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Becoming a Stay-At-Home Mom (even if you're not Ann Romney)

Written By: Jennifer Buhler  |  Posted: Friday, April 27th, 2012

            "Ann Romney never worked a day in her life."  These words, spoken by DNC Adviser, Hilary Rosen, have sparked a nation-wide debate over women who have careers and women who stay at home to raise their children.  Mrs. Romney tweeted a response saying that raising her five boys was "very hard."  Rosen responded that she is raising children also, but "most of us HAVE to work." 

            Now perhaps you're no Hilary Rosen fan, but you are in the workforce because you feel you can't afford not to be.  Maybe you long to spend more time with your kids.  Your mother or grandmother may have stayed home, but times are different today.  Can a family really survive in this age on only one income, especially with such a poor economy?

            For those of you who want to leave the rat race and be with your children, I have good news.  It can be done, and it is being done by women right here in Wisconsin.  I interviewed several local women who left the workforce to raise their children with only their husband's income.  Many of these women have large families and none of them have incomes anywhere near the Romney's.

            Staying at home will be a financial sacrifice, but it may not be as bad as you fear. By simply not working out of the home, you can keep money you formerly spent on childcare, commuting, special work clothes, cosmetics, hair salons, coffee shops, fast food, business trips, social events with co-workers, and convenience foods. 

            Even with all these savings, you may still need to make significant changes in your lifestyle. One young mother, Ellen Kleven, compared it to going on a diet; if you make severe changes and try to go 'cold turkey', you probably won't stick to it.  Before you quit, she suggested that you start by saving all the money your job brings in for six months.  That way you will have extra savings to fall back on and you will become accustomed to living on one income. Many of the changes have to do with your spirit. "Don't have a sense of entitlement," counsels Ellen. 

            Cindy Gawin, a former Registered Nurse, chose to forsake her career to stay at home with her seven children.  Cindy states, "People can live simpler than they think." Several mothers, including Cindy, gave examples of how their family saved money on groceries, clothing, entertainment, healthcare and debt.  "You have to determine to not overspend," Cindy explains, "only spend your money on real needs."

            One of the greatest hindrances to coming home is debt.  From mortgages, student loans, car loans, and credit cards, many families are in over their heads.  Cindy asserts that eliminating that debt is crucial to being able to stay home.  Her family had a policy of no debt except the mortgage.  A mother of nine explained that you need to pay off your smaller debts first, then use the money you save from not making those smaller payments to pay off your larger loans.  One family I interviewed decided to move to a mobile home instead of renting a house so they could concentrate on paying their debts.  You may need to sell your second car or buy a cheaper vehicle.  If debt still seems overwhelming, there is an excellent book available through the Eau Claire Journal entitled Becoming Debt Free. 

            Another concern is how to feed your family on your new budget.  You may not be able to visit restaurants often, but having the time to cook and plan will make meals more enjoyable than when you came home tired from work. Stephanie Swanson asserts that picnics with the kids are more fun than restaurants any day. Most mothers shared that planting a large garden and preserving the food through canning and freezing was a major source of savings for the family.  Shopping at discount stores, buying generic brands, buying in bulk, and using food cooperatives were also ways they cut grocery bills.  Another tip was to rely on more grains and beans instead of meats. When you do buy meat, buy a large quantity from a farmer, like half a beef or a hog. 

            In the area of cleaning supplies, a mother of three suggested making your own cleaners and even laundry detergent, "Homemade cleaners are so cheap, and they are not harmful to your body." If you have infants at home, cloth diapers save a whole lot of money.  Buying a baby food grinder can spare you from buying expensive jars of baby food as well.

             Clothing is the next basic need. Children are constantly outgrowing and wearing out clothes.  Many mothers relied on thrift stores or garage sales to find clothing for their children (and themselves).  Cindy would sew clothes for special occasions like weddings, thus saving hundreds of dollars. Staying away from temptation (like the mall) will help in making you content with the clothing you have.

            As far as entertainment, movies and expensive vacations go, these were not options for most of the mothers, but they learned to enjoy simpler diversions.  "We had to make our own fun," stated Cindy.  Family camping trips were a popular choice and Wisconsin is full of inexpensive locations to get away to. Public libraries are a wealth of materials for families.  Some moms enjoy the free concerts at the local university. 

            The last issue I am going to touch on is health care.  Some women claim that they only work out of the home to afford health insurance.  Assuming that Obama Care does not go through, you can find many creative alternatives to health insurance.  The Swansons recommend Samaritan Ministries, an organization that shares health care costs with other members and is much more affordable than insurance.  Other mothers use clinics for those without insurance.  ReforMedicine and Country Health Clinic are two places that offer affordable healthcare for the uninsured.  If you are planning to have more children, a midwife that comes to your home can save you thousands on hospital bills.  Several mothers research natural remedies and stock up on herbal medicines.

            The testimonies of these mothers show that it is not only the super rich that stay at home to raise their children.  I hope this article will give mothers the tools they need so that they can achieve their dream of being with their children.

                Jennifer Buhler is a writer for the Eau Claire Journal.  She is a homeschooler and a mother of seven children.  She lives with her husband in Augusta.

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