Would it it be harder than if one parent stayed home? You bet. Some families still manage to do it. Conventional parents reading my blog often get the impression that I have the freedom to stay home with our child(ren) and practice attachment parenting because my husband’s income is plenty to have us covered. That is very far from the truth! If only they knew the sacrifices we make to be able to raise our kids ourselves instead of giving up the privilege to strangers.
Well, now you’ll know…
We made a conscious choice about raising our children. Not me, not my husband, but us – together. We purchased our condominium when we lived on two incomes before we had kids. We didn’t make a combined triple digit salary, but it was enough to get financing and squeeze by. At that time, the only thing we needed to sacrifice to make our payments was dinner out every week. Okay, that was easy. Come January 2009, I give birth and go on maternity leave – not really knowing I would never come back to working at my architectural firm again. It was a convenient time for my employer to lay me off. I worked from home for a few months and then there was less and less and less work until I stopped receiving any. A few months later I was blessed to find a part time online job as a Brand Ambassador that brought in some extra income – but it was only one fifth of what I made before. Something had to give because at that point we knew I am staying home with this little new human being and our account was close to going into negative. Daycare just wasn’t an option and made no financial sense considering how much it would cost and how little we would see our daughter.
Most American families enjoy a lot of luxuries, here is what we have learned to live without in order to be home to raise our kids:
More than one car: We have always had one car out of necessity since we live in the suburbs. Do we want and need another one? Technically, yes. I’m home with our daughter every day without a car. It just doesn’t fit into our budget and probably will not for a long time. But guess what? It means we spend more time together. To put it into perspective, America is probably the only country where so many families have one car or more. In the rest of the world, even one car is a luxury – not necessity.
Gas: Do you know how many times I refrain from going somewhere I would like to just because gas isn’t free? I don’t think people realize how much money all this driving around eats up. We go when we need to go and when we plan a trip, but not aimlessly or for unnecessary entertainment.
Dining out: We eat out about 4 or 5 times a year. Many Americans do so every month or some even every week! That would add up to hundreds if not thousands of dollars. This was the first to go and the more I find out about how the restaurant industry operates and what they serve, the less I regret it. With the exception of some great quality restaurants that serve real organic locally grown food! Yeah, maybe when the kids grow up…
Starbucks or Dunkin: Some people have a daily habit of stopping at the cafe. My husband would probably love to on his way to work. Let’s see, about $4 every week day for 52 weeks – that’s $1,040 dollars a year! So I never went there every day, but on occasion. Frankly, I do not miss it or need it. I gave up coffee after being addicted all through college, I hated the way it controlled me. It was a no-brainer for my husband to give it up since he has arrhythmia and a strong cup of coffee can send him on his way to the hospital.
Prepackaged foods: When we both worked it was convenient to buy frozen lunches, dinners, and other ready made foods (with horrible ingredients). That’s why we used to spend about $400 a month for groceries for the two of us! Now we spend $200 every month on the three of us. Half the price for wholesome, mostly organic food because I make everything from scratch. So instead of spending almost $5,000 on food, we spend about $2,500 a year.
Vacations and flying: I firmly believe that vacations are a necessity to keep us sane. For many a vacation will mean flying somewhere warm and tropical and enjoying an entire week away from work. That’s expensive! Our vacation budget is about $600 a year, which wouldn’t even be enough to cover flight for two people. We vacation close to home and not with luxury accommodations. Sometimes it means a weekend retreat at home instead of a hotel.
Cell phones, smart phones: We do have a basic cell phone for emergencies that we keep in the car. It didn’t cost $200 and we don’t pay a monthly bill of $50-$150 dollars. That really adds up over a year! Before kids we each had a phone and paid $80 a month for a joint plan. It just wasn’t a necessity and as a bonus, when we stopped using cell phone my husband and I never had recurring migraines since (go figure, and no doctor could tell us why we have them).
Cable TV: Having no cable is a blessing in disguise. There really was very little of anything worth my time on air, when we had it I was disappointed every time I turned the TV on. People who complain of ‘not having enough time’ should count up how many hours they spend in from of the tube. This is something I do not miss at all. Bonus: I have lots of time to spend with my daughter! Isn’t that what attachment parenting is about? Instead of watching a cooking show, we cook together. Instead of watching Dancing with the Stars, we dance to music together in our living room. Instead of having her glued to a cartoon for hours each day, she plays with her toys, makes up her own stories, and we read together.
Clothes shopping: I had a bit of a shopping addiction during my teenage years, fueled by my generous mother. It is a relief to be free from it. It was gradual, but thankfully my husband reigned me in. I have something to wear, maybe not from the latest runway show. I don’t need anymore clothes. I buy about four to five pieces of new clothing a year. Mostly when I find out I need something – like a new bra or something to wear to a wedding. Our daughter is dressed in hand me downs except for the occasional item received for a blog review a couple of times a year. She doesn’t mind one bit! Instead she has all the time she wants with me.
AC: My daughter and I take walks daily. On a crisp, fresh air August evening we see several houses with their central AC on. Of course the parents and the kids aren’t even home, the empty house is being cooled. Is AC free? Obviously not. You see my point. We have it but do not use it unless it is more than 95 degrees outside – and then we set it to 80 degrees. Actually, our entire unit broke a couple of weeks ago – so we have no heat or AC now (and no emergency fund to fix it)! During the winter most people would consider our home chilly, but it saves us money and I don’t mind wearing some extra layers and a warm sweater.
Disposable diapers: Let’s face it, disposables are convenient. They are also expensive. We can’t afford them and it is one of the reasons we cloth diaper. Even if I was to pay out of pocket for every cloth diaper we own (I received them free for review on my blog), we would save at least $600 every single year of diapering. I can’t really say I received them free, it takes a ton of time to keep up with a blog and write reviews – nobody pays me for it.
Entertainment: We don’t deprive ourselves completely. We take our daughter to the zoo, we may go to the museum occasionally, we watch a movie together at home. Thankfully there are library passes for all these things! We don’t go out to the movies, we rarely go somewhere at full price. There are many ways to entertain for free or cheap.
Ego: It was just the two of us for two years after marriage. We made enough to do what we want, go where we want, and buy what we want. That’s just no longer an option. Do I miss it? Of course! In certain moments of tantrums or a house full of a mess, I do. But the rewards are so much more than I ever dreamed. Even one smile and kiss from my daughter is worth all the sacrifices. Parenting is so much about letting go of your ego. No, not your dreams, or your hobbies, but the ‘do what I want to’ approach to life. Even if your income gives you a lot of freedom, it’s often your sleep or desires that you sacrifice.
So for those of you still thinking that we’re into attachment parenting because we can afford it? I hope this explains it well!
How do you manage to practice attachment parenting in your particular financial situation?