I hope 2018 brings a lot of promise and hope for you and your family! It’s been a long 2017…which was a continuation of a very long 2016. Some of you may already know this but I officially parted ways with my full-time employer and will now be working about 10 hours or so per week solely on my blog and will spend most of my time at home with Rowan. I’ll be honest, I’m a tad nervous. I stayed home with Rowan while I was on maternity leave from October 2016 – January 2017, when he was just a newborn until roughly 4 months old, which was wonderful and exhausting. We had brought in a wonderful nanny who has been watching Rowan since then…and it’s been great for everyone, including Rowan. The end of 2017 has brought on a lot of self-reflection for both Dusty and I. We’ve both realized the areas in which stress was seeping in and robbing us of a lot of the things we needed to push through this final year of his medical school studies.
In 2017, Dusty’s schedule had him unavailable most evenings and weekends, which in turn, meant added stress and responsibility on me. There came a point where I just knew that we had taken on way too much. We grappled with how to unearth ourselves from the feeling that weighed on our shoulders – that feeling of “too much”. Some of it was simply where we were in that moment and phase of life. However, there were things we knew we had to “shave” off…and things that we could do to simplify and to make it easier on ourselves.
Everyone manages stress and the busyness of their lives differently. Some people can take on more responsibility than others…and be totally ok with it. Other’s cant. I met my match when for months on end I felt like a single parent (single parents…I’m not sure how you do it…there’s a special place in heaven for you all…or those of you who have military family overseas…God bless you.)
Dusty’s schedule had us turned upside down. I was working a full-time job, blogging part-time on the side, taking care of Rowan, the dogs, the house, our finances. At the end of the day, I’d fall into bed wondering what I had enjoyed about life that day? What little sliver of time had I put aside for myself? The answer…zero. Dusty was feeling the same. He’d be up at 5 a.m. (sometimes earlier) studying or at the hospital. He’d get home around 6 p.m. and eat dinner with us, play with Rowan and put him to bed by 7 p.m. and then upstairs to study he would go. Rowan and I saw him for an hour a day…and on exam weeks, he’d go 3-4 days without seeing Rowan because he’d be gone before Rowan woke up and home after Rowan went to bed. Dusty and I both felt like on any given day we were robbing time away from another commitment…when we were working or when he was studying, we were thinking of the other things we had to get done to get through the day/week…and vise versa. When Dusty did have free time on the weekend we found ourselves doing our grocery shopping, which is no fun way to spend time as a family. But we did this because during the week I had zero time to get the grocery shopping done otherwise. No one responsibility had our full attention or time and energy. “Stretched too thin” was an understatement. We were being stretched until we felt we were going to snap…and when two parents feel this way…it makes for a messy household…and I don’t mean messy as in clothes and toys everywhere (that’s a given…we have a one-year-old!) I mean messy as in our relationship and our sense of unity as a family.
We knew that part of what we were feeling was just the season of life…but there was another part of it that we knew we had control over if we just took the time to identify it and make changes. That’s when we decided to dissect things a little more closely and make some tough but necessary choices. We asked ourselves the questions…
What CAN we change?
What CAN’T we change?
And then weighed the pros and cons of making those changes or not.
In the end, we realized that we needed to free up more time in my day to tidy up around the house, prepare dinner, pay bills, play and spend time with Rowan, walk the dogs etc. (and so much more). It seemed like where I was lacking efficiency was managing all of the “little things” that seemed to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the week. We knew by alleviating the limited time to sneak in these smaller tasks, my heart and mind wouldn’t feel so frazzled at the end of the night.
As for Dusty, his routine and schedule are pretty much stuck in place. Unfortunately, it’s a difficult ride that he has to endure and push through…but to do so, he needed a supportive wife and positive environment to come home to at the end of the day or to look forward to being around after a long week. I could offer him a better side of myself if we took care of these other things.
So here are the changes we made.
I quit my full-time job.
I enjoyed my job for the most part but at the end of the day it was taking up too much time and energy and I knew my heart would feel more full if I could spend more time with Rowan and work on all of those “little things”. I’ve been working full-time since 2010, so I know what it means to work outside of the home and how much time and energy it takes. It’s not for the faint of heart…but neither is being at home full time with your kids. It’s a balance that differs from household to household…family to family. It humbles me to be able to say I will have experienced the strain of both lifestyles at some point in this journey.
We then discussed how I could still have focused time for my blog, an area I wasn’t willing to give up, an area that still brings me joy along with a little bit of money for our family but more than anything, it is my creative outlet. We looked at our budget and decided to adjust so I could have 8-10 hrs per week of focused blogging time…whether I split that into two four hour chunks or one eight hour chunk. We could afford a sitter for Rowan for that amount of time per week.
Realigning our finances. Simplifying.
So, how do we make it work financially after I quit my full-time job and Dusty’s still a student? Quite honestly, it’s a big leap of faith on our end. Dusty receives federal loan money as a medical student that we live off of each year. Since we have a dependent (Rowan) we get a little bit more than usual, but not much. And we will be paying this back in full (and then some) once he starts residency. That…coupled with my blog income…and cutting back on spending (i.e. simplifying) allows us to be more fiscally responsible with our overall budget. We are in a unique situation in that Dusty doesn’t actually make a salary just yet. Once residency starts, he will make an actual salary, which will be nice!
We’ve also identified the word “simplify” as our word for 2018. Simplifying allows us to realize what we need and don’t need. It frees up our budget in ways I never thought possible. It’s crazy how when you cut your ties to “stuff” it alleviates so much of the financial stress you might face. And on top of all of this…we still have money to donate to our favorite charities, our church, and to bless others who might need some help. We have nice phones – but we don’t upgrade or buy the newest versions of everything. We have two cars, one car lease and one car we don’t have a car payment on. We rent and live out of town and so our rent is a little cheaper than most. We don’t have unnecessary subscriptions to things. And we keep things pretty simple overall. We look at our yearly budget then break it down to monthly and then weekly (super important) and we plan ahead.
Overall, being a stay at home mom will be just as busy…it’s stressful, but it’s a different kind of stressful. A managed stress. There will undoubtedly be some really hard days ahead as Rowan enters his opinionated toddler years. And I’ll lean on other moms who’ve been there before me and their great advice.
So there you have it. In a nutshell, my 2018 journey to being a stay at home mom (except for that 8-10 hrs per week) and learning to simplify so that we can make it work. I can’t wait to have more devoted time to writing and sharing our story with you. I am so inspired by working moms and stay at home moms…mom’s just rock – PERIOD. And in the end…if there is anything that Dusty and I have learned throughout this part of our life journey…it’s that God has carefully crafted every season of life – the good and the bad…the hard moments and the joyful moments. And it will all be OK.
What are some of your tips and advice on simplifying or managing your work/life balance?