June 02, 2018

How and Why I Became a Stay-at-Home Mom

Here is Day 2 of my 30 days of blogging challenge for June. My goal is to write every single day by choosing a topic from a list.

Recently, I received an email from someone who was very curious about being a stay-at-home mom. I thought this was a great topic, because usually, the comments I get about it are condescending, rude and judgmental ("Why don't you get a real job?") It seems to be a hot topic among parents.

(That said, please be respectful if you should choose to comment; not just for my sake, but for all other stay-at-home moms and working moms who may be reading. Personally, I don't judge people either way--I think we should all do what we feel is best for our families.)

Here is what was written in the email:

"The one thing that I don't have much experience with is being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). No one in my family is a SAHM, and few of my friends. Those friends that are, they either have wealthy spouses or are religious, or both. Neither seems true for you. Because I don't know much about this world, I'd love to learn more about it. In particular:

- How did you make the decision? Do you think you will go to traditional work at some point when your kids are older?

- What does it mean for your relationship with your husband? Does it create weird power dynamics? If not, how do you prevent that? Do you ever feel guilty that your husband works and you don't (work in the traditional sense - please forgive me if I'm phrasing this in any way that seems judgy - I swear I'm just curious)?

- If it's not too personal, what does it mean financially? Do you have back up plans if anything were to happen to your husband?"

First, thank you so much for asking about this in a non-objective way! I'd be happy to answer your questions.

How I Made the Decision to Quit Working

I never intended on being a stay-at-home mom. In fact, I wasn't even sure if I wanted kids! However, when I became pregnant with Noah, Jerry and I had to figure out a solution. I enjoyed my job, but I hated that I never got to see Jerry. When he would come home from work, I would leave for work; and vice versa.

Depending on his schedule, we would go days without seeing each other for more than a few minutes. He works a swing shift, which make scheduling anything very complicated. We decided to see if it was possible for me to be a stay-at-home mom. To do this, we started banking all of MY paychecks and didn't touch them--we basically pretended that I had zero income. We wanted to see if we could live solely on Jerry's income before making the decision for me to quit my job.

We did this for nearly a year, and we realized that by cutting back on spending here and there, it was definitely something we could do. After talking about it, we both really loved the idea.

After Noah was born, I was still working just a couple of days a week. However, I was demoted from my assistant manager position because my hours weren't as flexible, so I decided it was time to quit. It just wasn't worth it to me.

My mom was working for an OB/GYN as an office manager, and she said they needed someone to scan charts into a new online system. (This was when offices started having paperless charts). The best part was, I could do it from home! It was very tedious, mind-numbing work, but I was able to be at home with Noah and still squeeze in the work.

I did that through my pregnancy with Eli, and for a little while afterward. Once all the charts were scanned in, there wasn't any more work for me to do. By this point, I couldn't imagine going back to work in a traditional sense. I loved being able to be at home with my family. And I was able to see Jerry when he was off work, which was great.

After another talk, we decided that I should make being a stay-at-home mom my full-time gig. By this time, Noah was ready for 3-year old preschool, meaning he needed me to drive him to and from school daily. I joined a MOMS Club, so that I could meet other moms and participate in activities with them and other kids. (It was in MOMS Club that I actually met my good friends Renee, Jessica, and Andrea!)

During preschool, I had to drive them to and from school each day--and since preschool is only a few hours long, I had to be available for that. I liked that I was free to volunteer to chaperone field trips and participate in their school events.

(I mean, honestly, who wouldn't want to chaperone at Maggie Moo's and get free ice cream?)

Noah wanted to bring dirt cake for his preschool class on his birthday, so we made over TWENTY of these--dirt cake in a little glass pot, complete with a fake flower. (As the years went on, we kept it much more simple, haha)

Once they started going to first grade (a full school day), I again questioned whether I should go back to work. But honestly, I had no desire to. I loved taking care of the house, being free to run errands, being available if the kids got sick at school or just had to stay home, being home with them all summer, and being home to spend time with Jerry despite his erratic schedule.

Jerry was completely on board with my staying home. If he hesitated even a little, I probably wouldn't have done it. To answer your question about guilt, YES--I do feel guilty for staying at home, even though he assures me that he is thrilled I'm able to be home with the kids.

The main reason I feel guilty is because he gets up super early for work (or, when he's working nights, he's staying up all night long and then sleeping during the day). Or, sometimes he misses out on things because of work, and I feel bad about going without him. However, he would have to miss out regardless of whether I'm working or not, so I'm not taking anything away from him.

Jerry works very hard for our family, but he doesn't have to "work extra" to meet our needs. He's working the same amount of hours that he was before I quit my job, so my quitting didn't cause him to have to pick up the slack.

Also, I do earn an income from my blog. It's not huge, but I'm making more than I was at my previous job, so in the end, we've come out ahead. (I am paid for having ads on my blog--the number of page views I get per month determines how much money I make. Let me take this opportunity to THANK YOU ALL for visiting my blog. Every page view helps.)

And while it may seem like I don't do much "work" to have this blog, there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes as well. I spend more time responding to email than I do writing posts! And I don't get paid for it--but I am grateful that I am able to earn an income from my blog, so I feel like I am giving something back by replying to readers' emails, writing free training plans, being interviewed (something I get SO nervous for!), etc.

What It Means for My Relationship With My Husband

Being a stay-at-home mom is great for my relationship! Like I said before, we were both unhappy that we never got to see each other when each of us was working. We really are best friends, and love spending time together, so now we just have to work it around one schedule instead of two. If we each worked 9-5 type jobs, it might be different; but in our situation, it works out really well.

Because I stay at home, I consider it my job to do almost everything around the house. I clean, I cook dinner, I do our banking/bills/financial stuff, I fill out forms for the school, I run our errands, I grocery shop, I take the kids to and from sports practice, and several other things.

Please excuse the fact that I sound like I'm quoting from a 1950's home economics book, but I try to make things pleasant and not stressful for when Jerry comes home from work. He doesn't have to worry if the bills are paid, because he knows I did it. He doesn't have to wonder about what to have for dinner, because I've already cooked it.

I've always been a little old-fashioned, and I enjoy what I do. Jerry takes care of some of the household stuff like mowing the lawn and car maintenance, and if I need help with something, he's happy to help out.

We've talked about all this several times over the years, and we both agree that we enjoy our lifestyle.

What It Means Financially

It didn't come as a huge shock financially, mainly because we had done a long trial period when I banked all of my checks to see if we could live on one income. The cost of living in the Metro Detroit area can be pretty cheap. Also, we still live in the house we bought when we got married. There was a time where we talked about moving into something bigger, and we were approved for a loan; but when we saw what our house payments would be, we balked at the idea and decided that we are content where we are. (You can see our budget here)

Our house is pretty homely--comfortable, but not elaborately decorated or anything. As you know, I love thrift shopping, so a ton of our stuff is secondhand. Some of my very favorite things came from garage sales. There are lots of things that need updating, but we'll do that over time. The kids have all they need, without being too spoiled.

We don't do professional haircuts, because they're crazy expensive. So, my boys were used to the clippers ;) Once they were around 11 and 12, and wanting different styles, I took them to a barber. But they didn't get a single haircut from the barber until that age! (I even cut my own hair, because I can't fathom spending $40 for someone else to do it.)

I could go on and on, but we certainly have enough (I've especially come to realize this since we started our budget a year ago--we have more than enough money to get by!). As soon as we pay off the last of our debt (hopefully this month!) we'll have all that extra money each month--to invest, to use for projects, start an emergency fun, and do some fun things once in a while.

As far as a back-up plan if something should happen to Jerry (the breadwinner), it's something I think about a lot. One of my goals right now is to learn about and start an investment account in case something like that should happen. We plan to speak with a financial advisor to figure out what would be best. But if it comes down to it, I would certainly get a job (in addition to/to replace blogging).

I totally understand that being a stay-at-home mom is not for everyone. Several of my friends have said that they would be super bored. There are some days that I am bored--when I don't have appointments or errands and the house is spotless, etc. But MOST of the time, I stay just as busy as I would with a "regular" job.

This post is not to try to pursued anyone to become a stay-at-home mom. I totally understand that it's not everyone's cup of tea! Or maybe it's not affordable. Or maybe one's spouse doesn't like the idea. There are lots of reasons why none of us should judge each other for our life decisions.

I give working moms a TON of credit--especially when I'm training for a race, and I think, "How in the hell do moms fit in a run between working all day, cooking dinner, taking care of the kids, cleaning up, etc?" Working moms are awesome. And so are stay-at-home moms. We just have different ways of managing our time!

So, thank you, reader (I'm not sure if you wanted your name withheld, so I will leave you anonymous), for the kind interest you have in learning about being a stay-at-home mom. I love what I do, and it works out great for my family :)

I would love to see the (polite) perspectives of others in the comments, if you're willing to share! Whether you stay at home or work a traditional job, do you enjoy it? What are your plusses and minuses? If you had the chance, would you reverse your role?


  1. Thanks, this was a really interesting article! I just finished year one as a working mom. There are definitely positive aspects and negative. Right now for me it works. I work 4-10 hour days and my son comes with me one of those days so it feels like I get to see him a lot more than the traditional five day a week job. However it is tough to get it all done. Some days it feels like there is just not enough time to do anything more than dinner, baths and some reading/play before my baby goes to bed at night. The things that make it really work for me is that my schedule is flexible (I don’t work at all in the summer) and I actually really enjoy my job and get a lot of fulfillment from it. I do think about going parttime when I have more kids. It makes me nervous to think about working full time and having a bigger family! I love talking to my SAHM friends about life so I appreciate this conversation! I actually come from a family of SAHMs and my husband comes from all working mamas!

  2. Very well written! I love your posts because they´re coming from your heart. I had also never intended to be a stay-at-home-mom, but since we moved to another country with different schooling system, it is a must for our family. Maybe you would be interested in reading how it works at our family. http://www.adinajustina.com/en/2017/10/28/i-have-apologize-for-decision-be-stay-at-home-mum/
    I´m looking forward to your next post!
    xoxo from Switzerland!

  3. Thanks for posting this Katie. I'm a sahm too. I got to it a different way and tbh I'm not always sure how I feel about it. I really appreciated reading your story.

  4. I have kids so was very interested in this post. It definitely sounds like what you do is best for your family. Childcare is so expensive here so working fulltime never earns much you think. Also your kids would not get to do all that sport, that is one area your kids gain, all that personal transportation!

    I am very lucky that I have a flexible part-time job. I worked at the same place for 10 years before having kids so they want to keep that experience. Now I only work when my kids are at school. I drop them off at school then go to work then go pick them up. I don't have time for everything. Buy more expensive pre-prepared food and need a payed cleaner if i want a truly clean house. Its usually just clean enough.
    So we have more money but not really all I earn. But I get to be in an office with just adults using my brain at work which is very different from a 5 and 8 year old at home.
    My husband works long days but has weekends off so that is family and our time.

  5. i was a stay-at-home-mom to 4 children until my youngest was starting grade 1 , then i felt that i would be judged if i didn't go back. because i thought people would think what does she do all day ! so i tried this for way to many years , miserably !!!! finally my husband and i decided that it would be best for me to come back home , i wish i had done it much sooner , my family was so much happier with a parent at home.so much stress was taken off for both my husband and myself and my children were much happier! being at home was definitely what was right for our family ! but you are right ,each family needs to do what is best for their situation !

  6. Once again I so enjoyed your post! I am a SAHM, mostly because I have special needs kids that require me to be flexible and available when needed. I never imagined I would do this- I have grown to (mostly) love it, though there are days I am bored out of my mind! I don't do the bills though- it really stresses me out!

  7. I do find it amazing that you can fit all this stuff into your day!

  8. Wow, I think you are so smart to have one person home and one person working. My husband & I both worked full time & I went to school part time for 5 years while raising 2 beautiful children. I was stressed out & running around like a crazy women trying to keep it all together the entire time. We didn't live near family, so we had no help either. I'm not complaining...just wanted to say that when I look at the life you've created, I think to myself that if I had to do it all over again, I'd like to do it a little more like you :o)

  9. What a fantastic post, thank you!

  10. I've been a SAHM for almost 17 years now. When I got pregnant and found out I was having twins, we looked at the cost of daycare and found out that it would have taken such a big chunk of my salary that it wouldn't even be worth it for me to work. And with having two at once, I never felt guilty about staying home when they were small. Once they started school, I still wanted to stay home and my husband was very open to that, so I've never gone back to a traditional job. Now they only have two more years of high school and I know I'll have to get a job when they're in college to help pay for it. I can tell you I'm not really looking forward to that at all.

  11. Katie - you and Jeri are young and healthy; look into a term life policy for him in the event something happened to him - you could get a policy for less than $50 a month; while you all are young it's a good net. It's not a bad idea for him to have one for you too, because all you do for the family is invaluable and he wouldn't be able to do it and work at the same time. SAHMs are a lot more valuable than people give them credit!

  12. I enjoy your writing, even though we have nothing in common. :)

  13. I used to think I'd like to be a stay at home mom - but without the kids! I have no desire to ever have children. However, when I moved and didn't have a job for about 3 weeks, I literally was going crazy!! I was so bored! I will say part of that was I really didn't know anyone yet, so I wasn't getting my socialization in, and for someone who's very social that was hard. Plus I didn't have an income so I was trying to be careful about spending. I still don't want kids, but if I got married and my husband made enough or didn't want me working, I'd maybe give it another shot. I actually really love my job though, so I'm not sure I'd be willing to give that up.

  14. We don’t currently have children, but since I work as an analyst and my husband is a teacher, I’ll always be the main breadwinner in our family. We’ve actually talked about him being a SAHD, full or part time, when we do have kids. I love the idea of being a SAHM, but with our chosen combo of careers I don’t think it will ever be in the cards for us. I did tell my husband that he would have to do more of the cooking and cleaning than he does now, if he were to stay home! I love my career, and have some long term goals I’d like to reach. My mom was the main breadwinner when I was a kid (my dad was working on his degree for most of my childhood), and I was surprised when my own relationship took a similar turn.

  15. I'm a SAHM of a 10-month-old. I was really on the fence about the decision to quit my job; in fact, I put it off until about halfway through my maternity leave. But I ultimately realized that my job was replaceable, while time with my son was not.

    So far I haven't had the problem of boredom or too much extra time - in fact, quite the opposite, sometimes I miss work because I had so much free time for coffee breaks and the like. But as my son grows older, I'm sure my lifestyle as a SAHM will evolve. I don't know if I'll decide to go back to a job like my old one, or maybe find something else to do that gives me a sense of accomplishment (and perhaps an income). It was really interesting to read about your journey!

  16. Thanks Katy! I love the openness of this conversation! I think each family has to do what works for them. I currently work part-time and I thought once my son was in elementary school I would want to go back to full time. It turns out they need us more when they are older! Homework, field trips, sporting events and on and on! I did work full time for my sons first year. I cryed EVERY day on the way to work b/c I was leaving him and on the way home b/c I felt overwhelmed with having to leave work, what we were going to eat, how messy the house was, how unorganized everything was. It was too much for us! We live a quite 1950s style family but I love it and the peace my family has shows they love it too. Great post! I would offer the advice of having disability insurance on Jerry. It doesn't cost much but it is piece of mind. I always thought I would just go back to work full time but someone pointed out that if something happened to my husband I would be needed even more at home b/c he would need help. A small version of that happened this winter and I can attest that is true!

  17. I chose to be a working Mom. It's important to my husband and I that our daughter graduate with no debt from college. We both have pretty flexible jobs so that also figured into our decision. We're able to save not just for our daughter's college but for retirement and our regular savings account. I also wanted to continue working after we had our daughter (she's 9 years old) that if something were to happen to my husband (get sick or God forbid, die) that I could still support myself and our daughter. I'm a stickler about health insurance so that was another reason I wanted to continue to work because my husband is up for re-election every three years, if he were to lose an election, we'd be without health insurance until he'd get a job. Having two insurances really helped when I developed breast cancer. In the end, it was just the right decision for our family as well as it makes me a happier Mom which I'm sure my daughter would rather have me happy and sane then crabby and crazy.

  18. Thanks for sharing so much.

    i am a single mom by choice and work full time -- one kid is in first grade and the other is home in a nanny share. the budget doesn't work at all. I am in the red every single month. but i get summers off and all school breaks.

    but i've decided to quit my job and move to a less expensive country and rent out my home and see if I can make ends meet. I'll be checking out that blog from a PP who lives in Switzerland.

    I'll either volunteer or work part time but I am really, really looking forward to a slower pace. this life is really hard to maintain.

  19. We are considering this for when our kids are in school because I'd like to be able to drop off/pick up, so this was very timely! We are going to try living on my husband's salary (minus daycare) to see how we do! Thanks for the suggestion!

  20. Thanks for sharing, I would never judge someone who decided to stay at home, it's no one else's business! As someone who recently turned 50 and in the last 2 years had two boys graduate from college, I am very concerned that you are almost 40 and have no emergency fund, investment accounts, life insurance or college savings for your kids. I have quite a few years on you, and am not expecting in any way that social security is going to support us when we retire. My two children just cost me in excess of $100,000 and they went to community college for two years, and were day students to get their BS. It was important to me that my kids not be saddled with crushing student debt for 10+ years. I don't want to alarm you, but you might want to get started on saving for the future.

    1. We do have a nice 401K, life insurance, and college fund for the kids. Noah also just got accepted into a program that pays for his first two years of college, and he'll do those classes during high school--so he'll graduate high school with an associates degree! All for free, including his books. I'm super proud of him :) As soon as we pay off the last chunk of debt, we're going to get to work on an emergency fund. I'm pretty happy with where we stand at this age!

  21. Thank you!!! Thank you!! Thank you!!! I feel like I am reading my own life! It is the best job in the world!!!

  22. My husband and I work full time and have one child. I'm a teacher, which is an awesomely mom-friendly career. Still, I frequently look around my house and think to myself, "The animals are running the zoo!" There's just no one in charge of our home. My husband and I split chores equally and both work our tails off to keep things going, but if often feels like we're putting out fires. Over the summer (and during winter break to a lesser extent) it's AMAZING how much smoother everything goes when I'm home to plan, prep, coordinate, cook, clean, etc. Running a household is work. If that position is vacant (as it is in my house!) it shows and life is harder.

  23. Thank you for posting this! I am also a stay at home mom, with a 2 year old and 3 year old currently. It has been such a blessing for me in many ways, but it can also be very difficult at times because I am with my children 24/7 and rarely get a break. Once our children are in school fulltime I will probably find at least a part time job but until then I am going to enjoy this special time with my little ones.

  24. I respect the heck out of stay at home moms! I have an 11 month old daughter and I took 11 weeks of maternity leave when she was born. Talk about hard work. I relieved to come back to work because in a lot of ways doing my regular job was easier than taking care of her. You guys are amazing for what you and your kids are better for it.

  25. I'm a working mom now. I had the incredible chance to stay home with my daughter the first 9 months after she was born, starting a new job when I went back to work. The time at home was some of the most rewarding but also some of the most challenging of my life. I loved that I got to see every new development in real time, the second she could do it. I felt so close to her. Before kids, I had always viewed SAHMs with jealousy, thinking, "If I can cook for myself and fit in exercise and clean and all the rest while working an almost 90 hour per week job, imagine how much easier it would be if I only had to do the after-work tasks without a full-time job!" I freely admit now I was misguided. With a baby around, especially in the beginning during recovery from her birth, there were plenty of days I could barely feed myself or move dishes from the dining room table to the kitchen sink. It got easier as she got older, but I still felt every day like there were 2-3 more projects I would have liked to accomplish. I LOVE feeling productive. I often stayed awake until the wee hours to finish things I had meant to make time for during the day. I also worried that, with no background in anything kids-related, other kids would have an advantage in learning shapes and colors at appropriate times while I was just cooing over my baby, ecstatic by the things she knew, in the dark about what else she should know! I am fortunate now to work at a job I love (at least most days). I enjoy thinking through difficult issues and having conversations with other adults. I enjoy my commute times and lunch times for quiet reflection, which you don't really get when you're home with kids! I feel like I finally have the mental space to work on some self care and am trying to use some of the time for meal planning, with a goal of working in more exercise time in the months to come. I feel jealous sometimes of SAHMs because the time with kids is precious. I feel jealous sometimes of the interns at my office without families because they can travel every weekend. But mostly, I recognize that the world has a million awesome possibilities, and each person has to find a balance that works. If I could have anything I wanted, I would clone myself so I could both stay at home and work! Both are/were hard, both are/were awesome. If I didn't have student loans and earn most of the income in our household, I would consider being a SAHM seriously. I am sometimes grateful I didn't have to make that decision for myself!

  26. I love that you chose to post your favorite blog posts. This is such a sensitive topic and you did a great job sharing your perspective. If you didn't stay home you may not have written this blog and you are a great writer and bring joy and inspiration to many.
    I stayed home for a few years and loved it - it is a blessing if you can afford it. Even if you don't go back to being the Marathon running girl - just writing about you living your best life and being open to share is amazing. You are very creative from your DIY projects, and your thrift finds, to all the fun stuff you do with your boys I enjoy reading your blog.
    Everyone struggles with finding a good balance with their own unique situation. I wish I had more time to run and be active. Having time over money is a tremendous asset that you cannot buy. Enjoy your time at home - I know your family appreciates you being there for them.


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