I am an over-achiever. I have been all my life. Straight A's were never enough even middle school. I was in 7th grade when I gave my first speech about being the first female President. I never thought about having kids, never had dreams of being married or a big wedding. I wanted to conquer politics.
Fast forward 32 years...
I am the mother of six kids. I made a lot of twists and turns that I didn't plan for or dream of, things that shaped me but aren't important to my message.
With my first son, I worked two jobs and went to school while trying to take care of three people. Even though it was my parents or in laws caring for my son early on, I still missed lots of things I didn't KNOW I was missing until other children came into my picture. Long story short - don't marry a man that doesn't appreciate your strength and determination, it doesn't end well.
Child two, my daughter, the light of my life. I had her shortly before finals my senior year of college. Things went badly and I didn't finish. I found a home care situation that I felt was the best I could do and went back to working 50 to 60 hours a week. Always exhausted from trying to care for four people now. I was making great money, but there was never enough to get ahead and I couldn't see beyond that. My husband worked as well but he was of little help keeping up with the house and kids. I didn't know I was unhappy until it was so obvious that even my mother confronted me with it. I do not fail well. When I do it comes with deep self loathing.
I got divorced and care for my kids fell squarely on my shoulders. I moved in with my parents to help curb the cost of 12 hours of daycare times 2 kids.
About a year after I got divorced I found an amazing job as Project manager for a software company. It was long hours but a good place for growing, and I started to find some happiness again,the rub is I always felt a pull of jealousy at the kids sitter and my parents because they shared a bond that I was not part of, oh my kids and I had fun together, they loved me and I adored them. But something was missing and I knew instinctively but not what to do.
Anyway, I also met my husband here. He was the father of two boys. When we moved in together, it was my intent at the time never to marry again, His job often had him on the road or he had long long hours. So I went from 2 to 4 kids because their mother was not often in the picture. Every one of them was in need of stability and comfort. Life had changed drastically for everyone. However for almost 9 months I still tried to work and be a Mom. Kids were getting along, everyone was settling in, and I was absolutely worn out. Also the money I was making, never enough to support the 3 of us well, now went solely to pay for daycare and transportation costs. And I felt like no more than a glorified babysitter.
My husband helped in the house and he helped with the kids. I was never carrying the whole burden myself. But here's the thing we cannot be great at all things all the time. It's a very hard lesson. About 10 months into this arrangement my husband had to go work out of town for a week, I had been coming down with something but I encouraged him to go. 2 days in my fever was over 100, my chest was full of crud; and I was struck by how run down I was, how was I going to care for all these little people and myself. And that's when it all came crashing down. I had to step back and decide what to do well and how to do it well. By the end of the week I had a newer bond with my little people, I knew the names of all their little friends, inside jokes had started to develop, I had a better read on when problems were developing and I was feeling more in control of my situation.
When my husband came home, I told him I wanted to quit working for awhile, at least until we had a better handle on how to make things work well for everyone. He smiled and said that he had been waiting for me to decide it what was right for me. I was stunned, thought it might be some tug of war, since we weren't married at the time.
I told you all of that so you could get a sense that it was never an easy road to decide to stay at home, and it hasn't always been easy but here are some of the pros and cons that I've found
I have a strong relationship with all my kids. I know all their tells- which comes in very handy when they are teenagers or young adults. I have no guilt that sometimes colors the way my friends who work do, and that guilt colors the way they treat and handle their kids. I know each of the kids strengths and weaknesses. I can counsel each of them with absolute honesty between us because we have that between us.
Our house became a hub, the hangout spot because I was home to supervise and because I allowed them to be kids without trying to be part of the activities because I was not shoe horning time in with them. As they got older our home became a temporary home to almost a dozen of their friends off and on when those friends and their parents were struggling over teenage type problems. Those kids still call me Mom and appreciated that I was a no nonsense type of Person that would tell them the truth, respect them, and love them. Things weren't perfect here but I have a relationship with my kids that I never had with my Mom at that age. My mother worked all my life and /I can see the difference between how I felt and how my kids feel in relation to me.
Money has often been tight, but this is what I LEARNED raising 6 kids on one income,
I used the once a month cooking program when they were young - I teamed up with another mom and we could get enough food done for 16 people in 8 hours. It was good home made food and it was very cost effective. It also allowed me to sit down and enjoy meal time with my kids. It also gave me a way to teach them some independence. They could follow the simple reheat instructions and make their own breakfast of their choice. They could choose the dinner and help finish it off and clean up.
I homeschooled for about 8 years, our oldest son was being pushed to take ADD drugs and we weren't certain that was the right step. We meet some fabulous families, joined a co op and my kids learned stuff that they would have only learned in high end prep schools. A group of parents, each with their own specialized areas taught kids things from Latin, to fencing, to classical literature and beyond. I got to interact with adults and the kids worlds were opened wider than anything they would have gotten down a regular road. These parents often showed me ways to cut corners to wring every dime out of dollar. Doing that made it possible to take vacations to fun places or a last minute trip to a military fort or battlefield. My kids took part in civil war battle recreations, were deeply involved in team gymnastics, dance, competitive equestrian,Boy Scouts, 4H, martial arts, and soccer, and spent lots of time with friends and both sets of grandparents all without any sacrifices of school time or down time for me. I still had my sanity. I had time to read and explore my own interests.
I learned how to sew. I made all the kids pjs, all my daughters clothes until around age six. I made countless capes and super hero costumes. I made blankets, pillows and drapes. We made gifts for our families. I learned to garden both flowers and vegetables. It's deeply satisfying to cut flowers from your own gardens for an arrangement and then pick veggies that your family will eat that day. I learned to can my own food, I make incredible bread, and my family call me the cake goddess because I make an amazing birthday cake, complete with fondant polka dots or intricate roses.
I traded one set of dreams and goals for new ones that are deeply fulfilling, But mostly I can say that I have almost never spent the day away from my kids. I gave everyday with them my all. They are between 20 and 30 this year. 4 went/are going to college. 1 went to into the service and became the youngest ranger in 100 years. 1 is a manager for an office supply store and 1 is a mma fighter and martial arts teacher. No one has been arrested, no one has an accidental pregnancy to their name, no drug addicts or alcoholics. They are good kids that well step up and help those in need around them, in fact sometimes I think they are too empathy driven.
It wasn't easy, I wasn't always satisfied with my choice. However, I can look at them all and know I gave them my very best, I've turned out 6 solid citizens. It can be done without losing anything you think you will. I am open to respectful questions.
If you want to be hateful, do us both a favor and don't.
Thanks for letting me share my story.