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