Wednesday, June 25, 2008

God Has Blessed my Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

I try not to take my blessings for granted. Yet, I am blessed beyond what I can regularly realize! One of the best aspects of this is my being a stay-at-home mom. On our cul-de-sac of about 17 houses, I am one of two moms, I think, who continually stay at home with children and who don't work outside the home at all. The other one has tried to open a daycare at her house and not succeeded, and actually I'm not sure that she's at home all the time. I read sometimes about flack that stay-at-home moms get, and have to say that I have rarely received any of that sort of treatment from others.
When Katie was a baby, I remember hoping against hope that I would be able to stay home with her--but I went back to work when she was 6 weeks old, and left her with a lady from our church who did daycare in her house. She usually had ten kids there, and Katie would come home over-stimulated and over-exposed to every bug that came along. She was often sick, and usually irritable and exhausted--and so was I.
One of the women I worked with had two little boys, both in daycare. She earned less than it cost to have them there. I wondered at why she would do that, and she said that the daycare could raise her boys better than she could! That seemed tragic to me even then. Imagine thinking that daycare staff could raise your children better than you can. Most of them have no major qualifications for running a daycare; for that matter, the employees aren't bound to stay employed there any length of time; above all, they can't be expected to love your children as much as you would love them. It reminds me of the boy that used to live next door to us when I was a kid. He was raised more by the maid than by his mother. When the maid died, he grieved over her like a child would his mother, but in contrast he had very little respect for his own mother. He was socially inept and grew up getting in continual trouble with the law, on the premise that his lawyer father would continually bail him out. When I've helped in nurseries at churches, I have usually been able to tell which children are in daycare and which aren't; I see it in our neighborhood as well. The children I've seen who spend their weeks in daycare have a tendency to be more aggressive and less concerned about the other children. I have never seen that there is any optimum substitute for a parent raising a child.
While I was working at Boeing, Gary was trying to get into the sales field; he'd worked in an office for years and was getting nowhere. The sales field wasn't so easy to break into. A food broker would hire him full-time, then reduce him to part-time to avoid having to provide benefits. This happened with three jobs in a row! It didn't look like I would ever be at home with Katie. Gary's earnings were also at pretty much bare minimum to begin with. But I had recently come to accept Jesus as my Savior, and my life was in makeover mode in many ways.
I came home from work one day when Gary was on part-time. He had that day off, but still put Katie in daycare. I would have given my right arm to be at home with her, so it hit me hard that he'd pay to have someone take care of her while he was home. That day it became clear that my working wasn't very beneficial to the family; it was counter-productive. I was starting to add up all the costs of working, and comparing them with my minimal earnings. I figured I was taking home about $65-80 per month after all the expenses were taken out: daycare, gas, car insurance (higher the more you drive), convenience foods, dress clothes, higher tax bracket, office gift wasn't the most worthwhile venture for me to be at work. Add to those things the physical strain I was under at the time, being anemic and worn out, constantly coming down with all the bugs Katie brought home; also not having the time to clean house like I would if I were at home (theoretically, at least). Gary needed to be the primary breadwinner, it was obvious. It wasn't the best approach that day, but I remember clearly and calmly telling Gary (not asking him--that would be an issue now) that I was going to give my notice at work. It wasn't because he was earning enough to support us; he wasn't! It was what I consider a leap of faith. I was convinced that God was showing me that I must be at home with Katie. I didn't tell Gary that I would give a three-week notice instead of two so I would get another month of medical coverage. Still, wow. I remember I could hardly wait until the three weeks were over!
I realize that not everyone would consider this the right approach. In some ways it wasn't, but the way I saw it at the time, it appeared to me to be the only thing I could do. The first day of not rising early to go to work, I remember how I felt like an enormous weight had fallen off my shoulders. I remember thinking, "I finally know what I want to be 'when I grow up'--a stay-at-home mom!" There I was with my daughter, not having to rush her through the early morning and pack her in the car to get her to daycare so I could be at work at 7:15.
Katie's attitude completely and suddenly changed from the day I started staying at home. We had dinner with some friends, and they remarked, "What has happened to Katie?!" She was no longer constantly demanding my full attention and raising a ruckus throughout the meal time. And my health started improving as I became more rested. I had just been informed that I had been anemic, and the iron was a great boon to my energy level.
Our finances were not in great shape. We really didn't have a penny to spare; still, it wasn't that different from when I was working. My work had never provided so much that we had spare funds, it just occupied all my time and made a very slight difference in take-home pay. I had moments when I felt a bit guilty, and then when I considered the math, the benefit to being at home was real--and in the other ways as well.
Gary was trying to get into pharmaceutical sales, but I was tired of all of his job changes. He had just changed to another food broker when I got a phone call asking for him; he wasn't home. When I realized it was regarding another job, I just ignored it rather than tell him. I didn't want him changing all over again! The man called back another time when Gary was home. Right over the phone, he offered Gary a job that he had applied for 6 months previously; the other candidate who had gotten the job had gotten fired. The pay and benefits were like we'd never had before. Did I feel foolish! But I was so thankful for God's grace.
Since that time, Gary has had various job changes and times between jobs. At first I worked as an office temp from time to time, but that didn't continue for very long. I've been at home completely for about 20 years now. We have probably had about four years of joblessness, total, scattered in amongst those years, and his salary has gone up and down depending on what job he was working. It has never been an enormous salary, but God has been faithful to us throughout that time. He has taught me to be careful with my spending, and He has been gracious with various creative means of providing for us. We've never been a charity case! I truly believe that most women could stay at home with their children if they were determined to do so, trusting in God as their Provider. If God has provided such for us, He can provide for anybody who will rely on Him.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

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