(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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    Lu May 20, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    I know EXACTLY how you feel. My hubs is in the construsction industry (in SWFL, one of the hardest hit areas) and is comission based. He will make 40-50% less this year than last year. I am scared every month may be the last month we make the mortgage. I too saw many problems in my family as a child b/c of financial strain and I told myself that would NEVER be me. Guess what? Here I am. Not b/c we didn’t save, plan, or work our asses off. You/we are not alone. I don’t discuss this issue with anyone b/c I am am ashamed too. I NEVER thought we would struggle. Ever.
    BUT We HAVE to keep moving forward and making the most and best of each day. I know we are more fortunate than people in other areas of the world, BUT we live here. We have a standard and a comfort zone and when that gets rocked it can be very hard.
    I don’t exactly know where we will be when we come out of this, but I can tell you one thing, we will be together and happy. I’ll be damned if it’s any other way. Keep on keepin’ on girl.

    Her Bad Mother May 20, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    Ah, Julie. I *KNOW*. Mine is one of the things on the chopping block, saved, for the moment, only by the fact that my reg was comped and that I’m getting there via GM. But there are still costs, and we’re balking at those.

    I KNOW.


    Mamalang May 20, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    We are fine, as my hubby has the one job with job security right now (he’s deployed to Iraq with the Army.) For me, it’s annoying that I have to live without my husband for a year in order to be okay, but that’s what it is. But we have been broke. I don’t even think broke is enough. The house we lived in didn’t have heat, our cars were barely moving, and we ate a lot of mac and cheese and hamburgers. One Christmas my children’s gifts came from the auction. They don’t remember it being that bad, and I have mixed emotions about that. I wish they had a better sense of what they have, but I’m glad they didn’t have the stress of worrying.

    I know for us, we appreciate what we do have all the more. Nothing gets taken for granted, and I sometimes fell guilty for what we do have.

    Good luck.

    Jaelithe May 20, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    My husband has had his bonuses cut, and we have to be very careful about things like eating out these days. But as someone who came from a family of very little means, I’ve always had to be careful with my finances, and I’ve been much poorer than this. I’ve been poor enough to not be able to go to a doctor when I’m sick. I’ve been poor enough to be hungry. So I am actually, for the most part, knock on wood, relieved that things for my family are not worse.

    I want to say this, though, as someone who spent the first half of her childhood living in poverty:

    Your children will not blame you. They will understand that you tried, and that times were hard for everyone, and that you WERE grown-ups, and you tried your best to protect them.

    I hope things get better soon.

    Mimi May 20, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Hm. Pynchon will be unemployed come November 1 (he’s covering a mat leave) and I am not planning for this at all. We have not cut back a thing and have in fact just dropped nearly $900 on exterior painting (needed to be done, I thought/think). I can’t imagine cutting the cable, let alone selling possessions. I can’t even imagine not getting new possessions. We’re renting a cottage for a week this summer, fer crissakes. Because I seem to believe **it can’t touch me**. But obviously it can and it will, because it’s not super likely another $55K job for him will materialize in a town with 10% unemployment right now. I don’t want to give ANYTHING up. I feel like I CAN’T. But of course I can. I’m just too scared to.

    Yeesh. We’ve both (you and me) lived on grad student incomes as adults: we used to be a lot poorer than now. Why is this so hard, now?

    I’m sorry, you. Sorry that you feel ashamed, sorry that you’re having to worry. Sorry.

    Paige May 20, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    I could have written this.

    Maman May 20, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    I think I must be older than everyone here because I largely grew up in the 70s. Stuff sucked then. We have been spoiled since then. It is hitting t/weens hard. But such is life. There are no guarantees.

    TheFeministBreeder May 20, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    My husband is always sick to his stomach over money – even when we’re not that bad off. I tell him – as long as we have each other and our health, NOTHING can be that bad. Even if we ended up bankrupt and living on food stamps, seriously, it’s not like either one of us is dead.

    FWIW, we sell stuff all the time. This with me working a full time job, running a part time business, and living off lots of scholarship money from going to school full time at night and getting great grades. My husband also works a full time during the day, a part-time job at night, and goes to school too. And things are still financially extremely hard. I truly cannot understand how families survive off of a spouse’s ONE full time job, when he and I are barely surviving off 2 full time careers and 2 part time jobs. It makes me green (and shitty_ with envy.

    But, this won’t be forever. Eventually, I hope, we’ll both be more settled in our careers. Daycare costs won’t kill us because the kids will grow old enough to be in school, and things will eventually get easier. I really believe that.

    That belief is what keeps me going. Sometimes, it’s all that keeps me going.

    Michelle-WT Mom May 21, 2009 at 12:12 am

    My husband is in the same industry as yours. The good times are good and the bad times are AWFUL. I hear you sister and it sucks. I know it doesn’t make things better for you to know that we’re there too but we are.

    Jake Aryeh Marcus May 21, 2009 at 12:19 am

    I think you got an abundance of “me too.” I’ll throw in a “yay you” for writing it.

    I complain because our lifestyle has had to stay put because our wages have been flat. I bitch because my child care responsibilities prevent my having the career I dreamed of and leave me financially dependent on the larger earning spouse (and maybe one heart attack away from welfare). But we don’t have to be afraid right now of anything other than not having the money we expected for retirement and the kids’ college. We don’t have to worry about the mortgage and tomorrow. And I know that is largely dumb luck. So it is time for me to stop bitching about not having all I want because we have what we need.

    You’ve inspired me to go blog about an unusual conversation I overheard last month. My pubescent sons talking to their neighbor friend who had come to tell them that his dad has lost his job – the third time in the past few years. As sad as the news was, these boys comforted each other, worried for each other, talked about how common this was in today’s economy, and asked what they could do to help each other. No shame. I felt so good about this new generation of boys – full of empathy and a genuine desire to help.

    melissa May 21, 2009 at 12:25 am

    my husband is a teacher. luckily, our finances aren’t badly affected by the economy. but as a family with five kids and a single income, i hear you. we struggle. sometimes, at the end of the week…we are negative in our account. and i get scared about how am i going to feed my children. maybe i get a bit dramatic. but…it’s really scary.
    and because of having five kids. someone is always home sick. which limits my time at my job, which is luckily at my families law office. but 6 or so hours/week is not much extra to contribute.
    so, from one of the many who get it…i’m sending you a hug…

    Azúcar May 21, 2009 at 12:25 am

    There is NO shame in telling your children that you don’t have the money. It’s a point of pride with me; you tell your child you can’t afford it. Say it with a smile.

    You children will be better knowing that there are things you can’t afford, things that you have that are worth more than money, and things that you don’t need.

    A dear friend of mine lost her house due to the economy. Had to explain to her children that their home wouldn’t be their house anymore. That they were going to have to leave their wonderful neighborhood and move to another state. They were bankrupt.

    And you know what?

    The world didn’t end.

    And things got better.

    And things will get better for your family, too.

    Rock and Roll Mama May 21, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Hey, girl, you’re so not alone, but it’s easy to feel like it, since this is such a taboo subject in most friendships. Money is so personal.

    In a household of a full time musician and a writer, cashflowing 2 new businesses, yeah, this year has been crazy. Our accountant went over our taxes like 50 times because he couldn’t believe the number. But, because we are both freelance types and haven’t had a steady paycheck in 7 years, we float. Luckily, we paid off a large part of our consumer debt last year, or it would have been much worse. As it is, my kids aren’t going to some of the camps they’re used to, and my daughter keeps asking where so and so is, or “If I sold it to Craig.” LOL.

    But it’s a dip. And we maintain, and stick to our now 3 year commitment of no new debt. The money stuff is not the things your girl will remember. She’ll remember picking dandelions with you, and how your hand feels holding hers when you cross the street.

    I don’t tell my kids we can’t afford something, I tell them it’s not in our budget right now. It makes a difference to me. One is imposed, one is a choice. Thanks for sharing this topic.

    V May 21, 2009 at 12:50 am

    Well, let’s see, I’m now on anti-depressants (for the first time in my life) thanks, in part, to this recession. We’re doing okay, but it’s the uncertainty that is worrying me. I had worries before it began, the recession just pushed me over the edge.

    So in short, I commiserate. Deeply.

    Ozma May 21, 2009 at 12:57 am

    I’m no one to give advice. My life is a wreck.

    But I should say: I’ve been in this situation for YEARS. And honestly, it is strange but it doesn’t even change all that much. I think financial disaster is super scary but then sometimes I wonder ‘is it really that scary.’

    This is going to sound crazy and like I said, I’m not one to give advice but have you tried not thinking about it?

    Two things I do
    1. Don’t think about it very much anymore
    2. Try not to buy anything.

    There’s nothing trite about: ‘We’ll have each other.’ That’s the opposite of trite.

    Adventures In Babywearing May 21, 2009 at 1:04 am

    We’re struggling, too. Thank you again for saying what many of us wish we had the guts to say.


    Karen May 21, 2009 at 1:41 am

    I am so right there too. The one thing I am not scaling back on is 7yr olds cheerleading thats combined with 4yr olds gymnastics. I will cut out multiple things for me so that they can have that and not realize what I am struggling.

    I finally have a job where in about hopefully a month I will start to surface or maybe just see the top of the water.

    mythoughtsonthat May 21, 2009 at 1:43 am

    Struggling like HELL here. Money isn’t everything until there isn’t enough of it. We’ve sold things. I never thought I’d see the day when I wasn’t sure if I could have a birthday party for my boy. It sucks. I try most days to be positive and courageous (“We don’t need money to be happy!”) but I worry. Every single day. Peace to you.

    Rebecca May 21, 2009 at 2:24 am

    Currently, just finished grad school and trying to find a job…ugh. But coping for now.

    But more to the point, I remember really well when my dad got laid off (even while my mom had a well-paying job) and they freaked out so much that I was convinced we were destitute. When he got a new job, I remember asking them, “So can we buy microwave popcorn again?”

    Point being, my parents (mostly mom) really freaked me and my siblings out more than necessary. I don’t know what the answer is, but sensitive kids (like me) could definitely use more of “dinner is nicer at home, we’ll go visit Tanner soon, it’s fun to sell things!”Good stuff, lady.

    Al_Pal May 21, 2009 at 6:34 am

    Another round of applause for your bravery, and You are Not Alone.

    I still have cable tv & internet, so I must not be doing that bad. I'm not a mom, though, and I *have* been dipping into my savings, which I'd thought would be for a nest egg or retirement or something.

    We never ate out that much, but we do so even less, now. Trying to use up what we have in the pantry. ;p

    I saw the comment saying, "Even if we ended up bankrupt and living on food stamps, seriously, it's not like either one of us is dead."

    And, word to that, "TheFeministBreeder"!

    I'll leave you with a Heinlein quote, from Friday:
    “As long as the body is warm, and the bowels move regularly, there is no problem which is not temporary and solvable.”

    Good Luck. You can do it! ;p

    Another Suburban Mom May 21, 2009 at 6:37 am

    We are doing ok so far, but I fear for my job on a pretty frequent basis.

    I think that you are brave to talk about it. Most people would rather blog every detail of their sex lives but NEVER talk about money.

    As far as the kids, I think it is fine to tell kids you can’t afford stuff. Not all the time so they worry, but just explain to them that they have to make choices about how to spend.

    As far as money, I am sure you are trolling the net for coupons.

    Another hidden source of money is often found in your health insurance. If you have a gym membership you can get reimbursements and some of them provide free or deeply discounted helmets and other kid safety supplies.

    One thing that I do as well. I have a permanent prescription. Every time I see a store offer a gift card to switch the prescription, I switch it. If you have insurance, the prescription is going to cost the same no matter where you go.

    Anonymous May 21, 2009 at 8:35 am

    My husband was made redundant in the Tech Wreck. Three times. And he had clinical depression. And we had started renovating our house just long enough to demolish half and make it unlivable and unsaleable. We lived with my parents out of suitcases. I was miserable and stressed and so was he and it ate and ate at me.

    My turning point came one night driving in the rain when I saw some homeless people in the park. From then on i just kept thinking “at least tonight I have somewhere to sleep, and shower in the morning. Next week, I don’t know, but tonight, I am OK”. I also made “being poor” my second job. Saving money and budgeting IS a job, and a difficult one, and a job to be proud of.

    Ozma has it right. There is a great freedom in just accepting that this is just how life is for you now. And, at the end of the day, so what? I find comfort in imagining the worst case scenario, then asking myself, is it all that bad, truly.

    There are two kinds of problems in the world. one is the sort of problem that money can fix. the other is the sort that money can’t fix. I have had both, and I know which sort I prefer.

    DH lost his job again 4 months ago. he just found a new one. this time, we didn’t panic, and we were fine. you will be fine too.

    we have nothing to fear, but fear itself.

    Awesome Mom May 21, 2009 at 9:06 am

    I don’t think you are whining, it is tough to have to worry about money. My family is lucky and my husband has a very steady job that is now as subject to the whims of the economy. We still save and live a very modest lifestyle just in case.

    Anonymous May 21, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Downsizing. We’re all doing it. I tell myself that it has to be this way because we all got caught up in the good economy. That we got this collective sense of entitlement to things we couldn’t afford. Because we work hard and we feel like we deserve nice things. But in the process we lost our sense of what is really important. Our families are important.

    I don’t watch a ton of Oprah, but she portrayed a woman who used to live this lavish lifestyle in a 5 bedroom home. When she and her husband divorced, she moved to the country and gave it all up for a more simple life. She said that she and her kids are way happier without all the STUFF. They ride bikes in the country, they run around outside and play games, the three of them sleep in the same room. They don’t have a TV. While that’s an extreme that I would avoid, there is something to all that. Maybe all this bad economy is just here to try to right us again. To let us focus on the important stuff. You do have each other. A loving home is what your family needs. As long as you have the means enough to provide that, you’re doing fine.

    Rachel May 21, 2009 at 9:56 am

    You should be grateful to have a roof over your head, and stop whining.

    Really. Said tongue-in-cheek and in a friendly way. But really. I was homeless for a brief period when I was a kid because my parents just kind of blew it when it came to managing money. And now I’m fine. If anything, I’m more aware (more painfully and immediately aware, maybe) of class issues as a (financially successful) adult than I would be if not for that experience. I’m a good saver. You’re fine. They will be fine. The most important gift my parents gave me was when they told me “you should never be ashamed to be poor.”

    Meg May 21, 2009 at 10:13 am

    You’re not alone. We are all having financial issues of some sort. Ours is in the form of trying to get out of credit card debt. When you have an unexpected baby and no savings built up, you can get into debt quickly. But we’re doing it. It’s not easy. We have to go to the park a lot, the library, places that are free. It’s hard to explain to a child, but they tend to get over it if you can keep them distracted.

    Props to you for blogging about it. And ignore the people who will give you hell for talking about it.

    Bela May 21, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Rachel, although I agree that being aware of how fortunate we are in the grand scheme of things is a good thing, I completely DISAGREE with your “stop whining” statement. Aside from the fact that there’s no way I can see to say it “in a friendly” way except to NOT say it, there’s a larger point here.

    The GREAT thing about this post is that HBD has the guts to SAY IT. To WRITE IT. To try to expose herself in such a way that might not only lessen her own shame, but lessen a whole lot of other people’s shame about this very real worry. It is not whining when you put yourself out there to be commiserated with, yes, but also to be educated, criticized, and further shamed. That takes courage and I just can’t see why the message of “I’ve lived through such tough times and am a better person for it” needs to be accompanied by chastisement and further shaming.

    Shannan P May 21, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    I completely understand how you feel! We are just beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel from a really long, scary period of financial ugliness. We went from a two income family of 3, where I made the larger salary to a one income family of 5. One of those additions was planned, the other — eh, not so much.

    We’ve had threatened evictions, people show up at the door to collect bills or disconnect services, and have been unable to give our kids even the smallest of extras at times. I’ve spent nights laying in bed, afraid to sleep because I didn’t know if someone would come to shut something off in the morning and I would miss them and not have a change to scramble for help to pay to keep the lights or the gas on. I’ve had to ask people for help, just to have the basics. It. Sucks.

    I sometimes have had serious guilt about not working outside the home, but if I did, it wouldn’t improve the situation any. After I paid daycare and work related expenses, I’d probably bring home the same or even less than I do from my freelance writing income.

    There’s no shame in admitting that you’re struggling. It happens…more often than it should, lately. It does get better, though. I was blessed enough to have found a work from home job that, combined with my freelancing salary, has me almost bringing in what I did before Keir was born.

    Keep your head up, and know that you are NOT alone! Many of us have been there, ARE there, and have made it through.

    (((((HUGS))))) And sorry for the novel!

    Elaine May 21, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Hi, I rarely comment here but I thought I’d come out of the woods for this one. Money can be such a touchy subject and so difficult to talk about. Thank you for opening up. I’m so sorry you are going through lean financial times right now, and sorry that you are in a position to worry. But I’m sure that your family will endure and come out on the other side stronger. Like you said, you and your husband have skills and it doesn’t seem like you’re afraid to dig in for a while. I wish you the best.

    L.A. Story May 21, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Really appreciate your candor on this! Good luck with everything!

    Emily May 21, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Wow I don’t know where to start… First off as a kid my parents never talked about money until after something bad happened so it sideswiped us massively. I wish they had just been more honest about the situation. I wouldn’t have necessarily understood at the time but it would have been less scary.

    My husband was made redundant 3 months into our pregnancy and 3 days after my company cut salaries. In the last 5 months he’s had approximately 3 weeks’ worth of work. We’re having a baby in 11 weeks and despite being in quite severe pain I can’t actually go off on leave until the last minute because we can’t afford it. We had expected to go down to 1 and a bit salaries (his plus benefits) and now we’ll be on a third what we were on a year ago. And I do feel that what should be a fabulous time is tainted with worry.

    That said all of this has made me realise that because the economy has been so bouncy we’ve been living with a level of expectation and entitlement and thats what’s gotten us into this mess to begin with. Yes its heartbreaking to tell Emilia that she can’t go visit Grandma and Tanner but is it so damaging for her to understand that its really a special treat and in order to get what we want (the visit) we need to save slowly and/or sell things we have now?

    I’m beginning to believe that if we go out of the way to protect our kids from the reality of the current economic state (and I believe we have at least 2 more years of it) then they will just repeat our mistakes of entitlement and indulgence.

    I don’t want to downplay your feelings in this because I think they are obviously incredibly valid (and I def have days where I am anxious, stressed and bitter about our situation) but Emilia is picking up on your feelings more than her own stress about the situation. We need to address our own feelings about this (why do we feel guilty when we’re doing the best we can? Were our expectations realistic to being with?) before we can fully address theirs. And I do think if we spin this in our favour – with lessons on saving and delayed gratification and how picnics and videos can be fun too – all of us will benefit.

    Thanks for once again finding words for such a difficult situation.

    Phaedra May 21, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Potlucks, picnics in the parks, going on walks with friends instead of meeting for drinks or coffees – all are silver linings of these strange times. I know these are scary days, so I would like to give you my full encouragement and a gentle reminder to breathe! My husband was laid off from his job, but we really think it’s the best thing that could have happened. It had been time for him to move on, but he wasn’t because of golden handcuffs. Now he’s free, we have no income, but we’re designing a life that we truly want. I can’t image what it’s like for those of us who are facing bankruptcy or homelessness right now, but if you’re not at that point, can you see this as gift? If not today, try again tomorrow! Things will get better and there is more help out there among neighbors and friends than any of us can imagine.

    Anonymous May 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    It’s a hard topic to talk about. My husband and I are lucky to not have to worry about money. However, we are in the health care field and unfortunately the pervasive panic about the economy has made us chose a job for the sake of the high salary versus a less paying job helping the less fortunate. And that’s a shame, I think.

    Cori Howard May 21, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    What great writing…It’s a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about…for the last SEVEN years as my husband and I continue to struggle to make ends meet as a young family. Savings? We never had any. Probably never will. So we haven’t recently “lost” anything, except our courage to fight the system and stick to our beliefs…that have very little to do with financial success. It would be nice not to have to worry, month after month, about how we will pay the bills. But most days, I have faith that things will work out. On bad days, I worry, I fret, I cry, I whine and my friends (and husband) don’t like me much. But writing helps. And reading your writing and all these comments helps too. Thank you!

    Rachael May 21, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    I’m 28 years old, and have been married for almost 10 years. Last year, my husband lost his job. We moved. He got a new job that paid 40% as much. I lost my job. We had to declare bankruptcy. I don’t feel shame about it anymore, but it was really, really hard. I found that once we started talking about it, 90% of people were sympathetic. It’s the other 10% that made it hard. Now, we struggle. I have been laid off for over 6 months and haven’t had any luck. We can’t pay all our bills. We’ve had to take money from family. And it sucks. But I know we’ll make it.

    J.Danger May 21, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Yep, us too. We just sold the last of our “nice” living room furniture, and I am trying to sell my grandmothers heirloom antiques. We are defaulting on practically everything as we speak, and had to put the kids on the free lunch program at school.

    I hate it.

    Jenny May 21, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    I’m so there with you…I was out of work for eight months before taking a lower-paying secretarial job (I have a Master’s in marketing). The week I got my job, my husband was laid off. He has now been unemployed for nine months, picking up freelance work where he can but never landing interviews. We’re very close to losing our house. I sold our wedding china, and the glassware is next. It feels like I can’t take a deep breath.

    I hope it gets better for all of us very soon.

    Hollie May 21, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Not sure if you followed my blog when I was Cheaper then cheap in Toronto, but hun trust me when You have to tighten the belt financially Toronto is a great place to do it in.

    As for you daughter, keep her out of the money loop somewhat as she is young. When I was living off welfare in To, Roo was told we had a budget and sometimes things weren’t in our budget so we could do the things that were really important for us.

    We did go out alot though even on WELFARE in To. We were at the park, having pinics of food we brought, we attended alot of the free festivals and took it alot of the Free child friendly family events.

    You simply dont have to give your child everything to give them a good life. If you ever want to talk, I am a solo parent who stretches $1,8oo every month and I make it work. It can..follow some of the frugal blogs and you will get overwhelmed at how to save and share those savings with your kids.

    Kim May 21, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    My husband I married fairly young and bought our first house in 1989 when house prices were at an all time high. We then proceeded to have two children right away. We had no savings and no equity. OUr house was worth a lot less than our mortgage. We ended up staying in our starter home for 10 years. If either one of us had lost our job we would have been homeless within 3 months. Things were very tight and we struggled with all the stress of raising young children, daycare expenses, commuting to work and no money for extras at all. It was not fun at all but we stuck together and came out of it with a stronger marriage and a healthy appreciation for the security we now enjoy. When we talk about those times our parents will say “why didn’t you say something? We would have helped you.” I never considered that to be an option. I just figured that it was our situation to figure out on our own. I am not sure if it would have made things easier or harder but I am proud now that we got through it. We have healthy kids and a great marriage 21 years later. YOu will get through this too and you will appreciate the good times even more when you have them in the future. Keep your head up and stay strong!

    Animal May 21, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    I remember my (single) mother having a hard time of things during the recession-y period of the mid-to-late ’70s. There’d be, say, more ground beef and less pork chops. Fewer take-out pizzas, and Pepsi because it was on sale and Coke wasn’t (blech!). Overall, though, I think Mom did a great job of shielding me from the worst of HER worry, and I give her SO much credit for that! That, I think, is the thing with you…Emilia might notice you’re selling a few things now (hopefully the damn recession ends LONG before Jasper can possibly remember it!), but you’ll shield her from the worst of your worry. I think that’s one of our toughest jobs as parents: keeping the happy face, even while things crumble around us. You’ll do fine; try NOT to worry, of course, but I think you’ll one day be talking about it with an (impossibly) adult Emilia, and she’ll say “Wow, I never KNEW you were that worried!”

    JCK May 21, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    I think it’s extremely courageous that you’ve written about this. And I know exactly what you mean about being able to write about all of those other topics that seem so personal, when really, what can be more personal than acknowledging a struggle with money. It is a horrible place to be, and immensely scary.

    We are in what sounds like a very similar situation. 1 income. My husband is self-employed. We’re behind on everything…it’s a very scary time.

    I’ve decided not to shield my children from it, but turn it into a learning opportunity. We talk about it, appropriately, without inducing fear. But, by pointing out the hardship we are undergoing right now. We still had their tricycles (they have bikes w/training wheels now)and sold them recently. I talked to them about it ahead of time. We discussed how another little boy and girl would be thrilled with the trikes. (Ironically a woman bought them from us off a Craig’s list listing and took them both. So “the bikes got to stay together!”) They were a part of that. I told them that they were huge helpers and helped us buy groceries that week. It made them feel empowered and good about helping. That we could be a team. Of course, they can’t get it entirely, but my hope is that they will learn the value of money. And be proud that they can be part of the solution – without carrying the burden.

    Thanks for writing this.

    LT May 21, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Thank you for sharing your personal situation in this post. I love the upside of your story when you say “I know that we’ll be fine, in the long run. We will be fine…We have each other.” Many of us will come out fine at the end of this. We have skills, a network, and education, and most importantly, our family, to fall back on.

    One of our contributors recently wrote about her personal story. She recently made the decision to apply for WIC so that she could have extra food in the pantry. Not much, it was a tough decision, but she made the best choice for her baby girl. If you are interested you can read the post here: http://helpamotherout.org/2009/05/14/wic-for-one-of-our-own/ This piece made me realize the true meaning of gratitude, charity, and perspective.


    JavaMom May 21, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    I am blown away by your post and then by the candor of everyone’s comments. This is exactly the kind of dialogue I think Katie Couric was hoping would get started. Thank you for being so brave — I’m hoping that it will give you some relief to see that others (really most) are in the same boat.

    Rachel May 22, 2009 at 12:11 am

    Maybe a more articulate way to say what I said in my last post is this:

    I think that feeling ashamed of being broke may fall into the same category of feeling shamed about your body if your stomach isn’t perfectly flat. The source of the shame isn’t anything inherent in money troubles/being a normally shaped woman, it’s the social structures that make us *think* those things are shameful. It helped me a lot when I was a poor kid to have parents that pointed that out to me, so now as an adult I’m never ashamed of, e.g., my crooked front teeth. I wear ‘em with pride– the fact that things weren’t so easy makes my current level of “class success” more valuable to me.

    It’s hard to translate a friendly jab/wink to someone you don’t know into text– sorry if I offended!

    WhisperingWriter May 22, 2009 at 12:59 am

    You don’t need to be ashamed. I imagine a lot of people are going through the same thing. I know we are. We really have to watch our spending these days and I’ve started to get nervous when our account dips to a number I’m not comfortable with.

    gurukarm (@karma_musings) May 22, 2009 at 10:56 am

    These are some of the best comments I’ve *ever* seen on your blog, Catherine. Thank you for opening the space for people to commiserate and share their stories. Every one has been an inspiration.

    I work for an amazing non-profit that had “pink-slip day” (my term) last Friday. I am so grateful that the “worst” fallout for me is a (relatively small) pay cut – I get to still go to a job that I love, at an organization that’s doing very important work. For awhile longer, at least. Others were not so lucky; one whole program that has lost its funding was cut; six people (from about 35 overall) gone. Plus two or three others.

    There are no guarantees in life. We all know it. We all live it. We all forget it on a regular basis. That’s human.

    As two competent adults who grew up with terrible terrible money role models (hubs’ dad spent and spent when they didn’t have it – hubs ended up having to leave college due to that, never finished; I grew up with older parents who’d lived thru the Depression, and never ever talked about money or taught us anything about money at all) – we’ve made financial mistakes over and over and over. Never seem to really learn.

    We bought our little house at what turned out to be the height of the market, and are *very* “upside down” now. Luckily we are happy to stay here, but wish we could refinance – but, crazily, since we’re not behind (late every month, but not unpaid), we don’t qualify for any kind of programs.

    As for what Emilia might get out of your situation – when my DD was little and I’d have to tell her we couldn’t get/have/do something due to money, what she ended up learning out of that (at age 21 now) is how to budget, look for value, and be more careful with her funds than I ever was as a kid. My son also has some of that knowledge, but at 15 isn’t quite there yet.

    BUT! (very big but) – they both still love us very much and aren’t damaged by the vagaries and ups and downs that have been our financial lives. Yours will still do so too. :-)

    Sorry for long-windedness…

    rella12 May 22, 2009 at 11:46 am

    I can’t bring myself to read all of the comments because that would mean having to think about this for longer than I can let myself right now.
    My husband lost his job. I still have mine, but we CANNOT pay the mortgage, the bills, without his job- no matter how tight we tighten our belts.
    I am just trying not to show my sons (3 years and 5 months) how scared I am. Of course they feel it- how could they not? the tension, the bickering, the panicked look in my eyes sometimes… but they don’t KNOW.
    The fear is real, not because of ego, but because there is no job to apply for. and my mother calls once a week… “So, how is the job hunt going?”
    I can’t think about it anymore.

    Rbelle May 22, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    I don’t want to offend anyone with my post, but I actually feel shame for the opposite reason. Between the two of us, my husband and I are doing quite well and are financially secure, while both my sisters’ families are struggling, and my brother is about to get married and is facing enormous credit card debt (of his own making, but still). Even worse, my plan is to start trying for a family next fall, buy a house, and then quit my job. There’s a possibility I’ll be able to pick up part-time freelance work, but nowhere near what I make now. My job is soul-sucking, and while I’m grateful for the paycheck, I’m not grateful to have that particular job (and no other viable options where I live), no matter how many people tell me I should be. I feel like I’m jinxing myself just saying that out loud, but there it is.

    I feel horribly guilty for planning for a future that will be more tight financially than what we have now, especially when so many people are struggling involuntarily. But I know I will feel even worse if I have to return to my job once a kid comes along, and I don’t want to wait much longer to start our family. I feel like I’m tempting fate to hit us with a job loss or other catastrophe by even thinking about it. “What if we can’t do it?” keeps me up at night.

    Deb May 22, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    We are struggling too, and it's terrifying. My husband works off commission and I desperately want to rip my kids (ages 1 & 2) and stay home for a year or so. I like to think the kids are too young to notice any change, but it's still tough to not be able to go just do all the things we want to or buy the things we really should buy (like windowshades to replace broken ones).
    Oh yeah, you wanted something helpful. I think the only thing that's keeping us sane is being able to reach out to friends for help. We swap child care and blog links and shopping tips. And it doesn't hurt to remind ppl we have a pool when we need a hand with something.
    For the past several months, I've noticed a lot of people going into survival mode and destroy relationships. I'm trying to make a point to help others whenever it's feasible for me and hope that the karma will come back.
    Hang in there!

    Anonymous May 22, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    What I find most interesting about this entire thread is how kind and compassionate people are being towards you, Catherine. A year ago, before we all were struggling, you might have gotten a few kind people commiserating with you and a lot more telling you to buck up and stop whining. Life has changed that much for so many of us over the past year.

    For me, this is how I live every single day, and have for years. We are poor. There is nothing more to say about it. We run out of food before the end of the month. My kids can’t have things like yearbooks ($100) and tickets to the movies. We buy nothing. Craig and Ebay have been great friends to us over the years, but we have little left to sell. Poverty sucks, and it is very hard deal with month after month, year after year.

    You know that your situation will eventually improve. Maybe you’ll have to get a job, maybe your husband’s employment options will improve over time. Maybe you’ll find you like living a leaner life, or maybe you’ll be so happy to have money you’ll spend it on treats for your family. Whatever you do, you’ll always remember this lean time as a learning experience.

    For the poor amongst us, it isn’t temporary, it’s forever. So no matter how tight your money is, I hope each and every commenter donates a little something to a charity, a food bank, or some program that helps alleviate poverty. That’s one very positive thing we all can do.

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