The Decision to be a stay-at-home family


Our co-workers / bosses

I’m upstairs in my office and Annie, my ninja warrior stay-at-home-mom wife, is downstairs juggling our two kids.

Someone once told me that being a parent is one of the hardest and best jobs you’ll ever have. I believe it. I’ve had Harper (2), and Griffin (4-months) on my own for a few sweaty, poop-filled, patience-trying days. It was great, but exhausting.

In 1970, 70% of mothers stayed at home with their children. Today only 25% of mothers are stay-at-home moms (SAHM). Obviously what has changed is that mothers love their kids less than they did in 1970, right?

I’m kidding.

Back in the Mad Men days a man could work and earn enough to support his family (and keep them encircled in a cloud of cigarette smoke). Today we live in Mad Days in which the cost of living has gone up and income hasn’t, necessitating that the average household have two incomes.

As much as I’d like to say that our decision to have Annie stay at home with the kids was one we made, it was one her employer made for us. No, she didn’t get fired. But when you work for a doctor, as Annie did, and that doctor decides to provide $0, nada, not a penny toward health insurance, the decision is kind of made for you. That’s right, a doctor who earns a living offering treatments that no individual without health insurance can afford, doesn’t offer his employees health insurance. Kinda makes the Hippocratic Oath look more like the Hypocritic Oath, doesn’t it?

With my nontraditional job, if Annie is going to work, then her job needs to have health insurance because the benefits of my job as a vagabonding, writer/speaker, freelance troublemaker dude don’t go much beyond the luxury of being able to work in my pajamas all day. When our second child was born, we were paying a $307/month premium for insurance that had a $6,000 deductible. Anthem, our provider, didn’t send Griffin a birthday card in the mail, but instead a note saying that they were raising our premium to $450/month – that’s like a mortgage payment in Indiana! We decided to up our deductible to $11,000 to bring our premium down to a “reasonable” $330/month.

$11,000! And people are against healthcare reform!

Add in Annie’s 40-mile round-trip drive to and from work and the cost of daycare, and Annie working – at least at her previous job – just didn’t make sense. We crunched the numbers and we saw what Annie’s working gained us at the end of each month and then we had a, “Wait, you’re working and we’re paying someone else to raise our kids, why?” moment.

When people ask me what I do for a living and I tell them, they nod in interest and usually ask a few questions. Beneath that nod and in those questions is the underlying vibe: “Sure you make a living doing this, buddy.” And then the question comes up: “Does your wife work?” This can be translated as, “You have a sugar momma, right?” But now when I say that she doesn’t work, I get the “not bad, much respect” look and a pat on the back.

In their mind I go from being a mooch to the provider.

Me provider. Me kill stuff and drag it home. Ooga booga!

Annie provided me with the time and encouragement to develop a career that could support our family. She provides me with the ability to have a nontraditional career, yet enjoy all the rewards of a traditional life. I recently wrote a post about all of the things that Annie provides me. You tell me who the provider is?

We are a boss-less family. If we could afford a vacation, we wouldn’t have to ask for days off. We can’t be fired. We don’t accrue PTO; we accrue moments together each day (Harper, Griffin, and I played in a tent this morning. Now Griffin is napping and Annie and Harper are making Halloween cookies). We’ve replaced the security of a weekly paycheck with hustle and passion and a budget.

Between 2008 and 2010, the number of stay-at-home mothers fell from 5.3 million to 5 million. Some criticize the decision to stay at home and make some irrefutable reasons why a woman shouldn’t. But in a time where the trend is against staying at home, we’re bucking the trend.

We’ve decided to raise and make our own future. It’s terrifyingly awesome.

MT says:

Nothing wrong with staying home. When the kids are older, they’ll need socialization with other kids but I’m sure you’ll take care of that. I would have loved to have been able to stay home with my kids, but I had to work! they had a stay at home dad for a while, though!

Kat says:

Congrats on your new life choice. I’ve no doubt it will pay dividends in all of your lives far into the future. I’m a SAHM and homeschool. It is an excellent fit for our family for many of the reasons you mention and more. I must add, though, because it’s a peeve of mine, that I don’t buy that kids HAVE to go to school to be “socialized.” Frankly, much of the so-called socialization that occurs in schools is not the kind of socialization I want for my child. My child “socializes” with his peers on playdates, the park, and Boy Scouts, etc., but he also “socializes” with doctors, dentists, librarians, mail carriers, writers, and adults of all ilk, including the man at the recycling center with whom he had a conversation about what would happen to the computers we were ecycling. I’m not (totally) against government schools, but I don’t think people should choose them because they fear inadequate “socialization” otherwise.

Kyle says:

Great post, Kels. I frequently brag that my little bro’ is a successful writer/speaker. I think your stay-at-home family is awesome.

Jenn says:

Staying home is awesome! My days home with Max are my favorite days. It’s definitely hard work, but the best kind.

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