On an unusually warm morning in October, I walked into the newsroom of the newspaper I worked at in our small town in Maine, US. I dropped my bag, fired up my laptop, answered a few voicemails and emails, then heard my name called by the office manager. The senior news editor wanted to see me. Ten minutes later, I was unemployed. I had lost my job due to budget cuts.
I was stunned, to say the least.
As I prepared to leave, putting what few personal things I had into a bag and calmly pushing my chair into my desk, my mind raced. How would I provide for my family? How would I be able to afford health insurance for my son who has a life-threatening condition? What the fu*k was I going to tell my husband when I showed up at home in the middle of the day?
The drive home was agonizing. When I arrived and spilled the news, my husband was predictably alarmed and upset. I was the breadwinner, after all. He had spent a great deal of energy into transitioning from a full-time career to be a stay-at-home-dad. The kids were used to his daily routine and to going to him when they needed something. Not that I was an alien or anything, but I was second in command since I spent 10 hours a day outside of our home.
It took a few emotional weeks of slapdash planning but we switched roles. Now I find myself surprisingly thankful to be sitting at my kitchen table, typing this essay, on a Wednesday morning. I still have my pyjamas on, even though I’ve polished off a pot of coffee already. The kids are getting used to my routine, which from what I understand is much stricter than dad’s, but I digress.
Our financial situation is terrifying. After spending years as a SAHM, I took advantage of my day job and scrimped and saved enough to build up a nest egg to keep us afloat in the seemingly unlikely event that I lost my job. Although I was offered a small severance package, we have a family of five and life is not cheap.
My kids see me being home as a sign of stability. I’m the one who gets out of bed in the middle of the night when someone has to pee or has a fever. I’m the one who buys all the clothes and knows who likes what colours and patterns and who hates the feeling of tags and who can’t handle Velcro on his shoes. I know the nuances of picky eating. I know how to handle stains on clothing and which lights to keep on at night to ward off the monsters and ghosts that my kids are convinced exist. My husband, bless his heart, did a fabulous job as a SAHD, but he’s no mum.
If I’m being honest, I’m happier at home with my kids. There is the definite boredom and soul-crushing agony of being the one to handle the merry-go-round tasks of laundry and grocery shopping, playdates, and so on. However, I’m the one who gets to set the tone and make the decisions. I’m valued here in a way that I could never be in an office. My husband acknowledges that my efforts at home are immeasurably felt and needed. Our children seem to be happier with me at home, too.
I didn’t think I’d be thankful to have lost my job, but I am. When Thanksgiving rolls around, I’ll be sending up a silent prayer of thanks that I can still work from home as a writer but more importantly, I can be the solid rock that my kids need and deserve. In a world where mothers are forced to put their kids in daycare so that they can earn a paycheck, I am enormously lucky to be able to stay home. This may mean that we have to stretch our meager paychecks even further and worry constantly about bills, but these sacrifices are worth being able to be home with my kids all day.