his mother. Her aunt baby sat for seven weeks before Kershaw walked away from a job that paid in the mid-$40,000 range–severing the family income almost in half.
“We quickly realized that life as we knew it was over, says Kershaw. “We were prepared to downsize.” With solid long- and short-term investments, low debt and some money in the bank, the Kershaws hunkered down for the long haul. That meant limited dinners out, less travel, cloth diaper service, breast-feeding and homemade baby food. Her sisters, both teachers, contributed generously to the over-300 children’s books the boys have. A boxfull of outfits would arrive “every so often” from Kershaw’s mother.
Kershaw, a native of Orangeburg, South Carolina–where she met her husband of 10 years–dispels the myth that working in the home means not working at all. Since her husband’s transfer from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Andrews Air Force Base in 1989, Kershaw has been quite busy. Today her days are spent keeping her sons occupied with educational activities and art projects and getting Matthew ready for preschool before embarking on her daily errands. It’s not uncommon for Kershaw and the boys to visit her husband at work for lunch or dinner.
Her home is regularly filled with preschoolers. No stickler about territory, Kershaw says her entire home is for her children. Any doubts? One need only to take notice of the drawing pad and easel that holds permanent residence in the breakfast nook next to the miniature kitchen set. On special occasions, such as birthday parties, “weed and mud soup,” made by Philip, can sometimes be found in the backyard.
To maintain her skills and stay in the loop, Kershaw stays in touch with old colleagues. “I keep up with trends and let them know how I’ve been keeping my resume ‘warm.’”
One way that she has been keeping it warm is by consulting various organizations on human resource issues. For her, one of the biggest challenges is that “people don’t feel they have to pay you what you’re worth because you are not in the workforce,” notes this graduate of Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, who has a master’s degree in public administration from New York University. Eventually, when her sons are in school full-time, Kershaw would like to either work in an organization that supports the family or start her own business.
“Some women say they wish they could afford to make the decision to stay home. Others never tire of asking me when am I going back to work,” says Kershaw. But affordability is relative for this mother who takes seriously the raising of two African American males in this society. “We can never afford it all,” she says, “but I can afford the value of my time and the impact it will have on the lives of my children.”
When Charles Howard took a job with Sun Oil in 1978, fresh out of Southern Methodist University Law School, he planned to stay two years– max. Afterwards, he would pursue his real