Staying Home: 3 Years Later

>> 10.22.2014

When I made the decision to leave my full-time job to stay home nearly three years ago, it wasn’t something I took lightly. We’re not in the position to be a one-income family by any stretch of the imagination, but we had saved enough backup funds that we could let things slide for a few months while we figured it out. I took an extended leave from work (my union allowed up to 7 months), found a steady freelance gig, and pulled the plug.

I remember in the beginning, it was all newborn craziness. I had never experienced tiny babyhood before, and I felt overwhelmed with the new responsibilities. Diapers, breastfeeding, caring for someone besides just myself, etc. After a while, though, I had this surge of “what am I going to DO with myself?” that set in when Ada was around 3 months old. She didn’t move a lot during the day. She still spent a good chunk sleeping and then nursing, repeat.

I was used to being needed in the real world and -- though I was certainly needed at home -- it was a rough transition to find equal value. I was used to interacting with adults and now I spent my days talking a lot . . . but with little response aside from a giggle or goo-goo. I was used to my to-do lists five miles long and an inbox bursting at its virtual seams (and I didn’t miss that at all, but it helped to validate my existence). Committee work. Countless meetings. Deadlines. You know, being a legit adult who contributes to society, at least by the more traditional definition.

Had I made the right choice?


First of all, I felt fortunate to have a choice at all. But this isn’t to say that dropping out of the FT working world was easy or automatic. It took years of thinking and planning. It took creative budgeting and countless Excel spreadsheets with different scenarios. Sacrifices like not taking vacations or buying whatever we want or even need. Driving old cars. Leaning our grocery budget as much as humanly possible. Living generally with less. Over time, it's become our new normal, but I can’t say I don’t miss more mindless spending, however impulsive + irresponsible it can be.

The thing is, whether you work from home or stay at home or otherwise, I’m not convinced it’s easy to feel one hundred percent fulfilled. Not necessarily from within, because after years in this stint, I truly feel this is where I am meant to be. I’m happy. I’m finding balance. I’m doing well both professionally and personally. However, what gives fulfillment is so very personal and subjective. Yeah. It’s just the little things that pile up and bug the heck out of me. For example, I was recently chatting with a woman I’ve known for years but hadn’t seen in quite a while. She asked me what I do nowadays, and I said that I stay at home with Ada and work around 20-30 hours a week as a freelance writer.

Her response was a surprised expression and: “Oh, I didn’t realize you did anything!”

Wow.
Thank you.

My freelance work aside, isn’t staying at home with children doing something?

I’m not trying to add another fervent piece to the flooded at-home mom versus working mom debate, but seriously. Comments like this one hurt and are honestly ignorant. They jolt that internal peace I have with my decision at its core. WAHMs don’t get a lot of support when it comes to understanding what we do either. There are all different ways to do it, but when I tell people I work at home, they don’t know what that means. Or they immediately assume I host purse parties for extra spending money on things for myself (like pedicures, and I’ve had but one of those in the last three years). Who cares if I did? I mean, I think most of us are at least doing what we feel is good in our unique situations.

I could go on about this for days, so I’ll get back to the topic at hand.

Over the years, my role as a SAHM has morphed with each new stage. Now that Ada is in preschool a couple mornings a week (and soon to be three mornings -- excited about her school’s new offering!), I have more time and have chosen to expand my workload. When I have another child to care for, I’m sure it’ll change all over again. It’s this weird amorphous way of living . . . but it’s all I know anymore. So, three years later I’m feeling more confident in my decision to stay at home and get work where I can. I can’t guarantee I’ll always do what I’m doing now, but it’s what feels best at this time.

I sort of fell off track with writing about this stuff in the last year when my life got more hospital focused. But I think I’ll begin again with some more thoughts on what it’s like to stay home, how we make it work financially, and anything else you guys are interested in.

Let me know!

// RELATED

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The Cash Envelope System
The Cash Envelope System -- UPDATE
Planning Number 2: Budget Edition
SAHM: Money Matters
SAHM: Budget + Sacrifice
Piecing Together Income from Different Streams
Making On Car Work For Our Family

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The Hand-Painted Backsplash

>> 10.20.2014

I mentioned in my last kitchen post that I was thinking of jazzing up our tiles with some painted designs. And after we started getting up all the white doors, the white tile was looking rather plain and ordinary.

First, let’s take a look at where we started.


And in progress:


Let me back up. Our tile backsplash was painted white by the previous owners. It was plain Jane. I knew eventually we’d want to liven it up. And when was browsing around, I found all these cool Moroccan-inspired tile prints. I liked the ones most where they’d mix and match the tiles for a crazy sort of look. And since I like taking risks, I figured a few tubes of craft paint and hours of my time would be worth the experiment. If I totally hated it, I thought, I could always just cover it over with metal backsplash like we did in our previous kitchen.

So, I started. And immediately I thought I made a mistake.


Several hours of work -- and over 130 tiles later -- it really came together. At least in my opinion. I think once I can get full kitchen makeover photos up, it’ll look even better. All the clutter and crap is just out of frame in these photos, but the impact the print has on the room with tying together all the colors is big.

And with so many patterns together, you can’t tell quite as well that I’m not at all an artist. At all. Instead, it’s a beautiful chaos.


I started by copying a few of the prints I liked on this backsplash, but soon decided to go rogue and create my own. I used the following metallic craft paints (paint + brushes cost less than $10 for this project) -- one in a color that went with the trim, another with the counters, and the other with the cabinets. I would have loved to do bright, vibrant colors -- but since the counters and sink are earthy tones, I didn’t think it would go as well.

I tried three different brands of paint and you really do get what you pay for. The Martha Stewart Paint colors were the best, it was the easiest to work with. The Folk Art and Craft Smart was kind of runny. But they all did just fine in the long run. I think after I let them dry fully, I’ll probably cover with some clear topcoat for extra durability.


I know this look isn’t for everyone.

It’s fun, though, and fit well within our budget.


Looking forward to sharing more of the transformation. Initially, I know that our ultimate goal has been achieved -- the white cabinets make the space a lot brighter despite the lack of windows in the room. That’s the biggest help! The fun tile is just the icing on the cake.

What risks have you taken in your home decor?

Pssst: Don’t forget to enter the Real Food Organics giveaway!

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Limbo + Real Food Prenatal Giveaway

>> 10.17.2014

Before I get to anything else, I wanted to express my gratitude. You guys are the reason I continue blogging -- and I very much appreciate all your sharing and support in response to the Two Week Wait post. Though I won’t be sharing every minute of our TTC journey, it’s helpful to know we aren’t alone in the ups and downs and all-arounds.

Today, I thought I’d touch on a few questions I’ve received related to TTC and this whole way of life that I call being in limbo. It’s like, you’re not pregnant . . . but you’d like to be . . . but you’re not in control. It’s up to the universe and, frankly, luck. It makes life difficult in a number of different ways. It changes the way you regularly go about the day’s tasks. Etc.

Exercise


I think the most frequent question I’ve been getting concerns how I’ve changed running throughout this period. I had been running over 30 miles a week with a long run typically between 10-16 miles. For me, this is higher mileage, especially considering I decided against the marathon -- so when we started TTC, I cut back on mileage and pace considerably.


Honestly, this part of trying for a baby is extremely difficult for me. Running releases tension and gives me a much-needed break at the end of the day. No other exercise quite compares, so now that I’m trying to keep running to 4 days a week -- 3 to 4 miles each time with a possible “long run” of around an hour . . . well, I get cranky. My usual easy run paces were between 8:10-8:30, faster workouts were usually sub 7:30. Now my paces stick around 9-10 minutes per mile. At least I think. A decision I’ve made early on is to stop tracking mileage and pace in real time and to go entirely by feel.

To supplement, I’ve been walking (our neighborhood is quite hilly, so I still get a nice challenge) and doing some Barre and toning workouts that I find on YouTube. I try to exercise at least 30 minutes to an hour everyday with maybe one day of true rest. I don’t know if it’s helping or not, but I figure changing my routine certainly cannot hurt. I’m also just trying to be more active overall.

Eating + Drinking


I have opted to stop drinking entirely at this point. Well, except when I get my period and need that ice cold beer to wash away the misery of beginning another cycle. Though, I may stop that soon, too. I had an entire week of spotting last month before my period (I’ve never, ever . . . EVER had spotting) and -- as some of you saw in the comments of my last post -- it ended up being a chemical pregnancy. So, it's all too confusing sometimes. Is it implantation bleeding? Is it a miscarriage? Is it a messy cycle? Is it ketchup? You never know at our house.

I’ve been trying to eat a balanced diet, but I’m having trouble eating the right amount for my activity level. I’m still on crazy-runner Ashley who can put away half a loaf of bread without blinking and then slam down 5 cookies for good measure with no repercussions.


Though I’ve stopped weighing myself, I can tell that I have gained weight through this process, which is frustrating since what I’m trying to accomplish will mean packing on even more pounds. So, I’d like to reevaluate my eats to make sure I’m getting all the nutrition I need (fruit and veggies more than bread and goodies) without eating for 2 and an endurance athlete that isn’t really doing much endurance anymore.

Testing


I’m one of those POAS addicts.


If you don’t know what that means, it’s likely you don’t need that info. I started doing OPKs this month because I thought my cycle might be strange after the chemical, and I was right. However, those cheap drugstore tests are sure confusing. If I choose to do them again, I do think I’ll invest in a bit of a digital no-nonsense kit. Otherwise, I try to follow all my body’s natural signs for fertility.

As far as HPTs, I think going forward I’m going to resist the urge to test early. It’s annoying. It’s expensive. It’s kind of heartbreaking and stress-inducing. Instead, I’ll maybe do it the day I’m supposed to start my period and go from there.

I’ve tried the Dollar Store pregnancy tests, and honestly -- I do know that they work, so I’ll probably stock those if I have a POAS emergency (and you know it’ll happen). Otherwise I do the First Response because they’re the most sensitive -- and PS: buying them online is WAY cheaper than in the store, even with those piddly coupons. I swear I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on sticks, and I hate it.

Oh, and blue dye tests are notoriously awful, so skip those.

Other Stuff


I don’t really do any of those funky tricks to increases chances of conception. Everything I read is contradictory and I didn’t do anything special with Ada besides staying in bed for a while. I really wish there was some tried-and-true thing that makes babies stick. If you know of a pill or potion, please let us all know.

I’ve been taking prenatal vitamins like it’s my job. I have tried so many different brands by now that I have a pretty good idea of what works for my body and what does. A lot of them make me mega-sick. Especially if I don’t take them with food. So, what I’ve learned is that my stomach is mega-sensitive -- and I started cutting my pills so I wouldn’t get such a huge dose (mostly of iron, I think) at once.


So, when Country Life offered me the chance to check out their Real Food Organics Prenatals, I was excited to see if a raw food-based, 3x a day dose would be better for me. And -- honestly -- I haven’t been nauseous taking these vitamins even once. Score! You don’t even need to take them with food because -- well -- they are food. The only other vitamin I’ve tried that hasn’t made me feel ill is the VitaFusion Prenatal Gummie, but they don’t have iron.

I think a big part of it is taking them three times each day, which can be hard to remember, but I just get one in with each meal. Additionally, they have high levels of B-vitamins, which are known to help combat nausea. They're also vegan and gluten-free. And -- honestly -- if you’d like to try them, why not enter the giveaway!

GIVEAWAY


That’s right. I have a bottle of these vitamins to give away! Just leave your name, a way to contact you (very important!), and the words REAL FOOD in the comments and tell me about your experiences with prenatal vitamins. (Which ones do you like, which ones make you sick, etc.).

I’ll choose a winner on Wednesday, October 22nd.

Happy Friday!

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