A few months ago, a typical school day for 6-year-old Mary Liese Grier, a kindergartener at Smith Academy of International Languages, started at 7 a.m. with a bus ride to school and ended at 6 p.m. when her mother picked her up at the YMCA afterschool program.
Then it was time for dinner, homework, bath and bed.
Mary Liese cried every morning and didn't want to go to school.
By the time she got home in the afternoon, she was exhausted and the "world had fallen apart," said her mother, Jenni Grier.
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Mary Liese's parents, Rob Grier, 39, and Jenni, 37, began to question their choices for their children and Mary Liese's enrollment in the German immersion program at Smith Academy, a decision they made because they had both worked internationally: Jenni in Germany and Rob in England.
After months of consideration and some planning, the Griers decided Rob would leave his job to stay at their Beverly Woods East home with Mary Liese and Julia, 4, while Jenni, who holds a master's degree in international business, would continue to work full time in her marketing job at Duke Energy.
Rob, a graduate of The Citadel, had felt unfulfilled as a software salesman at his job in the Ballantyne area, but he never envisioned himself as a stay-at-home parent, he said.
"I'll never forget the night we told (the kids)," said Jenni. "It made it all worth it. They were jumping up and down, saying, 'Thank you so much.'"
The family dynamics changed the first week Rob stayed home, said Jenni.
Jenni said she feels less stress and more peace knowing Rob is there for the children every day. Julia spends less time in preschool and has play dates in the afternoon. Mary Liese loves school again and greets her mom with a smile every day when Jenni comes home.
"We have sit-down dinners five times a week," which Rob cooks, he said.
The best part for Mary Liese?
"I get homework done a lot quicker, so I don't have to leave it all at night," she said.
The changes for the family have been significant, and there have been some surprises along the way as Rob slipped into a domestic role and Jenni became the provider for the family.
Jenni said she became aware of their new roles one evening as she worked on her laptop in a corner of the den and saw Rob, her husband of nine years, sitting on the sofa clipping coupons.
For his part, Rob has embraced his role as the stay-at-home father, taking Mary Liese back and forth to school and hosting play dates for Julia.
Before deciding to stay at home, Rob said, he thought he would have more time to himself to finish special projects, but the time isn't there.
He hurries to pick up Julia from her morning preschool, then sits in carpool; but he makes the time productive by clipping coupons as he waits.
Rob saved time at home by using a notebook to organize coupons, planning meals three weeks in advance and knowing the expiration dates of all the items in the refrigerator.
Now that they live on one income, the Griers cut back on household and lawn services and manage their bills with more scrutiny.
The Griers know Rob will return to the workforce, but until then they remain happy with their decision.
"All the cards came together for this to happen," said Jenni. "I feel like I have my little nest happy. I don't care who's working."