Moms Make it Work: Julie | Full-Time Working Mom, Stay-at-Home Dad

Today we have Julie posting for our Moms Make it Work series, and we follow each other on Instagram. I did not know Julie works full time and her husband stays at home with their son during the week, and works outside of the home on weekends....but I sure am glad Julie contacted me about filling a 'Stay at Home Dad' slot! I loved reading about their situation and her husband's perspective at the end was awesome, too. Just another example on how families make it work with many different situations. Enjoy!


Hi everyone! I'm Julie, and I blog over at The F Family Files. You can also find me on Instagram at Juriefurie. I'm a 27 year old working mom to Parker (age 3). My husband Tanner is a stay at home dad and works part time on the weekends.

First of all, I'd just like to thank Julia for letting me post for this awesome series. I've been following her since she had Truman, and hers was the first blog I ever read. Because of Julia I decided to start recording our own journey, so thank you so much, Julia! Second, I am so honored to be a part of the Moms Make it Work series. I believe that our story is unique because my husband stays home while I work, and I'm so happy to offer a different perspective.


What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And where are you now?

I was born and raised in Iowa, and I love my state with all my heart. I grew up in a suburb of Des Moines, and attended college in Ames at Iowa State University. It was there that I met Tanner. We started dating at the beginning of our freshmen year (we actually met on Facebook believe it or not) and I quickly realized that he was the man I was meant to spend the rest of my life with.

Tanner and I dated for 3 years before he popped the question on my birthday in 2008. We had a rather long engagement because we wanted to wait to get married til after both of us had graduated from college. I graduated a semester before Tanner did in December 2009, and was very fortunate to secure a full time job at a mid sized insurance company in Des Moines. Tanner graduated in May 2010, and we were married in Ames on June 19th, 2010.



After we were married we moved out of Ames to be closer to my job. I had previously been commuting about 45 minutes each way while Tanner finished up his schooling, and it had taken a toll. We were lucky to find a townhouse to rent that was owned by Tanner's soon to be step dad. The townhouse was just 10 minutes from my office, and in a nice neighborhood outside of Des Moines. We weren't ready financially to buy a house, and renting from a close soon-to-be family member was the perfect solution for us at the time.


While I had a fairly easy time finding a job after college, Tanner did not. My double major in accounting and finance lent itself well to a career in business. Tanner's degree was in animal ecology with an emphasis in fisheries biology. He ended up pursuing temp work after a few months of job searching post graduation, and he started as a temp for a large agricultural company in August 2010.

Tanner and I always knew we wanted to have a family and children, and we both had the understanding that we'd likely have kids soon after getting married. My parents were married at 19 and had my older brother at age 23, and I had just always imagined myself having kids in my younger 20's too. Once Tanner had his temp job and I was going on my second year of work at my job, I started to really think about having a baby.

My thoughts about starting a family were mostly daydreams until a dear friend of mine told me she was pregnant. In that moment I felt so happy for her, but I also felt a little jealous. I wanted that for myself, and it took my friend's announcement to make me realize that. I went home that night and told Tanner I was ready, and we both agreed that we would just "see what happened". We weren't in any hurry, but I will admit I was so excited at the prospect of pregnancy and being a mom. It was something I'd dreamt about for a long time, and it felt like the missing puzzle piece in my life.

Somehow just seeing what would happen turned into a big old positive pregnancy test at the end of September 2010, after only one cycle. I was shocked, but also thrilled. I think Tanner was even more shocked than me, though. Neither of us had thought it would happen so quickly. Still, we were both over the moon excited to be parents.


We were pretty sure Tanner's temp job would end in an offer for him to work full time, and I had always assumed I would be a working mom. Both of my parents always worked, so that was what I knew. I thought we would be fine financially with both of us working, and I even researched daycare centers in our area. As time went on, though, something inside of me changed. I grew more worried and anxious about our baby being in daycare. I wasn't sure if it would be possible for me to stay home with him, so I asked around my family and arranged for my aunt and grandmother to take care of him at the end of my maternity leave.

Things didn't go at all like I had planned, though. A week before my due date Tanner found out some terrible news. He was being laid off from his temp job. Suddenly we were about to have a baby any day, and Tanner was unemployed. It was such a weird time in our lives emotionally. I was so scared and anxious, but I was also so excited to meet our baby boy. I decided to take the maximum 12 weeks of maternity leave, and Parker was born on his due date on May 5th, 2011.



Tanner's temp agency came to the rescue and secured a new job for him, which he started a week into my maternity leave. This job was not something he really cared about, though. It was mindless work and we knew it wouldn't lead to anything permanent. Tanner continued to apply for jobs, and we thought all our problems were solved when halfway through my maternity leave Tanner interviewed for a permanent full time job doing research in an area he really loved: entomology. The company called Tanner and told him they wanted to hire him! But they said not for the job he applied for. They told him they liked him so much they wanted to create a new job specifically for him. This was great news.

We decided since Tanner would be working full time at his new job in the near future, it would be okay if he quit his temp job to have a few weeks at home with Parker and me before my maternity leave was over. I really appreciated having an extra set of hands to help me. I was struggling as a new mom with PPD and sleep deprivation, so I practically begged Tanner to take some time off to help me at home.


A few weeks passed by with all of us at home, and my maternity leave was coming to an end soon. Tanner hadn't heard back from the company who promised him that job, and we began to worry. He called them and finally got a straight answer. They had changed managers in the department where he was set to work, and the new manager decided to hold open interviews for the job they had promised to Tanner. The company told Tanner he could reapply for the job, so he did. We were sure he'd get selected, but in the end they chose someone else. We were devastated.

I returned to work at the end of July 2011, and Tanner stayed home with Parker. Going back to work at the end of my maternity leave was one of the hardest things I ever had to do as a mom, and I really don't know if I could have done it if it wasn't for the fact that I was leaving my son with his father. That really was such a comfort to me. I was very anxious about leaving Parker with anyone but family and the thought of daycare scared me. I didn't like the idea of my baby being left with a stranger.

At first we both agreed this would be a temporary thing. Tanner continued to apply for jobs, but now we were a little more selective in our search. I was done with the whole "temp job" thing. If Tanner was going to go back to work and we were going to leave Parker in someone else's care, then I wanted it to be for a fantastic permanent job doing something he actually cared about.

It turns out that fantastic job was a little hard to find, because the longer Tanner stayed home watching Parker, the less relevant his career search became. He had a very unique college degree, and a gap on his resume to explain. We struggled to make it by with just my income, but we managed somehow. There was a period in the beginning where we went into some debt, but eventually we were able to dig ourselves out of that hole and start saving.



Tanner never really gave up looking for a job, but watching Parker turned into his number one priority. He has had a few promising interviews over the last 3 years, but never an offer. In the mean time he's been doing part time mold and radon testing for his mom and step dad's air quality business. The extra money from that is great, but the jobs are sporadic.

Finally, earlier this year Tanner started working weekends at a wholesale grocery store chain pushing and loading carts. His extra income has allowed us to move to a bigger house (still renting though) and start paying down some debts, and we're hoping he will be able to re-enter the workforce full time in the near future.





What are the best parts of your situation? 

The best part is easy. Tanner is hands down the best person I could choose to stay at home with Parker every day. The bond that the two of them share is incredible, and even though we've struggled and it hasn't been easy, it has been worth it just for that.

Parker not being in a daycare center is another positive to our situation. I don't mean to offend anyone who has children in daycare at all, but for us personally we just didn't want to go that route. I love that Parker is in his home every day, and with his dad. I love that he sleeps when he wants to, and we don't have to wake him up early to get him out of the door every morning.

Along those same lines, life is just more relaxed when only one parent works. We aren't as rushed in the mornings because we don't have to get Parker ready at the same time as us. At the end of the work day I get to go straight home and the evenings feel longer. Tanner takes care of most of our errands during the week so we don't have to do them on nights or weekends. When Parker is sick I don't have to worry about taking time off from work to take care of him. I also know that if I want to plan some days off from my job that we have guaranteed family time since Tanner will be home anyway.


Lastly one of the best parts has been Parker's not as exposed to sicknesses like he would be at daycare. He actually went without a single illness of any kind for his entire first year of life. Not many kids can say that. His first cold wasn't until he was nearly 14 months old.

What are the challenges?

The hardest challenge is obviously living off of one income. The first year or so was especially difficult because I was making less money at my job than I do now, and Tanner hadn't yet started working part time. Like I mentioned earlier, we haven't been able to buy a home and we have a lot of debt to pay off, especially with student loans. We've had to keep a strict budget, and any financial goals we set always take much longer to achieve than they would if Tanner was contributing a second full income. The financial sacrifice is huge, but I'd rather have Tanner home than pay a daycare 800 plus dollars per month. That is obviously a personal choice, however.


There have been challenges in our marriage along the way. Tanner is home so he does things a certain way that I might not have if it were me. We've gotten in fights over what is best for Parker, and it's so hard to compromise when both of us are coming from such different places. I am a very type-A control freak personality, so it's difficult for me especially to let things go.

The resentment can get to me sometimes, too. I will catch myself wishing it were me at home and the roles were reversed. And if there is a particularly nasty argument it's all too easy for me to throw it in Tanner's face that I'm the one who makes the money. Usually we don't let things get taken that far, but there have been instances where it has.

Another challenge is Parker's lack of socialization. That is a huge one that I do feel guilt over. We make our best attempts at taking him places like story time at the library and the playground, but it's still not the same as what he'd experience at daycare. And Parker is such a huge extrovert, believe it or not. He loves all kids and I know he would really love to have a group of close friends. I'm hoping he will get that from preschool when he starts this coming September.


People's assumptions can be a challenge. Tanner has watched as a store employee picked Parker up and carried him away because he thought Parker was lost, even though Tanner was standing right near him. The employee had assumed Parker would be with his mommy. Tanner gets excluded from the mommy circles, and he's yet to meet another stay at home dad with a kid Parker's age. There are so many classes and groups out there called "mommy and me", but none for dads. It's not something people generally think about, but for us it's a sad reality. Because of this isolation, it is even harder for Parker to make friends and get that socialization he craves.

Just leaving my child every day is a challenge. I miss him dearly. I want so much to be with him every second of the day, and I hate saying goodbye to him every morning. He's old enough now to understand a little more, but it still stinks. He will ask me not to leave sometimes, and those are always the hardest. The hugs and kisses are never enough, and I get so sad when Parker is upset by me leaving. I never want him to feel abandoned by me, and I never want him to think I'm choosing work over time with him.

Lastly, I often feel like Tanner and I never get enough alone time together. Our date nights are few and far between because Tanner works the weekends, which is when our parents are usually available to babysit. We could go somewhere on a week night, but then I feel guilty for not spending time with Parker since I haven't seen him all day already while I was at work. On weekends when Tanner works I am solo parenting and it is challenging. I feel like I don't get very much "me time" either. It's easy to feel like we're in a rut and just trading off work and solo parenting, and not stopping to be in the moment.

Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?

Definitely not. When I would picture my life with a family I would always picture me and my husband both working, and our kids in daycare. I was completely clueless how becoming a parent would change me. I never realized how deeply I could love my own child. I never had the slightest clue how hard it would be, and how rewarding also. I certainly never pictured being in a situation where my husband stayed home while I worked. If anything I would have imagined myself as a stay at home mom before that scenario.


Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?

No. I'll be the first to admit it's not. We do what we can, with what we have. That has been our situation, and for the past 3 years I've struggled to accept it and enjoy it for what it is. I fear that I may have wished away some of the best times of my life because I was too busy hoping for something better. Looking back now, I realize that Tanner being home with Parker has been the best thing for Parker, and I wouldn't change it.


If you want to talk about ideal situations, mine would be that neither of us has to work. I love our family time more than anything, and it'd be great if we had access to it 24/7. That's the lottery scenario, though. The real life scenario is more like Tanner having a great job that he is passionate about, and that also supports our family with a salary and benefits. I would like to try switching spots and being home with Parker (and our future children). That would be my real life "ideal".

Do you see yourself making a career change (whatever that means) in the next 5-10 years? Or is this current set up staying put for the long haul?

It's so hard to know what the future holds for us. Tanner's career will heavily influence whether or not I could ever change jobs or stay at home with our kid(s). In order to buy a home, which is something we both want desperately, we will definitely need two incomes. If Tanner's future job will allow for me to stay home with our next baby that would be amazing. It's not something I'm counting on though.


Tips on how you make your situation work for you:

Budget! I can't stress that one enough. At first we were charging everything and not paying attention, and that's how we got into some bad debt. These days we pinch pennies everywhere we can, and we've really learned to live on less. It's something I don't ever plan on changing, either. Even if we had two incomes it just makes sense to save as much as you can, just in case. Right now I have a running spreadsheet in Excel, and I update it almost every day to make sure we're staying on track financially. Making long term goals is easier, and it keeps me motivated to spend less.

Having a great spouse sure helps. Tanner is a rock star husband and stay at home dad. I'm pretty darn lucky, and I know that. He is an awesome cook, and he prepares nearly every single meal we eat. He does all of our grocery shopping. He's wonderful with Parker, and takes every night waking since I have to be up in the morning to go to work. I know he would do anything for our family, and for me. He's always supportive of whatever I want to do, and encourages me to have time to myself. Without Tanner's help none of this could work. He's the best husband and father.



I can't say enough how helpful our parents are, as well. We are blessed that they all live relatively close to us, so if we ever need a babysitter it's pretty convenient. Tanner's mom and step dad have helped us out by letting Tanner in on their business with side jobs, too. And my parents help us out financially where they can, and are always willing to watch Parker at the drop of a hat.

My job is pretty wonderful, and very flexible. I have a very family friendly employer, and I'm so thankful for that. I also work just 5 minutes from home, so it's super convenient for me to just leave the office at lunch time and run home to squeeze in some extra time with Parker. I usually go home over my lunch hour at least once or twice a week these days. It's awesome.

Boyer CP-137

Lastly, I'd say just having open communication with Tanner is really helpful. We talk and text a ton throughout the day, and it helps make me feel more connected to Parker when I can't be with him in person (gotta love technology). Understanding what each person is responsible for around the house, planning our grocery lists, and just sitting together and chatting after a long day are all so important to our relationship and our marriage.

How do you handle mommy guilt?

Honestly? Not very well. I am so bad about feeling guilty whenever I'm not spending my free time with Parker. Even just going out with a friend for dinner makes me feel bad sometimes. I realize it's ridiculous to think that way, but I can't help it. When you are away from your child all day, it's natural to feel guilty and to miss them. I'm still trying to figure out how to balance "me time" with the mommy guilt.

Something that has helped recently was our decision to cancel my gym membership and purchase an elliptical for our home. I realized I was making excuses to skip the gym because I didn't want to miss time at home with Parker. Now I have no excuse!


Being home with Parker on the weekends, when it's just us, is sometimes nice. Sure we miss Tanner, but I also love having that special mommy/son bonding time. That definitely appeases some of the guilt if I want to do something alone another time.

Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying at home is the right choice?

I can't tell you what to do, because every situation is different. What I can say is that I understand your struggle. Going back to work was so hard for me. Even with my husband (whom I trust wholeheartedly) watching our son, it was still so incredibly stressful and emotionally difficult for me. Over time, though, we fell into a new routine and things felt "normal". I won't say it doesn't suck to leave for work every day still, but it is "easier" most days.

The bottom line is we are all moms who love and care about our children more than anything, and want what's best for them. And every mom out there (and dad!) faces guilt, stress, and their own personal battles. It's so important for us to support one another as much as possible. I never judge a person's decision to stay home, work part time, or work full time. You just never know another person's story until you walk in their shoes.


Now to give you a little insight into Tanner's perspective, I'm going to have him answer a few key questions.

How do you handle reactions from other stay at home moms, the general public, and friends/family regarding you being a stay at home dad?

I take it with a grain of salt. I really don't care what anyone else thinks. I've never really had anyone obviously react negatively when I tell them I am home with my child. I'm sure some people probably have thoughts they keep to themselves, but we live in Iowa and everyone is usually pretty polite and doesn't go out of their way to irritate or offend anyone.


What are the best and most challenging parts about staying at home?

The best part about staying at home is obviously staying at home and spending time with my son. The most challenging part is one and the same however. Cabin fever, not ever having time to myself, and the constant demand of caring for a small child while handling a lot of the house work, cooking, and still looking for work and working evenings and weekends is taxing to say the least.

Boyer CP-135

Do you feel any "daddy guilt" about staying at home with the kid while your wife works?

I feel incredibly guilty about being at home while my wife works. It nags at me constantly. I know my wife would like nothing more than to spend time with our son and she can't. I would change it all in a second if I could. At the same time I feel guilty that I sometimes take this time I've had with my child for granted, because I know I will miss it terribly once it is over. It saddens me deeply.

What is one thing you want others to know about your life as a stay at home dad?

Staying home can be just as hard as going to work-they just are difficult in different ways. It's like comparing apples to oranges, and I'm sure stay at home moms feel the same way. The grass isn't greener on the other side that's for sure, but whether you are at home or going to work there will always be aspects of the other that you wish you had.


Thank you so much, Julia, for letting us share our story!

{Thank YOU guys, Julie and Tanner! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}


  1. Great post Julie! I've been waiting for one life this b/c our roles are similar - my husband works (and full-time actually), but on opposite days of me and I'm the primary breadwinner as well. So, I share some of the same thoughts as you - not wanting to go out at night b/c I've been working all day, missing him on the weekends when he's working, etc. I was surprised that Tanner has had that reaction to being a stay-at-home dad, when I asked my husband, he said he's never really gotten a bad comment or anything out of the ordinary - people can be so insensitive sometimes!! Anyways, thanks for sharing!

  2. Interesting perspective. And props to them for being so financially savvy to live on less. I think we all could learn to do that better. I work part-time, so am home with my toddler on Thursdays/Fridays. We frequent the park just near our house, and almost always play with other littles and their mamas/grandmas/nannies there. If we hit up the park on weekend, as a whole family, we joke about how many dads are at the park on Saturday mornings. Then, the other week, on a weekday, I was the ONLY MOM at the whole park. There were 5 or 6 dads with their littles there. I inquired about some sort of "dad's club," and they laughed and informed me that they all, in fact, stay home while their wives work fulltime. They hadn't even planned on meeting there. Good dads, I say, willing to sacrifice their careers for the good of the family, just like women have been expected to do for decades. I also like that this post follwed on the heels of Father's Day - a happy father's day to this daddy, Tanner!

  3. YAY Julie! What a great post! Thanks, Julia for posting it!

  4. This is a great addition to the MMIW series! Although my husband and I both work and our son goes to daycare, I think if either of us were going to stay home with our kids at some point it would be more likely to be him. I feel so lucky that my partner is a hands-on dad. We just had a new baby and my husband basically does everything for our son and he has taken paternity leave with both kids. He also finds it frustrating that there aren't nearly as many dads groups as there are moms groups out there and that it's harder to make friends with other dads independently. I am really glad you shared your story!


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