Saturday, February 20, 2010

Is being a Stay-at-home-mum a luxury?

This question was posed on a parenting forum recently and I found myself in turmoil trying to answer this question for myself.

I've always thought it wasn't.

It's certainly nothing like spending a day in a spa, or going on a holiday to Tahiti (I'm guessing about that last point as I've never been on a holiday to Tahiti or anywhere like that). In my experience it can be a hard slog on bad days and certainly tiring on good days. It's also very, very rewarding (in hindsight, mostly, I've found). Having been a SAHM (whether the S stood for "stay" or "studying") for the past 10.5 years, I can say I preferred that role to the alternative - you know, having to go out to work or study and leaving my babies with someone else, however loving (even my lovely Dave).

But now I'm seeing a different perspective on the concept of "luxury". Luxury doesn't always mean opulence, and with regard to being a stay at home parent, I'd kind of forgotten that teeny-tiny differentiation. Sometimes the concept of "luxury" actually refers to "choice".

Ok, so some of you are going to say that there is always a choice, that most families live well and truly beyond their means and if they just exercised a little discretion then there would always be the "choice" of having one parent stay at home - even if it meant living on reconstituted lima beans.

Hmmmm, I guess I'd beg to differ, and I beg to differ having come from the perspective that you can choose to live quite frugally so that one parent can stay at home.

Maybe this is the issue, it's not so much about ONE parent staying home as WHICH parent gets to stay at home. At least, this is the new perspective I'm facing.

I'm currently doing a Certificate III in Children's Services. That is, I've signed up, paid the first part of the payments and shown up to most classes in the past three weeks. I would love to work in Children's Service, so that's not an issue. Still something is causing me unease. That something is the tiny little voice in my head that keeps reminding me that I'm missing time with Ari at the tender age of 16 months.

I've been going through the motions of doing this course, all the time hoping Dave would hurry up and get a job so I could postpone my studies until Ari is at four year old kinder. Or even, just do the course mostly at night and do blocks of placement to get it over and done with. It's not happening though. Dave is no closer to getting a job now than he was three weeks ago (I know, it's only been three weeks, but that seems such a long time!).

The reality is, we're now paying $450 a month more rent. *I'm* paying $450 a month more rent, and what's more, because I thought I'd get a payment from the government to do this course, I took some advances on my payments, so I'm paying $450 a month more, on $300 a month LESS than what I was getting in December. So, we're now $750 a month less well financed than we were before I signed up for the course. We've always lived on quite a small income. We don't run a car, or go on holidays, or have magasine subscriptions...

I NEED to get work if Dave isn't getting work. I NEED to face the fact that I can't afford the luxury of being a SAHM. We need to be able to breathe a little easier.

So, these days my answer to the question, "Is being a SAHM a luxury?", I'd have to answer for me, it is.


Rachael said...

I feel very blessed to be able to stay at home. We planned it that way, and for us it's still a choice. If the worst came to it and DH lost his job, we could sell our house (the bank would get most of it of course) and live more frugally. But I understand it's not a choice for everyone...

Hope your DH finds something very soon!

katef said...

I totally think it is a 'luxury' and the choice is not just a financial one either...

It's not easy, it's not glamorous, or even fun a lot of the time. It's not at all a financial luxury for us, I feel like we 'do without' and 'make ends meet' a lot more than if I even worked part time, but it's what I want to do and I feel lucky to be doing it (mostly) which is why it feels like a luxury to me.

Good Job!