It’s been eleven years since I’ve drawn a regular paycheck. I didn’t realize when I walked out of the university in September of 2003 that it would be the last time I contributed to the family finances.
Fifteen years ago, I was the primary breadwinner for our household. It wasn’t a high salary; but it kept us warm, fed, and clothed while my husband worked two part-time jobs and finished a graphics apprenticeship.
Then in 2003, we made a 1,200 mile move to Florida and I made the transition to stay-at-home wife. I planned to help get us settled in the south, then I would see about volunteering or working again. I barely had time to unpack boxes before I was pregnant with our first baby. Our second child followed less than two years later.
I traded dress clothes for diaper duty and paychecks for pacifiers. It’s been one of the most rewarding, yet challenging decades of my life. I’ve never worked harder or doubted myself and my abilities more.
Being a stay-at-home mom was just something I always assumed I would do one day. My mom did. His mom did. We made it work. We turned down invitations to eat out. We wore clothes until they were threads. We DIY-ed our small, first home. When the shower wall caved during a weekly cleaning spree, we Googled how to fix-it-ourselves. For a number of years we lived with one vehicle, with my husband taking a commuter bus to work or me being a genuine “stay-at-home” mom. I’ll be honest. There were countless days I wondered if I should find a job.
During the one-car season, one of my husband’s co-workers said, “You’re so lucky that your wife says home. You’re like a 1950’s family.”
He looked the co-worker in the eyes and said, “Lucky? You think it’s luck? It’s a decision we made, and we work hard at it. It’s not easy.”
I don’t take these years for granted. I know that parenthood, whether you stay-at-home, work-from-home, work part time, or full time, have one income or more – it’s not easy. We all do what we believe is necessary or works best for our families. No monetary value can ever be placed on your role as parent.
Pay or no pay – it’s not for nothing. We’re building more than bank accounts. We’re building future leaders, future families, future community changers.
In recent years as the kids have grown and I get more than 3 hours of sleep a night, I’ve started to craft words into stories. Occasionally, someone even pays me for them. Now and then, I pull my “grown-up clothes” out of the back of the closet and stand in front of a group of women and encourage them to realize how much God loves them and to share that love with each other. Sometimes, they pay me for that too.
When the pay barely covers my gas, I apologize to my husband. He looks at me and says, “We value more than money. We believe in pursuing our passions and using our gifts to help others. It’s not always about money.”
The kids are both in school now. I’ve been home for 11 years. The question is now what? I find the itch to explore options, to contribute to the world around me in different ways, to exercise some gifts I haven’t used in awhile.
Wherever the path leads – pay, no pay, full-time, part-time – we’ll be building more than bank accounts.
As we invest our gifts and time into our families and communities, we’re building people, we’re building God’s Kingdom.
This post is in response to the High Calling prompt “Working for Free.” Check out all the posts in the linkup here.