My friend Heather and I are old classmates from our MSU days.  I remember jamming music in the design studio working on our projects into the wee hours of the night.  Now if either of us are up late, I’m sure it’s for a much different reason.  Heather and her husband Steve have an adorable little girl, Isla, who just turned nine months old.  Heather writes about being a mom and all kinds of things at Us Doing Things, and Steve writes about being a part-time stay-at-home dad at Hey Little Isla.  This is a his and hers post about trying to achieve the life they dream of.

I DREAM OF ISLA: Hers

Before I got out into the real world, and had all of the responsibilities that grown-ups have, I had always imagined that I would be a stay at home mother while my phantom children were small.

Now that Steve and I are married and actually have a beautiful baby girl Isla (pronounced Eye-luh), and bills and debt, I realize that cutting your income in half is not as simple as just imagining it – you have to make it happen.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to make this happen in time.  We’re on a plan now, but it will be a little while before we will be able to swing being a single-income family.  In the meantime, we’re plowing forward and doing the best we can.

I’m a normal 8 to 5’er and Steve gets his 40 hours in on afternoons, evenings, and weekends.  In the mornings while I’m at work, he is a part-time stay-at-home-dad to Isla (lucky!).  Steve brings her to daycare on his way into work, and I pick her up at 5:00.  Really, if I had to choose a schedule in which I had to work 40 hours a week, this would be it. It works really well for us.

I was lucky enough to be able to stay at home a little longer than the typical maternity leave, and went back to work when Isla was nine weeks old.  I had such an amazing time with her for those nine short weeks of uninterrupted mother-daughter time, but nine weeks just wasn’t enough for me.  I want to be a stay-at-home-mom.  I long for carefree days where we can go for walks, go to the park and play on the swingset, paint a picture together, and maybe even make dinner before Steve gets home from work.  I suppose I can do all of that now; it just has to be over the course of an entire week, and on the weekends between loads of laundry, marathon cleaning sessions, and paying the bills.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, because I realize that we are very lucky to have everything that we have; I am just upset at the old Heather for not planning far enough in advance to be able to make my dreams happen.  I want to go back into time, grab me by the shoulders, introduce myself to Isla, and say “do you really want to miss out on time with this sweet little baby that you created, who loves you so much and wants nothing more than to be in your arms and to spend time with you?!  Don’t buy that dumb shirt that you’re only going to wear like three times… that’s money you could be saving for Isla.  Don’t buy Big Gulps every. single. day of college… that’s money you could be saving for Isla”.  If only…

I don’t have room for regret, though.  I know my time with my sweet, itty bitty baby is fleeting.  She’s growing and changing, and I need to drink in as much of her as I can before I’m deemed uncool and too lame to be seen with (I’m going to try so hard to make sure this doesn’t actually happen).  Instead of thinking about our should-have’s, I put one foot in front of the other, every single day, and make the most out of 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm.  We race home from daycare, take the pups out, play for a while, and then we make dinner together.  Well, she cheers me on from her high chair, while gumming her puffs and sipping her water.  We have tons of fun and I love every single second of it.

While it is tough for me to leave for work in the mornings, I do so knowing that Steve and Isla get to do all of those things that I dream about. They play, they go grocery shopping, they get into trouble, they go for walks, and he plays guitar for her.  She’s being taken care of, and being loved on as much as she would if I were the one home with her.  I can’t ask for more than that (until, of course, we’re in a good enough financial position for me to be a stay-at-home-mom.  I’ll definitely ask for that!).

Until then, I live vicariously through them.

I DREAM OF ISLA: His

I never put a lot of thought into what my days would be like after we started our family. Mostly because I didn’t think they would change, but partly because I knew one day we would win the lottery and I would be spending my days in my workshop using my router – which I have used all of one time when I first got it and had to try it out….that was about 6 years ago.

Well, I think it is safe to assume that we have not won the lottery. And as much as I would love to smell woodchips every day, I couldn’t imagine my days being any better than they are now. While my work days have stayed the same, I also get to spend the better part of my mornings with the sweetest little girl in the world. And it is this very thing that gives me mixed emotions. While on one hand I feel so lucky to be able to spend as much time as I do with Isla, I also see how frustrating it is for Heather to only be able to spend a limited amount of time in the morning and afternoon with her. And while I wouldn’t say that I would rather Heather stay at home with Isla — because that would mean that I would have to give up my job as part-time stay-at-home-dad — I would love for Heather to experience what I’ve had the chance to experience.

I do my best each day to do the things that I think will help Isla become all of the things that I wish for her. Whether it’s going for walks and looking for new things to point out to her, or simply sit and try to have a conversation with her. Anything that I think will have a positive impact on her future. Mozart. Baby Einstein. Sesame Street alphabet songs (that are now permanently embedded in my brain). And my guitar. If there is anything I hope to pass on to Isla, it is my music. While I am no musical genius, I generally don’t find it too difficult to pick up a new instrument. So I try to find songs that I love, that Heather loves (some that she may not love so much..cough, cough…Tom Petty…cough, cough) and play them for her at least once a day.

And as I write this, my stay-at-home-dad’ness with Isla may be coming to an end shortly.
In our attempts to rid ourselves of debt (thank you, Dave Ramsey!), I am trying to pick up a part-time job to do on weekday mornings.  Doing so will absorb a nice chunk of our debt and put us that much closer to living how we want to live – debt free and, with any luck, on just one income (and whatever else Heather brings in with her future Etsy shop). While it would only be a temporary job, it truly saddens the bejeezus out of me to know that Isla will be in daycare all day and not home with dad. But I have to keep telling myself that it’s temporary and will greatly improve our lives in the long run.

So things haven’t started out exactly how we imagined they should, but we’re doing our best to get to where we want to be.  There’s nothing like a brand new baby for motivation!

One thought on “HEATHER & STEVE, STEP UP TO THE MIC

  1. Heather and Steve, it is obvious to anyone around you, your love for your little girl more than anything. As you each make sacrifices to make her life better, it may be painful for you in the here and now, but it will be an amazing blessing one day SOON! I am so proud of both of you for putting 110% every day for this little girl, who is LUCKY to have you as parents!

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