how i became a stay at home mama

I think is time to share our story.  The story of how I became a stay at home mama.  The story of how I went from making $34-$40 per hour to $0 per hour.

I have been wanting to write this post for some time, but was prompted today by the propane bill left on our door; the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back I suppose.  A familiar knot tightened in my belly as I checked the status of our bank account; there’s a pulse, but only a faint one.  This week alone sees $2400 leaving our bank account not including groceries, gas or any other frivolities.   It is days like this I wonder how we’ve managed to do this as long as we have.

In the beginning, I worked as a Dental Assistant for about a year and a half and then went back to school for Dental Hygiene.  I liked my job, but thought if I made more money I would be able to pay down my loans that much faster.  Instead, I nearly died going through the intensive two year program, came out with double the loans and a job I hated.  A rather expensive lesson to say the least.  If we were to do it again, I would have just started our family and garden earlier.

When I became pregnant in 2008, I wanted more than anything to stay home with our baby, but knew it wasn’t going to be possible when we crunched the numbers.  It saddened us, but in my heart I knew that if we wanted something bad enough we would find a way.  In Canada, we are blessed to have a full year of maternity pay (I received the maximum amount of about $1600 per month).  That was less than half of what I had been making as a hygienist, but a true blessing as it gave us a year to realize that we could in fact live on less money.  It proved the old adage to be true; the more you make, the more you spend and vise versa.

Now, as soon as I saw Poppy’s wee face I knew in that moment there was no way I would be leaving her to go back to a job I hated.  I just had to figure out how to explain a gut feeling to a logical husband.  It was much like the feeling I had when we bought our house; I had to listen to it and follow through on it.  So after a year of maternity pay, we dropped down to me making nothing (except the $150/month we receive from the government).  That was two years ago and we are still afloat, but it isn’t easy.

Lets be real, we live pay cheque to pay cheque.  We pay into an RESP for the kids (which is matched by our government) and keep trying to establish a savings account that is often obliterated by things like repairing stoves and tree felling.  We do our best never to carry credit card debt and pay down our debts each month rather than collect more.  We live a simple, back to basic life filled with second hand clothing and furniture, and keep our house at a chilly 65*.  We have no shortage of bills; mortgage, car insurance, life insurance, house insurance, phone,  internet, hydro, propane, gas for the car, groceries, car payment, 3 large loan repayments, savings, and the RESP.  Needless to say, it doesn’t leave a whole lot for life’s little emergencies and repairs.

It isn’t easy nor is it glamourous and I can’t always explain why we do this to ourselves, but it is important that we do it.  I grow tired of not being able to buy a new pair of jeans when mine are too big and worn through.  I wish we could afford another car so I could get out of the house every once in a while.  I wish I could buy the materials for small decorating projects like slip covers or improving the insulation in our upstairs.  I wish we could go out to our favourite Indian restaurant every once in a while.  There are days it would be fun to have cable.

There are days I want to cry and quit.  But, there are also days I am so grateful for the room to breathe and move freely through our days.  There are moments my heart nearly bursts with pride and joy as I witness my children reach new levels and learn new skills.  Lets be honest, there are moments of magic and bull shit everyday and I try to take it all in stride.  Everyday, I become as I roll and tumble with the punches.

This isn’t a woe is me post, but a reality post.  We all have our circumstances and stories and I just wanted to share ours.  Perhaps you’ll recognize yourself in our story and make it happen, if that is what you want; perhaps not.

In a breathless moment of not knowing how we will handle the challenges at hand I turned to writing and sharing, as I always do.  I hope you don’t mind.

The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

go gently + be wonderful


Be Sociable, Share!
This entry was posted in family, frugal living, homeschooling, homesteading, life. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Posted January 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm by Heather | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing again…”magic and bullshit”…what an accurate turn of phrase for some days! Oh to balance it out…

  2. Posted January 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm by Jules | Permalink

    I appreciate your honesty here. I struggle as well with things like budgeting and living within my means. I am sincerely impressed with the life that you have created for your family as both my husband and I work full time with one kid and live mostly paycheck to paycheck.

    Love Jules

  3. Posted January 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm by Emmy | Permalink

    Often I find myself reading your posts and feeling we’re kindred spirits. I so appreciate you for sharing your story. Ours mirrors your’s. I tell others that decided to stay home to raise your family is all about the sacrifices you’re willing to make – even if you plan well in advance to doing it.


  4. Posted January 11, 2012 at 9:32 pm by Stephanie K. | Permalink

    Like Emmy, I get that kindred feeling. I finally acknowledged to my husband that although it seems like it’s about time for me to go back to work full-time (I’m a teacher, and the main “breadwinner”), my deepest desire is to stay home one more year part time. We’ve been living pretty much the way you have, by the sounds of it. A friend who is having her sixth (!) baby just said to me the other day (when I commented that I don’t think we can afford another child) that when we’re in our fifties, we’ll look back and know that we would have lived in a tent and eaten roots and berries if it meant having that child. Another wise friend tells me…you’ll NEVER regret being broke when your kids are young because you stayed home with them. But you’d ALWAYS regret going back to work. I love that our generation of women are reclaiming some of what women lost with the women’s movement. I’m grateful for my education and career…but sometimes wish I had the “freedom” to stay home full time. Lovely, thought-provoking post.

    • Posted January 12, 2012 at 9:39 am by erin | Permalink

      I always love your comments! So substantial and thought provoking.
      It all feels so insane right now and when we talk about having a third we joke about something we heard Louise CK say “what the eff is the point of an adult without kids?”…Not quite as beautiful as your friend’s wisdoms, but effective and true 😉
      We must get together sometime!

  5. Posted January 11, 2012 at 10:46 pm by Ana | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing your story. I remember reading you back in the days when you were struggling to the breaking point with school. I often marvel at how much a different person you seem now. Even though the stresses of life haven’t gone away, just changed into the ones you speak of in this post – it’s obvious you’re generally more happier and centered now than you were back then. <3.

    • Posted January 12, 2012 at 9:36 am by erin | Permalink

      I would love to remove school from my history and bank account, but I think it was necessary. I placed me in the hottest water I’ve ever felt and made me realize the life I truly wanted. I am not sure I would have come to this happy place as soon without that.
      Thank you for always reading. Xanga was a special and magical place for sure and I am stunned by how many friendships have come from that space!
      May you find your peace Ana.
      Much Love,

  6. Posted January 11, 2012 at 11:02 pm by Mandy | Permalink

    Ive been a lurker of your blog for probably over a year and I resonate with your posts so often, today especially. Your story is practically an exact replica of mine. Once I held my first born in my arms, that was it. The difference was that I still hung on to that idea that I would go back to work, even though I didnt want to and knew I wouldnt, if that makes sense. I even went as far as to ok-ing a daycare, without seeing it, based on my friends recommendation…oh, how foolish and niave I was. It didnt take me long to figure out what was best, what was needed, what made my heart full again. Once he was in my arms, I let the world readjust itself around me, instead of the other way around. Its bittersweet, my love for my 2 sons fills me with tears in one way or another literally each day. From the moments in unschooling that I see they “got it”, to the guilt I have because I didnt do enough, or didnt share my love the way I could have. But I do know, that I am here, they see my struggles, they know I am human, they feel my love, whether I am perfect or not. Thanks for writing. I dont blog, but I read them, yours in particular. Someday I hope my great, great grandchildren will ask me my story and I live long enough to share it and I do admire those like you who are willing to share them to the entire world.

    • Posted January 12, 2012 at 9:33 am by erin | Permalink

      Thank you so much for the kind words and breaking the “lurker” silence 😉
      It is moments and comments like these that inspire me to keep moving.

  7. Posted January 11, 2012 at 11:48 pm by nicole i | Permalink

    i appreciate your candor, your gentleness and your ability to note the “magic and bullshit”.

    • Posted January 12, 2012 at 9:31 am by erin | Permalink

      Thank you for reading and thank you for the kind words.

  8. Posted January 12, 2012 at 11:31 am by Johanna | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing your story Erin. You have been very inspiring to me and find myself coming here often because you are so relatable and honest.
    You have such a real way of putting things, and I love that you don’t candy coat your writing.
    From one mama to another, thank you xox

    • Posted January 12, 2012 at 12:32 pm by erin | Permalink

      Thank you for your sweet words. I means so much to me when people as inspiring as yourself find comfort in my words.
      It puts wind back in my sails.

  9. Posted January 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm by Kelly | Permalink

    Wonderful post! <3

  10. Posted January 12, 2012 at 11:41 pm by Wendy Woodhouse | Permalink

    Hello Erin! Than you Erin for sharing your recent story. The place that you have found in your young years of life can take a life time for a big percentage of people to ever find. I find your writing so easy to immerse myself into. So my dear Lady, keep up the wonderful things that you are doing. Through all of this I can only see blessings for you and all of your family. Love Wendy Woodhouse. .

    • Posted January 13, 2012 at 9:29 am by erin | Permalink

      These are lovely words Wendy.
      Thank you so much.

  11. Posted January 13, 2012 at 2:18 pm by Amanda | Permalink

    I don’t think anyone goes to their grave thinking “gee, I should have worked more, and spent less time with the family”…I like this post :)

  12. Posted January 17, 2012 at 11:55 am by Laura Jeanne | Permalink

    Hi Erin,
    This is Laura of The Wood Garden. I really enjoyed this post – my situation is similar to your own. I used to work in a chiropractic office, but I decided to stay at home once our second child was born. I have never regretted it, but it sure has been tough, especially since my husband went for many years without a steady job. Now, he has one, but we have oh so much debt! Mostly student loans. It’s kind of scary sometimes. I believe I am doing the right thing though. Oh, and I totally hear you on the jeans…

    • Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm by erin | Permalink

      Thanks so much for writing!
      So nice to know we are not alone in our journey.
      Glad you’re enjoying the blog and I hope we can get to know each other better through it.

  13. Posted February 3, 2012 at 7:11 am by teresa c | Permalink

    I’ve just found your blog and I’m reading some bits and pieces. Then I came across this entry and my heart melted down… Because I’m struggling with a feeling of not belonging in the professional world ever since my son was born – better, ever since I had to resume my job. Not only my priorities shifted completly, my interest in my profession is virtually non-existant, but I feel terribly wrong when I think I have to leave my baby in a day care, paying someone to do what I really want to be doing and missing my baby’s smiles and little and big achievements…

    At the same time, I wish we could leave the city and go to the country, where we could have a garden, maybe some chickens… and live a simpler life. We try to live a simple life where we are now – we don’t spend over our budget, we don’t buy un necessary stuff (and keep asking if we really need this and that), we don’t have a large house, we have second hand cars (mine is third hand, actually) and that means we have some nice savings. But I’ve been used to have my money for a long time, how would I feel if I hadn’t it?

    Of course there may be a bit of a romantism view about the staying at home, so thank you for your honesty.

    I wish I could make a decision to act the way I feel it’s right.

    • Posted February 3, 2012 at 7:26 am by erin | Permalink

      I love the quote: “if it is important to you, you will find a way…”
      If this is something you really want then you should do it. I knew I wanted it, but didn’t think it was feasible and then did it anyway. That is why I shared my story; because so many women seem to think they can’t do it.
      I hope you find your peace, whatever that is. Thank you so much for writing and stopping by. I hope you’ll be back :)

      • Posted February 3, 2012 at 7:41 am by teresa c | Permalink

        Thank you for replying! The problem is exactly that, I don’t think it is feasible; on the other hand, some major changes may be wainting in the future, since the economic situation in my country is pretty bad and work is shortening (so going to the country could be an option). In the meantime, we’re thinking about a second child, and that would change the balance as well.
        I’m sure I’ll keep up with your blog. I’ve already took notes on some recipes and will try the deodorant and lip balm as soon as I get the ingredients. Thank you again!

        • Posted February 3, 2012 at 7:47 am by erin | Permalink

          I am sorry if I sounded flippant or bossy, It wasn’t my intention at all!
          I just like to see others happy and want everyone to know it may not be easy, but doable. I hope you come to the right answer FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. That is what I meant to emphasize :)
          Let me know how you do with the recipes!

          • Posted February 3, 2012 at 8:00 am by teresa c | Permalink

            No, you didn’t sound like that at all! On the contrary, your story shows that we can do it, if we put our efforts into it – and accept the consequences. All the changes that are to come may be an opportunity rather than a drawback, and your blog is surely an inspiration. :)

          • Posted February 3, 2012 at 5:01 pm by erin | Permalink

            Oh, I am glad and I do wish you peace on the matter.
            Thanks so much for your kind words.

  14. Posted March 7, 2012 at 10:52 am by Willow | Permalink

    do you know this one:
    use it up, wear it out,
    make it do, do without
    an old quote from the great depression, but something very relevent for anyone choosing to like a more simple, more self-sufficient life. sure we make sacrifices to stay home and yeah, not having money can be stressful…but you can’t eat money, and you can’t get time back. we’re rich where it counts!

    • Posted March 7, 2012 at 11:38 am by erin | Permalink

      This is great!
      All of it. Thank you so much for sharing.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>