Apparently, making the transition from a two working parent household to a single income household requires much more than just a budget adjustment!
When my husband and I planned for me to leave the workforce to be a stay-at-home Mom, we created a strategy for eliminating our debt, and solidifying our finances years prior to my actual resignation from corporate. Within two years of implementing the plan, I walked away from my job with us being fully insured, having a solid emergency fund, a working budget, and a plan for funding retirement and college funds. Financial preparedness was the focus.
We practiced living on one income several months before actually living on one income. After successfully covering everything for a few months, I resigned and came home. Transition done.
Initially, I just enjoyed being able to take the kids to and from school without checking emails or holding conference calls in car-line. My heart bubbled over with joy and contentment as I could cook and be present for breakfast, opposed to yelling across the house, while trying to change from my workout to my workday attire. Getting my gym-time in, cooking, cleaning, shopping and organizing could be penciled in to it’s own time slot, instead of between meetings or commutes. No more mustering up what energy I would have left after a day at the office. No more dragging the kids (or the hubby) from errand-to-errand.
I was finally able to live out the life I’d fantasized about for years.
It was ideal…for about five minutes! The struggle was no longer balancing work and life. Now it’s about managing expectations and ideals. Over fifteen years, I had acquired a number of skills that would help in managing my household affairs. I’d also internalized a number of behaviors that were necessary for success and achievement in the workplace, but not conducive to running a peaceful, joy-filled, fully functional family life. In the world of consulting, innovation, change, and professional drive was coveted. The environment was a get it done, move up or out, ‘solve the problem before the problem even presents itself’ type of environment. The cycle was to conceptualize, implement, and take a very small pause to celebrate. Then repeat. It worked in corporate…it didn’t work at home!
As a working mom, I had an infrastructure in place to support managing my roles and responsibilities. Everyone else in the house had their roles and responsibilities. We were a finely tuned unit (well, as finely tuned as a family of school-agers can be). As I made the transition to my new role as a stay-at-home Mom, my expectations of myself, and of everyone else in the house had changed. My immediate perception of being a stay-at-home Mom was that of having more time. In my mind, owning all of my time meant 1) having more time for the things I never had time to do before (those household projects), and 2) moving the things I previously did on lunch break, evenings, and weekends into the school day (which suddenly doesn’t feel long enough). I’d expected to approach my responsibilities like tasks and assignments that could be completed and checked off some list. I expected to feel appreciated, accomplished, and affirmed when I got something done. I expected my family to acknowledge the improvements that I brought to their lives by being solely focused on managing our lives instead of being split between work and home. What I got was a family bewildered by my excessive ‘program management’ of our lives! What I needed was a shift in perspective, and a completely different infrastructure!
After all, I had come home to be more engaged with my family; to have more time and energy for the children and for my husband. I came home to enjoy commutes to and from school filled with comical, educational, and engaging conversations with my kiddos. I came home to be able to complete domestic business in the absence of the family, so that we can share more quality moments together as a family when we are all at home. The new measure of my performance would be the feedback I receive in the form of more relaxed mealtimes filled with free flowing conversation, or a less stressful pace in completing school work, getting to extra curricular events, and getting back home and in bed before nine o’clock. My feedback would now come in the form of bright-eyed cheese grins, or teary-eyed frowns from the kids; in the endearing head-nods, back rubs, and hugs from my adoring husband. My feedback would now come in the form of peace, knowing that I’ve done all I can to shape the hearts, minds, and lives of my children in a way that is pleasing to my Heavenly Father, who entrusted them to me in the first place. My feedback would not always be immediate, and may not be evident for years to come, but until that time, I have learned to handle myself with patience, and with grace. Don’t get me wrong…I’ve not figured it all out quite yet. However, I’ve learned to change my measure of success, and to stop trying to quantify my achievement and effectiveness. It is hard to quantify an elevated quality of life…and that is what coming home has been for both me and my family.