How it all began
It was a week or two before I was due to go back to work after 4 months of unpaid maternity leave. I was exhausted and emotional and being eaten up with about five different types of guilt that comes hand in hand with having a newborn. One thing I knew with absolute certainty though, is that I wanted to stay at home and care for our baby myself. The idea had been at the back of my mind for weeks but I hadn’t been ready to voice it because the idea seemed so unrealistic. My employer had agreed to my request for a half day position and we had found a nanny to watch baby while I was away. We had a plan.
Then the wheels fell off
The nanny we had hired found a full day position elsewhere a few days before she was supposed to start training with me. Our only back up plan was my in-laws but something I have always been adamant about is that I didn’t want grandparents raising our kid. You can tell a nanny the way you want things done but good luck telling grandparents. They will say yes and then probably so what they think is best instead. Not a road I wanted to go down.
So now it was a fortnight before my return to work. We had no nanny and there was no way that I would leave our child with someone I hadn’t trained and supervised fully and she was so little that just the idea of dropping her off at a creche gave me heart palpitations. When I made my announcement in the lounge that night, I fully expected to be met with patient rejection but instead my incredible husband calmed me down and said “if that is what you want, then we will make it work”. Just like that he gave me the second greatest gift of my lifetime (the first and third being our girls). I can’t explain the weight that was lifted off my chest. I felt as if I could breathe again. I wouldn’t have to leave my baby in the morning. I wouldn’t have to worry about applying for leave when she was ill and needed me. Our daughter would have the person who loved her the most in the world looking after her.
A leap of faith
That night we did the math. Losing our second income would mean major changes in our lifestyle. The most obvious of those was that we would have to sell my car and lose our domestic helper. The less obvious changes was that we had to cut down on our spending, savings, luxuries and holidays were out of the question. If this was going to be the way forward then sacrifices would have to be made. And that was it. I resigned the next day.
Pride comes before the fall
That was the day that I lost my financial freedom and it has been a journey trying to come to terms with that. My parents raised my sister and I to value our education and to make sure that we could always take care of ourselves financially so that we wouldn’t ever need to rely on a man for anything. Yet here I was, shelving all those years of study so that I could stay at home with my baby and have my husband take care of me. It was not an easy thing to wrap my head around and I really struggled. I used up all my savings in the first year to pay for my own debit orders and personal spending out of pride more than necessity. It wasn’t expected but I needed to do it because I was still clinging to the idea that I was contributing financially to our home.
When my savings ran dry I had to admit defeat. I would like to say that I did so with grace but I didn’t. My husband denies me nothing but the sheer act of having to ask for permission to buy before buying it really grated at me. In hindsight I could have just went ahead and bought whatever it is I wanted but in my mind it was HIS money instead of OURS (regardless of how many times he told me otherwise) and I had to ask first. I’m not the wife who takes her husbands credit card on a shopping spree. I have always been fiercely independent and this was a major learning curve.
Making the mental shift
In time we found our groove. It was a mental shift of looking at our family as a unit as opposed to two individuals contributing to the whole. This meant me seeing value in what I was doing as a stay at home mum and appreciating my non-monetary contributions to our family.
I had to let go of the idea of myself that I had in my head and accept my new reality.
I had to trust that my husband would do his best to make sure that we were financially secure.
I had to let myself be vulnerable.
If you know me in real life then you know how much this goes against my personality but I did it and we are so much closer now because of that.
Creating a new form of independence
I have been a stay at home mum for 6 six years now and I can tell you that unless you’re a business owner, the financial stress does not lighten up. If you do decide that you want to stay at home and raise your kids then you have to be in a comfortable financial position to do so but more importantly, you need to be confident in your relationship. Your partner needs to not only support you financially but also see the value in what you are doing as the primary caregiver for your kids.
I stopped asking for permission to buy things a long time ago. I have never been a big spender and there comes a time when you have to trust in your own decisions and level of responsibility. The only thing that I really struggled with though was on spending money on myself. We came up with a fix for that problem though and now I receive a monthly ‘allowance/paycheck’ so that I can still have the feeling of independence and not feel guilty when I splurge on myself. Yes, it’s still OUR money at the end of the day but the idea of this being money that I have earned makes all the difference so I guess you could say that I have found a way to be independently dependent and I am totally ok with that.