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Privilege

There is this word.  I keep seeing it whenever someone comments on a post I write about homeschooling (or even breastfeeding).  The word is “privilege”– as in “my husband and I need to work to stay afloat; we’re not privileged enough to be able to spend all day with our children”…  This is from a comment on the huz’s homeschooling post.

People constantly tell me how privileged I am to be a stay at home mom. How nice it is that my husband makes enough to support us.  How we are part of that wealthy, privileged, upper class.  And how they can’t do that, so how dare I make them feel bad because they can’t do A, B, or C.

I agree with the first part.  It is a blessing and privilege to stay at home to raise children.  But it isn’t about wealth or class.

Here is the thing.

We have been poor.  Like, no car, getting evicted, eat rice for a month because that’s all there is, poor.  We were below poverty level for a good chunk of our marriage.  Yes, I stay home with our children and my husband works.  And yes, the four years of truck driving meant that we started to pull ourselves out of the deep financial hole we were been buried in ever since we said our “I dos”.  My husband worked HARD so that could happen.  His new job makes so much less.  And we struggle.  We juggle which bills to pay each and every month.

Over the years, we have survived on everything from no income at all to nearly six figures a year (that was awesome.  I miss that). I have had to learn to make our budget stretch farther than should be possible.  I can say with confidence that I know how to feed my family of six on less than fifty dollars a week if I have to. I’m pretty proud of my skills.

Yes, we make sacrifices for our lifestyle.  We go without a lot of “special” things.  We don’t have cable, we make most of our food from scratch, we haven’t been to the movies in  years.  In fact, neither Patrick nor Willow had been to a movie theater until last summer when I took them to a dollar showing of Thor. My husband and I go without many things so that our kids can have food, clothing, shelter, homeschool materials, and fieldtrips.  We’ve never had a honeymoon or even been on a vacation.  Its not a big deal though, we live this way because we think it is extremely important that our children have a parent stay at home.  It might be “old fashioned” but I do think there should be a parent at home to bake cookies and wipe noses.

We want our babies to have their mama, so they can be carried, snuggled and breastfed all day long.  I pumped and supplemented and did daycare with Hannah, when I was finishing school- I know how difficult that is and I wanted different for any future babies, so I made this choice with my husband’s support before we were married.

(I’m talking about OUR LIFE and OUR CHILDREN and OUR CHOICES here.  THIS IS WHAT WE FEEL IS IMPORTANT TO US, OUR VALUES, OUR DREAMS, OUR GOALS.  THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU OR WHAT YOU CHOOSE TO DO.)

Would life be easier if my kids were in school and I had even a part-time job?  Hell yeah.  Have I ever secretly wished this were the case? YES.  When my husband was on the road for stretches of six weeks at a time I was basically a single mom, (although I got the cool benefit of having a paycheck dropped into my bank account each week) without time off or a break and no one here to help me or offer me a damn hug.  But was it worth it? HELL YEAH.

I wouldn’t trade my lifestyle for ANYTHING.  Not even a closet full of designer shoes (I love shoes.) or a fancy house.  My kids are amazing, and I get to experience each and every day with them.  Each day is a gift- no matter how cranky they are, no matter how tight money is this week- I am so glad that I get to share every single blessed day with them.  They are happy and secure and kind children- and I know that is partly due to the love and attention they get all day long.

It is crazy what you can live on if you have to. It is eye-opening to find out what you can live without if you need to.  To us, raising our kids this way is worth it.  We chose this lifestyle, for them, so that we can be together and help them learn and grow, because we think it is important and special to be a part of that process.  This is the only way in which my husband and I are privileged. We are honored to be the parents of four such wonderful people.

My point is, where there is a will, there is a way, in *most* situations (obviously not ALL) and if you make sacrifices and work with it a bit you might be surprised with what you can do!

24 Responses to Privilege

  1. This was incredible to read. It’s the hope of my heart to be able to be a stay-at-home mom when my husband and I have our children. He’s supportive of that, which is incredible–but so many people we know are horrified at the thought. It’s just wonderful to read your story about how much you love being able to do this. Thank you for sharing!

  2. You are correct. It is a great honor to be a stay at home / homeschool mom but it comes with great sacrifices. I too miss the extra income and me time when I worked but I saw that my kids and family suffered when I had my career. Our family has been up and down for years with money. We tend to survive and thrive as a family because of our decisions to homeschool and for me to be at home. I would not have it any other way even through the bad times.

  3. I hope my comments havent been the ones that bothered you! I find you to be extremely inspirational. I am hoping that someday my family can be more like yours….Right now our family feels very broken and ill admit that make me quite a bit jealous of you and your lifestyle..Again im very sorry if my comments were some of the ones that bothered you, i didnt mean it that way. Please keep writing and blogging…. :)

  4. This. So very, very this. I am not privileged to stay home with my son; my son is ASD and the schools for children on the spectrum have all been closed in my area in England. I gave up employment, my health, and my marriage to tend my son – I lived on benefits to try and tend him because no one else would help. It was a duty, as a parent, and it required sacrifice to do so. My son will be going to a residential school this year and while it’s not ideal, again there is no privilege in it; my health is too poor to continue as I’ve been doing. The school placement isn’t idea but it’s the only thing I could get for him after two years or battles with the Local Authority. There’s no “free ride” having my son as a “boarder” and he certainly isn’t attending Eton!

    People make choices – and those choices often mean making sacrifices. Parents choose to both work…and the sacrifice is they don’t see as much of their children as they would like. If that works, go for it. One parent chooses to homeschool, and that means sacrificing income. If that works, also go for it. What irritates me no end is the sour-grapes and envy that someone must have it easier than someone else, and I see this so often when it comes to stay at home parents or, in my case, being disabled. My life isn’t a free ride – it’s bloody difficult, but it was the choice I made, and I was willing to make the sacrifices to get there. If someone else wants to be able to do what I do, then fine, do it…but be prepared to fight for it. And be prepared to sacrifice for it too. Most of all, be prepared to walk away from someone else’s misery-guts complaining because they’re unhappy with their own lives and would like everyone else to suffer along with them. Thanks-but-no.

    The tl:dr version? Rock on with yerself!

  5. We have lived at poverty level for – well, I don’t remember NOT living at poverty level. I worked after my son was born. When my daughter was born last year, we decided that I would stay home. We realized that I would be working to pay for the privilege of working. Child care costs, gas, transportation, the food I’d need to pack for work….I would be working to cover all of that. Yes, we’ve had to make sacrifices, but I believe we are better for it. Cooking from scratch and eating at home have been the biggest money saver for us and it turns out that it’s way healthier and even has environmental benefits. It’s so easy for people to make assumptions when they don’t even bother to learn what’s going on in your life.

  6. we did this, too. I gave up my teaching career (elementary music) so that I could stay home with the kids while my DH went back into the USMC. We were below the poverty line for the first 4 years of my son’s life. I learned to cook seitan to save money, made dishwasher detergent from scratch, did meal plans on $180 a month. No TV, only one working car. It *can* be done. But OMGs, it sucks!

    Now that he’s a SSGT, and with some love from my Grandpa in his passing, and a whole lot of really hard work, we’re 100% debt free, can shop with more attention to veggies 😉 and still have some wiggle room. Not much, but some. It’s been a long 8 years getting here.

    I see it as a choice. I can run the rat race like my sister does, or I can pinch and save and create a home life environment that supports bonding, homeschooling, and as you said, “cookies.” Because that’s what my kids care about…cookies. 😉

  7. I agree with you. I do feel privileged to stay at home with my son but it has nothing to do with how much money I have. I feel like if there is a will there is a way in most cases (Not all cases but most) . I think My husband would love for us to just stuff my son back into the public school and for me to get a part time job to help bring in more money but he would like for our son to have someone who will actually teach him and help him more.

    I have been told by people that it must be nice to have money and it takes everything I have to bite my tongue. I do tell them that we have made a lot of sacrifices to be able to do what we do. My husband works very hard at his job, is going back to school right now, and is thinking about taking more classes later on so he can finish is Associates in Criminal Justice.

  8. It’s funny–I never thought of home schooling or SAH parenting as people who had money. All the people I know who choose this life are like you–stretching the one income to the limit and doing what they can to stay home with their kids. My own husband works overseas two months away, three weeks home, so we can provide for ours and our daughter’s future. I can empathize with what you are saying about being basically a single parent for big stretches of time. It’s really hard, but it’s our choice for our family. Each person has to do what they think is best for them and theirs.

  9. All of this is exactly how I feel. When I quit my job to say home with my newborn son, I got a lot of flack. It’s been hard at times. Sometime it gets stressful, something big and scary financial wise but as I say “It’s just money” and in the last 5 years, things have worked out everytime. We aren’t loaded with debt. I have really learned to cook and I HATED cooking. In the first couple years of our marriage we only went ou to eat. Sometimes I want to run from children screaming. But mostly, it’s been great. It’s been wonderful! Being with them everyday! So glad to be privileged and so glad that I made the choice to be with them.

  10. Ya know … I kinda HATE when people say … “You are SO lucky to e able to stay home with your kids” …
    I am not lucky … luck had absolutely NOTHING to do with it. I am blessed! and I know it every single day.
    Those who say I am lucky … tends to cheapen the fact that I moved out on my own at 18. Met the man of my life, married, went to college (on my own dime), had a baby, bought a house, had another baby…. my husband had to completely change careers in his mid 30’s (we lived with a mortgage, special needs child, newborn whoa) lived on mac & Cheese and cereal (and breast milk!) LOL!
    We worked our TAILS off … LUCK had nothing to do with it … CHOICES did! We were a team, we worked out what had to be done and we did it. I was the first in my family to graduate high school, graduate college AND buy my own home. I got “Oh so you think you are a hot shit since you have a degree and own a home … la dee da!” … Really? I am PROUD of what my husband and I accomplished. We are more comfortable now … of course … he just finished 5 years of an apprenticeship program … but we have made really tough decisions to get to where we are. Say I am blessed, say “girl you made it work” … don’t say I was lucky.

    • Me too!!!!!!!!!!

      I think it is the word that bothers me most is “lucky” it isn’t luck. I feel like saying it is cheapens the effort we put into our life.

  11. I can’t believe that people still think it’s a wealthy or upper class thing to be able to stay home with your kids. I can say that we’ve not been so poor to live on rice for a month, but no home, no car, yeah..i can relate. stretching 200 a month to feed a family of 6 yep, i can relate to that one too.
    10 years ago, i had made the decision to stay home with (at the time) 2 girls. i couldn’t make enough to cover day care expenses, gas, and a utility if i worked. So the decision was pretty much a no-brainer at that point.
    It’s been great being able to raise my 4 minions. Even at one point, i did homeschool them. However, i found i wasn’t too cut out for it, and also..schools up ‘north’ are just so much better than the ones in the ‘south’. So, i didn’t feel all that bad putting my (now 3 School age) kids back into public.
    Every parent has to make choices for their family and theirs alone.

    Keep on rockin’ it! you’re doin just fine 😀

    • …PS… no job/work thing for longer than i care to remember as well. economy sucks right along with the job market. however, i’m more than grateful the huz has work right now, and that my best friend is here with us, and is getting on his feet again too.
      as for the extra’s and luxuries.. yeah.. no cable here, no cell phones, can’t remember the last time we went to a ‘regular’ theater. the last time we went out for dinner, my parents treated us. i do 99% of the cooking. we’re all the healthier for it anyway 😉

  12. I’ve been that “we can’t do that” person, but I’ve also worked FT from home while HSing (talk about a balancing act!).

    Now, my husband works PT and I don’t work. I complain about being broke, but we choose this arrangement because it is the best option for us, for several reasons. One of those is time with our kids. We don’t want to have someone else raise our kids.

  13. I’ve had people tell me I am so lucky to stay home with my kids and not send them off. I love being with my kids, but luck had nothing to do with it. My husband and I made choices, we worked hard, and we made it happen. We didn’t have anyone helping us. We have a simple lifestyle, which helps us meet our goals to raise our children the way we belive is right for us.

  14. I loved every word that you wrote. I am actually living it as well! I am somewhere in the middle of your story. We had money, we lost that money, we are now trying to get out of our hole. My hubs leaves town for work for 6 week stretches. I stay at home, breastfeed, and homeschool. It is what I do…I do not say that it is for anyone else. I so needed to read this today. I was feeling alone…well not anymore! This is my first visit to your bog, I will certainly be back.

  15. Yeah, why are there constantly people whining about all the stuff they “cannot” do? Like, “I wish I could have more free time.” – “Then go and find a job with less overtime.” – “But I want to have a career, and that means I have to work overtime.” Please make up your mind, everybody. You cannot have everything, and that is exactly what makes the things you get special.

  16. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you so much for writing this. I am blessed and privileged to stay home with my children, but we have had to sacrifice to do so. I’m tired of people telling me how they wish they could do the same. Well, sometimes I wish I could have a new car, or cable, or a fancy house, like they do, but I made my decision, just as they made theirs. I don’t tell them they’re lucky to be able to afford those things, or that I wish I could work full-time like they do. We chose different paths, we have different priorities. I don’t belittle their choices and I wish they would show me the same respect. It really irks me the way some people don’t acknowledge that, while I am very blessed to stay home with my children, it is not because I am rich or well-off, but because it is a top priority for my family and my husband and I have done whatever we need to to make it happen. That’s not “luck,” that’s determination.

  17. This was an amazing… no wait… AMAZING(!!!) post! I’m a SAHM. I love it. I once worked a full time job in management. I never saw my kids. It broke my heart and made me miserable. I will never do that again. EVER. My children so much better off now than when I spent all those hours worrying about other people and not the ones that matter most. Yes, we had to make sacrifices. Yes, things were really hard there for awhile. But adjusted. We live pretty comfortable now, but it was a long and curvy road to get here. Years of scrimping and budgeting and negotiating debt. But it was absolutely worth it. We aren’t 100% out of the woods, and by no means are we even remotely wealthy financial. But in family? We are rich beyond our dreams!

  18. I have no idea why some people think you are privileged. I try constantly to get my boyfriend to understand why I think it’s so important for one of us to stay home. So far the compromise is that I baby sit for extra money. So that I can stay home with the kids. Plus my photo biz I’m starting up.

    Also the fact that Hannah should be able to graduate by the time she’s 16 is amazing and shows how great homeschooling is.

  19. YES! I work from home and get the same thing, but it was a mix of ‘fate’ (for lack of a better word) and good planning (not necessarily great planning) that we could make things work the way we do. We receive food stamps and do our best. Being there for our kid is more important than money. At this age, people love to give our kid stuff, so that’s not even an issue! And older kids having less may just be a good thing in today’s society. It’s all about choosing quality over quantity, in every aspect of your family’s life.

    We too are a good example of parents who are at home without any so-called privilege. My husband is on disability – hardly fortunate! As Jack Dawson said, we make our own luck.

    This is an issue that has been coming up a lot on my Facebook page and with real life friends. It seems like a cultural shift may be starting. I hope so!

  20. I agree with you entirely. Being a stay at home parent is a privilege, but it is also a sacrifice. Of course it is easier if you have two incomes for your family. Since the women’s movement it has become increasingly difficult for a family to make the financial choice for one parent to stay at home. The cost of living has become so insane that it can take two people working full time to afford most of the little luxuries that we all would like to have (cable t.v. and more than basic shoes and clothes A car or two And owning a home or making rent for that matter). I am in the same boat, but still on the “Broke side” of it. We just have to remember that this is a choice we made because it is what our babies really need. They need time with us more than they need a fancy new toy (not that my kids are hurting for toys by any means).

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