(No) Money Changes Everything

May 20, 2009

I’ve written about abortion and depression and my relationship with my psychiatrist. I’ve written about perineal tears and my boobs and nursing another woman’s child. I’ve written about pretty much every uncomfortable thing that there is to write about, and yet it is this post that I don’t know how to begin. It is this post that I am reluctant to write. It is this post that will, I know, make me cringe in shame.

But I’m still going to write it. Because I need to say it – write it – out loud. I need to not be ashamed, and confessing shame is the only means I know to fighting shame. So.

We are – my family is – struggling financially. I know; who isn’t? There’s a recession going on. Everybody is feeling the pinch. Everybody is clucking about how tight things are, how precarious things seem, how challenging it all is. Everybody is worried. But that doesn’t make it any less embarrassing for me to admit that I am worried. I am worried. And a little bit ashamed. Because aren’t my husband and I supposed to be grown-ups? Aren’t we supposed to ensure that everything is always okay? Aren’t we supposed to be able to protect our family from the dark forces of fear and anxiety and indebtedness? Aren’t we supposed to be able to always, and under any circumstances, provide?

The downturn in the economy has compromised my husband’s industry, an industry in which he works freelance, and in which he has, historically, done very well. Historically. He hasn’t worked in well over a month. I wring a modest living out of writing – more than I did teaching political philosophy as a sessional lecturer – but it’s not enough to support us. Not nearly enough. And so we scramble, and we worry, and we fret about how to explain things to Emilia, who does not understand why we cannot go to her favorite restaurant for dinner, why we cannot take a trip across the country to visit Tanner, why we have begun to sell things. We tell her, dinner is nicer at home, we’ll go visit Tanner soon, it’s fun to sell things!

And then she asks, so will we sell more of our things tomorrow? And, will you sell my treehouse? Because I like my treehouse, and I don’t want you to sell it. And my heart breaks. Because I don’t want her to worry. I don’t know how to talk about this without causing her to worry. I am ashamed that we have to worry. I ashamed that I don’t know how to handle this.

I know that we’ll be fine, in the long run. We will be fine. My husband is very good at what he does, and although his industry might need – does need – to evolve and adapt, it won’t die. Even if it did – even if the work just ran out – there’d be something else to do. There’s always something else to do. And I am – all evidence to the contrary aside – not without skills. We’ll manage, whatever that looks like. And whatever that looks like will be good, because we’ll always have each other. Even if we’re living in a trailer in the woods – which, granted, is a lot less likely now that we’ve had to sell our trailer in the woods – we’ll be fine, because we’ll have each other. Which sounds unbearably trite, I know, but it’s nonetheless true for its triteness. We’ll have each other.

But that’s still hard to explain to a three-year old. Why we can’t, right now, have extras. Why we need to be content with ‘each other.’ Why we need to just make do, and to find some joy in that. Why we insist that this is good, this is fine, this is fun, when the worry is plainly written on our faces.

I see the confusion in her face, and I’m ashamed. Ashamed that I can’t explain it better. Ashamed that I set her up for this, by not working hard enough to let her know that her world of plenty should never be taken for granted. Ashamed that I took that world of plenty for granted. Ashamed that I am ashamed.

Which is, as I said, why I needed to say it out loud. Because maybe, maybe, if I can fight the shame, I can fight the worry, and if I can fight the worry, I can fight the confusion. For her. For us. So that it will, it truly will, all be okay.


So that I can say that, and mean it. For her.

Here is where I say, I so need commiseration. We need commiseration. Will you share your stories, or your advice? I was part of a call with Katie Couric yesterday, via the Silicon Valley Moms Group – of which Canada Moms Blog is a part – on the topic of children and the recession, and all I could think, throughout the call, was how it was easy for me to think abstractly about the recession, and talk about how to help the less fortunate, etc, etc, but that I was unwilling – wholly and shamefacedly unwilling – to talk about my own experience, and my own fear. Which meant, of course, that I had to suck it up and blog it, and it was – is – every bit as painful as I thought it would be. Anyone care to throw in her voice with mine, make it feel a little less scary? Or just, you know, tell me that I should be grateful to have a roof over my head and stop whining?

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    { 171 comments }

    Assertagirl May 20, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    “Short term sacrifice, long-term gain.” That’s the little mantra I have found myself repeating lately, more times than I’d care to admit. Things WILL get better, and I’m really sorry to hear you’re having to sell the trailer.

    Momo Fali May 20, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    We are right there with you. After a couple of years of struggling and closing up our own business, my husband finally landed a good job. But, it means never, EVER seeing him. He’s working about 16 hours a day…and the funny thing? We don’t even complain about it. We’ve lived the alternative and it is much worse.

    Sherry May 20, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    It’s strange how we do that, isn’t it? I know a lot of people personally who are struggling a great deal right now and I certainly don’t think any less of them but then when I look at our bank accounts, balance our books, it’s like I somehow think less of MYSELF for being in the same position.

    We’re all so hard on ourselves.

    That being said I am truly looking forward to the economy heading back up. Eventually. Which it will. Uhhh. Right?

    Heide May 20, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Thankfully we are not really struggling right now, but my husband’s salary was cut, neither of our jobs will be offering the bonuses we used to count on, and now with a new second kid in fulltime daycare, things are tight. And we can’t really afford to save, and the idea of saving for college is laughable. I’m so embarassed by that. We bought our house when the market was at it’s highest, and now own WAY more than the market value, so our “starter” home is going to be our “indefinite” home. If either of our jobs fell through, we would be scrambling bigtime, and I feel like it’s always a possibility that’s there, looming, making me so anxious that I get the trots. Good times!

    Goldfish May 20, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    You just broke my heart a little. Must wipe away tears and go make everything okay for my little ones.

    Jen May 20, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Good for you, writing about it!

    My husband lost his job August 1. I am a stay at home mom, and freelance writer. I blogged a lot about money in the months that followed.

    Starting in January he took a job in a city two house away. It paid 25k less than what he’d been making before, and offered no benefits. I was here struggling to work as much as possible, while single parenting 4 kids 6 and under.

    This month he began a new job, back up here. It’s still less than what he was making before, but we should have insurance as of June 1.

    We’re still struggling, financially as well as emotionally as we’re shifting roles within our family.

    You are SO not alone. I have a handful of people on a blogroll in my blog sidebar, who are also struggling with unemployment.

    crunchy May 20, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    welcome to the club..husband freelances too and last big job/contract was 3 months ago.

    LOVE watching the savings vanish.
    LOVE having to worry about birthday party costs for the kids.

    LOVE worrying.

    And yes it sucks to say no to the kids.

    It sucks to say no about special ‘treats’ or potential holidays.

    It also sucks to see the strain on your husbands face as he worries about supporting his family and struggles again that ‘manly’ shame of not doing enough.

    It sucks

    kimberly/tippytoes May 20, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    It will be fine because you have each other. We went through a period growing up (elementary school age) when my dad was unemployed a few times (not his fault, economic conditions) and I remember having to cut back and the stress it caused, but it taught me about sacrifice and that the “things” we not as important. We spent more time together for entertainment and honestly some of my best memories come from that time.

    Stefania/CityMama May 20, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    We are all in this together. I blogged about this recently, too, and I’ll share the link if you don’t mind because I really think something good can come of so much struggle and pain:

    http://citymama.typepad.com/citymama/2009/03/in-this-economy-love-thy-neighbor.html

    Your hurt is my hurt. It’s all of our hurts so let’s love our neighbor more. Especially now.

    If you EVER need anything…

    Sarah Lena May 20, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    I wrote about mine here.

    http://theanviltree.com/2169/2169/

    It still haunts me.

    avasmommy May 20, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Catherine,

    About 4 years ago my husband was laid off from his job. He was out of work for almost a year. We squeaked by, on my salary and unemployment, and then he got a great, awesome job. And 8 months later was laid off again. This time there was no unemployment to fall back on, as he was ineligible to apply. We cashed in his 401k for living expenses and came within about a month of losing our house. He did find another job, and we’ve been building back ever since.

    I guess my point is, I understand where you are at. I absolutely get how scary it is. But I do know that things do turn around, and one day this will all be a distant memory. Maybe this is one of those learning moments, where you do realize you were taking things for granted and from here forward you look at stuff differently.

    Ok, enough rambling. It will get better. Hang in there.

    Oh, and you know, be grateful you have a roof over your head and stop whining. ;)

    Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food May 20, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    We haven’t raided our retirement funds yet, but we have a buttload of debt (credit and home equity). We’re not upside down on our home, but we’ll be paying that big equity loan forEVER. And it’s not like we are charging luxury items on the credit card. It’s tires and maintenance and necessities at Target. And gas from last summer when it was ridiculous. Seriously. Our problem is that we don’t have a plan to pay it all off… let alone, start saving for our 3 kids’ college educations. We’re scaling back on summer vacations and eating out and summer camp for the boys, but we don’t seem to be making ground. It’s the worst feeling. How can we not make enough to support our pretty modest lifestyle? How did this happen?

    I hear ya on this one.

    Adelas May 20, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Catherine, you challenge me and make me think like nobody else out there. You make me think about things I care about so that I have to respond. Sometimes I wonder if I annoy you by responding with novella-comments, and yet… you just get it GOING inside my head so that it’s time for that stuff to come out.

    I had to interrupt a sermon mp3 I was listening to (spurred to listen to by your post on beliefnet) so that I could read this post. I’m going to interrupt the post I was going to write in response to that one, I think, to respond to this one, because I think it’s actually time for me to grow a pair and share like you do, seemingly so confidently, day after day. I’ll come back and link later, or I’ll tweet you or something.

    In the meantime, does it help at all to hear that your being there and hanging all your guts out for us to see has had a huge, major impact on my emotional/intellectual growth lately?

    It’s the least I can hope for for you.

    red pen mama May 20, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Yep: http://albamaria30.wordpress.com/2008/10/23/four-letter-word/

    haven’t done much explaining to Monkey. A little, but it doesn’t seem to be worrying to her. Maybe she’s just more oblivious than Emilia.

    I remain grateful for what we do have. I know it will get better for us. I try to live within our budget — I try to get my husband to live within our budget (a much tougher proposition).

    We’re holding our breath a little. It’s okay — it’s helpful, even, to talk about it. As you can see.

    ciao,
    rpm

    Jessi May 20, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    We are struggling too. Like you said, who isn’t. But it is hard. It’s hard to explain that my four year old absolutely can’t have the princess bike helmet because it’s $20 and I only have $15 in my pocket and the account is overdrawn. It’s hard to stand there looking at the bike helmets when I want to throw that $15 at the electric company people and beg, but know that she has to have it for school and we decided that school was a priority. It’s hard to explain that we can’t get the cereal with hannah montanna on it, we have to get the grocery brand because it’s only $1 and hannah flakes are $3. But I keep talking about it because sooner or later, she’s going to be in a similar situation for whatever reason and I want her to remember what sacrifice looks like, what getting by looks like. I want her to know that she can do it if she makes priorities and sticks to them. I want her to know that it’s okay to be broke and it’s even okay to be poor. That she won’t always have what she wants but that as long as I am on this earth she WILL have what she needs. And I want her to know that we do think about it. We aren’t cheery about giving up our weekly dinner out, it makes us all sad, but we have to do what needs to be done. I want her to know that there’s a reason she can’t have new shoes or another Barbie or that she’s getting stolen computer paper instead of coloring books. I want her to know why we make the choices we do. Even though I don’t want to talk to her about it, I don’t want her to worry, I do want her to gain from our financial loss.

    Super Woman May 20, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    I feel so bad for you that you feel ashamed about this; it’s nothing to be ashamed of, especially since SO many other families are going through the same thing these days. There are many other things that we could – and do – feel ashamed for that are more worthy of that emotion. So, you’re struggling right now – that’s okay. You’re human. :)

    We have experienced rough times before, too. Last summer, my husband was unexpectedly downsized. I’m a SAHM with no income, so it was terrifying to get the call from my husband that he was suddenly without a job. He got some severance, but not much, and this was when the job market was really beginning to go downhill fast. I panicked. It didn’t help.

    We were fortunate that he found a BETTER job within a matter of a few months. Our lives are completely different today because of the situation we went through together nearly a year ago. We weren’t left destitute as a result of his job loss, but we knew our savings and his severance would only get us through so many months, so we definitely battened down the hatches and stopped spending on unnecessary things. It was a good exercise for us, as a family. One of the few upsides of such a situation, but still, an upside.

    We also had to explain the situation to our kids – then 12 and 5. No dining out, no toys at Target “just because,” and no getting that favorite snack if I didn’t have a coupon for it. They grumbled about it a little, but ultimately, they realized that we were cutting back for the good of the family because we HAD to. They appreciate things more now than the did before. Another upside to the situation.

    Hang in there – things will eventually turn around, and I hope that when they do, you will find yourselves in a better situation than you were in before this slump. Best of luck!

    Jamie May 20, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    We’re not struggling NOW, but we’ve been there before. Twice over the past 10 years of our marriage. I don’t think anyone outside of dh, myself and our Mortgage and credit card companies know how bad things were for us. I don’t know why we didn’t talk about it. I guess we were embarrassed to admit that we drove out of our way to save the most amount of money possible on our groceries and that dd’s clothes came from the clearance rack or k-mart and that we actually considered driving just out of state to go to the blood bank where they give you money for plasma (we didn’t end up doing that, but we really really considered it). Even just admitting that we were probably short sighted and were defiantly house poor is enough to make me cringe.

    Miss Grace May 20, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Co-Misery: I’m a single mom, I receive no child support, I receive no help from the government, I have student loans, I have credit card debt, I make $15 an hour. I’m a secretary with a master’s degree. I’m delicately caught in a balance of EXACTLY making it every month, never with anything extra, never with any slack.

    If the scales tip in even the slightest way out of my favor, I can no longer afford to live.

    My parents will take me in, but I’d rather that they never need to.

    I too, am worried.

    Diana May 20, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    I am with you, Catherine. My husband works in an industry that’s hit hard right now, too. His company lost 70% of their contracts recently. So many people have been laid off, they say there are more layoffs coming. So far they’ve just cut his pay. *Just*.

    I left the “day job” last year to freelance, it is the best move I could have ever made for our family mental-health wise in every other way, but sometimes when the checking account shows null I wonder what in the hell we’re doing here. Are we doing the right thing?

    Being the grown-up in this economic climate? Sucks!

    Jenny May 20, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Oh wow…you’re not alone!

    My husband is still working full time, but I gave up my full time job to stay at home with our son (still working part time). I would have lost the job anyway, since my company is making tremendous cuts; the woman who replaced me got transferred out.

    Yes, it’s very scary. I have had many tearful moments at the grocery store, trying to figure out how I can make our grocery money stretch to pay for all the things we need. We’ve been selling all sorts of random belongings on Craigslist to make ends meet. Cable’s gone, no budget for clothes, we minimize our car trips to save gas money.

    There is an up-side, though, despite all the stress. I find myself being far more creative and resourceful than I ever was when we had “extra” money. I reuse EVERYTHING. I put up a clothesline. My garden (which has always been a hobby) is now a major source of food. We spend more time together as a family, doing simple stuff like walk in the park. I guess it is easier since my son is not really old enough to understand that we’re broke, but I still look at his little face and try not to think of how much more I could do for him if we had more money, of how much less stressed we’d be.

    Hang in there. We’ll all get through this, together!

    Anonymous May 20, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    If you live in a house with a refrigerator, a bed, and a closet full of clothes, you’re richer than 75% of the world. 53% of the world lives on $2 a day. Your children live in a loving 2-parent home, in a peaceful part of the world. They will never feel hunger, suffer from preventable illnesses, or be forced into child labor. Your children are so lucky to have you, and to live in Canada.

    If you’re anxious about losing “things,” she’ll probably pick up on it. This is a great opportunity to teach her that people are important, and it’s important to have a place to live, but material things are not important. There are only a few things you’ll keep forever (e.g., pictures), but other things will eventually be sold, lost, or thrown away.

    Allyson/HBMomof2 May 20, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Please don’t think you are alone. I am a non-blogging stay at home mom whose husband has missed 6 rounds of layoffs at his office. We are tense and running on cash only right now. I have done the Craigslist thing also, only to tell others that “we don’t need all of this stuff we don’t use” rather than we need the money to function. This is a hard time for everyone. Daughter just asked what we are doing this summer for vacation and I had nothing to say while I actually sat there and said to myself, “Absolutely nothing.” I wish I would have appreciated the good times more too, but we have to deal with the situation we are in now.

    My house is lean, but happy. Love and togetherness is not overrated. Your daughter won’t remember what she didn’t have as a kid, unless it is your love. She will remember how she felt more than what she had. We will all get through this. I am telling you this, because I am hoping to believe it myself. You are not alone!

    areyoukiddingme May 20, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    It’s times like these that make me glad that my husband is always a “prepare for a rainy day” and “we don’t need material possessions” kind of guy. I’m not a spendthrift, by any means, but as I hear of other people losing their jobs or homes, it makes me want to save all the more. Just in case.

    My advice to you is to try to look at selling the things you don’t need as freeing rather than desperate (because that’s kind of how it’s coming across to me, and so, probably to your daughter). Tell her that you don’t need so much stuff and now is a good time to let it go to someone who does need it.

    Don’t feel ashamed, though. If you’ve made bad financial choices…oh well. That’s in the past. Carry on with new knowledge.

    Gina Chen May 20, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I can tell how hard it was.

    I know just what you mean. Our family has had to cut back a lot, and it has been hard. I think you really hit the nail on the head when you said you’re ashamed you took what you had for granted when you had it. That’s just how I feel.

    And, my kids are older (9 and 6), so we have been able to explain to them why we’re cutting back. But they still don’t understand. And they shouldn’t. They’re kids. They should get to be blissfully ignorant and know we’ll take care of them no matter what. And we will.

    But sometimes, I just don’t want to be the grown-up anymore. I want to be that blissfully ignorant kid that I was when my parents went through hard economic times, and I didn’t have to fret about it.

    Lee May 20, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I’m SO GLAD YOU POSTED as I know (via Twitter) it was a struggle for you. You are helping so many others by owning your fear and moving forward. Good for you. It is a struggle – for everyone, just varying degrees. We too have cut back, dramatically. The kids have actually adjusted quite well, we parents? not so much! Great lessons to be learned. Thanks for teaching a few.

    Emily May 20, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I’m so glad you wrote this. I spent a good part of yesterday figuring out which bills we could pay at which time of the month, and which ones would have to wait. I couldn’t help but think about people who make gobs and gobs of money and don’t have to worry about such things! Of course, they probably have other problems. Like figuring out which of their cars to drive on a given day. :)

    Jennifer May 20, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    We’ve been there, trying to explain to my then 6 year old why we couldn’t take her to dinner like daddy did and why we couldn’t take her to Disney like her grandparents did. It sucked, but you get by however you can.

    The husband was lucky enough to get a well paying fairly secure job right before the economy took a nosedive. While our money worries aren’t as major as some, we still worry. We have a long road ahead of us to get out of the debt being poor put us in. And maybe someday we’ll be able to afford a house of our own as opposed to living with my parents.

    All I can say is that yes, it’s been rough. And yes, I’ve worried something major over the last couple of years. BUT – if you can survive paying $4 in change for gas because that’s all you can afford, you can survive anything. You come out the other side a little stronger and a lot more appreciative of what you have.

    Sara May 20, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Our second child started day care a few months ago. We know that our expenditures exceed our incomes with the doubling of day care costs, and so each month we dip further and further into “the red”. I’m not sure how much longer we’ll be able to keep all of these balls in the air – we’ve already trimmed out all of the “unnecessary” bills and luxuries. It’s so hard to juggle family health and happiness along with all of the bills piling up. Unfortunately, I don’t see an end in sight for us until the 2-year-old starts school in 4 years…

    verybadcat May 20, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I’ve blogged about this on my own blog, but I can’t do that anymore, for reasons that are too complicated to get into in a comment box.

    We’ve struggled for the past two years. My husband works in retail and has not been able to get a full time position, or even keep a part time position, in roughly two years. I make good money, but not enough.

    We had to default on our credit cards. Goodbye, 740 credit score. I drained my 401k and accepted money from my Dad to save our home from foreclosure. I have been cold. I have been hungry. To add insult to injury, my in laws seem to think that we just squander our meager funds on hookers and blow, and so they shame us. Which cuts to the bone, because I am so ashamed. Ashamed to tell my friends that I can’t buy them birthday presents. Ashamed to have people over during the holidays, when there is no tree, no lights, no presents, and the house is 50 degrees. Ashamed to “borrow” the space heater from the office to keep our pipes from freezing. Ashamed that I can’t afford a haircut, or a few new things to comply with our new dress code. Ashamed that my poor husband will not face some of our friends until he finds work. You are so very not alone.

    As far as Emilia goes, I don’t know what to tell you. My parents were too honest with me when money was tight, and I worried at a very young age about keeping our family home and having food to eat. I also don’t think pretending nothing is wrong will work, and I think it sets her up to face some of the problems I faced as a young adult. I expected to be able to provide for myself the lifestyle my established parents provided for me. Hence the credit card debt.

    Maybe you could explain to her that there is less money, and so these are the things we do when we have less money, and we are still lucky, and we can still be happy.

    My heart aches for you. It aches for me as well. I see my trip to the twentysomething meetup vanishing in a sea of unpaid bills, and it breaks my heart. It breaks me. Then I feel guilty for even having considered trying to go. I feel guilty for buying a magazine at the grocery store. I feel guilty for wanting new sandals. Then I get angry, because I work hard, and I deserve something. Something more than the power company giving me another two weeks before they cut us off. I oscillate between shame, self forgiveness and anger with the world at large.

    This financial mess has nearly cost me my marriage. It is so hard to balance the management of scarce resources. To be supportive and not resentful. To bear the guilt of letting him see the shame and pain caused, in part, by his inability to provide. I’m crying right now, writing this, realizing how badly I needed to use my words. I’ve taken up entirely too much of your comment space, and can only hope that you’ll give me a pass since I couldn’t write this on my own blog.

    You are not alone, Catherine, not hardly, and thank you for giving me the courage and the space to say so.

    Sethjenks May 20, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    My dad lost his job in the early 90′s right before Christmas we had to live really slim for several months. We had to get food from our church and we were the beneficiary of a lot of charity. we were all pretty young when it happened and we have all grown up to be well rounded grounded individuals and i am grateful for my parents ability to turn what could have been a disaster into one of the best Christmases in memory.

    mom2nji May 20, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    As the tweets were flying across the page yesterday about the Katie Couric interview, I thought I need to help. Then I realized, DUH, we are the poor right now. My kids hear no all the time about going places or buying toys. I don’t feel bad about that. I worry about keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table. I do worry constantly about late bills (or the ones I haven’t paid at all). I feel like a crappy mom because I didn’t send their teachers gifts this year or that they have missed out on friends parties because I didn’t have the extra money for a gift. I keep telling myself someday things will get better. I really hope its true.

    Amy May 20, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    I am so sorry that you are having to go through this!

    My parents went through pretty bad financial problems when I was a child – older than Emilia, but still in elementary school. I am not going to lie, it was very difficult for me. It sucked to worry as much as I had to worry – because kids DO get what is going on, and they do worry. It was difficult to be stigmatized in school for not being able to wear cool clothes. It was frustrating to have to baby-sit my brother while my mom worked 3 jobs instead of playing outside with my friends. It was humiliating when we had to sell our house and move into an apartment. I felt deprived, insecure and embarrassed. And that made my teen years painful and complicated. (But then again, whose aren’t?)

    None of that is probably what you want to hear. But there is good news!

    First of all, I still love my parents very much. I know their problems were part bad luck and part bad decisions. And while I have been angry with them for their bad decisions, that never made me not love them with all my heart.

    I have also learned a lot from the experience. I am not saying I am some kind of saint who in satisfied with living simply, ignoring the siren song of materialism. I wish that were true. But while I still struggle with longing to live beyond the my means (currently being a dirt poor 20-something, married to a grad student), I have grown into a confident, resourceful, competent adult. I have learned some very good lessons from my parents mistakes that I hope will help me in the long run. And I strive to be grateful for what I do have. There are so many blessings!

    That was a very long-winded way of saying that even if things don’t turn out the way you want, they will STILL be alright in the long run. You aren’t going to ruin your kids’ lives – not when you have a loving family. Your worry and shame is normal. The worry will be hard to let go of, but please try not to be ashamed. No one should be ashamed of struggling in this way, especially if they are trying to make things better.

    The sacrifices you are making now will pay off in the future. My parents took us on expensive vacations when we were very small (part of the reason they got into debt), and then when we were old enough to want and appreciate vacations, the money was gone.

    A big huge hug from a stranger who knows the feeling of something like the pain you are going through. Thank you for sharing. xo

    jodifur May 20, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    what a brave post. B/c weren’t all of us brought up to never, ever talk about money?

    I so wanted to be on that call, but my job, which helps pay the bills, got in the way.

    It’s easy to say something trite like, it’ll all be ok, or, hang in there, but you don’t know that. But I will tell you this. Growing up I had very little money. I remember my mom crying when she had to buy us shoes. And that is not my parents financial situation now. But experiencing that made me grateful for everything I do have.

    Renae May 20, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Being new to the blog scene, I sure appreciate your site and the fact that you are so raw and honest. Some times that hurts, but it can have a ‘relief’ feeling too. You know, to get it off your chest.

    My hubby doesn’t freelance and we’re not hurting any more than we ever are. The moment I left the corporate world, our financial lives changed forever. 7 years later, we’re still here and doing OK. I cook all week, we pack lunches every day, I cloth diaper, clean my own house, mow my own lawn and buy all our clothes on eBay or 2nd hand. But, we’re ok and my kids are happy.

    I think tightening our budgets can bring us closer. We cut our cable and now spend way more time as a family and a lot less time watching TV. I hope things turn around soon (and I believe they will), but in the mean time, focus on the positive and don’t worry about your kids. They’re a lot less materialistic than we are, especially at 3. :)

    “Unless you’re ashamed of yourself now and then, you’re not honest.”
    ~ William Faulkner

    Her Bad Mother May 20, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    We’re being really positive about selling things – emphasizing that it’s freeing up space, that it means that we can *make* things, that it’s fun, etc, etc. But she still picks up on the anxiety, and she still presses about dinners and trips, the latter especially being hard to explain. Making dinner at home can be sold as fun, but not going to visit Grandma? Tanner? That’s tougher to explain, and she gets that I struggle over the explanation.

    The dissolution of my own parents’ marriage was triggered by a financial disaster, so this is sensitive for me. It’s a struggle to not freak out sometimes.

    Land of Lovings May 20, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    This post resonates with me so much because we’re in a really similar situation. My husband is freelance which, I think, if you look it up in the dictionary means “feast or famine” and work is slowing down again after about 4 months of steady work. With two kids and a newborn (who was born via C-section w/NO maternity benefits – so he was $$$) things are tight. Not to mention the we had to evict tenants from the house we couldn’t sell after we bought our current home so now we’re facing two mortgages, slow work, all of our kids birthdays, medical bills, and…I think I just about gave myself an anxiety attack.

    I feel like a baby because we do have a roof over our head and family who is there to support us emotionally but it makes me sad to explain to my kids why we can’t go to the grocery right now or to have to put off things they were planning on because finances are suddenly tight.

    Thanks for being brave enough to write this post and for opening up dialogue here for other people who are struggling with the fact that they’re struggling.

    Her Bad Mother May 20, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Anon – I know how lucky we are, in the bigger picture. Believe me, I do. But that kinda just aggravates the shame, and silences me. How dare I complain, worry? I feel strongly that I *should* just accentuate the positive and be grateful. But the nagging fears nag nonetheless.

    r3 May 20, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Hi Catherine,
    Perhaps if you read Paul Hawkin’s commencement speech to 2009 graduates you would feel better. Or worse. Because then you’d realize the real problem for our kids isn’t money (or lack of), but the environment.

    http://can-summit.ning.com/profiles/blog/show?id=2386694%3ABlogPost%3A15340

    Why can’t there be enough for everyone?

    But yeah, being broke sucks. Being broke when educated/experienced/talented/willing/able sucks even more.

    Michele May 20, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Here’s my story in order to commiserate. All I’ve ever wanted to do is be home. After 10 years, I finally got my wish in November. My husband was finally making more than me, and had the health insurance to cover our special needs kids. Good! My coming home was the best thing we ever did for our family, and I still stand by that. And then in February, my husband lost his job. He hasn’t had 1 nibble on his resume. We’ve gone through our savings. Unemployment covers rent, utilities if I juggle, and some majorly couponed groceries. I don’t know what we’re going to do. My kids got one used video game for their birthdays. Sucks. So there you go. Sucks to be in this position. Sucks that others are in this position. Just all around suckage.

    SAIA AND CHAGO May 20, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    We’re in denial.

    I feel stupid even saying outloud that I voluntarily quit my job in November.

    We’ve been living on my partner’s income, which is decent, and the stock I’ve been cashing in every few months.

    So, on the surface, our life hasn’t changed a bit. I refuse to admit that we can’t make this work (without depleting our savings). I refuse to acknowledge that this recession has affected us, too. I think I feel that if I can put this little plastic bubble around us — and we keep eating out once a week, and keep making Target runs, and splurge on gifts like we always have — that maybe it’ll just go away and I won’t have to reveal to the world (like I’m doing now) what an idiot I’ve been, how selfishly I’ve not gone out to seek other work, how I’m just burying my head in the sand.

    Your taking this on like this — on the blog — is still something I haven’t been able to do. And I really do admire your strength, and the strength of so many of the other women who’ve commented.

    Thank you all for sharing. It’s humbling and inspiring.

    Jo Anna

    Tricia May 20, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    It’s temporary, all temporary and Emilia will not even likely remember much from this time in her life – let’s face it how many people remember being 3?

    I understand the fear though. My husband has been unemployed for 8 months and due to Multiple Sclerosis will never work again. We are deperately trying to make ends meet while waiting for VA Disability to kick in (he’s a 10 year Air Force veteran) but it’s hard.

    Not being able to buy things, go places, replace things that break, it’s hard but keeping my house and some creature comforts is just going to have to be enough for now.

    MYSUESTORIES May 20, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    No shame in having to be frugal….only shame is imparting to your child that it’s NOT okay to not get everything you want. Don’t be afraid to say “We simply cannot afford it for now.”
    Honesty builds character, and if poverty shit nickles, I’d be a millionaire!!!!!!

    Hang tough and BE PROUD.

    makyo May 20, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    when i was in high school my family went through a tough time financially. my mom used to say that we can’t appreciate the “ups” if we never experience the “downs”. emilia might have trouble understanding the principles of belt-tightening, but when you’re on the up-swing again (and you will be!) she’ll be better able to appreciate all those little extras like dinners out and vacations.

    lizzie lou May 20, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    thank you, thank you for this. i also avoid this topic on my blog, since my (teenage) kids, in-laws, parents, etc. all read it. officially, they all know what’s up, but my husband and i tend to keep the details (and the panic) hidden from everyone. i can’t offer any advice, only commiseration, since we are right there with you (except my husband hasn’t worked for money since december). we own a teeny tiny business which brings in nowhere near enough, have accepted as much financial help from family as they can afford to offer, and as the weeks go by, we get closer and closer to “plan n” or something, which is essentially “well, if we lose the house, we can always… um…” still, like you, i do know it’s all going to be okay in the end, and we do have each other and a supportive family and lovely, strong children. it will be okay. it really will.

    MisaGracie May 20, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    When I was a kid we had little or nothing. As they say, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together. I remember going to the grocery store with my mother and wanting a candy from the register display and upon her saying no, it wasn’t in our grocery budget, I responded with “Well, you have plenty of checks, just write a check”. Kids really don’t grasp the concept of money, especially at 3 years old. What she sees is change, which is never easy for a child.

    I remember asking why we had to move from our house to a mobile home and the look on my parents faces was filled with this same shame that you are feeling now. The thing is, I didn’t care, not really. I knew they loved me and my siblings. The fact that we didn’t have a telephone or TV any longer meant nothing. We played games and cooked hot dogs over camp fires in a backyard pit. It was awesome and the memories from that time are some of the best memories we have. We had each other and now, 25 years after, we still have each other and I feel our bonds are stronger for the time we spent without the extras you worry about providing.

    Helping your kids find the fun in the changes life is throwing at them will help them develop an important life skill. After all, they could care less about your bank balance.

    And, don’t let your financial frustrations become a wall with your husband. Communication, open and honest, is the best way to get through this. Holding back anxiety can lead to resentment and that is a quagmire no marriage should have to trudge through.

    Good luck!!

    Amber May 20, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    I lost my job a few weeks ago. Or rather, I found out that I will lose my job when my maternity leave ends in August. And thankfully I will get some severance.

    But it leaves me in a bit of a quandary. What now? I got my last job as a co-op student in university. I feel wholly inadequate to the task of job hunting. I’m not sure I want to get another job right away, when I have some severance and two little kids. But I’m also afraid of what happens if I don’t.

    It’s scary, suddenly being without a safety net or a fallback position. And it’s scarier still because in this economy it feels like there are fewer options. No one’s out there handing out jobs, you know?

    Boy Crazy May 20, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    I hear you, and I feel you. But I think that I worry more right now about my parents than I do about myself or my kids. When you’re in your 30′s, its easier to suck it up, make some sacrifices, and look at the distant horizon with hope. But when you are in your 60′s, that horizon looks a lot closer and a lot stormier. I have worry and fear about not being able to help out my folks, should they need the help over the next decade. My kids– their immediate needs are met. No point worrying about dinners out or even a college savings account. Its my parents being able to retire and provide for themselves as they age that worries me. Just food for thought….

    Someone Being Me May 20, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    I feel your pain. My husband is in the oil industry and it hasn’t been doing so well lately. He works long hours and as of May 1st he got a 30% paycut. I left my job to stay home full time last year and just had our second baby 5 weeks ago. We just had to pay the co-pay on an emergency room visit which ran over $500 and we are still waiting on the bill from me having the baby. Plus we got to write a check last night for our homeowners insurance for the year. Luckily we saved every penny when times were better so we aren’t struggling, yet. But the budget is still really tight. Thank God I got into couponing last year when I left my job. That has saved us so much.

    Syko May 20, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    My son has not had a job since November. He is 37 years old, multi-talented, and willing to do ANYTHING but he can’t find a job. Every day he gets up, showers, dresses, and goes door to door. Nothing is working. He gets an occasional odd job that gives him some gas money to keep looking, but he’s emasculated by the thought that his 66 year old mother, who should be thinking about retiring, is supporting him.

    I keep thinking I need to feel positive about this, that I should just be glad that I am working and can support us, in a rough time. But I’m tired and I’d love to stay home. The up side of it is that he does all the housework, laundry and most of the cooking. I don’t lift a finger at home.

    My best friend is 57. She lost her job in September when her boss decided to retire and close up shop. She went from an income of roughly $65K (which is quite good for one person to live on) with benefits to $275 a week unemployment and no medical insurance. She is too old to get a job and too young to retire. She’s registered with 11 temporary services and in 9 months has had 2 1/2 days work.

    A co-worker planned to retire last month when she turned 70. Then her (younger) husband lost his job when the mortgage company he worked for failed. She’s coming in every day, knees so bad she can barely walk, but she is their sole support right now.

    None of us have small children, and it IS hard to deal with that. But everyone in the world is having hard times right now, there is no shame in it.

    If it’s any help, at one time when my children were smaller, and their decidedly unambitious father wasn’t bringing home much money, and the middle child had a birthday and there was no money – I gave her my charm bracelet from high school and a pair of knitting needles and skein of yarn that I had in the closet, along with a promise to teach her to knit. I look back on that birthday in horror, she looks back on it as the best birthday she ever had. Children have a different perspective than we have. Emilia asking about her treehouse probably was just her asking about the treehouse, and not some deep anxiety in her that will torture her and make her grow up and hold ten people hostage at gunpoint. You’re trying to be a perfect mother, there ain’t no such thing, and she will no doubt deal with all this, in the long run, better than you will.

    You’re doing a great job.

    Anonymous May 20, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    HBM,

    I think I get it now. It’s not just the financial strain, but that you’re feeling ashamed, anxious and fearful about it. And your daughter is picking up on this anxiety.

    And you’re having a hard time finding a balance between protecting Emilia and explaining your situation in a way she understands.

    One thing to keep in mind is that no matter what, Emilia -will- be disappointed and upset about not being able to visit Tanner and Grandma. And because she’s 3, she’ll keep asking, and you’ll have to keep explaining.

    What can you say to a 3-year-old? It’s too expensive to travel. We have money to stay here, but not enough to go away. But we can do other things when we miss someone. Make cards, videos, draw pictures, write emails, make/send gifts. No, it’s not the same, but sometimes, we have to wait to do something we really want.

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