• Michelle Smith

I Can't Afford to Work: how I became a stay at home mom

Updated: Feb 27



Before the age of 30, none of my prior life experiences had ever led me to believe I would, could or had any interest in becoming a stay at home mom. Although my paternal grandmother was what we would now consider a SAHM (stay at home mom), I never saw it as a reality for myself, as I grew up among a community of women who were single mothers or in toxic relationships. Myself being raised by a single mother I prided myself on being a strong, independent, modern woman. In fact, by the time I was in middle school I was making my own money braiding and styling hair, which instilled a small sense of power and independence that I felt defined who I was. It wasn’t until recently that my world was shaken and I realized that it is not in the ability to define ourselves, but the willingness to redefine ourselves in which strength lies.


I married my husband, had my first child, moved to a different state and was expecting my second child all within the time span of two years. I did not have time to adjust to becoming a wife before having to adjust to an out of state move. I sure didn’t have time to adjust to a move before adjusting to becoming a mother, and I did not have time to adjust to being a new mom before trying to wrap my head around the physical, emotional and financial strain that awaited baby number two. In a time that I was supposed to be celebrating a new life, I was trying to fight off a panic attack awaiting me as I cried myself to sleep. It was during this time and the following months that I learned that it was necessary to change my life’s trajectory by experiencing the true definition of submission.


Professionally I have a background in early childhood education and mental health case management. I worked as a case manager five years prior to having my first son. When it was time to return to work I was living in a new city, meaning I had no job to go back to and was starting from scratch. While this seems like a disadvantage, it was actually a blessing in disguise because it allowed me to consider and explore other employment options. Because the thought of leaving my 3 month old baby with anyone, let along strangers caused me a great amount of anxiety, I decided to go back into an early childhood education setting that would allow me to at least be under the same roof as my son. Genius right! Although I wasn’t sure about my long term plans, I knew this would be manageable for a few years at least.


Well much to my surprise it didn’t last quite that long. Besides my personal discomforts of adjusting to being confined to a classroom with the same people for 8 hours a day, I found that I was increasingly disappointed with the standards of the school. I was working at one of the most esteemed preschools, with advanced curricula and resources, yet I was one of two teachers in a classroom of 20 three year olds. This left very little time to implement all of the “goodies” that were afforded to us when the classroom lacked basic support like smaller ratios and mental health awareness of staff. I get it though, most centers are all about the numbers, with childcare and education coming in with a strong second and third place finish. Not to mention that cultural diversity was something they took much pride in, celebrating the Indian Feast of Lights, as well as the Chinese New Year… however giving no acknowledgement to celebrations such as Black History Month. When I brought this highly disturbing fact to the owner’s attention, she proceeded to express that she did not know what Black History Month was. You can only imagine the shock, disgust and disappointment I felt at that moment. Being a solution seeker I volunteered to give classroom presentations throughout the school in honor of Black History Month, but I could not let go of an annoyance in the pit of my stomach. As much as I would love to say that the conflicts mentioned above liberated me and gave me the courage to quit my job, in all actuality, once I had my second son I could no longer afford to work!


If I had chosen to go back to work and pay for my children to attend the same school, my monthly childcare cost would be almost equivalent to my monthly income. In essence I would be working for free. It was bad enough that I was taking care of and educating other people’s children while I felt as if I was neglecting my own, but now I was expected to do that for nothing in return?!? No thank you! It was at this time that I not only started to panic about no longer having an income, but I was also smacked with the reality that I was not comfortable with my children receiving the care and education provided by even the best institutions. Rather a lack of diversity or a lack of academics, I trusted myself above all else to raise and educate MY children. I was aware that this could become an issue I would possibly face once my children started elementary school, but never did I expect to be paralyzed with these decisions so early on.


In the midst of trying to calculate how adding one baby and subtracting one income equals success, I learned how to listen to Him and submit. YHWH, the great I AM is just that. He IS…everywhere, and by humbling myself I learned how to pay attention and listen to everything in and around me. I also realized that learning to trust HIM could not be accomplished without learning to trust myself. As soon as I learned to accept and appreciate everything in my life, rather deemed good or bad, I started to make room for more blessings. Only a few months after giving birth to beautiful baby boy, my husband received a job offer that basically doubled his salary. This meant another move, but it left mental and financial space that allowed me to be comfortable with my new life that Yah had paved especially for me.


“I can’t afford to work.” What started off as a burden quickly became a blessing. Not only was this statement true in terms of finances, but more so in self-preservation. My time spent with my children and away from a 9-5 has afforded me an opportunity to learn myself all over again. I’m learning things I never even considered, like why it was so difficult for me to be a “good employee” despite loving and being good at what I did. I’m also learning the aspects of my life and abilities that I deem most important, and how to build a lifestyle that is peaceful and conducive to my purpose… while earning a living. Now I’m aware that this may sound quite profound, but in all honesty I am still at the beginning of this journey. I am still learning so much that I often suffer from analysis paralysis. I still get overwhelmed with being on the job 24/7 with no sick days or vacation. I still come up short of my goals or find myself two weeks behind in my planner. And while I’m not the best at accepting my shortcomings, I am learning to follow the advice of a beautiful comrade, Sabrina McField, who told me to “trust the process”. In hindsight I realize that the skills I acquired during my “professional life” were only the foundation for my prolific life. Let’s live!


Are you a stay at home mom? Have you ever been, or would like to be one? How did you become one, and how did you adjust and overcome any obstacles you faced?

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