Monday, October 24, 2011

If You Jump, I Will Catch You

I hear a lot of moms talk about how badly they wish they could stay home, but the fear of losing their income prevents them from taking the leap. For all the moms who want to stay home as badly as I did, all I can say is I know that fear. I know that doubt. But I did it anyway, and I have no regrets. This is my story….

When I was pregnant with Reese, Matt and I wavered quite often in our feelings about me staying home full-time. Although it was the lifestyle we both always wanted, neither of us was convinced that we could meet our needs with half of our income. With the help of an online tutorial, I created an elaborate spreadsheet detailing our expenses and the upcoming change in our income. I quickly developed an unhealthy addiction to tinkering with the numbers… maybe if we downgrade our cell phone plans, or if we cancel our cable TV, or if we give up this or stop buying that, maybe then the number at the bottom of the screen will rise above zero. It was not uncommon for Matt to find me staring at the screen in tears saying, “It’s just not going to work. I can’t stay home.”


Halfway through my pregnancy, I gave up on my dream and started researching daycare options. I started by calling a few women in town who provided daycare in their homes. No one had any openings. I was running out of references, so I chose a different route and went to a local day care center. As I looked through the window to the main play area, I could already feel the heat rising in my body, the tears pooling under my eyes. I thought about the life I pictured for my children, and this was not it. The woman behind the counter said, “Hi, can I help you?” At least, I think that’s what she said. I was already out the door.


After that, Matt suggested that we take a break from the daycare search until after the baby was born. We decided to spend less time worrying about doing it our way and more time praying for guidance toward the right decision. It took over six months, but we finally decided to leave it to God. Once we did that, we realized that He was already trying to give us the answer. The uneasy feeling I had in the daycare center and my inability to find any openings with an in-home provider were two of the obvious signs. Then there were other things like the unexpected partial tuition waivers we received from Matt’s work or the last-minute financial aid award notices that helped pay for his graduate classes or our decisions to skip out on a bigger house and newer cars just because we “had a feeling” that it wasn’t the right time. We had too many instances where money just happened to line up just as we needed it, as if God was saying, “If you jump, I will catch you.”



A few months later, I watched my brand new baby sleeping peacefully in my arms, tears coming and going with each new surge of emotion: pride, joy, pain, exhaustion, love, fear. After watching the look in my eyes all day, Matt finally asked the question we both already knew the answer to, “You’re not going back to work, are you?” My answer was simple: “I can’t.”


We still had three months to make a definite decision, and we talked about it almost every day. After actually having the baby, we were more determined than ever to make it work. With just a couple weeks left of my maternity leave, I sat down at the computer and wrote my resignation letter. As I walked it into the office, the negative number on my spreadsheet flashed in my mind like a strobe light. I handed the letter in anyway. I quit my job anyway. I walked out the door and went home to my baby.


Since that day, it hasn’t been easy. We’ve turned down invitations to go on trips and passed up homes we wanted to buy. We drive cars barely large enough for a car seat, and we hardly ever eat at restaurants. But we didn’t cancel our cable TV; we didn’t give up our cell phones. We still do fun things, and we have a great life. We pay all of our bills and we still have a lot of money in savings. And that negative number on the spreadsheet? Well, I don’t know where it went, but when I go on line to check our bank statement, even on the months where I feel we went a little overboard, there’s always enough. There’s always more than enough.


I've been home for almost 17 months, and I never regret my decision. I never miss my paycheck, and somehow it all works out. Living with less really is easier than it seems. Of course, I can’t say that it will work that way for everyone, but it worked that way for us. All we did was turn it over to God. We prayed and we listened. We took a leap of faith and we followed our hearts. We jumped and He caught us.

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