About ten years ago my husband and I packed our stuff and left the big city moving to a town in Western Michigan. It was a great and exciting career move for my husband, and I was excited to make a fresh start. Most of my career I’d worked in higher education administration, but I really wanted to try my hand at entrepreneurship. This seemed like the perfect time.
A home-based business seemed most feasible to start and I tried many ideas before I found what worked for me. My vision was big and I wanted to in the future open some sort of retail shop. I tried my hand at personalized books, resume writing, clowning and jewelry sales. For the last seven years I’ve owned a custom bra fitting service, and about two years ago I found my niche in graphic and web design. My repertoire also includes freelance writing and teaching community education classes. Ten years into it I am so happy and content with staying/working from home; however, I am sorry to say that early on this was not the case. It has been a journey to finding fulfillment as a stay-at-home wife.
While a student at Wilberforce University, my husband and I made plans to marry and we’d ride into Dayton, Ohio and look at houses and plan our life together. In retrospect, all of our planning focused upon monetary and career success. We focused very little upon inner peace, spirituality and family. These things (monetary and career success) remained our priority for many years and through them we measured and identified ourselves.
Initially, I worked part-time as a substitute teacher while building my business. It wasn’t long before my husband noticed a difference in the times that I taught, and the times I didn’t. He had become accustomed to me ironing his shirts, cleaning and organizing the house, and preparing meals. But during the weeks I’d teach, these things would suffer. Soon he told me he’d prefer that I stop teaching and work solely from home – operating the business and managing the home.
Now I was always supportive of stay-at-home moms and/or work-at-home moms. I so respected these moms for dedicating themselves to motherhood, but I was not yet a mother. Just stay at home I thought? For many years I’d be back and forth, wanting to honor my husband’s desires but struggling with my own self-esteem and security. Working from home was not providing the personal income that I desired, and most of us know that for most people it never will. My dreams I thought were slipping away and I felt less and less value as a person. I watched as sorority sisters and college mates climbed the “career ladder”, went on to graduate or law school and fulfilled their college dreams. They were buying new homes, driving luxury vehicles and I knew we could afford these things also if I worked or pursued a full-time business. For quite a while I struggled within myself – it was a constant battle.
What changed you ask? How did I find happiness and contentment in staying at home? Well for starters, I stopped comparing myself to others. Each family must determine what works for them. There is no “magic formula” for happiness. For us, my staying at home and having a part-time home-based business is best. My husband is a City Administrator and his job is quite demanding. I now realize that my being at home takes a lot of pressure off of him and brings him a lot of satisfaction. When I let go of my selfishness, I began to enjoy and find satisfaction in caring for him and our home. I now pour myself into my work as a homemaker as much, or even more than my business endeavors.
When I dedicated myself to being a homemaker, I began to examine our health and our eating habits. I changed our diet drastically and researched vitamin/mineral supplements. My husband and I now have so much more energy and we get sick less. This week I even discovered that I can fit into my pants that were in the back of my closet the last four years because I couldn’t fit them. I’ve also stopped cleaning the house with harsh chemicals and have even begun to make my own potpourri, body fragrances and linen sprays. I take such pride when people say, “oh your home smells so good, I wouldn’t have guessed that you have a dog”.
Last week my husband forwarded an e-mail to me. It was a career study that reported a salary figure of $131,471 for stay-at-home moms including overtime. This was no news to my husband and me. We’d already crunched the numbers. Since I’d been at home we’ve stopped paying for dry cleaning (I steam clean my husbands suits and press his shirts myself), and we have cut our restaurant visits in half. I also now have time to regularly review our spending and to shop around for deals instead of paying full price. Because we only have to be concerned about my husband getting time off, we take vacations off-season. For example, our last vacation was to a posh spa in Wisconsin. Room rates are at least $200 per night. Because of smart shopping and flexibility, we were able to get a room for $129 per night. As I write this I’m at a conference with my husband in northern Michigan. We will often times create a vacation around business travel something we’d be unable to do if I worked for someone else, or even if my business were full time. Our biggest savings however has been on my wardrobe, something I hadn’t in the past considered. In higher education, the dress code for women was business suits or career dresses. Simply put, my wardrobe was not cheap. I now report to work in my pajamas, sweats, jeans or casual wear when I meet with clients.
What I’ve been blessed to realize is that monetary/superficial things mean very little in the big scheme of things. I have become perfectly content driving a quite old, but nice Mercedes Benz and living in a neighborhood in the inner city. We purchased a huge historical home and restored it. It is perfect for a home office. I no longer have any interest in opening a retail establishment. I make enough money to do the extra things I want to do, while investing in my retirement, and that’s enough for me. Simply put, it’s a sweet arrangement.
In a world where success is measured by your paycheck, and things such as health, peace, happiness, contentment and sanity are so underrated, it is very difficult for homemakers, and the like to find value in what they do. I guess the key is to design your own measuring stick. This way you’re sure to measure up. I did and I couldn’t be happier.