Sunday, November 23, 2008

Money matters

Before I left my consulting career to stay at home with boy, I was a little worried. I'd talked to a few women who said that they found being at home after becoming accustomed to lots of professional interaction to be on the stagnant side -- that they missed the constant challenges of work and clients, the stimulation of their colleagues, the constructive pressures of the fast track. I also wondered what it would be like to suddenly stop contributing financially to our marriage and family -- I'd been working and sharing in family expenses since I was seventeen, so the change in my role from breadwinner to at-home caregiver was one about which I fretted a bit. 

I knew what I DIDN'T want to happen. I didn't want to regret leaving my professional role. I didn't want to feel like less of a contributor to our family in any way. I didn't want to feel like I'd lost a voice in how we spent what we earned. And I didn't want to feel like I had to get purchases approved by husband.

As it turned out, we handled the change in finances the way we've handled everything else -- with lots of open and honest communication. We've agreed that for major purchases, we'll consult with each other, no matter who's doing the actual spending, and we've each been true to our word. Regular "maintenance" purchases don't require such scrutiny, and once a month we look over our expenses together to make sure we're on track and in line (husband is a big one for Microsoft Money, Excel spreadsheets and categorizing expenses -- it makes reporting really easy). One unexpected change that's come of me being a stay-at-home mom is that I've suddenly gotten in touch with my inner thrifty self. I was never the one of us who questioned expenses with, "Do we really need that?" or vetoed a suggestion to eat out, but now I find myself in the role of expense manager, and I like that I've found a new way to contribute positively to our finances -- by helping us continue to be smart about how we're spending what comes in. I'm proud of this new hat I'm wearing, and I take it seriously. I think we've drastically reduced our eating-out expenses since boy was born. We even take time, three or four times a year, to discuss upcoming expected purchases and prioritize them, like updating furniture in the office, acquiring a hutch for the dresser in the nursery, planning for Christmas gifts, etc. Sure, we'll splurge now and then (um, hello? I got a MacBook for my birthday), but largely we're making one income work out for us without our savings having to suffer for it -- an accomplishment I am happy to attribute to husband's careful planning and our shared commitment to me being with boy every day.

And my career? There are things about it I miss, like the amazingly talented people I worked with. I learned so much from working alongside all of them, and they weren't just smart, they were fun. Not having a regular chance to interact with them is a definite "minus", but the "plus"es of being at home with boy far outweigh it and the few others on that short list. One of my former colleagues said, "Being a stay at home mom is the toughest job you'll ever love," and she was absolutely right. And another wise coworker told me I'd never regret it, and I believe that's true. I certainly haven't so far. 

How could I possibly?

1 comment:

married yoshimi said...

I think about these things a lot. I'm hoping to get to slow down my biz a bit to have a little 'un fairly soon, which has definitely been a factor in us being so intent on biting the bullet and getting out of debt. I definitely think there is no more important job than the raising of kids, and I applaud you for embracing the multi-tasking job of wife/mommy/homemaker/economist/support staff!