Wednesday, December 9, 2015

My Epic New Chapter

After what has felt like an eternity I feel like I can finally breathe! And believe me I mean that in every sense of the word. My son is six months old, my wife’s maternity leave has came and went and my leave offered through my employer (16 unpaid weeks) has now expired. And after pouring through the details, crunching the numbers, praying, having discussions and envisioning scenarios, we have decided that I will leave the work force to stay at home with our baby.

This was a decision that I certainly did not even remotely consider when we were in the labor and delivery room the night he was born nor when my paternity leave started. I thought the little guy would wear me out, break me down and have me looking forward to the day I could leave him with a nanny or drop him off at day care and retire back to my cubicle of solitude for some peace and quiet. But a funny thing happened. The feelings of despair that I expected to hit during the marathon that is taking care of a baby, the feelings of when can I get back to my work life, the feelings of when can we get back to the automated savings machine that was our double income household, NEVER…ONCE…HIT….ME

I absolutely love taking care of my son 24 hours a day. This is the kind of work day that I am glad doesn’t end. Yes it’s tiring, yes my back hurts a lot more than even when I used to get to the gym four days a week, yes I take naps with him because I can get just as tired as a six month old, but I love it and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world. And that includes getting back to the five day 50+ hour a week work week and double income household.

Getting here was not easy though and it took a ton of blood, sweat, tears, overtime and side jobs to get to this point for both myself and my wife several years ago. Together we had paid off $80,000 in student loans, have our emergency fund intact and saved and built a portfolio of nearly half a million dollars as we are sitting in our (very) early 30’s. So the question we ultimately came back to after our son was born was why? Why did we go through all of that sacrifice, follow Dave Ramsey’s advice to a perfect T and live and save like no one else? Did we do it to enjoy an early retirement well before we’re eligible for social (in)security? Did we do it to pass on a legacy of debt free living to our children and our children’s children? Is it too soon to be reaping what we’ve sowed? Is this the right time to take our foot off the gas pedal or are we doing long term harm to our financial well being by going to a single income even for a short period of time?

For a lot of these questions, truthfully we don’t have the perfect answers yet. But what we do know is that we love having our son home and one of us here with him, and after expenses (plus a fancy new tax bracket and withholding changes), on a single income, we would still have some disposable income left over! Sure, it’s not the multi-thousand that we used to have, but it would work. It would work in that we could meet our financial obligations, my wife would still max out her 401k for the match, give our tithe, max out savings for our little one’s ESA and still have disposable income left over to give, save and spend.

I think for me, the clincher was thinking about myself at 80, and looking back on this new chapter of my life called parenthood, and wondering what that 80 year old me would have looked back on and thought. Would that old guy have wanted a few more years in his early 30’s to accumulate wealth or time with his newborn son? And when I put it into that context, after looking at the hard numbers of whether we could make the new numbers work on our monthly budget, the choice was pretty easy, of course I want to stay home with my son.

Though cliché, I think the advice that I heard time and time again while my wife was pregnant rings true, that having a baby changes everything. At this point in my life wealth accumulation has taken a back seat for time. It’s a trade off that three months ago I did not think I would make until I was at least 60 years old. And yes I’m happy to have the freedom to continue writing this blog and sharing my experiences, and I will certainly get into more detail on that statement very soon!

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