Yes, you saw that correctly. I officially resigned from my position as a public school teacher. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. I had (still have) lots of questions – will I ever find another public school job? Will we be able to swing it on only one income until both the kids are in school? Will I ever be able to pay back my college loans? If I find a new job, will I make new friends who are just as awesome?
I know that we made the right decision, though I still have minor anxieties about it. Here are a few of the discussion points that made us sure that someone needed to stay home with the kids. Maybe they will help you decide if resigning is the right move in your situation.
1.) Amount of time at work. I was a commuting teacher, so I was in the car for 2 hours a day, had normal responsibilities and (being a music teacher) often had after school or evening commitments. My husband works from 8:30-5…or 5:30…or 6… so that is a lot of time away from home for our kids. With one child, we would both get home at around 5:30. Then we would make dinner, eat dinner, play for a few minutes and then have to start the bedtime routine…then get ready to go to work the next day, pass out (get woken up 50 times a night because my daughter was ridiculous) and do it all over again the next day. Exhausting! With two it would have just been divide-and-conquer, and that is a hard way to build a family dynamic.
2.) Daycare situation. My mom watched my daughter from the time she was 6 weeks old until she was almost 2 1/2, when I started persistently going into preterm labor with my son and had to stop working. Her health took a turn for the worse when I was on maternity leave and she was no longer able to watch the kids. So, not only did we have to look at inferior childcare (because we were spoiled and no caregiver was going to love our children as much as my mom), we were going to have to pay through the nose for it.
3.) Budget. This was the hardest part of the decision. Honestly, we never thought we would be able to do it, and I was insanely jealous of anyone who could. When I went out on maternity leave, I had been making the same amount as my husband. We owe an arm, a leg, and three fingers to the government for our student loans. We also own a house. But, we buckled down and made the Most Meticulously Stringent Budget Ever and pinched every penny until it bled…and it worked. We eat a lot of reconstituted dried beans and rice. We know where all the deals are. We rarely go out. We buy absolutely nothing that hasn’t been budgeted for in advance. If it isn’t on the shopping list, it doesn’t get purchased. We questioned every single expense – hence, the absence of a television from our lives. We sold stuff. We unashamedly and gratefully accept all sorts of hand-me-downs from friends. We fix things that break, or figure out how to do without. My son has pink boots. We decided that if everything went to pot and JP lost his job and we had to sell everything and the house and move in with our parents, we were OK with that. We figured that if we could make it work, we would, and committed to it.
4.) Stress Level. Some women are probably much better at juggling everything than I was. If you think that perfectionism sounds like a lame problem to have, I understand, but it really can be debilitating when you’re a mom. I don’t just feel bummed when I can’t do something to the absolute best of my ability. I feel like the world is about to end. As a working mom, I felt like I wasn’t doing my best as a wife, mom, OR at my job. Everyone was getting a fraction of me. I was doing the best that I could with the resources I had at all three, of course, but it didn’t feel that way. Unfortunately, this translated to me being majorly stressed out. I managed to kind of hide it to my daughter and (I think) at my job, but my husband got the I-have-absolutely-nothing-left-to-give dregs that were left after everything else. He still loves me (because he’s awesome), but I was pretty hard to love with that much on my plate. When I could focus on just being a wife and mom (and, for a few hours a week, teaching and writing for extra income), I became a different person. Relaxed. Flexible. Patient. Joyful. Intentional. And I can keep a (sort of, almost, if you don’t look very close) clean house. Who knew?
5.) What is best for the kids? We decided that, if our kids could make a cogent decision, they would choose to live in the basement of their grandparents’ house and have more time with us rather than stay in our house and see us for only two or three hours every weekday. If their dad loses his job, that’s what will happen. Knowing that this was the absolute worst case scenario – and that we didn’t think it seemed so bad – helped tremendously with our decision. My son has, since birth, been particularly attached to me. My daughter has that special connection with my husband. Both of them enjoy seeing other people, but they really shine when they are at home in their own environment. Paired with the fact that I really shine when I’m at home in my environment, (teaching my favorite students how to be excellent little humans), the decision became much clearer.
6.) Breastfeeding. This was the reason that I get to be the one home instead of my husband. My mammary capabilities far exceed his. The thought of pumping every day, twice a day at work (again – I did it with my daughter) made me just cry. And where would we get the money for formula? If you added daycare, formula and gas costs together, you pretty much had my whole paycheck. Personally, I didn’t really want to use my whole paycheck to pay for things that I wouldn’t need to pay for if I wasn’t working.
How will we pay back our college loans? I don’t know. It will happen (the government will make sure of that!). I do know that our kids are going to have a stable childhood, and I am going to be able to say that I enjoyed every second that they were little when they aren’t little anymore…which will be very, very soon.