Finding Yourself in Motherhood

Four days after my son was born, I bawled like a baby as I heard the little cry start again.  It was 3 am, I was utterly exhausted, and this was the fourth time I had tried to lay my new son down and slip into bed.  Thirty minutes later, I fell asleep with him draped across my chest…something I vowed to never do…something the pediatrician who had checked him out in the hospital had told me to never, ever do.  As I slipped into sleep I cried again, feeling like a failure as a mom. 
I’d always wanted to be a mother.  I was pretty sure that, when the time came, I would know exactly what I was doing and that motherhood would come naturally to me.  I was so wrong.
Sure, I had those amazing feelings of love you always hear about.  Changing dirty diapers didn’t make me cringe a bit.  Once the struggle of the first tough month was over, I even enjoyed nursing.  What I wasn’t prepared for were the feelings of inadequacy and uselessness.  My filthy house, dirty dishes stacked high, and inability to get one decent meal on the table made me feel completely incapable as a house wife.  The fact that my son was not a “typical” newborn (as I thought he should be) made me feel out-of-control.  My exhausted frustration at my son when he would scream for hours every night from colic made me feel like a terrible mom.  Most of all, though, I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything all day.  I struggled with feeling a sense of purpose.
I knew that taking care of my son was my purpose for this season of life, but there was a disconnect between knowing that and feeling it in my heart.  I knew I was doing something very worthwhile and purposeful, but most days I felt like I was just treading water.  The problem was that, deep down, I wasn’t just a milk-producing, diaper changing, baby holding robot…there was a very real and individual person just dying to be let out!  The challenge in any change of seasons is finding the balance between who you are as a person and the tasks God has put before you for today. 
For me, finding this balance meant two things.  The first was that I had to change.  I had to let go of my need for control and desire to do things the “right” way and instead be flexible and learn to be the mom my son needed…not the mom I wanted to be.  Anytime God refines us, the process is far from easy and painless.  There were days that I despised the new mom posting on Facebook asking for ideas of things to do because her baby was so easy and she was bored.  Yet, I have come to realize that God gave me Miles with all of his out-of-the-boxness so that He could mold me and force me to let go of my controlling tendencies.  He gave me a very real little individual so that He could change my individual self.
Finding the balance for me also meant fusing who I was as a person with the role of mother.  Again, this isn’t an easy process.  I have come to believe that, in any season or role we find ourselves in, our personality should still shine and show through.  I don’t parent the same as any other mom because I am not any other mom.  I am a tea-drinking, outdoor-loving, greenthumb-wannabe who loves traveling and good food.  Consequently, my son spends a lot of time outdoors, is well acquainted with garden tools, has traveled more than most people will in a lifetime, and will eat just about anything…including spicy food or strong-flavored ethnic cuisine.  He is his own person, but his daily life is the way it is mostly because of who I am as a person.  God placed Miles in my care because He knew that the mama I am is the mama Miles needed.   
As I approach my two-year anniversary of being a mother, I’ve gotten into a better groove.  I have a system down for at least keeping the house manageably clean.  We do eat a home-cooked meal most nights, even if it was something I stuck in the freezer two weeks ago and just dumped in the crockpot that morning.  I already have long lists of freezer meals to assemble and preparations to make for whenever Baby Baker #2 decides to enter our home, knowing very keenly how needed those will be.  I feel very purposeful as I order our home, chase my toddler around, and reach out to other moms in our community. 
I am not the same person I was before my son was born.  And yet, I am more than just a mother.  I am Caitlin Baker, wife, mom, homemaker, and very real person…something that brings me very great joy.    

Stay-At-Home-Mom: Finances, Pt. 2

Last week I shared with you some ways that couples who don’t have children yet could prepare financially for the wife to be a stay-at-home mom someday.  Click here to read it.

Now we come to the hard part: making staying-at-home work when it just hasn’t seemed feasible before.  Honestly, I believe that living on one income is always possible, no matter how low that income might be.  There’s always something you could cut out or a second job to be had.  Are these solutions always the best for every family?  Probably not.  I believe that every family has to find the best solution for their family.  That said, I believe that God’s “best” solution is often very different from our own “best” solution.  So, here goes:

Transitioning into SAHM-dom

Develop a Plan.  Going from two-incomes to one doesn’t happen over night.  It takes time, patience, and a lot of sacrifice.  Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t just quit your job tomorrow!  It simply may take awhile.  So, take a hard look at your finances and start developing a game plan.

Downsizing.  Undoubtedly, cutting the income drastically is going to take some major downsizing.  I can guarantee you, there are all things we could lower or do without.  For you, this may mean not eating out as much, spending as much on clothes, or going on as many vacations.  It could be as simple as selling your car and buying a cheaper one (or doing without!).  Or, it could take a lot of sacrifice, like selling your home to buy or rent a smaller one. 

In today’s materialistic society, this can be really difficult.  Nobody wants to appear poor or hurting for money, nor do they want to be uncomfortable inviting people over to their house (because their houses are so much bigger, nicer, etc.).  Downsizing doesn’t mean that you have to live in a shambles, however.  Even the smallest spaces can be nicely decorated, clean, and inviting.  Why be embarrassed to have your friends over when your house looks like that?  When they see how happy you are (despite what you’re doing without), they might just start rethinking their own spending habits.

Let me tell you, cutting out things is by no means easy.  Your kids may hate you for it at first (hey, you may even hate yourself).  In the end, though, it’s so worth it.  Would you rather be the working mommy struggling to juggle work and your kids (plus all the stuff that comes with it), or would you rather be living a simpler life with much less stress?  You take your pick.

Knowing how much you actually “need”.  Really and truly, I don’t know very many people in America that are actually genuinely poor.  I mean, how many families do you know that live in cardboard boxes and walk miles and miles every day just to haul water (which is dirty, btw)?  The truth is, we as Americans need a reality check about “wants” vs. “needs”.     

I was with a group of friends lately who were discussing the different hairdressers in town.  Most of them were complaining about how expensive the different salons were.  What I realized very quickly, however, was that they weren’t just talking about cutting and styling…they were talking about cutting, styling, highlights, and lowlights.  No wonder the prices were so “high”! 

Ladies, we don’t “need” expensive hair treatments, manicured nails, or frequent visits to the tanning salon.  We don’t “need” to keep up with the latest fashions, or buy new clothes every month.  Think about all the things we spend money on: satellite t.v., high speed internet, nice cars, vacations to the beach, movies every weekend, video games…do we actually need any of them? The answer is a resounding “no”. 

The world makes it seem impossible to live on one-income.  In reality, it’s not our incomes that we need to adjust but our expectations.  

Learning thriftiness.  Beyond downsizing and doing without, to become a stay-at-home mom, you’re probably going to have to learn some additional thriftiness.  Learn to make things from scratch or start couponing.  Even if it seems like something little, keep at it.  Remember, a penny saved is a penny earned.

Doing your best.  What if, no matter what, you can’t seem to live on one-income reasonably?  All you can do is your best.  Consider cutting down on hours at work, or even outside activities that also steal your time away from home (ie, Bible studies, book groups, etc.).  Maybe look for part-time work instead of full-time.  Try searching for a job where you can work from home.  Just do the best you can for your family!  

Stay-at-Home Mom: Finances

I didn’t write a SAHM post last week, mostly because I was contemplating whether to keep doing it or not.  Sometimes my fear of making someone mad or hurt holds me back from saying what’s in my heart.  The truth is, it shouldn’t. 

Today I had an interesting conversation with someone that got me thinking about this next post.  Finances is a big one when it comes to stay-at-home moms because it’s what holds a lot of women back.  The conversation I had today was with a mom who longs more than anything to be at home with her kids.  She told me about how she’s poured her heart’s desire out to God over-and-over, but at this point they just can’t make it work. 

It broke my heart to hear that.  I couldn’t imagine being in that position and, in a way, it made me feel terribly guilty.  I felt guilty because I couldn’t tell her that I was in the same predicament.  Once this little man is born, I’ll get to be home with him 24/7. 

Again, I want to emphasize that my purpose in this series is not to condemn or wound.  Who am I to point my finger at a woman, like the one I talked to, who’s doing what she must to make her family work?  The truth is, however, that not everyone is in the same position as this woman.

I feel that I have a very unique perspective living where I do, in a small, rural town.  The first thing I noticed upon moving here was that there was such a huge division of classes.  There were the rich and there were the poor, and there wasn’t much in between.

Good or bad, everybody in town knows our church as the “rich” church.  In truth, it makes sense.  A large majority of the wealthiest people, the business owners and high-paying job holders, go to our church.  Yet, 90% of the moms in our church still work outside of the home.  The real truth is, it’s not finances that keep most of these women in their jobs.  It’s culture, the way they were raised, a high standard of living, not liking being at home, loving their jobs, and more.  Still, many of them would probably place the “blame” on finances.  I don’t mean to say this as condemning of anyone at our church.  We are so, SO blessed to be a part of such a wonderful body of believers!  God is really working there.  Yet, I sometimes wonder what these moms are missing out on.  Honestly, I blame the culture.  First, for placing the pushing the idea that women can’t be fully happy or make a difference in this world if they don’t hold an outside job.  Second, for giving us such a high standard of living that, for many women, their not working just doesn’t seem feasible.  Sadly, this isn’t limited to just women inside our church or even our community.

So how do you go from finances being your excuse to making things work?  Let me start from the beginning:

Planning Ahead

If you want to be a stay-at-home mom, the sooner you start planning for it, the better.  For all the single girls out there, that means now.  You need to be planning, working, and saving towards that goal if that’s what you desire.  Trust me, it isn’t easy to achieve.  The more work you put in now, though, the better your chances will be later. (As a side note, be looking for a guy who would support you…both financially and emotionally.)

For those couples that are heading towards marriage: SAVE!  Again, this issue is all about money, and the larger your savings the better.  Make all your decisions with your ultimate goal in mind, even if you think kids are far down the road. 

To those married couples just starting out, this is a critical time for you.  Here are some tips:

Set goals.  Whether you plan on having kids right away or in a couple of years, you need to start setting financial goals (and, honestly, these goals should affect your timing of when to try to have a baby).  Your main financial goal should be living comfortably off one income.  Set smaller goals to help you achieve this!

Lower your expectations.  A lot of newly married couples make the mistake of thinking their standard of living should be just like their parents.  This simply isn’t realistic.  Remember, your parents spent years getting to where they are!  Additionally, the world portrays a certain standard of living as a “necessity”.  If you want to be a SAHM, you may not be able to buy new clothes all the time, or get your hair highlighted in a salon.  Chiropractors and manicures could be out too and :gasp: you may not even be able to have cable t.v.!  Start lowering your expectations of how you should live right now, and you’ll be better off in the long run.

Live off your husband’s income, if at all possible.  I know this isn’t always feasible for everyone, especially if your husband is in school or working towards a certain career.  However, getting as close to that as possible will really help you in the long run.  Not only will you learn to scrimp and save, and sometimes do without, but you’ll be able to sock away your income for later (or as much of it as you can).

Save for a baby.  In case you didn’t already know this, babies cost money…a lot of it.  Start saving now for the time when your little one comes into this world, even if it’s a just a little each month.  Your pocket book will thank you.

Avoid debt.  In talking to other young moms or moms-to-be, I’ve discovered that debt plays a huge role in their ability to or not to be a stay-at-home mom.  While you probably can’t avoid all debt, the less you have the better.  Think twice before taking out that student loan or buying that nice car.  Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  Remember, those things become bills later…bills that eat away at your income.

Looking back, I’ve realized that a huge part of Andy’s and my ability to live off his income only is good planning.  Honestly, we have our parents to thank for that.  They not only taught us the value of a SAHM, but they also taught us how to budget and save and plan ahead. 

What if you didn’t plan ahead, or didn’t think that you’d want to be a stay-at-home mom?  Thankfully, there’s hope for you!  Stay tuned for next time when I share about how to become a SAHM if you’re not financially prepared for it.

Stay-At-Home Mom: Myths

Check out the last post in the series, Pros and Cons.  If you’re new to the series, start here.

One of the things I really want to address about SAHMs are all of the myths out there.  With the recent criticism of Ann Romney for being a stay-at-home mom, I feel this is especially relevant.  There are many, MANY more, but here are a few that are in my thoughts right now:

Living on one income is only possible nowadays when your husband has a high-paying job.”

I hope to address this in more detail in a later post, but for now I’d like to say this simply isn’t true!  My husband doesn’t make a ton, but we live a very comfortable and happy life…and we rarely do without!  If my husband made less, we’d still be able to make-do by cutting out some things (smart phones, satellite TV, etc.).  More on that later!

Stay-at-home moms are lazy.”

This couldn’t be further from the truth!  Spend a day with a SAHM and, I promise you, you’ll change your mind.  Granted, there are always those few who give the rest of us a bad name, but for the most part SAHMs are running constantly all day!  They have the hardest job of all…and they don’t even get paid for it.  I can never understand how someone could criticize a woman for not working outside of the home (ala, Ann Romney “hasn’t worked a day in her life”).  Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that being in the daycare industry is one of the hardest and draining jobs there is.  Stay-at-home moms are their own daycare workers, plus house cleaners, cooks, and a billion other things.  Can you seriously say that isn’t work??!!

Furthermore, SAHM moms are incredibly self-sacrificing.  They don’t get breaks, quiet lunch dates with friends, or quiet time in the car on the way to pick up their kids.  They are constantly putting their family’s needs ahead of their own.  Hard work?  You better believe it!

Stay-at-home moms are missing out on a fulfilling career.”

True fulfillment doesn’t come from success in the eyes of the world or getting a promotion.  Fulfillment comes from pouring everything you have into the task and the work God has given you for today.  It comes from knowing you are doing God’s work and changing the world.  You don’t need an outside job to find this.  Each time you clean up a smelly diaper or wipe a snotty nose, you are loving and nurturing the precious gift God has entrusted to you.  You are training, molding, and shaping the next world changer. 

This goes beyond your children, though.  As wives, our ultimate goal should be to be the best helpmeets we can be to our men.  By taking care of the home and caring for the children, you are freeing your husband up to be all that God has created him to be!  What could be a better help (or purpose) than this?

“I would go crazy staying at home all day!”

I think I’m going to address this more later on, too.  I believe that this is one of the biggest lies that women are told nowadays!  And who can blame modern young women for thinking this?  They’ve been steeped in the idea (from birth), that being a homemaker is boring and unfulfilling.  They’ve been taught to pursue their dreams, and those “dreams” go beyond a husband and children.  Chances are, their own mothers worked outside of the home and they haven’t had any good role models of happy and fulfilled stay-at-home moms! 

As women, we will find the most happiness and fulfillment when we are “keepers-at-home” before anything else.  We need to learn to embrace our homes and truly make them our castles.  More on that later.

If I was a stay-at-home mom, I wouldn’t be able to have any social life.”

Less income means less money for babysitters.  Add to that the constraint of having your children with you all day, and you rarely have time to meet a friend for lunch or have any “down” time.  But you know what?  There are other options!  Look for a MOPs group or a playgroup to join.  If you can’t find one, start one.  Offer to trade off babysitting with another couple you know.  Don’t be afraid to leave the kids at grandma’s for the weekend, or ask your husband to watch them on occasion while you have dinner with some friends.  Not being able to have a social life is an excuse…and one that doesn’t have to be!

Additionally, maybe its time to start seeing your children as the blessings they are, instead of burdens.  Learn to love spending time with them and being with them!  Yes, you need couple time or adult time on occasion, but every time you meet a friend doesn’t have to be without a kid in tow.  Instead of meeting a friend for lunch at a nice cafe, bring the kids along, pack lunches, and meet her at the park.  Really, it’s all about attitude.

What are some common myths that you have heard about stay-at-home moms?

Stay-at-Home Mom: The Pros and Cons

Last week I talked about My Story.  This week I’m going to talk about the pros and cons of being (or becoming) a stay-at-home mom.  If you don’t have time for the whole thing, be sure to skip to the bottom…I saved the best for last. 🙂

-More time with your child to train them, teach them, and love on them.
-Not having to worry about what someone else is teaching your child.
-Avoidance of the social problems daycares and preschools can create.
-Fewer sicknesses in your home (because your child is no longer in daycare)
-Never having to feel torn between work and kids.
-Never having to miss out on anything, such as your child’s first steps or first word.
-No tyrannical boss (in fact, no boss at all!) to deal with.
-No more daycare bills, soggy sandwiches packed for lunch, dealing with coworkers, or gas spent on commutes.
-Being able to do chores and errands during the day, so that when your hubby gets home at night your house is less stressful and chaotic. 
-In the same vein, you can devote more attention to your husband (who should always be your first priority) because you’ve already met your child’s needs (or as best you can) and you have less to worry about.
-Also in the same vein, more relaxing evenings.
-Possibly having more free time to pursue things you love, such as learning a new language, gardening, or writing.
-Your kids (and you and your spouse too) learn that doing without certain things doesn’t mean less happiness.  The simpler life can actually mean more happiness!
-Possibly having a smaller house to clean (because you can’t afford a bigger one 🙂 )

-Having to depend solely on one income and salary
-Not having the money for certain (or any) extracurriculars for your child or good family vacations.
-The stress that comes with struggling to make ends meet
-Not getting to “climb the ladder”, prove your worth, or use the degree you worked hard (and paid hard) for
-Possibly leaving a job you love and that you feel like you’re impacting the world at.
-Having to be stuck at home more
-Not getting recognition for your daily work
-Not getting to socialize as much with adults (aka, coworkers)
-Caring for your child all day takes a lot of work and energy!

And the real comparison:
-Nice lunches with coworkers could never compare to PB&J sandwiches at the park with a happy, smiling child.
-Impacting the world a little through an outside job could never compare to impacting the world by impacting one little life.
-Training a new employee well could never compare to training up your child in the way’s of the Lord, using each second as a teachable moment.
The extra money for highlights and manicures could never compare to the priceless gift of watching your child take his/her first steps.
The reduced stress of not struggling to make ends meet could never compare to the reduced stress of not having to juggle home life and work life.
Less fights about money (because they’re always plenty) could never compare to having more time to spend with your spouse.
The bigger house, nice vacations, and living the “American Dream” could never compare to a hopscotch drawn on the driveway, sleeping in a tent in the back yard for a “staycation”, and making chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen.
-The accolades, promotions, pay raises, and bonuses could never compare to being able to lay your head down at night knowing that you’ll never receive the recognition you should for the incredibly hard work you did that day…and being perfectly okay with that.

Stay-at-Home Mom: My Story

Click here to read the introduction to this new series, “Stay-at-Home Mom”. 

“Hi Dr. Laura, I’m Sarah and I’m my kids’ mom.”

I remember hearing that phrase frequently growing up.  On any given afternoon when we were in the car, Dr. Laura would be on, giving advice to men and women from all over.  She encouraged women to stay at home with their children, and coined the phrase “my kid’s mom” for any woman who did.  Women just like my mother.

Looking back, I can see that Andy and I were blessed.  We both came from families where the mom stayed at home with the kids.  We both knew that, even in today’s society, a one-income family could work and would work, and we both knew that someday we wanted a family just like that. 

It wasn’t always like that, though. 

My parents had both been raised in homes with a stay-at-home mom.  It was the norm back then, but times were changing.  As they grew up and went off to college, the feminist movement was in full swing.  For a while, they bought into it. 

My mom was a thoroughly modern woman in the late eighties.  She had her Ph.D. in Psychology and a good job.  She was smart and she was “going places”.  My parents had what society saw as the “perfect life” when they got married, and eleven months later I came along…all part of the plan.  I don’t think her quitting her job even crossed their minds then.

For the first few years, I was with a babysitter part of the day.  My mom got off early (3 o’clock), and spent every free moment with me.  She was a wonderful mother.  But still, she felt like she was missing out.  Then my younger sister came along and things changed.  My parents made the decision to become a single income family, and my mom quit her job to stay home with us girls. 

I don’t remember our family struggling because of it.  My dad was just starting out as a pilot, but he still made enough to support us and our home comfortably.  In fact, I don’t recall ever wanting for anything.

When Hilary and I headed off to school, my mom still stayed at home.  She was always there to pick us up from school and help us with our homework.  Because she hadn’t been at work all day, our afternoons were not chaotic and rushed with her trying to catch up on housework and workout.  When we were sick, she didn’t have to worry about missing work, and on our summer vacation we were with her constantly.  She didn’t have to feel torn between her family and her work, because her work was her family. 

Fast forward a few years and life found us starting to homeschool and my two other sisters came along.  And she was still there for us, happy and content as homemaker.  In fact, although my youngest sister is graduating high school this year, she’s still at home. 

Growing up in that environment, it’s easy to see that we were raised to want to be a stay-at-home mom.  We expected it.  For the most part, our friends’ moms stayed at home too.  There were a few who worked, or who decided to go back to work when their kids were in high school.  However, my mom wasn’t the “odd woman out” by any means.   

I’m sure my mother felt the pressure from other women though, who couldn’t believe she gave up her “big career” to take us to piano lessons and do “nothing”.  But she never seemed to mind.  I always remember watching her and thinking she had the best job at all, because she was always happy, content, and well-cared for.  I knew that someday I’d marry a man just like my daddy, who worked hard to provide for us and care for us so that I could be a stay-at-home wife and mom.

Thankfully, I met Andy, who is just that.  It’s always been a big deal to us that I stay at home with our little ones.  Every decision we’ve made, from buying a house to relying solely on Andy’s income to support us, has been with that in mind.  We’ve tried our very best to scrimp and save so that, once we have a baby running around, my working outside the home doesn’t ever have to be a necessity. 

Now that time is approaching…sometimes faster than I’m ready for.  But oddly, sometimes, I do feel like the “odd woman out”.  Where we live, and in our church, the vast majority of moms have full-time jobs outside of the home.  It’s the norm, it’s often expected, and most women see no way around it.  It makes me proud of the few women who’ve stood against the crowd.  Not all of them are well off, but they make it work. I can’t wait to join their ranks.  

Will the women who work’s kids all turn out terrible?  Of course not!  I’m not even saying that mine won’t turn out terrible, or that my kids will be better because I stay at home with them.  What I am saying is that I’ll be there for them, to nourish and care for them, to teach them and watch them grow.  I won’t miss out on anything.  Because I’ll be my kid’s mom. 

Next week, join us for a discussion on the pros and cons of being a stay-at-home mom.  And you might, just might, get to hear from my husband about his experiences growing up, and why my staying-at-home is important to him too!

Stay-at-Home Mom: An Introduction

Come August (or late-July, if my little man decides to come early), I’ll be taking a big step and making the transition into being a stay-at-home mom.  This is not a decision we or without much thought, but it is something we always knew we’d do.  From the very beginning we planned and saved and worked under the assumption that, whenever the Lord blessed us with a child, I’d stay at home with him or her.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our decision, especially with our little boy’s arrival getting ever closer.  I know it’s not a common, or even popular, decision in today’s society.  Even in our conservative Baptist church where babies abound, the number of working moms drastically outnumbers the number of stay-at-home moms.  I meet far too many women who think that staying-at-home with their kids wouldn’t be possible for their family, or that they’d be bored.  And then there are the girls who haven’t made the decision yet.  Maybe they’re expecting their first baby, or just planning to start a family, and the decision still remains unmade in their hearts and minds. 

With that in mind, I’m starting a blog series all about stay-at-home moms.  Obviously, I’m not a SAHM yet, so I’m on this journey with you.  Each week, I hope to share with you a little more about moms who stay at home and how they make it work.  There will be advice on how to make it work financially, dealing with criticism, and time management.  Also, I hope to share with you some interviews with real stay-at-home moms.  My sweet husband has even agreed to give you a guy’s perspective on everything!

Will you take this journey with me?        

Since I’m not a SAHM quite yet, I also need your help.  Are you a stay-at-home mom or planning to be one someday?  Do you have any comments or advice?  Would you be willing to answer a few questions for one of our Q&As?  Do you have any questions about being a SAHM?  Email me at , or just comment here if you’d rather.   

Finally, as a note, my goal in this series is not to belittle or criticize working moms.  I understand that being a SAHM is not always feasible, or that many women were simply not raised to want to be one.  In fact, many of my friends are working moms themselves.  If you’re a working mom yourself, my purpose is not to make you feel bad or judge you in anyway.  I only want to show you that there is a another wayAll I ask is that you keep an open mind, and let God speak to your heart about what His plan is for you and your family specifically.   

Thank you for going on this journey with me…I’m excited to see where God will take us!

Check back tomorrow for Part I of the series, “My Story”.