Lots of people tell me I’m lucky to be home with my children. They say they can’t afford to live “without their income.” They’re so busy with work they only have time to feed and put the kids to bed with just a few hours of play on the weekend.
What follows is “my story” (how I got here). It’s a bit personal, a bit lengthy and probably TMI (too much information). Most of it is taken directly out of my diary from back when all of this craziness started!
When I was a little girl I had a lot of interests. I thought I’d like to be a paleontologist. Or maybe an animator at Walt Disney Studios. I got really into playing drums. In high school, my burning passion was for technical theatre.
But as all these things passed by in phases – only one interest lasted – being a mother. I wanted very badly to be a mama. I wanted to have a bunch of children and I wanted to stay home and raise them. I played with baby dolls in high school (though I didn’t tell my friends!) I started babysitting as soon as my mom let me. I read every baby magazine I could get my hands on.
This “baby obsession” of mine just grew as I did. One day in a bookstore I picked up a baby magazine that was different than most. I sat down to read and my entire view of parenting was changed. Here was a magazine that talked about breastfeeding. It talked about home birth. It talked about homeschooling, eating healthy foods, and raising your babies and children naturally.
This magazine and the research I did after reading it completely changed the way I wanted to parent – and I became even more passionate about wanting to be a stay at home mom.
A Whirlwind of Changes
Fast forward a few years: I ended up marrying my high school sweetheart, become a Certified Lactation Consultant and was diagnosed with PCOS. PCOS( polycystic ovary syndrome) or PCOD (polycystic ovary disease) Is a disease that affects 1 in 10 women. When I was diagnosed my doctors told me I had a severe case and would need to have kids by the time I am 26 if I wanted them. Living with PCOS and knowing all of this has been hell for me for several years.
Sometimes it was painful for me to see people and their kids knowing what battle might lie ahead for me. I do have 4 wonderful nephews and a niece whom I love and hope to see more of in the coming future. Most of them I never see or don’t see often but I love very much.
I have had a lot of experiences in my life that I have learned from them, things that include family issues, life experiences, personal issues and illnesses along with observance of people and the way they handle problems. Having this disease puts me at a higher risk for diabetes, heart attack, and even endometrial cancer. I do know two other people with this same disease which makes it easier to cope with but doesn’t totally eliminate the worry that comes with PCOS.
Choices Made Long Ago
My husband (Tracy) and I didn’t talk much about children when we first married. We both wanted them, but the subject was touchy for me since we had been trying without any success. At the time, I was struggling with my PCOS diagnosis and we had dug ourselves into debt. By the time we decided it was time to aggressively try to have a child, we had two mortgages, three credit cards with high balances, a car payment, a tractor payment, tool payments and more. I knew I wanted to stay home; there was never any doubt in my mind I would be an at-home mom. I loved my childhood when my mother was home. It just was not as much fun when she started working. I was ten at the time.
We looked over and over our finances. Without some miracle or bankruptcy, there was no way I could stay home. Our bills were too high and my husbands pay just would not cover it. We relied on my income from working as a Certified Lactation Consultant at the Women’s Health Center and Pediatric Department. We had already learned about being frugal. We rarely bought anything new, we ate what we grew and canned (mostly). I knew I could do a garden, I love gardening but that would not decrease our monthly consumer debt payments at all. The choices we had made long ago before any thoughts of children entered our minds were coming to haunt us.
A Baby! Finally
With the help of charting, healthy eating, and a few other techniques I was finally pregnant! I will lay out and share some of these things here on my blog, as I get time.
Early Arrival, Breastfeeding & Breast Pumps
As a mom myself, I understand how important a comfortable, and efficient breast pump really is. My daughter was born 3 weeks early, and although she was raring and ready to go and latched on almost immediately, my body was not ready to meet her demands. Breastfeeding was extremely important to me, and not once had I ever considered not being able to. I struggled for two days at the hospital, using the hospital grade breast pump (Medela Symphony), but my milk was still not fully developed. I ended up having to supplement with formula in order to give my 5-pound daughter some much-needed nutrients. On top of low birth weight, my daughter was also extremely Jaundice, so the need for food was only heightened.
Once at home, I continued to pump using a single electric breast pump given to me by a friend. It was a Playtex pump, but I honestly don’t even remember the model. Needless to say, it didn’t work. I continued to struggle for what seemed like 2 months with several different pumps. I tried the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump, as well as the First Years Basic Pump, nothing worked. Funds were tight, so I was trying to avoid purchasing the more expensive electric breast pumps, but in the end, I spent more on several pumps than I would have had I just purchased a quality pump from the beginning. I finally gave in and purchased my Medela Swing Breast Pump. I can honestly say, if it hadn’t been for my Medela Swing, I never would have been able to continue breastfeeding. Now I know, if I had done it right in the first place, maybe rented a double pump from the hospital for a few months, or bit the bullet and purchase a quality breast pump right away, I would have been able to breastfeed exclusively, and for much longer. Because of this experience, I feel it’s necessary to inform all the soon to be moms or first-time moms out there about the importance of a quality breast pump.
Maternity Leave Ended
Three and a half months later, at the end of my maternity leave, I was still praying for that miracle that would allow me to stay home. It never came. With much reservation, I put Michelle in daycare and returned to work. Luckily I loved my job and my boss. I could pump milk anytime and missing days for illnesses was not a problem.
During this time, I continued to look for ways I could stay home. Breastfeeding was finally going magnificently. I loved that dear time cuddling my baby close to me, especially after work. We both seemed to cherish that time more than any other. My reliance on my breast pump, my love of breastfeeding and my need for extra income prompted me to start giving private lactation counseling from my home and a small maternity clothing blog/eBay store. I finally seemed to see some light at the end of a long dark tunnel of debt. Maybe by the time Michelle was three, I could be home with her full time. I hated it to be that far away but our bills were slowly melting away.
Then, in April, while on our commute home, a semi/tractor trailer hit us. Luckily neither of us was seriously injured. However, my car was a total loss. The entire passenger side and backend was crumpled. I thought I was facing another car payment. I had been without one for over a year, and the thought of another one sickened me. My dream of being home with Michelle was three was slipping away. After much negotiation, the insurance company and I settled on a good figure for my car. Tracy and I decided rather than replace it right away, I would drive his truck (he drives a company vehicle) and we would pay off one mortgage on our land and credit cards. I was still low because I still thought I would be forced into another car payment to have something to drive. Tracy often wanted his truck on weekends, and I felt trapped without a vehicle. I had his company car in an emergency, but that was not the same. I had never done much on weekends before, and now suddenly it seemed like the world was passing without me.
Paying Off Bills
Finally, at the end of June, I was able to settle the injury/suffering claim on the accident. The money paid off all our remaining bills except our house. If we did not buy me a vehicle, I could quit work. As much as I felt trapped by having to share Tracy’s truck, that was a no-brainer for me. I felt Michelle needed me much more than I needed some hunk of metal. I can borrow my Dad’s Blazer or Mom’s van. Eventually, I will probably be able to drive Tracy’s car. It just needs some brake work and possibly a booster seat since I am so small. :o)
Once the check was in hand, we sat down and discussed our options. I decided to quit my job. Originally September 30 was the day I would quit. Now I had to tell my boss, my wonderful boss. I have been working for him for 8+ years. We are friends, good friends. How would I do it?
Giving My Resignation
Deciding how to tell my boss was hard. I had decided being out of the office would be best since we would be constantly interrupted by phone calls, etc. I decided I would invite him to lunch. Having lunch together was not unusual for us. However, by the middle of the week before the 4th of July, the opportunity had not presented itself. Something kept coming up – I was out with Michelle because she was sick, he had other plans, etc. Finally, on Thursday afternoon, I decided I would just have to do it after work. It did not leave much time since I would have to get Michelle. Maybe that was good. When the time came, I choked. Why was this so hard? I made my self literally sick trying to get the words out and finally gave up and left. The next day was not much different.
Over the holiday weekend, I did not have much time to think about it. Relatives were everywhere. I was to be off on Monday, July 5th in observance of the holiday. I got my mother to keep Michelle, and Tracy and I went into town to talk to my boss. I was shaking the whole trip to town. This has been my life for so long. Was I scared of telling him or scared of coming home? Would I be able to handle this? Michelle can get on my nerves so now, will I be able to handle this 24/7? I think that is what had me so spooked. But I was also telling one of my best friends, my boss, I was leaving. His support means so much. I know I would not lose it, but he certainly would not be in the next room anymore.
When Tracy and I get to the office, my boss is there working as usual. It is not unusual for him to see me on holiday but I could tell he knew something was up. I finally got out the words: “That check we got paid off all our bills. As of August 13th, I will be staying home with Michelle full time.” He said, “That is where you should be. [My wife] keeps asking why you weren’t home already.”
That was that. We discussed finding my replacement, what needed to be done between then and the 13th of August and little else. Since then we have gotten into the nitty-gritty of finding my replacement, discussing needs and wants. The temp agencies I have spoken to think it is hilarious I am looking for my own replacement. My boss has no time, when is he supposed to look.
Little has been said thus far about how we feel. He has made a few comments about being lost without me. I don’t think I actually do that much. He is skipping a seminar so he will not miss my last day.
It is beginning to hit me that my life is about to change dramatically. Though this has always been what I wanted, I am scared out of my wits. Can I entertain and teach a toddler, cook a couple of meals a day, get at least some laundry done and eventually run a website business on my own. We live in the country with no one around. Is the lack of adult interaction going to fry my brain? Will email be enough?
I have also realized even more how much I will miss the day to day interactions with my boss. We sit and talk about everything after work. Before Michelle, we usually talked for a 1/2 hour or so. I don’t think I talked that much per day with Tracy. I mean we talked about bills, what needed doing at home, etc. but not world events, personal relationships, etc. It is like losing a best friend. Will that happens because of these changes?
Finding a replacement
I began my search for my replacement by calling on the temp-to-perm companies in the phone book. Boy, what a complicated mess. We decided to look on our own for three weeks. If no one had presented themselves to be suitable at that time, we would see about one of the agencies.
Lo and behold after a few days of calling contacts, we have our first applicant. The interview goes well. Then comes another and another. We finally decide on one, and she says yes. She is due to start on August 9.
In the meantime, I am cleaning out my office. Nine years I have been here. I have accumulated a lot of junk, especially since it has been four years since we have moved into these offices. I find stuff it has been years since I have seen. I find one of Michelle’s birth announcements and start to cry. I somehow feel this will be a more significant change than I went through at that time. Michelle is definitely more challenging now.
I have been keeping a diary for her since I returned to work. As I am cleaning my hard drive, I stop to read through each entry. My heart wrenches as I read about one ear infection after another and my decision to leave the daycare causing them. Finally, she is healthy, but I then go through the aggravation of finding a daycare that accepts breastfed babies. She is not an alien; she is breastfed. I hope one day when I give these writings to Michelle; she will have insight and wisdom(?) to help her with decisions I had little guidance on.
My boss and I do not mention my leaving for a while after hiring my replacement. He is obviously mentioning it to colleagues and friends as they call and wish me well. A few say I will be back in a couple of months. Will I?
Preparations at Home
Preparations at home are not going as well. I still have closets to clean out, papers to file, freezer to stock, etc. I have all these ideas of what I plan to accomplish before coming home and after. I want my house organized even if my life will not be. I figure I should start with my closet since most of the stuff there will be unused for a great while. Some of the stuff will be easy to part with. But others, items bought specially for work, especially ones purchased so that I could nurse Michelle after work may just have to stay a while. I also want a lot of this dust gone. It’s depressing to see all of this dust. Soon I will be looking at it every day.
And what about outside. We need some shade trees planted around the swing set. And my fall garden needs to be bigger. I need to get the rose bush moved into some sun so it will bloom. What good is a rose bush that won’t bloom?
All of these things go dancing through my head, and I wonder if I am crazy. I can’t do all this stuff in the next couple of months. For one, its 100 degrees outside. For another, I will be at home with a toddler – a toddler needing love and teaching and feeding and nurturing. Those are my priorities. Can I do it all?
Last Days Of Work
Here I am a little over a week away from my last day. My replacement starts Monday, and my office is a disaster area. Who knew you collected so much junk in your office. I am suffering from a lot of self-doubt and “separation” anxiety. I have probably said this more than once. I have been here for nine years. I was 18 when I started. I had been out of high school a year. I have taken down most of my pictures of Michelle. They have sustained me through all my days away from her. My angel face with that wonderful smile. My favorite one of her in a kitchen cabinet peering out of the door with that incredible grin is still up, supporting me through the next few days. These have been my quiet lifeline. Am I now going to be able to handle her constant needs? Or will I find that during the day she is actually more independent than I realize? Is she so clingy now because we have so precious little time together? Will I be driven to madness by her constant chatter and sometimes ceaseless nursing? I worry and agonize. I have been planning what I can do to possibly relieve the stress since basically, I will be miles from anyone. The Zoo, the park, lunch with Daddy. Unfortunately all about a half, an hour car ride away.
Her sleep patterns lately have been chaotic. I am short-tempered when sleep deprived. At least maybe at home, I could get her to take a nap with me – maybe. What if I can’t? Those may be good days to get out of the house. When it cools off, take a walk and have a picnic by the creek. Visions of sugar plums dance in my head – at least relaxed days having fun. Will they come true? I wonder about internet support. I have been looking but found little. I can find a forum, newsgroup, web page or chat room for just about everything except coming home to a toddler. Am I the only mother in the world choosing to make this change this late in my child’s life? I would not think so. I guess I better keep looking.
Final Day At Work
I wondered this morning if it was an omen that my last day at work was Friday the 13th. I have felt like a fifth wheel most of the week since my replacement started on Monday the 9th. She is competent and a lot neater than me. I wonder if my boss will start realizing all my inadequacies. I guess it does not matter much now. But I wonder . . .
Today was hard. Luckily I was busy, so I had little chance to think. I had to come face to face with the fact I am leaving when my dad came to help me load my truck. The office seemed so bare without all my stuff (junk) everywhere. My boss and I had lunch together. I know it probably will not be the last time, I mean I am not moving to Alaska or anything, but it felt so final. To me anyway. At the end of the day, we talked like so many times before. The weather, our children, clients needs, stuff . . . We both needed to leave about the same time, and he helped me carry out my last box. Those moments felt awkward. I was not going to be back Monday morning to pick up where today left off. My boss said thank you. He thanked me when I should have been thanking him in so many ways. I just could not get it out. He’s been a wonderful boss and even better friend for close to 9 years. We have shared more than most can imagine, definitely more than most bosses share with their employees and employees with their bosses. I have no clue where I would be now if he had called so long ago to say sorry I found someone else to fill the position. I have learned about life, business, friendships, and relationships. My husband and my sister are the only friends I have had longer. Most times I think I probably shared more with my boss. I never felt judged. Our relationship was uncomplicated and easy. That is so rare. I know he is still there and always will be.
One week later
Tonight I am sitting here alone much as I was a week ago. I am not nearly as sad. But this week has been hard. Michelle has been unusually clingy. She has thrown tantrums like I did not know she could. I have been bitten and have seven claw marks on my right hand. Defiance does not describe this week. We saw the ped about night waking, and she was diagnosed with night terrors.
However, this week has been wonderful. I have seen her angelic smile flash more times than I can count. We made cornbread together, played in the pool and took long walks with her in the wagon. She cried on my shoulder when she hit her head, mine. I could go on and on.
This week has definitely not gone as expected. My house is a disaster area, I have done 22 loads of laundry and am just seeing the light at the end of the laundry basket, there are still cobwebs on my kitchen ceiling, and the rose bush I intend to move this fall is almost dead from the drought. But, I have tomorrow and every day next week to work on all that. So basically, I am here, learning and surviving.
Settling In – Sort of
The last week and a half has been hectic and filled with ups and downs. I am not quite as happy as I thought I would be and I am much more tired. I had unrealistic expectations that Michelle’s defiance and the fact that she utterly ignores me sometimes would become manageable when I came home. Things are improving, but it is rough. My dear husband believes I have no control over her. I don’t feel I should be trying to control her. This is causing a lot of conflicts, to say the least. I wish he might consider counseling. Although our marriage is currently intact, I think it would help us greatly. He doesn’t see we have a problem. Just me and my control over Michelle. I expect her to respect my authority but control . . .
Anyway, the weather is cooling down slightly – to the low 90s. I am enjoying the time outside a lot. We swing, weed the garden, swim, walk and ride her back. I will have to say I am a little big for a tricycle. I am finding it hard to get a lot of work done though. She wants a lot of time with me and me her. Also, when I sit at the computer, she wants to play Blue’s Clues or her Pre-K game. She does not want to watch Mommy write articles for the maternity clothing blog/website and reply to eBay inquiries. We are falling into a groove though. She plays for 10 minutes and I work for five.
Since I am so tired, romance is slacking off some. I never could understand why everyone complained of not being intimate after children were born. Tracy and I had little trouble. I will admit it was not as often as before Michelle, but responsibilities multiplied 100 fold. But now, I understand. When you stay at home, you work much harder than when you “worked.” I am exhausted. I scrub and fold, chase and tumble, wash and laugh. I need two more hours each day so I can sleep more. Next month, I will be meeting with more friends and going to La Leche League meetings again. Now I will actually get to take Michelle along.
Time sure does fly. Things have been going great. Michelle and I have settled into a routine, that although probably not the best, works. She gets two hours every morning to play computer games or watch TV. Then off with the computer and TV. During those two hours, I write articles, work on websites, etc. At ten we play, clean, tumble, fight, etc. Oh, it is not all roses. But, we are learning. I get “Yes, Ma’am”s instead of “yeah”s and pleases and thank yous. She gets a quieter, less angry mom (most of the time). However, it has been a tough road getting here. I thought I had learned a lot in the 2 1/2 years since Michelle was born. I have learned a lot more in the two months I have been home. I have cried a lot. Probably more than Michelle. I cried with her tonight when for the 6th day in a row her Daddy worked from daylight to dark. Then tonight had to go back out to work. She sobbed so, and so did I. It is hard watching the two worlds collide so. He wants to stay with her as much as she wants him to stay. One day . . .
I have definitely been more tired than I ever expected. And I get a lot less done. Somehow though, that is all right. It gets done . . . Eventually. I mainly try to keep a routine. When that gets messed up, I am off kilter for a week or more. Laundry is the main place I get messed up. If I do not do two loads a day it really piles up and I wind up spending two whole days of nothing but laundry then everything else is behind. Ugh. But overall, so far, I can say that I love the daily comings and goings-ons of my family. It is wonderful to sit and enjoy instead of feeling like it is all passing me by.
Well, this installment is much later. Time sure does fly. Unfortunately, though, this time has been spent a lot at hospitals. My grandmother has been sick. My husband’s best friend’s daughter who is also a very good friend of Michelle’s is very sick in the hospital. We are coping but it is hard.
Michelle is doing well at home. We butt heads some. She is now a very bright independent three-year-old. Time sure does fly. Her tantrums are at a minimum, but her attitude gets her in some trouble. In trying to make sure she knew she had the option of “no” in some circumstances, I did not do a good job of letting her know which ones. We are coping, but I get “NO” sometimes when I least want to hear it. Michelle had to have glasses, and that is the time I usually hear no. She is not extremely happy with them. She is learning, and so am I.
Sharing Nipples And Cloth Diapers
Well, things have been moving more quickly than before. Everything is going quite well. Michelle and I still seem to be butting heads a bit, but I imagine that will not change in the next 30 years or so. Also, I am proud to say that quite unexpectedly, baby #2 is to make an appearance around the 1st of July. This news has turned this house more than a little topsy-turvy. Michelle is excited though at the prospect of a baby in the house. Just wait until she realizes she has to share “her nipples.” I am trying to prepare her for that.
I am getting better at being organized and getting things done. My house is somewhat neater. Michelle loves clean-up time. She walks around saying “clean-up, clean-up, everybody clean-up.” It is just adorable. We are baking some together in an attempt to get away from so much sugar. Also, we are painting, and Michelle is learning how to manage glue and school scissors to make paper bag puppets. Sometime in the next couple of months, I want to get her into a preschool/playgroup a time or two a week. We just live so far from anything like that. It is frustrating to consider driving 45 minutes for a three-hour class. But, I know it will be good for her. She is not sharing as well as she used to. Reading over this it all sounds so idyllic. It’s not. She and I fight, especially over food. and Tracy and I argue, especially over matters of the impending arrival of #2 and the need for such things as a vehicle two car seats will fit in. He also was not too happy over the money I spent on cloth diapers until I reminded him what one year of disposables would cost. During the 2 1/2 years, this baby will probably be in diapers we would have spent more on disposables than on the truck we are looking to buy me. That kinda shut him up a little. It is funny; I feel more self-sufficient being at home with my tiny bit of income from my website business than I did working full-time with a whole lot more money coming in.
My Journey to “WAHM”
Fast forward a few years: Three small children – and I was home with them. But the price was very high. There wasn’t a lot of money and there were a lot of disagreements. Up until now, I had only written pieces for other blogs, stores, etc. ghost-writing they call it. But I wanted more, I wanted a website of my own where I could share my knowledge and experiences. The maternity blog/store just wasn’t giving me the income or satisfaction I was looking for.
I first wanted to begin working online because things were so tough financially. My family was struggling – in so many ways. I didn’t have much to go on but I’d found an “ebook” that made a lot of sense to me. I read it and decided I wanted to try that strategy. I planned to follow my dreams and start two websites built upon my passions, breastfeeding and breast pumps.
As I started working on my new websites, the sites started growing. I was a busy mom so I didn’t have quite as much time to work on it as I’m sure most website owners do. I worked slowly and steadily and my site grew – and people began visiting. Then the money started to come in, slowly and very little but I held hope it would grow. I worked late at night on my website. I did some paid surveys and designed a few websites for clients.
Those months were really tough. It was so hard to balance everything (I didn’t like “working for someone else” at all!). The money I was making came in every month, deposited to my bank account – sometimes while I slept (PayPal is a wonderful thing – LOL)
Best of all, I worked on my sites, on my own terms – when I could. It didn’t conflict with me taking care of my kids like the other “work.”
Success My Way
Update – Life is going well here. We’ve added a new baby to our family. And slightly less exciting, but still pretty awesome, we’ve paid off our mortgage… Exactly 258 months early! It feels really good to know that my websites are a big part of that. My sites (along with my husband’s good sense) have given us the freedom to make extra mortgage payments and free ourselves from debt completely!
What’s next? I expect Breast Pump Guide, and Breast Feeding And You.com will be helping us buy our dream… a hobby farm so we can have a house full of kids, a yard full of chickens, and room for all of them to run!
Many people tell me how great it is that I’m a stay-at-home mom. And how they wish they could stay at home. Well…
What are you waiting for? If I’m making enough to let me stay at home with my kids…
You can do it too!
How? Be you! Be honest, share your knowledge, follow your passion, don’t take shortcuts, and above all else give reliable information and only recommend products that you have used/tested or have done complete research on.
Never take “sponsored” products to test! Sponsored products are products given to you for free or that you have been compensated to write about.
Why? Think about it. If you have two people and they are recommending the exact same product… who are you going to feel has more credibility? Person A who doesn’t have a dime invested in the product, but instead is getting something for free to tell you how great it is OR person B who purchased the item out of her own pocket and isn’t afraid to tell you the cons as well as the pros? Person B has no loyalty to any brand whereas person A isn’t going to want to piss off the Companies who sponsor and make them their money!
When it comes to writing reviews for certain products, personal experience knows best, however, I will be honest, I have not tried every one of the breast pumps listed on my website, but I have done extensive research, at least enough to feel comfortable giving you my opinion.
This website is designed to show you your options. From manual breast pumps to electric singles and double, as well as hospital grade breast pumps. You’ll be able to compare features, prices, and customer feedback, as well as view video demonstrations. My goal is to find you the perfect breast pump that will fit your needs as well as your baby’s needs.
I want to have a connection and help as many people as I can. Please enjoy my website and leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.
Enjoy Your Visit!
P.S. This website is still in the beginning stages, so if there’s a breast pump you’re interested in, and you don’t see a review listed for it, leave me a comment. I’ll do the research and provide you with the answer.