to nothing.  No couches or living room furniture, no real bed for Zane, no bed for us (although it was at Jon's parents' house we didn't get it for several months), and we ate on the floor, cross-legged, and with Zane usually on one of our laps.  For entertainment we'd put some music on the laptop and dance around the living room or we'd all do family yoga or we'd go for a walk or we'd play in the big field next to our place.

We've never "gone without" even when we really were, because we chose to not go without.  We chose to live well under whatever circumstances we were in.  We've been very blessed with people around us getting rid of furniture for free or very cheap and having wonderful people in our lives who have helped us along the way, even giving us nearly new carpet!  We were blessed when Jon initially got his job, because prior to that we were both waiting tables.  We are very blessed, indeed and I don't intend to downplay that at all.    But, we NEVER chose to be lucky.

I worked for a couple of years after moving here and it was good fun and boy were we doing well financially. No worries for us.  But, we realized that the kids NEEDED me at home.  Zane was having big problems in school and Stori was colicky at day care.  Jon and I were both exhausted and even though we'd looked at our budget many times before and saw NO WAY of it working, we decided it was what we needed to do.  So, I quit my job.  At the time, Jon made about 60% of our income while I made 40% that's a HUGE loss.  But, it was even more of a gain.

Because zoning in on our kids while they're young and 100% dependent on us is more important *to us* than all of the other things in the world that we can get in 10, 15, or 20 years.  Home improvements will never go away, nor will the supply of brand news cars, big, fancy tvs, or Blu-Ray players.  But our childrens' youthfulness will.

I walk into other people's homes and often I feel envy.  I see their things and I feel inadequate or less-than.  I feel like I know who I will and will not invite to my home based solely on their environment.  Because I don't want judgment held against me for being "poor", because I'm not poor.  I'm just not invested in my things right now.  One day, I'll have time and energy, and money, and interest in that but right now, I simply don't.

Not because I'm a better Mom than you.  Not because you're a better Mom than me.  Because we're different, that's all.  There's nothing wrong with it at all, so please... Working Moms stop acting like we (stay home Moms) look down on you for working!  WE DON'T! I think it's great that we women DO have a choice in the matter.  But, I do get really, really offended when you look at us and tell us we're lucky while assuming that we are living the same way as you, but are doing it on one income.  I guarantee you we are not.  We are choosing this.  You are choosing that.  We're happy to help pick your kids up from school or watch them while you work late.  We really are.  Just, please, PLEASE stop belittling our choices and giving the power in what we do to our spouse's imaginary income.


AND...  if you really do want to say home but really feel like you can't or that it'd be too hard, talk to us and trust us.  Every stay home Mom that I know has made a big financial sacrifice to come home with her kids.  Every. one. of. them.  I know there are plenty out there who didn't, but if I have a pretty large network of Mommas and every one of them did, then you're definitely not alone.

This all comes back to feminism, which I used to really, really not like.  Economics 101:  A society's standard of living adjusts to what the people in the society deem appropriate.  True story.

Prior to the feminist movement it was standard issue for a man to work and a woman to stay home and care for her family.  Thus, the economy supported that.  Home prices were valued proportionally to one-income families.  So were groceries.  Car prices.  The whole works.  Because that is how our society worked.  Then, women said... screw you men, we want to work!  So they started working.  Now, our economy supports a society that has two-income families.  Viola!  It took a bit of time for the economy to catch up to the women working and that's why the housing boom was possible.  Suddenly there was so much money that inflation hadn't yet caught up.  Now, it's up to speed and people who live in homes where there are two working adults live "average" lives.

If you really want to stay home, do it.  The money WILL come.  The economy WILL catch up.  And, really.. given the current state of affairs, now might just be a great time for us to revolutionize the American economy anyway.  It's fluctuating and trying to straighten out; it's coming out of a very deep recession.  There are people out of work already.  Now, rather than debting ourselves with all the out-of-work chaos, we CAN transform as it rebuilds itself.  It's true, I promise!  IF YOU WANT to be at home and it is what your soul calls out to you then do it.  You WILL figure it out and you WILL be okay and you CAN join us.

If you don't, then please stop telling us you want to and just own your stance.  Please.  I own my faded carpet.  Please own your new car.  Please.

Stop telling us we're lucky.  We're only making different choices than you.

And there's NOTHING wrong with that if we can all own. our. choices.


  1. I feel like I need to add something down here, so you all don't think I'm an asshole on my high horse imagining everyone's in our same situation...

    This is NOT aimed to single moms (I was one myself for a while and I know you can't stay at home, in most circumstances), nor to people who are truly struggling. This is for the women who appear to be on a level playing field(or even higher as many women who approach me seem to be) as us, financially.

    I know there are people going through very difficult situations, divorces, transitions, etc and I in no way intend to come across as insensitive to what you are experiencing. There are those moments and periods of time which just aren't comparable to the "simple" struggles of every day life. If anyone is in that position right now and needs help, please let us know if there's anything we can do for you. I believe in community and I support it and am here to hear you.

  2. Right on chicky. I'd much rather be with my child while I can .. he's only young once .. possessions will be around waiting, whether we nurture them or not. But it is not easy, money-wise.

  3. I love you Shannon! I think so highly of you and your choices for your family! I realize that everyone has different situations and aren't able to stay home. But I agree, if you can, DO IT! And by really really taking a close look at how you live and making changes you CAN do it! :)

  4. Keep on writing.
    Just wanted to say, that maybe that 'you're lucky', is meant to be 'you're so brave'. Being a stay at home/home schooling parent is such a big step for someone - so different from their lives they have grown up with and accepted as the norm. Also a touch of ignorance, something different that they don't know much about.
    Since it is something that bothers you,come up with a go to response. Next pie night we come up with some, like, 'lucky? are you f*ing crazy? want to take this outside?' - Monica

  5. I love you! And I greatly admire what you are sacrificing in order to stay home! Part of me wishes I could stay home. But I don't mean from a financial standpoint because I could if we really skimped, but I work for my sanity. I guess its more like I wish that I wanted to stay home. Because I get so much flack from the other side of things for NOT staying home. I, like you, am just glad that we have the choice.

  6. I just wanted to add something - close to the end of your post, you say that "Prior to the feminist movement it was standard issue for a man to work and a woman to stay home and care for her family."

    This was, generally, true. It was actually 'prior to the industrial age' - the feminist movement just made it shameful for a woman to choose to stay home instead of helping her sisters out by carving a place in the workplace. (My major feminist pet-peeve is that I am not considered a feminist because I *choose* to stay at home. Apparently, feminism doesn't give women choice, it just gives them a new 'must'. Nice. But that's a different rant. ;) ) The industrial age took away a farm/country woman's ability to make a living on her farm knitting/making cloth because it could be done so much cheaper in factories and with that income lost, country people had to move to the city in droves and to survive, women had to work in the factories. Children raised in that situation were ripe picking for the factory industry, and so it continued ...

    ANYWAY, my whole point in this comment was supposed to be this - it's a recent (very recent - within the last 60-70 years) phenomenon that women have been able to stay at home and not contribute to the family income. Throughout history, women have always contributed as much (sometimes more) than men, just in different ways - ways that are not recognized or admired in our current culture. Contributing by both (or either) adding to the income or making the income go farther. Gardening, providing all food except for the basic things that they couldn't, selling eggs/wool/knitted/sewn items, making do or doing without.

    THIS is what modern women who say "I wish the bills agreed with you" need to see. You don't HAVE to live in a house that costs that much, you don't HAVE to drive the vehicle that needs payments, you don't HAVE to send your kids to daycare, you don't HAVE to send them to school (which, like a parent working, has its hidden costs) ... These are choices. And if they're choices that you choose to make, then cut corners somewhere else to make it work. That's HARD. It sucks sometimes. But we look at the financial cost that it would take for me to go to work - daycare, especially - and it's just not worth it.