“What if he leaves you?” “What if he dies?” “What if he loses his job?” “You need to have a career, so you have a back up plan.” “You need a career so you feel fulfilled and valued.” “Can we really live and raise kids on one income?”
It was 1988. The height of yuppiedom. I was part-way through college, a newly wed- and planning my first pregnancy. (I’m a multi- tasker, always have been- that’s how I roll.) More than a pregnancy- I was also planning my parenting.
“Will I work?” “Will I stay home?” “Will I breastfeed?” “Disposable or cloth diapers?” By nature- I’m a researcher. I researched every option. Ad nauseam. Somedays literally- morning sickness sucks. Justsayin.
I read the pros and cons on all the issues and choices I could foresee. Keep in mind- this was before the internets at home. I read actual books & magazine articles. I read things I agreed with, and things I didn’t. I don’t believe in building a one sided case to justify my preferred decisions. I believe in making the best decision after evaluating all kinds of input. It wasn’t that I didn’t have any other options.
We (my husband and I) decided that -knowing the risks and the sacrifices involved, I would work at home. Some years- I nannied to help with finances. (My background as a preschool teacher and student afforded me that option.) Other times- I did the tiered marketing- direct sales thing to help out. Sometimes we just plain did without, in order to make things work. We had one car seasons. (I hated that.) We lived in an apartment and a a couple of rented duplexes. We dreamed of home ownership. But we were more committed to raising and enjoying our kids than raising a downpayment. (That said- I spent heart yearning years longing for a home that could be “ours.” Which- turns out to mean: the banks. But, still. We longed for a place of permanence and privacy without shared walls.) There were no vacations. I sometimes bought milk and diapers with coins found in the sofa. which- for a long time- served as our emergency fund. It wasn’t that we were rich. It was that we did without and were creative in our problem solving.
Somehow we made it work.
It’s NOT for everyone. But, it was for us.
Over 25 years later- we’ve faced job losses and changes. He hasn’t left me- and I haven’t left him. We have, however- had moments where we thought we would kill each other. Ive found fulfillment an value in mothering- and in Christ. I’ve found connection and challenge through serving others as a pastoral counselor and through 24 years with MOPS International. I’m still -primarily a mom. Yes- as my husband’s career advanced- it has become financially easier. We finally DID get a house. 😉 (However it’s still not easy with 2 kids in college, and one more heading there in a few years;) But, it is: easier.
A lot of the things that I thought (and was repeatedly told by- people, and media and the late 80’s and current culture) would make it impossible or unwise to stay home- just weren’t true.
- It was financially possible. (Sometimes. We made it work. It wasn’t magic.)
- Our marriage has had rocky times. We did the ugly work to make it through.
- My husband has changed jobs, insurances and lost jobs – he’s in the tech industry. It happens. We survived. Sometimes on no brand mac and cheese and lots of pasta without meat- other times- by asking for help-but we made it.
- My kids didn’t get to do “all” the activities they wanted to- or that everyone else was doing. But they got to experiment.
- My kids didn’t always have everything they wanted- none of us did. But cheesy as it sounds- we had each other. We still do.
- Things I’ve done during these years have prepared me for and opened doors for me to be even more fulfilled. By becoming the writer/ public speaker I’ve dreamed of since I was little. (Still in process- sometimes I’m still in denial about it- but it’s happening. )
All of which brings us to our biggest challenge so far:
Facing my husband’s diagnosis of advanced prostate cancer- 3 years ago. Honestly? My initial response was a flurry of mom problem solving thoughts….
“How would we survive without his income, not just if he dies- but if he can’t work?” “Should I get a job, now- as back up?” “Would I ever re-marry?” “What about my kids?” “How do we do this?”
Over time- the flurry has slowed down. Not because his cancer is cured. (It’s not, yet. We’re still hoping and praying.) More so- they’ve slowed down because we’ve faced and made it through most of the “what if’s” the world (basically) had already warned us about. We didn’t make this decision without weighing the risks. We made it fully aware of the risks.
I’ve also had 25 years of experiences with others- and the painful privilege of walking beside them as they faced many of these exact things. A young mom with 2 beautiful children- died after a long and terrible, debilitating illness. The husband of a dear friend with 3 young children – suddenly died. A friend’s husband suffered an heart attack- then years later a life altering stroke. Other friends went through heart breaking divorces, fought substance abuse, lost a child, and I’ve watched dual income families lose BOTH sources of income in short amounts of time. Life= risk. There are no guarantees. (Ummm, dang. Could it me? Maybe, I’m a bad luck friend charm!!!…) (Was that the sound of me being un-friended onine and IRL? I hope not:P)
Actually, it’s not me. The truth is- that if you know enough people, “statistics” end up having faces and names in your life. Statistics and “what if’s” become stories you’re a part of and witness to. Stories of survival and restoration and Gods mercy, provision and grace. Stories that over time become sources of hope.
So, here I am. A SAHM who’s been out of the “official” job market for 25 years. A single income family- facing the biggest challenge of our lives. CANCER. Yes, it’s CANCER with all caps. The oncologist has made that petty clear. Fortunately my man is also a FIGHTER with all caps. And he’s fighting.
The question I know some wonder- when they hear our story, is often: “If you could go back in time- and chosen to work- so there would be a plan B, in case this happened….. would you?”
Simply put: No.
It was a calculated risk. We knew this was possible. It was a risk worth taking. (For the record- having a spouse with cancer is a full time job in itself. From appointments to picking up slack at home and being a support to all involved…. I honestly wouldn’t have enough time to work full time right now. I’m sooo glad I can be here- by his side. Or there. Or any of the 15 million places I am needed on any given day.
I know by faith and experience- that where ever God takes us- he goes before us. He will provide. He will be present. He always has been. For us and others-
Even here. In this mess. This beautiful, loving, crazy mess.
So- if you’re facing a choice- (of any kind, really.) think it through. There are always risks. Especially with choices with amazing and frightening and huge consequences. Like marriage, parenting- and life. Only you can choose. There is no ONE right way, the right way is to follow that still small voice that calls to you from beyond your fears and what ifs.
My challenge to you is this: regardless of the choice before you- don’t let “what ifs” become fears that stop you from doing what you know is right. Facing risks is rarely regretted. NOT facing them- often is.
Besides- I know first hand that facing them, can become some of your biggest sources of hope and strength- for later. Especially when you allow God to work in and through them.
So, next time you read an article about how risky or ignorant it is for a woman to chose to stay home (What ever that means- I know very few moms who never leave the house. ) think about the chick who told you: It was a calculated risk. and 100 % worth taking.”
*** Working moms? Single moms? I’m not ignoring, denying or minimizing the risks or struggles you face or sacrifices you make 🙂
Today- I’m writing just about the risks, struggles and sacrifices I have 😉
PS: Life insurance and financial planning and participation are imperative. Single income, dual income etc.