Monday, July 29, 2013

In Defense of Stay-At-Home Moms Barely Making It

I don't often write about the benefits of staying at home with children, but I believe strongly in what I'm doing. Passionately, even. In some cases a woman just can't do it because of a disabled or deceased husband, because of divorce, or other complicated reasons.

God is big enough to make the impossible happen, but I'm assuming these women have already prayed for the impossible, and it hasn't come yet.

Nothing would hurt me more than having to leave my children, and I'm aware of women forced to work who drive their morning commute in tears. Not wanting to add to their burden or sorrow, I try to avoid this topic.

 But today, there's something I have to say in defense of staying at home despite a low income.

Still trying to get my grocery budget down, I came across a blog post entitled "Staying at Home With Your Kids When You Can Barely Afford It", written by a 30-year-old mother of three, and wife to a high school teacher bringing home $40,000 a year gross income. Erin, The Humbled Homemaker author, shares five ways they make it work: budget, buy used, shop sales, don't shop, choose free or cheap entertainment, supplement income with skills.

I loved the article and agree with everything Erin shared, but as I read through the comments, my heart sunk. Most were wonderful comments, but three of them I found sickening.

One woman wrote: "I wouldn't want to be one of your children."

Another woman, nastier in personality, wrote: My tips would be not to have so many children that way you don’t have to have such a boring life. No vacations, no shopping, no going out to eat, no new stuff, no cable….. how boring. I don’t pop out babies like a factory. I’ve got 1, and I can stay home on my husband’s small income without doing any of this (and no, we have NO debt). Better yet – don’t have kids in the first place!

And lastly, one woman wrote this: "Wow. Such a disappointing post. I don’t think you are doing your family any favors by crowding three children into a single bedroom, going without the experience of vacations, and not taking time for yourselves. Good luck though."

Yet another women said she didn't believe God wants us "barely getting by". He wouldn't want us struggling so.

Really? As in, struggling indicates a lack of God's blessing? This couldn't be more untrue.

What popped into my mind immediately were these verses: Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

If travel is your god, you'll feel lost without extra money. If shopping, eating out, new stuff, or cable are your gods, likewise. It was obvious to me that though these commenters were reading a Christian blog, they hadn't yet chosen Jesus over the world, for you can't serve two masters.

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

I sincerely hope that after the Holy Spirit works through this Humbled Homemaker's words, these ladies will experience a change of heart. Her post was heartfelt and compelling.

You'll never get Jesus to agree that kids need vacations, rare experiences, dinners out, larger living spaces or new stuff. To think that children would be happier going on a vacation, or going out to eat and having new stuff, verses having mom home all day is a worldview that stinks of materialism. I can't sugarcoat that and my heart aches for all who choose materialism over being home with their children.

You can choose to invest in their hearts, or you can choose to invest in things that moths and rust destroy. Either way, it's a choice (see exceptions cited above).

Sure, children will notice if everyone on the block has a scooter or a shiny new bike, and they don't. They might even complain and wonder why. They're children. We can't expect children to think like wise adults. Teaching them godly values takes over 18 years, and in the meantime we certainly shouldn't be taking our cues from them about what they need, in material terms.

So first, don't let what your children think they need dictate whether you stay home or not. They need food, shelter, clothing, and none of it needs to be fancy.

My children don't have a swing set or a pool, or anything outside except for a large yard, a soccer ball, a bat and plastic baseball, a wagon and their old bikes, which are often in disrepair. And yet, right now they're all outside playing a battlefield game in which the oldest takes the younger "wounded soldiers" to a "military hospital" in the wagon, aka a military jeep, where my second-born cares for them. Intermittently, they switch to being active soldiers in battle. They've been at it 90 minutes, having a blast.

Let me reiterate, children need food, clothing, shelter, and an imagination. The more we try to entertain them with our extra cash, the more we kill their imaginations and with it, their potential. Boredom is not the enemy; boredom is a catalyst for greatness. Satan and his materialistic lies are the enemy.

If you've never had significant time with your family over months and years, you don't know what a blessing it can be. A simple life is a gift, not a curse. I'm never bored.

Now let's turn to health insurance, which is another big and divisive issue. A few commenters wrote that they work for the health insurance, but would otherwise be at home with their children. One woman stated emphatically that they don't believe in using state health insurance.

I'm not trying to change anyone's mind about working for health insurance. There are just too many variables involved to do so, but I do want to highlight another way to look at the insurance angle.

My husband and I do not have health insurance, and even if it were offered, we couldn't afford it for six people. We eat healthfully, we don't take unnecessary risks, and we have good genes. My husband's father is still going strong at 90, and my own grandmother lived until 88. We also floss and brush responsibly, which helps with the dental bills.

In short, we try to prevent health issues; with God's grace, our prevention skills will get even better. In addition to prevention, we use sliding-fee medical clinics staffed by nurse practitioners for our health needs. We pay $25 for an office visit, $10 for routine lab tests, $50 to see a dentist, and a somewhat-reduced pharmacy cost for generic formulations. If expensive pharmaceuticals are mentioned, we reject them for alternatives or we go without.

Our decisions can be summed up this way: We believe God is bigger than the health care crisis. If He has more work for us on earth, He'll make a way to heal us should something serious arise.

My children are covered under state insurance and before you get up in arms about that, consider something you probably haven't thought of before. I homeschool my children, saving the state (with some federal money thrown in) $40,000 a year. The average school district spends about $10,000 per student per year.

That's quite a bit of money over the course of a 12-year education for 4 public-schooled children. If every mother stayed at home and homeschooled her own children, we would own China far less, though I understand not everyone can do it.

Most people don't think of public education as a government hand-out, but I do. For example, it would take property taxes from approximately 8 houses in my neighborhood to pay for one child's public education for one year. Property taxes are a drop in the bucket toward the cost of public education.

That said, we aren't planning on using medicaid for the children indefinitely. Complete independence from any government spending, outside of local infrastructure and public safety, is our goal.

FYI: I can school four children quite well for approximately $600 per year, and even less if I use libraries exclusively.

One last thought about healthcare: The healthcare system is broken in this country and that's not my fault or yours. Consider that in the past even a factory worker could pay for his children's health needs without filing bankruptcy. Most doctors aren't getting rich, but someone is and until profit stops dominating, the system will remain broken.

I know that many women work full-time not so much for material reasons, but because their faith may be too weak. Recently, I was shocked to learn that only two mothers in my 170-person church stay at home, though I don't know the facts on part-time workers.

Ask yourself, are you basing your personal faith on your own understanding, or on the promises of God's Word? Delve into the Bible and see if you don't come up with a myriad of reasons to be home, verses being absent 40+ hours a week.

Consider that in the Bible the Proverbs 31 woman contributes to her family's income by being resourceful and frugal, not by being absent for most of the day.

Going to one income can be a multi-step process. I left full-time teaching in 2002, right after my first child was born, and took a 3-year, part-time, mostly-from-home homeschooling facilitator job for a California Charter School, before moving to Ohio to stay at home full-time in 2005. We've had some spiritual failures, such as credit card use in the past, but God has been faithful to work with us and we now discern things biblically more often than not, and we're more generous.

One thing God said to me clearly early on, after my first child was born, was this: "It's not your job to financially support your family. That's your husband's job. If you each focus on your own biblical roles, you'll do fine."

We can't complain to our husbands about low incomes, even if we think they could do better; that would be sin. Nor can we resent them if they develop a heart condition and can't work anymore. Accept with gratitude what your husband can provide, and pray that he'll realize his fullest potential as the head of the family--both financially and spiritually, not so you can live at a higher standard, but so you can bring more glory to God.

Our lifestyle is not easy. We gross less than the $40,000 mentioned in the article. My husband has permanent double vision (since childhood), so some jobs are out for him (military, some machine operation, postal, driving/delivering). He also has some attention-deficit problems, but regardless of the circumstances, following Jesus is a journey for the whole family. The gospel is lived out in our homes by extending grace to one another, as God works individually in each member.  If you don't have ideal circumstances, that's just more room for God to shine instead of you.

Bless you and may God bring you solidly into His faithful arms, wanting for nothing.


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Christine said...

Oh, Kathy. My heart aches for you. It would be a privilege to pray. This is not too big for God! And thank you for the encouragement. Your daughter is blessed! :)

Beth said...

Thank you for sharing. Praising God for providing and continuing to trust him.

Kelly said...

Wonderful post! I wouldn't trade this time with my growing-up-too-fast children for any material gain. It means making different choices for our family than many of our peers, but we are richer for it!

Christine said...

Beth and Kelly, thank you for the encouragement. So blessed to hear God is providing!

Lisa said...

For the past 31 years, the Lord has always provided. That's not saying it's always been easy. But He has always given us everything we need. My hubby says, "If we honor Him, He will honor us."
Much love to you, Christine. :)

Christine said...

What a testimony, Lisa! Thank you. :)

Vicki said...

I really enjoyed this post. I have long wanted to go back to staying home with my son. I was home with him mostly until he started school. He wants to be homeschooled and I want to do that.

I'm going to pray that this become a reality for us rather than assuming the way things are is how they have to be.

Thank you for building my faith today!

Christine said...

Praying your faith grows by leaps and bounds, Vicki. And praying for the miracle too. Thank you for sharing here today.