Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My "Almost on Purpose" Story, Part 2

If you haven't read Par t 1 of my Almost On Purpose story, you can read my journey to become an "Almost On Purpose" stay-at-home mom.

Today, I'm venturing into the rarely talked-about area... learning to enjoy being at home. That right, I'm being honest. Initially, I did not love it. I can hear the gasping now. I was gasping at myself, as I was feeling it. Crazy, right? I was enjoying being with my kids and learning new ways to teach them, but I felt like I had no direction.

At my job, schedules were made to be kept and followed. At home, I enjoyed routine and schedules, but I learned that schedules can quickly go out the window. My problem was that I was chasing them out the window, rather than adapting.

At my job, I studied data and patterns to find problems and suggest solutions. At home... patterns? What patterns? It's just chaos.

At work, I loved to develop new procedures and manuals and train personnel. At home... help! I need a training manual!

At work, I would be paid to work 8:00 am - 5:00 pm. At home, all work is unpaid. Start time was around 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Oh, and then, you are still on-call the rest of the night. Oh, and did I mention, I was not paid in US dollars? I was paid in kisses and hugs but couldn't see it yet.

The money thing was a struggle for me (and us). We did have enough money coming in to cover the monthly expenses but had no savings. If a problem or emergency came up, we used credit cards. Even Christmas was a struggle. I can hear Dave Ramsey's sarcasm now (paraphrasing here): "Ok, folks, don't mean to surprise you here, but Christmas will be coming this year. Just wanted to fore warn you!" More on Dave in a minute. We didn't use the credit cards for anything big, but the balances were adding up. We even tried moving the debt from low-interest rate cards to zero-interest rate cards. But this silly thing happens, something is always due.

I began to notice that the only time I was happy was when payday came, and I could do some grocery shopping. I wasn't using coupons or "shopping sales" then, so the money went quickly. And so did my misplaced happiness. Each day, I found myself just waiting for hubby to come home, so I could just talk to someone. My love of cooking was fading because I couldn't find time to do it. It was a struggle. I value the things I learned from Rachel Ray's Thirty-Minute Meals; but with a toddler and a baby, I did not have a solid chunk of thirty minutes to cook. Why were the hobbies that I loved slowly being pulled away from me?

I always wondered how families that made less than us could pay bills and save. Well, after a big scare, we knew we needed to change something. We found Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book and read through it together in just a few days. Looking back, we used commonsense money principles when we first got married but slipped out of it after buying our home. Back to the book, we sat down and made our plan. It was scary to be honest but also a huge relief. We had a plan and a goal, and we could make it work.

Part of the plan was finding a way to take a chunk out of the debt to make room. I started looking around my house for things I could sell. This book made me realize that I was holding onto "things" for a false sense of happiness and security. When, in reality, it was holding me back from financial freedom. After selling a few things, we got started. For the first time since having kids, we used bonuses and refunds on paying down debt, rather than buying stuff. We aren't completely out of debt, but it is no longer scary to look at the balances. We are exciting to watch the debt disappear.

In addition, I started volunteering more at church. I've always known that helping others blesses our souls, but it really took my eyes off my own situation. It helped me find other avenues to use my skills and, most importantly, get me out of the house.

My joy was no longer in getting the paycheck to spend money but in finding new ways to save it or pay off debt. What a thrill! While I was not bringing money into our home, I could certainly control how much was going out. This is where couponing and smart shopping began. This, in turn, led me to the realization that making food from scratch was cheaper than buying boxed or canned items. Time in my kitchen became experimentation time. I brought the boys in, and we (together) learned how to make pancakes from scratch. My love of cooking was coming back! My style of cooking was changing, and I loved it. And I was cooking more wholesome food for my growing boys.

My attitude toward my kids was changing, and we were finding FREE ways to learn. My kids responded with amazing excitement. Unknowingly (or I was in denial), I was affecting my kids' sense of security and well-being by not enjoying my time at home.

So, this is my "Almost on Purpose" story for loving being at home. My degree in technical writing taught me to test solutions (Usability Testing), so I started doing this with everything. If it didn't work, move on and find another solution. What a relief!

Up next... learning to take care of my home and enjoy it!


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