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We’re continuing with Sarah’s interview. Sarah is a great example of the choices that women make in order to be a “stay-at-home mom” (a term I don’t like because it doesn’t communicate the kind of action and initiative that it takes to be a mom who works within the home).

To read the beginning of this interview, start here.
What I did do in college was miss my family members birthday celebrations, anniversaries, and reunions. I lost touch with my cousins because we were all so busy studying. I tolerated jobs and people that I normally would have avoided like the plague.

Another thing I would have done differently is I would not have invested the time, effort, and money in a “career”. I would have simply worked at a “job”. I really enjoyed working as an assistant manager for a condominium complex during the week and waiting tables in a family diner on the weekends right after college. I was comfortable with the skills required and enjoyed the people I worked with. I could have left the workforce quickly and easily when I became pregnant. I made enough money to live on my own without roommates or support from family. With hindsight, I would have kept those jobs instead of striving for the brass ring promotions and continued to share an apartment with friends and saved money.

After years of climbing the corporate ladder I had nothing to show for it except a fancy title on a business card and a lifestyle that was impossible to support if I wanted to stay home and raise my child. I would have had more money in the bank if I had saved and lived frugally in a job that was less prestigious and paid a smaller wage/salary instead of “investing in myself” and spending money on professional clothes (required), a car (required), various professional licensing fees (required), fees to join professional organizations, professional development classes, networking, etc.

Instead of being mentally challenging and stimulating, my career became an obstacle and stressful. My husband I have talked about the hypothetical “mulligan” and we both agree that I should have given my two week notice and never looked back the second we found out I was pregnant.

I loved your suggestion to the mother who chooses to live frugally but gets discouraged by the hard work or change in lifestyle. You said, “Go hug your child and you will realize it is all worth it.” Precious words!

Thank you! Other than the occasional “rough day”, most families will find that their lifestyle improves. You will have less money but you will have more time and pleasant home. Your husband will have a place where he can actually relax. Your children will have a space to feel completely safe. Hard work at home is not as emotionally draining as hard work at an outside the home job. A rough day at home is exponentially less brutal than a rough day “at work”.

Has it been humbling to live differently? What sort of reaction have you experienced from family and friends?

It has been so humbling to live differently, but not just because we have embraced frugal living. Having a child took me out of a vapid, plastic, shiny, manufactured world filled with fake things of artificial importance. Having a child made me realize that I really wanted to stay home. How much we really have compared to most. How fortunate I am to have a husband who knew I was the best person to raise our daughter and that he wanted me home too!

I think becoming humble is a process that will take my entire life. However, there are some “eureka” moments. For example, when I first began shopping at thrift stores for clothing in an effort to reduce our expenses so I could come home, my mindset hadn’t changed much yet. I saw patterned turtlenecks for my daughter being sold for $1.80 each and I looked through the racks and picked out eight without rips or stains. I rationalized that the cost of one turtleneck new was about $20 and I was getting eight for less than that! I was so full of pride – what a deal I found! I was so puffed up and so nauseatingly pleased with myself, I couldn’t wait to brag about my amazing shopping skills to my husband and get compliments. Another Mother and her two children were looking through the racks too. I heard the Mother tell her children that she could only buy two turtlenecks because that was all they could afford. What a humbling moment. My daughter didn’t need eight turtlenecks – eight were enough to dress her in a different turtleneck every day of the week with an extra. She also had other shirts at home. I originally went there to purchase one for her to wear under a particularly “scratchy” sweater. I bought one turtleneck. To think that I even considered buying eight to “save money”!

I often think about that bit of conversation between the other Mother and her children. It was the first time I have ever heard a parent tell a child in public that they could not afford something. Usually parents say something along the lines of, “well we can talk about it later”, or, “you can put it on your birthday/Christmas list/wish list”. We do our children no favors by speaking to them in euphemistic terms. I make an effort now when my daughter asks for something at a store to simply say, “no we can’t afford it”. It isn’t I couldn’t find a way to buy the $12 piece of lead laden plastic from China, it is the fact that $12 should go into savings. It is humbling to realize that it is my calling to teach our child how to budget and delay immediate wants.

My family has been amazingly supportive of our frugal lifestyle. Other than being extremely worried about what would happen to us if my husband lost his job (I assure them we are working very hard to save) there have been no negative comments. Many family members have even said very positive things to us. Most helpfully family members have been fine with our decision to not “do” a ton of presents from the big box store type of Christmas. It takes the pressure off of them to shop for the extended family and they can focus on their immediate family members.

When there are family invitations to events that exceed our budget, I make an effort to be honest and matter of fact when I decline. For example, many family members go on vacations together at resort type areas. We don’t want to pay for a resort type vacation. When we decline we make sure that we have them over or go to visit at every opportunity. We emphasize that we love their company we are just not in a position to travel. When they offer to pay for us we also politely decline.

My husband’s friends didn’t really notice a change in our lifestyle. They already tended to socialize and participate in activities together that didn’t cost money. Sadly, most of my friends were not supportive at all…

..to be continued…

What advice do you have to women who want to stay home with their children?