(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 }

    Her Bad Mother May 20, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Anon – making video is actually a BRILLIANT idea (cards and gifts, too, but E loves making videos). I can’t believe that I never thought of that.

    Anonymous May 20, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    HBM,

    There are no “shoulds” when it comes to emotions. You feel how you feel.

    Knowing that you’re better off than most of the world doesn’t negate your current fears. It’s possible to feel grateful for what you have AND AT THE SAME TIME be worried about your finances.

    It’s tough enough having to worry about money. When you add negative self-judgment on top of that, it’s so much worse.

    Being budget-conscious does not make you less of a wife/mother. In fact, it makes you even more responsible, more loving, more caring, more supportive.

    You have the power to change the meaning of this financial hardship. What does it mean to you? What do you want it to mean to you?

    kristi May 20, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Our job may go away at any time. I am currently in school hoping I am almost done before I get laid off. It does stress me out a bit but atleast my husband’s job is okay.
    (HUGS) We have always struggled financially, our mortgage is really big! My credit is bad because of having to pay things slowly or not at all. It is tough.

    SP May 20, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    I feel your pain and shame and fear. My kids are older and they are talking about the state of the economy at school. They have been through a lay-off with me… if I had a young child to explain it to, I would tell her that right now it’s time to focus on the simple things in life and appreciate each other. Make it a project she can be part of. Teaching her how to let go of the “stuff” is a wonderful lesson, no matter what is going on in the world.

    Again, I feel your pain and send warm thoughts my friend!

    Anonymous May 20, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    This really isn’t exactly my story but, let’s just say, I have been where your daughter is. When I was younger, my mom had a difficult time financially (she was a single mom with no degree and child support that was inadequate). The struggle for her, I believe, was mostly because she lived within her means and didn’t ask for help, which she would have had if she asked. She took back soda cans from others to get money for milk for my sister and me. Money was tight, to say the least. But you know, I never went hungry or didn’t have a place to live or clothing. And I definitely learned the value of a dollar. I am sure I made my mother feel bad at times, when she wanted to let me do something that cost money. I understand it is hard to explain things to a child but I guess based on my experience, it didn’t end up making a difference. I think what you said in your post is the most important thing for her. If she knows she has you, she’ll be fine.

    heels May 20, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    We are just making it each month, but with NO margin, NO savings, and NOwhere to cut. It’s tough, because this is with both of us working full-time at relatively decent jobs. We’re managing to keep our home, keep food in the fridge, keep the lights on and such, but there’s certainly no room for indulgences. It’s scary, especially because we have our second baby due in July. I’m less ashamed about it, though, than I am angry. How is it that two educated, responsible people both working full-time should have so much trouble owning a home and raising two kids in the US? We’ve done nothing wrong, but it often feels as if we’re being punished.

    Anonymous May 20, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    My ex finance is American and I’m English. We’d been living together in Mexico for almost a year. He’s been going through a long drawn out divorce trial, and we accumulated over $80,000 of debt. But we would be ok, his old house would eventually sell and we were in love.

    I got pregnant recently and had to return to the UK for better and free medical care. I was placing demands on him, things for money, worries about how we’d afford the baby — he dumped me. It was too much for him. I’m not going home in a few weeks, I’m probably never going home. I’m living with my mum in her house. He’s returning my stuff. I’m now going to be a single parent with a few dollars a week for everything. My baby will have the bedroom I had as a child, not as romantic as it sounds by any means. He doesn’t seem to want me back, he doesn’t trust me, he likes being alone without my demands and needs. I pray he’ll see me coping and fall in love with me and our baby again. I pray he’ll see I can manage on peanuts and take comfort I can be his partner, not his dependent. I don’t think I even believe in the power of prayer.

    And you know the strangest part? I’d have the $80,000 of debt back in an instant if it was ours to share… because being poor is hard, but it’s harder when you’re alone. I appreciate the value of love over possessions more, I appreciate how much having him feed our baby would mean, it’d mean far more than the nursery furniture I wanted, or the tummy tuck. When you snuggle up to your muse at night, count your blessings. Your daughter has her loving parents, and that’s the best thing you could want for any child.

    Lexi May 20, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Three days before my maternity leave benefits ran out I learned that there was no job to go back to. The company had imploded in my absence, and no one thought to tell me. My husband works freelance, and at the moment has no prospects.

    The Boy’s not quite a year old, so impact on him at this point is minimal, but the stress on my husband and I is causing sleepless nights and much discussion.

    Even if/when I find a job, day care will use up most of my earnings.

    You are so not alone.

    catnip May 20, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    My husband is in newspapers, and I’m a freelancer. Scary stuff. We’re doing okay, but I worry every single day.

    Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com May 20, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    To be honest – and I know my honest isn’t the sort of thing that most people want to hear these days – we’ve benefited immensely from the recession. We were able to buy a house and we were both moved to better jobs.

    We’re tighter, absolutely, but tighter because we pay a mortgage as opposed to apartment rent and the like. And I’m so sorry, I know that it’s not easy being in the shoes of the people we’ve replaced at work and in our house.

    Thing is, my family was hard hit by the last recession. It really took its toll and my parents were a penny away from bankruptcy, from having no choice but to walk away.

    I was old enough to be aware that this was going on, to hear the stress and the worry, to understand the sale of belongings and the threat of homelessness, but the funny thing is that I never did cotton on. To this day, I honestly believe that the best thing my parents did for me through their hardest of times was lie. They lied through their teeth, up one way and down the other, forwards and backwards and in the middle of the night, but their lies continued my sense of security and it never occurred to me to be afraid or worried. To this day, I am thankful for that.

    It’s not that I advocate lying to your daughter, I know that what works for one does not always work for another, but I do think that if you’re at all providing Emilia with a sense of security?

    Then you’re doing alright. *BIG INTERNET HUGS*

    Catherine May 20, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Two years ago I voluntarily left the working world to stay home with 1 1/2 yo and 3 1/2 yo. We knew we’d be cutting it close financially. The older one was able to ask lots of questions about dinners out, travel, toys etc he also got it when I said that we cannot eat out dinner tonight. I kept it short and sweet and usually redirected to what we’d be eating at dinner and how afterward we’d blow bubbles! or color! or something else fantastic. And pretty soon that was the new norm, he asked less because it wasn’t a recent memory.

    I’ve since returned to work but we still use a lot of the lessons learned then. We acquire a lot less stuff. I know how hard it is to want to give a child the ball that she loves at the store, but it’s just not in the budget. But you know what? balls lose their bounce. And the other balls at how can be reflated and played with too.

    And, it’ll all be okay. You will adapt, you will help your family adapt – everyone will come through this together.

    Kat May 20, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    The other day I posted a post called “You Can No Longer be a SAHM When. . ” It is here.

    http://atomicmom.typepad.com/atomic-mom/2009/05/you-can-no-longer-be-a-sahm-when-.html

    It details the things that made me decide to get out and get a full time job for merely minimum wage. I am where you are, but we are not alone.

    I didn’t expect you to be suffering also, Catharine. I didn’t expect someone who writes such beatiful words, and someone as well known as yourself to be feeling any heat of our economic crisis. I just didn’t expect to hear such things from someone who just the other day got off the phone with Katie Couric. I didn’t realize how many were effected.

    We will all make it. Even if it is by the skin of our teeth, we will. It’s time for us to unite as humans, and be strong. I truly think something great will come of this.

    Kat May 20, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Hope you don’t mind for me posting my link. I’m not taking your ‘spotlight’ or trying to. I could never write as beautifully as you do, but we wrote about the same subject, and I think it’s important to see this from all angles.

    Kat

    Kaye May 20, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    I understand. I lost my job over a month ago and still don’t know if I will get unemployment. I am divorced and no other income coming in. I am down to my last few dollars with no idea how I’m going to pay the rent next month or any of the other bills.

    I still haven’t told my family because I am ashamed that I am in this position and they are in no position to help financially.

    The only good thing is that my son is now in the military and I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to feed him or keep a roof over his head.

    I’m really not sure why I feel ashamed either, but there it is.

    Mrs JP Chaos May 20, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Many of us went through years of plenty…years of spending and not worrying about much at all. Well, now we’re out of our comfort zone now…and it’s tough.

    I really enjoyed reading your post because it helped me feel a little better about things being a bit tight righ now financially. I hope that what comes out of this (for you) is that you can take comfort that you’re not alone.

    Renate May 20, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    I (sort of) know how you’re feeling. My husband builds houses, and that’s the business that’s been hit the hardest here in Norway, at least. And- right before the crisis hit, we’d bought a house, that suddenly turned out to cost us about twice as much a month as we’d calculated for.

    We don’t have any children we had to explain this to, but it was bad enough to tell the people around us. When I first found out about the real cost of the house, I called my mom and cried (which, in retrospect, I see might have been worse for her than it was good for me), and my doctor put me on a one week sick leave for depression. Our wedding was coming up too, and knowing how much money we were spending, and had already spent on that made me sick.

    Anyway, things are starting to look up for us (I hope, although these days I never get my hopes up too high, because you never know when you’ll get hit in the face again), and I hope they will for you too.

    Jodi May 20, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Hugs to you for writing this, and for dealing with this. I can imagine it must be difficult.

    I feel that one of the best gifts a parent can give her children is the ability to be happy without using money. It sounds like you are on your way to doing this.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    well read hostess May 20, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Thanks for writing this. I felt an actual weight lift from me reading words that I could have written – though no doubt not as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that pit in my stomach thinking “Aren’t I supposed to be a grownup?”

    Ali May 20, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    I’m a single mum with a three year old, studying for a degree at home while he’s at school. We’re doing OK. Our circumstances haven’t changed at all, we’re on the UK version of ‘welfare’ and I’m not proud. Food in my boy’s stomach is more important than pride. We don’t get much but we get by, we save, if it’s possible make the savings the last thing to go because it makes you feel so much better that you have a buffer to protect you.

    Tell her you don’t have money, be honest. She’s a clever little girl. She wants to go out to dinner? Have a picnic on the floor. She wants to go away? Camp downstairs and eat marshmellows. Cheap things can be exciting too.

    Take this as an opportunity to retrain her, retrain yourself that some things you just can’t have.

    Have you thought about giving her an allowance? I had ‘pocket money’ from being really, really small and I learnt pretty quick that money doesn’t go that far and I had to make decisions myself, and because of that I understood when my parents said no. I shrugged it off and said ‘oh well, maybe next time’.

    Kate May 20, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Great words on a wretched subject. But man, you are NOT alone. I just lost my job a few weeks ago. Here’s what I had to say about it:

    http://eucalyptuspillow.blogspot.com/2009/04/rebirth-reinventiontake-your-pick-of.html

    Mandy May 20, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    My husband and I run an IT (social media) company that employs 25 people. Recently we had to lay off two people (hopefully temporarily), but the pressure of needing to succeed in order to keep everyone employed can be crushing at times.

    And sometimes I am fearful of what will happen if the company does fold. What will we both do if we’re out of work at the same time. I don’t think it will happen, but these thoughts do swirl, especially late at night.

    Procrastamom May 20, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    My brother and his wife were recently talking privately (they thought) about their struggle to fix their falling down fence. The next morning my brother found an envelope on his pillow from his 7 year-old son…with the words “to help you guys fix the fence” on it and 67 cents in it. (*sniffle*) I think our kids do pick-up on our emotions surrounding money. I also think it can be used as a good teaching moment when presented correctly to whatever the age of the child is.

    We’re going through the ringer too with our finances. 2009 was supposed to be the year of “Getting out of debt”, but with my husband’s threatened (probable) job loss by the end of December it has turned our year into one of cutting back on everything we can, saving every penny, wringing our hands and hoping against hope that we can get through this. Our oldest is starting university this September, so that’s added extra strife.

    Take heart. I figure that if we have to move into a van down by the river, at least it’ll give me an opportunity to get rid of some clutter!

    Avalon May 20, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I guess this was one of the few benefits of growing up with very little. I’m not afraid to have to sell it all to survive.

    Oddly enough, I grew up poor, was waaaaaaaay below poverty level while raising my daughter alone with no financial support, but now, while the rest of the country is in a tailspin about the economic downturn, my finances are in a better place than they have ever been. However, I have paid dearly for the past 25 years to get here.

    MadameQueen May 20, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    We lost our house last year, and boy did that suck. We had to move into a double wide trailer (a very nice double wide trailer, but still.) in my dad’s back yard. He plans to give us 15 acres that our “house” sits on once he’s sure the bank won’t come and grab it from us, but it’s still very hard. Sure, I sound like a snob, but the reality is that I was one. Not anymore. And I was ashamed to talk about it, but not anymore. Better people than I are going through the same thing. Also, by telling people about it, I feel like I’m owning up to it and am better able to move on. My husband and I tried our damndest to save that house — emptied all our savings, all our IRAs and still we lost it. So maybe by talking about, I can make other people feel better about their situation.

    Some days I still feel really terrible about it all. But then I look around and I see my kids and my husband, healthy, happy. We DO still have each other and I remind myself that I DO have the things that I need. And in a way, I would rather my children grow up realizing that they CAN’T always have everything they want. Because sometimes you just can’t.

    Robbin May 20, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    I can honestly say that I have been blessed. I grew up poor – really, really poor – in a small post-war tract home sandwiched between the Erie Canal and the railyards. What lessons about materialism I didn’t learn then were hammered into me post-Katrina.

    As a parent myself, I know it doesn’t feel like this, but I can honestly say that the life you will give her BECAUSE of this will ultimately be all the richer for the lean times. I know the difference between need and want – even though I often don’t heed it as much as I should. I think I survived Katrina because my life prepared me for it.

    K.Line May 20, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Thanks for such an honest post. In the past, I’ve been through tough financial times and it is incredibly – almost overwhelmingly – stressful. I’m confident that all will aright itself in time. And I think it’s so true that many, many people are finding themselves in the same boat right now (just look at the comments!). Please don’t worry about your daughter. She is loved and has food and clothing and toys and people to play with and to teach her.

    I think the imposition of limits can be a great life lesson, that sometimes limitations are there and we need to find ways to adjust to them and be joyful despite them.

    One day, everything will be back to “normal” financially and she’ll receive an abundance of new, desirable things – lovely for her and for you – but perhaps this will be tempered with an wonderful awareness of the bounds between who she is and what she has. She’ll love those things, I’m sure, but may not rely on them quite as heavily as she otherwise would.

    I routinely tell my daughter that she can’t have something because we can’t afford it or because I can’t justify the expense or because it’s the kind of trinket I think she should save allowance for. I want her to know she can’t get everything. I say this as a person who’s parents gave her everything material – who’s spent years trying to manage status anxiety. So I don’t think that’s the ideal.

    Olivia May 20, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Good for you for writing on this very sensitive and “taboo” subject.

    I know it is very, very difficult to be a freelancer, as your husband does not get a severance package or EI. That’s tough. Even though EI isn’t much… it’s SOMETHING.

    I think I know what industry your husband works in (from reading this blog) and this particular industry is in the toilet all around the world. (What’s the first thing to go, after all? Marketing budgets…)

    Will it turn around? I don’t know. With the rise of the Internet and social media, companies are making less TV ads and I think that’s permanent.

    I work in the media and we recently had a big round of layoffs. My colleague who was let go (and got a fairly decent package) commented that he wouldn’t be so worried, if not for the fact our industry is changing so much. Will there actually BE these kinds of jobs a year from now?

    Maybe it’s time for a rethink all around.

    My husband and I joke about moving to the country and opening a general store… but in this climate, maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

    Liz May 20, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    just a note to say that you’re not alone.
    we filed bankruptcy last year. we had $80k in debt–mostly medical. certainly no vacations or jewelery, sadly.
    it’s hard–especially with kids. but just wanted to chime in and say i know where you’re at. and i hope that helps…

    blissfully caffeinated May 20, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    My husband and I thought we were all grown up, stable, financially secure…right up until the point that my business failed and we had to walk away from our house and all the money we had invested in it, and file for bankruptcy. Luckily, he has a good job, but it is tied to the auto industry, so we worry, worry, worry. Hang in there. Hopefully things will start to look up for all of us before too long.

    Anonymous May 20, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    P.S. I’ve been reading for blogs and I’ve often thought, “she never writes about money or her husband.”
    One down…

    Anonymous May 20, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I mean, I’ve been reading for years

    lizzie lou May 20, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    these comments are making me cry – kind of in a good (i’m not alone) way, you know?

    xo

    Mountain Girl May 20, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    We are in the same boat. I was supporting the family and then lost my job a month ago. It’s hell and I don’t know when/if it’ll turn around in time for us to keep the house. All very scary.

    April May 20, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    oh boy can i commiserate. i left a very lucrative law career two years ago to stay home with the kids and help my husband with his fledgling business. now the business is suffering, we’re selling stuff right and left, my former job is not even an option any longer because i’m pregnant again (planned, but before the business started to suffer). we’re having to routinely dip into savings and it’s really putting a damper on our spirits.

    i know it’s just a hiccup (albeit a long one) and we’ll get through. i know i’ll eventually be able to go back to work if the need is still there after the baby is born and i know my husband’s business will pick up again… but now. right now? it hurts.

    Don Mills Diva May 20, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    I am so sorry Catherine. You that my husband is in the same industry and his income is now about 60% of what it was 5 years ago. We recently sold our house and are downsizing for a variety of reasons, not least of which is to relieve the financial pressure. I know what you’re going through and IT IS HARD.

    HUGS.

    Naomi May 20, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    I’m a SAHM and my husband is an artist. No one is buying paintings or sculptures right now but hopefully things will pick up again soon…

    toyfoto May 20, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    We’ve put ourselves in a VERY precarious position financially … right smack dab in the middle of the recession … knowing full well it would get worse and that potential devastation could occur to either of our respective professions.

    I’m not ashamed, though. There’s nothing wrong with having no money. There’s nothing wrong with saving what little we have and not going to dinner or not buying new things.

    Our kids really need to learn that now.

    J from Ireland May 20, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Thanks so much for your honesty.

    We are certainly feeling the pinch over here. I had to talk to my older kids about tightening our belts. Thankfully, they are 9, 12 & 13 so they understand.
    The very best of luck to you and us all.

    Stitch Sista May 20, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    I just wanted to say that children are resilient. They worry when WE worry, but honestly I don’t believe they suffer from having ‘less’. (Providing of course they are fed and have shelter…)

    They are curious creatures and may seek answers and/or reassurance but they adapt very well to changed circumstances, and will probably learn some good life lessons too.

    Bubba's Mom May 20, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog for over a year and I don’t think I ever commented before. Incredible post, and I’ve been there before as well. My husband grew up in a fairly middle class family, going on vacation and getting things they wanted. I grew up in a poor family, where we only bought what we needed. Getting married was a total eye opener for both of us.
    In the past 12 years, we’ve had 4 kids, moved 7 times, bought and lost a home to foreclosure, been unemployed for almost 2 yrs, and a whole slew of other things.

    It does get better, and it’s probably going to be hard for a while. Don’t let the current situation get you down. I post a lot about what we go thru on my blog @ http://mylifeslittlesurprises.blogspot.com/
    Thanks for posting this!

    Anonymous May 20, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    My dear friend and I were just discussing how we think we are blessed that our parents did not have the money that they do now when we were kids. We learned what was unnecessary and have not fallen into debt (despite us both having ‘expensive’ taste). My mother spoke simply and matter of factly on the subject. I was told that we don’t need that or it is too much, and because I trusted my mother I accepted it as truth. I never saw my parents worry, although now I know that they did. They were calm when speaking to us kids and thus we didn’t worry.

    Mrs. Wilson May 20, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    I was honestly going to blog about this topic very soon. I hate it too. I hate explaining to my 7-year-old why she can’t be in all the activities that her friends are in and why we have to live in an apartment and why we can’t go to Disneyland and why we can’t have this or that or go here or there. It sucks. Big time. I’m sorry you’re struggling. I’m sorry we’re struggling.

    I’m glad you have each other, because on this earth, that is really all we can hope for!

    Shauna May 20, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    I grew up in a home where money was never spoken of. When the early eighties hit my parents had bought a second house, could not sell the first, Mom was back at school and then all of a sudden Dad was laid off. I don’t not know how my parents made it through that period, but I do remember the tension and anger. My folks weren’t honest with us kids and I remember thinking that they were always mad at us, never knowing how difficult it was for them.

    Honesty is always the best policy and an explanation, no matter how simple, is what all our children deserve. They need our respect and love and guidance because our job is not to buy everything for them, it is to teach them how to be responsible adults.

    Having to cut back is not shameful, dishonesty is.

    Helen May 20, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    I’m de-lurking to say how proud I am of you all coming forward with your stories. Here’s mine: We’ve always lived frugally since we married at 20, we own 2nd hand cars paid in cash, no credit card debt, no big holidays(unless they were working ones), we send the kids to public schools, the only significant debt (apart from our mortgage) is our student loans in sensible degrees. We’ve been wild I tell ya! But the frustration isn’t the financial issues, it’s the NOT KNOWING when it will end. My mother-in-law (who had cancer) says it’s like having cancer. You don’t know when it will end, and you don’t know what’s at the end of it. Hopefully we’ll all come out stronger.

    Mrs. Chicken May 20, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    My husband is a doctoral candidate — in the arts — and I am a freelance writer.

    So, yeah. Once he taught elementary school and I worked in corporate marketing, and we blithely spent whenever on whatever.

    Now? No more designer kids clothes, no more vacations, no more … a lot of no more.

    I know.

    susan May 20, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Just today I wrote out a check. I needed gas and food and I pray everyday that the check doesn’t go to the bank today. I countdown the days 3-2-1. I hate the anxiety it causes, I don’t go to the casino or buy lotto tickets, the check is my gambling.
    I don’t write about it on my blog because my MIL reads my blog. I love her but she would send money, like she always sends money when she hears we are struggling.
    I just can’t do it.

    Amy May 20, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    I’m with you. I had to go back to work suddenly after 6 months of mat leave when my husand lost his job. He has really enjoyed his time with the baby, 7 months now, but honestly, I haven’t has a haircut since then. When my car refused to start a couple of months ago, I set an $800 limit to repairs otherwise it had to go. Luckily it was an easy fix. The odd mortgage payment has bounced… the lack of haircut is the most annoying, though.

    But he feels so terrible about losing his job that I don’t want to worry him even more about money. So mostly I just keep an eye on it and hope for a lottery win (not likely since neither of us plays).

    On the upside, he finally had a good interview and an offer, and the weight has lifted. Somewhat.

    Julie @ The Mom Slant May 20, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    I had to sell my BlogHer ticket. Enough said.

    Bella May 20, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    You are a brave, brave woman for writing this. Keep writing it. Your kids will be proud of you.

    Coming from immigrant parents who were not only frugal, but simply didn’t buy into the N. American way of spending on credit, I was brought up at odds with most of my peers. And yeah, sure, I was bitchy and bitter sometimes, especially as an adolescent. But to this day, the way they spent (or, rather, DIDN’T spend) their money is what I constantly refer to in terms of my own values and what they taught me. Other commenters have said it better, but living on my father’s yearly salary of $10,000 (admittedly 25 years ago) made for the “stuff” of my character, much more so than going to Disneyland multiple times (which we eventually also did). The one thing I DO remember, and that DID have an impact on my emotional well-being, was watching my parents fight and freak out about their financial worries. The not-having was fine; but watching my parents blame each other or snap with contempt (probably as a result of the baseline stress levels) for one minor thing or another was really hard.

    Having said all this, you broke my heart when you referred specifically to not being able to visit grandma or Tanner. Yeah, the devil’s in the details, and it’s not like you’re wishing you could dress Emilia in designer clothes or buy that third car… I’m really, really sorry to hear the stress you’ re going through. And it’s amazing to watch you rage, rage against the shame. I’m pretty sure Emilia will be fine. I hope you get through unscathed as well…

    for a different kind of girl May 20, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    We are in the same place you are in. There are months when I stand at the kitchen counter with the checkbook and the calculator nearby and I break down because even when I have decided which bills to pay, there are times when I can’t pay them. Or if I do, then we make do with the remaining groceries in the house. I dread when my husband is gone for days and nights at a time for his job because there are days when doing the single parent thing exhausts me, but when he leaves, I thank God every day he has a job. He’s not in a field that is necessarily stable, and he absolutely doesn’t make enough every two weeks to justify the amount of time he spends away from home or on the road. I have a very part time job that we always thought would fund a savings account, but in reality, we really don’t know what a savings account is. It’s gas and milk money, and when I drive to the grocery store and see gas and milk both cost nearly $3 a gallon, I cringe. Then I cringe because the brake light pings on our 10-year old used minivan.

    We do not live elaborately. We do not have “extras.” Sadly, we also don’t have college funds for our kids. THAT is what scares me. I want better for them. I want them to have better, but by better, I mean wiser. I want them to know they don’t need elaborate, but they can do things to take care of themselves and their future families. We’re working on that. We’ve started having them sit down with us from time to time as we pay bills or work out a monthly budget so they can see why it is we can’t go to McDonald’s this week (or this month), or we have to wait for a movie to be released on DVD so we can rent it for a dollar rather than spend nearly $40 to see it as a family in the theater. It’s not an easy lesson, and they don’t always “get it,” but it’s a step we’re taking.

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