Today’s guest post is from Jennifer Merrill, who describes herself this way “I am a mother of four beautiful daughters, ages 8, 5, 2, and 8 months. I sometimes cringe at the amount of pink, glittery princess things in my house because everything else in my life is male-dominated. I am a mechanical engineer, heavily involved in the Boy Scouts of America, and I love superhero movies and Star Wars. Thankfully, my 2-year-old loves cars.”
When I was younger I dreamed of having the perfect LDS life. In this dream, I would be the stay-at-home mother of several children with a husband who had a great job so we could afford anything we wanted. I went to BYU thinking that I would find a returned missionary and we would be married by the end of the first semester. Isn’t that what happens to everyone?
When I turned 21, I was still single and the Spirit prompted me to serve a mission. My dream changed slightly, but I still envisioned living the perfect LDS life when I returned. Then I graduated and I began to realize that my future husband may take a while to find me. In the meantime, I started down the path of a full time career.
It was two and a half years after I graduated BYU that I met my husband in the singles ward. I imagined my dream of the perfect LDS life would finally come true. He had a job, but was planning for a career once he graduated from the local college. We decided not to have kids until this had all happened.
Two years later we felt prompted to start our family even though we were still both working. His job had made school too difficult to attend and that was put on hold. We tried to make it on his salary alone but couldn’t. We decided that we would both work and our child would stay with a family member. I cried all the way to work the first day I went back. It didn’t get easier as a second and third child were added to our family.
During this time, I always felt guilty about working and not staying home. I felt pressure at church, even though no one said anything to me directly. I was jealous of my sisters and sister-in-law who were all stay-at-home moms. But whenever we talked about it, my husband and I decided that we wouldn’t be able to afford it. He did not make enough at his job to cover our expenses. We were still waiting for him to finish his degree and get started on a higher paying career.
When I became pregnant with our fourth child, I knew that something had to change. I believed the Spirit was prompting me to find a way to stay home. I mentioned it to my husband and he was a bit hesitant at first. When our reliable babysitters told us they would be leaving town, we were forced to make a decision. We started by cutting out some extras (like expensive vacations) and cut our spending. We built up our food storage and started couponing to save money. My husband’s great budgeting allowed us to pay off all our credit cards and both our cars. Through it all we paid our tithing faithfully. We felt the guidance of the Spirit in making our choices. But we still felt that my husband’s salary alone could not support us.
At one point we started throwing around the idea of me working while he stayed home. I was making more money at my job than him. My job was more secure. He hated his job and wanted to have more time to finish his degree. His company’s health benefits were being cut back. The answer seemed to stare us in the face but we were hesitant to accept it as it didn’t fit with the “perfect” LDS life.
When we decide to follow the Spirit’s prompting, everything seemed to fall into place. We had a very good amount of food storage. We had no bills other than our mortgage and utilities. Our fourth child was born. I just received a raise at work (while on leave!) We decided that I would work and my husband would be a stay-at-home dad.
Since then things have been great. Being the sole breadwinner of our family has some drawbacks, but I can feel it is the right thing for our family at this time. My husband is excellent at keeping house and our kids are happier. Our situation isn’t the “perfect” LDS life that I dreamed of and maybe someday things will change, but I feel more content than I have ever been. I no longer feel guilt or jealousy. It is right for our family and we have been blessed for following the promptings for my husband to stay home.
If there was one piece of advice I could give a young woman it would be to follow the Spirit. No matter what you think your life should be, no matter your dreams, always be willing to follow promptings of the Spirit. They will lead to happiness and usually something better than you have dreamed for yourself.