Close up view of the income tax return

The Year My W-2 Said Five Dollars


It’s tax season. You’ve either finished yours, doing them right now or thinking to yourself “I better get on that, fast!” It is also the time in the year where you reflect on the work you did, where you made big changes (kids, marriage, divorce, homes), and how you did financially. As I sat with our new tax person, with all our stuff organized, I remembered that my financial contribution was only going to be $5.00.

2014 was a huge year for me. I quit working to be a stay at home parent with twins and a part-time preschooler. Even though I was on maternity leave for the first part of the year, and stay at home parent the rest, in some shape or form I had a W-2 and had made $5.00.

As we talked about what my husband did for work, I wondered how to share what I had done myself. The experience of being a stay at home parent was new to me. It wasn’t something I planned and I knew it was only for a short time. If you are someone who is a stay at home parent, which parts do you share? The concept of work, the question “what do you do?” seems so simple to answer until you realize it isn’t.

Months ago I took a moment and wrote down all the things I was doing.

Hosted daily story time. Reading books and pointing to the words. Teaching them letters and numbers.

There was the work of picking up after the twins. Washing the floors after they have taken the street chalk and drew and drew.

Introducing and showing them how to eat sold foods.

Teaching them how to hold a crayon, holding up their work, then telling them how great it was.

Getting them both to nap at the same time, while also going from 2 naps to one nap.

There were days where I changed my son’s sheets, again, because he just couldn’t get up in time.

I was folding the laundry when I could.

Three times a day I was making meals for myself and my three kids and if my husband was lucky, something good for him too.

Daily, I was loading the dishwasher, washing the pans, clearing off the counter, because chaos brings chaos.

There was the doctor visits, hair cuts, preschool pick ups, play groups.

I knew I wasn’t leading a group of students, or writing a budget report, but I was doing something.

In the winter and spring I was the editor of my twin club’s website and a co-chair for their annual garage sale.

In the fall I had organized my Transfer Hike 2.o at the Stanford University Dish and was excited to see 8 college students join me.

By the following winter, I was freelance writing monthly articles for

I was busy. Even thought I wasn’t bringing home a pay-check, I wrote to-do lists. Created projects. Went to planning meetings. Even made a weekly schedule for my now toddler twins. As each day passed, I understood more and more my work was happening in our home, at the local library during story time, at the local cafe during snack time. At the gymnastics center during their weekly class. Each day I was realizing the work of a stay at home parent was non stop and I had the fortune to design my days and my time anyway I wanted.

For instance, I had:

52 Adventure Thursdays.

Wrote,  photographed and Tweeted over 150 inspirational quotes from my entry way blackboard.

Made sure to look out my front door and check to see if my neighbor, who was also a stay at home parent, was busy or taking a break. To make sure she knew she was not alone.

Paid the bills, update our budget, looked for ways we could save and we could spend money.

Applied for jobs when I saw a promising opportunity come up. 

Baked cookies and asked lots of questions in my monthly 2014-2015 Leadership Novato Chamber class.

But what I really truly got out of 2014, was the confidence that I could do it. I could stay home with my kids. I not only have a better understanding and respect for my friends and the parents I met who had been stay at home parents, but I gain more respect for the choice I made.

Before I had my twins, the only experience I had was being a working parent. I felt the mommy guilt. I felt the joy. I had those days where I had it all under control, and I had those days with the stress of racing out to my car so I could pick up my son from child care before they closed. At the time, I even thought I was a better mom because I worked. Then I had twins. My husband had changed jobs. And to make it all work, I made the choice to try something new.

I had my own assumptions about what a stay at home parent did or what motivated them to be one. Now after having this chance to be a stay at home parent myself, I now know I am someone who can give advice from both camps. I learned that most important lesson of all; you have to and you will find what works best for you.

We are all doing our best to give our children a healthy and happy childhood. For some of us it works better when both parents can work. For others it works better when one can be home. The thing to remember is we were all doing something in 2014 even if someone of us did not receive a paycheck. And that $5.00 I made, while it bought me my favorite green tea and yogurt at Starbucks, it ended up giving me a year with my children I didn’t realized I needed and the confidence knowing that both of us can contribute either with or without a paycheck.

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