I loved Mayim’s piece on choosing to be a full-time presence of her children’s lives and I agree that the adulation celebrities receive every time they do something “normal” like raise their own children is really a result of their place at the top of the tax bracket.
I’ve never heard it said that the “American Dream” is to make millions of dollars filming a made for TV movie while your children are at home being potty trained by your nanny who also cooks for your sexy husband and lives in your amazing house. Nor do I think it’s the wish of any parent to have their child’s face plastered on tabloids (next to a comment about your thighs) each time you take them to the park. So, I guess it is noble when a celebrity tries to shelter their children from the reality of being famous and allows them to grow up in the arms of their Mama.
I think the real American dream is to be able to support your family and to allow your children every opportunity you had growing up and then some. I’ll admit to wishing we had more money and I think every working Mama wants more time with their kid. In a time where two-incomes are no longer a luxury, they are a standard; we are all akin with sacrifice.
I fully intended to go back to work after my son was born but after moving for my husband’s job we quickly realized that his schedule was hellacious, we weren’t on “the list” at a single daycare, and finding a job in this economy proved difficult. That and I had morphed into an attached parent who breastfeeds around the clock and refuses to let my baby cry for more than a minute at a time. When we sat down and crunched the numbers me going back to work would barely pay the bill for someone else to raise our son, so we decide to make some sacrifices that would enable me to see him wake up sleepy-eyed from every nap and be present for each milestone.
We started by cutting out extras, like excessive eating-out and limiting our own personal “wants” in an effort to focus on “needs.” We plan our meals two weeks in advance and make one big grocery run twice a month at Wal-Mart (the horror!) We occasionally shop at specialty stores like Trader Joe’s but only for coveted items or food for our toddler. We plan healthy meals that yield enough for leftovers and I’ve been impressed with my ability to cook creatively for my family.
I subscribe to couponing sites in an effort to stock up on things I know we will use like sandwich bags, face wash etc. If I find the pricey bread we like on sale BOGO I buy six loaves and freeze them. We use the last of EVERYTHING to the point where it physically pains me to throw away a tube of toothpaste before every last drop is squeezed out. Both of our cars are paid off, and even though we would love a family-sized SUV we get by with a decade-old sedan and a compact car. We don’t have fancy cell phones because we can’t afford the plan and we try to limit our eating-out bills to under $30, 1-3 times a month. I paint my toenails and wax my own eyebrows and have actually come to prefer it that way.
We closely monitor our credit card bill to stay within our budget and pay it off in full each month. We’ve managed to sustain an emergency account and any extra money goes towards a “vacation fund” for the few precious weeks my husband has off each year. Our holiday wish-list is usually a compilation of museum memberships that allow us to enjoy experiences as a family year-round instead of a shirt I will wear once and stuff in the back of my closet.
I actually LIKE being thrifty. Wearing a LOFT dress is exponentially more fun if you scored it on sale for $8.87. I enjoy the time spent with my husband planning meals or finding the best online price for a measuring cup I’ve been wanting. I don’t feel like I am “wasting” my education or “giving-up” my career. I’m just finding other ways to use those skills at a time where more of my focus is on our family and the fleeting moments with our growing son. By living simply, things have become more special to us. Grabbing a pizza is fun, because we’re splurging. Someone handing us free-tickets to a baseball game is infinitely appreciated and I’ve learned to love caring for my family and have found pride in everything we manage to do on one-income.
I realize this isn’t possible for everyone and I don’t think being a stay-at-home Mama is superior to a working Mama. This is just what our American dream looks like. Sure, my husband and I joke about a day when our budget isn’t quite as tight and we hire our hypothetical nanny who will do the laundry while we snuggle our kiddos on the couch eating frozen Snickers bars. But then I am reminded to “be happy for this moment, this moment is your life” and no matter how much money the future may or may not hold for us, we’re pinching pennies to enjoy today because my son won’t remember if we had money, he’ll just remember that we loved him.