SAHM: Part II -- Some Questions

>> 6.12.2012

We received some questions about posting about what we're doing budget-wise so I can stay at home with Ada. This just just part I, as we received many questions. If you have any of your own, just leave a comment or email us at writingchapterthree [at] gmail [dot] com.

Laura asks: "I have a hard time not feeling 'productive' enough. Do you ever feel like that without working outside the home? I think my problem is that I measure productivity in terms of money earned, which isn't always the case!"

I, too, had been in the habit of measuring my productivity -- my worth -- by dollars earned. Plus, I was getting to an income level where I felt like I was finally making what matched what I was doing. There are definitely days when I'm home now and I feel like I haven't done anything at all. Or like an entirely week has blown by and was a "waste" or something like that.

I am working to shift my way of thinking. I have been part of the working world for as long as I can remember. I even started doing little unpaid "internships" at my dad's administrative office when I was 12. I think a big part of switching from a working woman to a SAHM is the identity crisis. People now ask me what I do for an occupation and I stumble. Uhm. I stay at home. Is that a legitimate thing to DO as my occupation right now?

Again, I stumble. Of course I know it is. I certainly work my butt off being home with Ada. There's far less down time than I ever imagined there would be. There's no paycheck. No respite from the stress on crazy days. But I started feeling more productive and better about things when on mother's day, Stephen simply said: Thank you.

I know he appreciates what I do. But because I'm not making money, sometimes I struggle feeling like "what I do" is actually doing anything at all. He listed all the reasons why he's happy I'm home. I didn't mean for that last phrase to sound so 1950s. What I mean is that he knows how hard it is to keep it together with a baby in the house. He's seen his fair share of epic nap struggles and diaper blowouts.

Another way I feel productive is by attempting to structure my day in some small way. I wrote a bit about it on the How To Get Stuff Done post.

Emily asks: "Did you at all consider working part-time? That's what I do, and it's the best of both worlds."

I did consider it. However, there aren't a lot of part-time opportunities where I live. I skim Craigslist and other job-relates sites about once every couple weeks to see if that changes. The jobs that do crop up don't pay exceptionally well. On top of that, there aren't many good part-time day care opportunities. Those that are available are expensive and would pretty much make working not worth it. I'll continue to search for a good balance, though!

Alexandra asks: "What was your job pre-baby? Also -- do you notice that when you are at home all day (instead of at work) you spend more money?"

I had a variety of jobs after I graduated from college. They are all listed on our About page under the FAQs section. Most recently I had worked at a university library as an assistant to the dean. It involved your typical administrative duties, along with some design and editing of presentations and PR materials, and even managing the building/facilities, which was sort of a wildcard. Your basic office job. 9 to 5.

I don't want to go into the position entirely because I know some people from my office read my site and one coworker even passed it along to my boss while I was on vacation last summer. (Related note to other bloggers: If you have a blog, be careful with what you write! I have written a few office survival posts that weren't even about my latest position, but they were received that way. You can't fight perception.)

So, I guess we'll say this: I used to love that job. It wasn't the reason I wanted to stay home. In fact, it wasn't my original plan to leave.

As for spending more money as a result of being home all day . . . my answer is no. I don't live in an area where I can walk down the street to restaurants, cafes, or stores. I live in a residential neighborhood and when I'm not feeding or caring for Ada, we take walks, jogs, and play in the backyard. I occasionally get together with some other mom-friends for no-cost activities. There aren't tons of baby classes that we can sign up for yet, but we had actually stashed away some money for when those do crop up. All together, we were able to save over $1,000 toward them!

Jen asks: "Does Stephen ever working during the summer?"

He has, but not recently. He used to manage some summer camps at Cornell. He's also tutored SAT stuff during the year and also in the summers. It isn't that he's opposed to working this summer, but I think we tacitly decided we'll both stay home and enjoy this time together. We still have a lot of friends/family to visit with the little one. In the future, though -- I could see him getting a job. Or I could see MYSELF getting a summer job.

Marie asks: "I have one question -- as it is a big line item in our budget -- what about life insurance?"

Good question. Stephen gets a modest policy through his job. I used to get one -- again, modest -- through my union. In no way do we think we're invincible. But right now I am not covered and Stephen hasn't upped his policy. It is something we're looking into and hope to decide upon soon. Trying to figure out the best thing for our budget. Unfortunately, we know, very closely, that bad things can and do happen when you least expect. So, it's not a decision we're taking lightly.

Jessica and several others asked about savings: How we save, how much we save, etc.

Right now, we don't have a number put in our budget for savings. We scrimped to get the 9 months of expenses in our bank account and we're hoping to keep that without dipping into it too much. Still, we'd like to save what we can to replenish what we spend during emergencies and even to grow that amount.

Basically, if we have money left at the end of the month, we don't spend it on fun stuff. We save. If we unexpectedly get money -- from tax returns, birthdays, or otherwise -- we save. I think you get the picture. We rarely indulge these days. Yet, we're the happiest we've been in a long time. Truth.

Some months that means $200, if no one needed to go to the doctor or if we didn't do much on weekends. Other, more common months it's more like $50. Some months we end up dipping into it. It's not a perfect method, but I keep track of everything on a spreadsheet in Excel. I'm working up a sample spreadsheet to share with you all if you'd like to use our method.

If you missed it, don't forget to read The SAHM Decision: Budget and Sacrifice. And if you have your own questions, just leave a comment or email us at writingchapterthree [at] gmail [dot] com.

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