On Being a “Stay at Home Family”: The “This Sucks” Edition

This post is a continuation of our “Stay at Home Family” weekly series. You can find more posts from the series here

Being a “Stay at Home Family” might have perks, but there sure are moments when it flat out is no fun. Here are the times when we start second guessing our situation and consider putting the kids in daycare.

Appointments

We’ve been trying to schedule our dentist appointments about an hour apart. You see, one parent has to sit in the lobby with the kids while the other parent goes to the chair for dental work. This means Becky has to flex at least two hours of work for the process (too bad they don’t have evening hours, huh?) because really, there’s no other way to manage the kids unless we found a sitter. For a while, my parents scheduled their appointments at the same time, so they’d alternate watching the kids while Greg got his work; however, we somehow got off schedule and are now back to alternating between the two of us. Parents who have their kids in daycare don’t have to worry, they can both go in at once OR they can each schedule an appointment that fits their work schedule. We don’t really have that option.

My money, your money, our money.

One parent working means one paycheck. It’s hard enough to balance a house on one salary, but add in the stress of “you spent our money x ways” and it’s a mess. We haven’t got to the point where we have separate accounts to manage the budget yet, but it’s a possibility. The first priority is meeting budget (paying bills, buying groceries). It’s a pain when Greg has to ask “how much can I spend on gas this week” (and honestly, not at all glorious!) because I am the one that budgets. I am sure he sometimes feels like it’s not his money, but he’s working just as hard as I am to make this work. Balancing wants and needs is always tricky, too. I’ve been guilty of accusing Greg of spending household money on “couponing goodies” yet I ignore the fact I went and bought a new pair of running shoes which cost a lot more. It’s not “my money” or “your money”, but it’s “our money”. Not always easy to see it like that, and there has to be a way to make it work without feeling like we are burdening each other (or dare I say “paying an allowance”). It’s really a no-win situation in any household when it comes to money because unless you are bringing home the same paycheck, someone always “has the upper hand” and that’s just no fun.

Vacations

Recently when we went on vacation, Greg still “had to” do his duties like changing diapers. There really is no vacation for a stay at home parent because they are always “on the job”. To make this fair, Greg goes on an annual “mancation”, but he sure doesn’t get out often enough.

Friendships

Adult friendships are always hard to come by. Being a working woman, Becky has the advantage here because when you work with people, you have adult interaction and can build friendships. Most of our friends are people met at work or knew before moving to SC. Greg is with the kids all day and he’s built relationships with neighbors, but by no means friendships. We aren’t part of any play groups or classes for him to reach out to other SAHF, especially SAHDs, so opportunities are further limited.

Responsibilities (Housework vs Kids, priority?)

It’s not easy to keep a house clean, but I’d say parents whose families spend the majority of their day outside the home have it a bit easier. With two ‘lil ones roaming all over the house 24 hours a day, things just get messy. Greg often has to set housework (laundry, dishes, updates, pool) aside because the kids simply need the attention. Balancing things like mowing the lawn and dealing with making sure the kids are occupied are not always fun (or easy).

Also, I feel like a lot of the “responsibility” falls to Greg. If dishes aren’t done and I come home needing to pack my lunch, I easily get frustrated (“what were you doing all day?” mentality), but find it hard to pick up and do the work myself (it’s “his” to do?!?). Honestly, between being sick while pregnant with Arianna, living with my parents, and having Greg to clean the house, I can’t tell you the last time I’ve vaccummed my own home (shocking, huh?).

Schedules

With no one to “check in with” (minus the days Arianna is at school), Greg’s schedule doesn’t really exist. There are days when sleeping in is just fine, but then there’s the nights of staying up that go along with that. When we try to get things in order, it’s not always easy.

Our Time (vs. Time Alone)

Going along with schedules, it’s tough for Greg and I to get time together. Usually, we’ll stay awake together until the 11:00 news, then I crash in bed. He kisses me goodnight, then he goes down stairs to watch “adult tv” (Have you ever watched endless episodes of Dora? Then you understand the need to catch up with “The Office” after hours.) This isn’t the  easiest thing to deal with in a marriage, but we seem to make it work, with me compromising by staying up super late on weekends.

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What do you think about the disadvantages of being a family like ours? Next week we’ll talk about the pros of being a “Stay at Home Family”. In the meantime, enjoy this picture (an outtake) from our recent session with our parents.

Photo courtesy of April Skipper Photography

On Being a “Stay at Home Family”: The Introduction

Today, Greg and I will begin a weekly blog series about being a “Stay at Home Family”. Greg is a Stay at Home Dad (SAHD) to our two children and two dogs. Becky’s dad had a stint as a SAHD when she was a baby (before he became a pastor) and then her mom was a SAHM until she was a senior in High School. Greg’s family also had some time with stay at home parenting, so this “way of life” is pretty much our norm. We hope you enjoy this special insight into our daily lives.

In October 2008, I became a single mother. My parents stayed with my roommate, Arianna, and I for the first two weeks and oh, were they a blessing! I had four weeks left in maternity leave to find daycare that would accommodate my 10 plus hour days and be somewhere along my car pool route. Two weeks before I was to go back to work, I toured the one and only daycare center that Arianna would ever call hers. Feeling like it was an “ok” place, I enrolled her and set Mallory and Greg up as emergency contacts.

Dropping Arianna off at daycare wasn’t near as bad as I expected. I was a single mom, after all, so it was in a way a welcome “break”. The pain was knowing we would be there before they opened and I was being charged extra to pick her up just before they closed (unless Mallory got a lucky break and beat me home, surprising me with a text that the ‘lil one was safe and sound at home. Essentially, I was working to pay for the house, the car, the daycare, soy formula, and a little bit of food for myself. Times were not easy.

The routine worked for about three weeks, and then I got the call. “Your child is sick and we need you to come get her so that she doesn’t spread her illness to other kids”, I was told. There I was, 53 miles away from daycare and teaching my students at Green Sea. I texted Mallory, and she was able to get Arianna after securing my car from the carpool drop off spot. I fretted, but knew she was in good hands. At recess, I got a text from Mallory saying she was on her way, we needed to get her to a doctor right away and that they were able to see her. I didn’t understand how my kid who was so healthy that morning could be so sick just hours later. When I saw her, I understood. She looked dreadful and kept vomiting all over her car seat. I was in tears, but so glad I had Mallory with me to calm my crazy.

Turns out, she contracted RSV from another baby whose mother refused to come to daycare to pick up her sick son. I kid you not. This is what I was told when I called daycare to say I couldn’t take her back until she was better, I didn’t know what to do, so we took turns at a few unpaid days from work then I sent her back with plans to un-enroll her days later when we flew back to Pittsburgh. My parents would be keeping her for 6 weeks until I could finish up the semester and move my things to PA.

During the time she spent with my parents, it was obvious I wouldn’t be using daycare again. Arianna, my dad, and I quickly fell into a routine as I started my job and he took her to church meetings and office hours. We were officially an at home care family.

When Greg and I decided that he’d move up with us and we’d get married, he took an evening job and stayed home with her. The two had a crazy bond from the beginning, but this strengthened it even more. Nine months later, we bought our first house about 30 minutes away and so he quit his job. The money I was saving on travel made up for his pay, so we decided to officially become a stay at home family. Instead of me being a SAHM, Greg would be a SAHD. When I got pregnant with ‘lil Man, I asked Greg if he wanted to handle two or if we should explore daycare. We remembered the crazy times of dealing with daycare before, and agreed he’d keep his job as SAHD.

Almost three years into this deal, I have to say, he rocks at what he does. The kids love spending time with him, and it’s comforting to know exactly how our kids are being raised. When the youngest goes to kindergarten, this arrangement is over and Greg will be back in the work force. We try not to think about that but know it’s a reality not far down the road.

For now, this is what works for us. Daycare is costly, and there’s no sense in one of us working just to fund daycare. People probably wonder how we do it, but you don’t know how many times we sit back and wonder how families DON’T do this! We’ll be bringing you some of the ups and downs of being a “stay at home family” throughout this weekly series. Hopefully we’ll be able to connect with other families like us and get your thoughts on the society of stay at home parents.

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Hammons