Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

(No) Money Changes Everything

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?


Blogger Amy Urquhart said...

"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.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Momo Fali said...

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.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Sherry said...

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?

12:06 PM  
Blogger Heide said...

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!

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Goldfish said...

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

12:06 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

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.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous crunchy said...

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

12:07 PM  
Anonymous kimberly/tippytoes said...

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.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Stefania/CityMama said...

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:


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...

12:10 PM  
Blogger Sarah Lena said...

I wrote about mine here.


It still haunts me.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous avasmommy said...


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. ;)

12:11 PM  
Blogger Meg McCormick said...

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.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Della said...

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.

12:14 PM  
Anonymous red pen mama said...

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.


12:15 PM  
Blogger Jessi said...

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.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Super Woman said...

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!

12:17 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

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.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Jenny Grace said...

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.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

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!

12:18 PM  
Blogger Jenny said...

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!

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.

12:19 PM  
Blogger Allyson/HBMomof2 said...

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!

12:19 PM  
Blogger areyoukiddingme said...

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.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Gina Chen said...

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.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

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.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Emily said...

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. :)

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

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.

12:23 PM  
Blogger stirrell said...

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...

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Sethjenks said...

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.

12:26 PM  
Blogger mom2nji said...

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.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Amy B said...

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

12:27 PM  
Blogger jodifur said...

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.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Renae said...

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

12:30 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

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.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Land of Lovings said...

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.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

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.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.


Why can't there be enough for everyone?

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

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Michele said...

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.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Jo Anna Guerra said...

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

12:38 PM  
Blogger Tricia said...

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.

12:41 PM  
Blogger MYSUESTORIES said...

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.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous makyo said...

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.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Liz Woodbury said...

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.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous MisaGracie said...

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!!

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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?

12:52 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth @claritychaos said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth @claritychaos said...

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....

1:00 PM  
Blogger Someone Being Me said...

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.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


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.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

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.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


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?

1:23 PM  
Blogger kristi said...

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.

1:25 PM  
Blogger SP said...

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!

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.

1:28 PM  
Blogger heels said...

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.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

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.

1:34 PM  
Blogger AnnetteK said...

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

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com said...

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*

1:45 PM  
Blogger Cat said...

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.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Kat said...

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


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.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Kat said...

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.


1:50 PM  
Anonymous Kaye said...

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.

1:51 PM  
Blogger JP said...

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.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Renate said...

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.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

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.

2:21 PM  
Blogger well read hostess said...

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?"

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Ali said...

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'.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

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:


2:29 PM  
Blogger Mandy said...

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.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Procrastamom said...

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!

2:37 PM  
Blogger Avalon said...

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.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Leandra said...

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.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Robbin said...

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.

3:28 PM  
Blogger K.Line said...

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.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Olivia said...

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.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

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...

3:43 PM  
Blogger blissfully caffeinated said...

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.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. I've been reading for blogs and I've often thought, "she never writes about money or her husband."
One down...

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mean, I've been reading for years

3:49 PM  
Blogger Liz Woodbury said...

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


3:56 PM  
Blogger Mountain Girl said...

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.

4:04 PM  
Blogger April said...

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.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Don Mills Diva said...

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.


4:37 PM  
Blogger Superdumb Supervillain said...

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...

4:39 PM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

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.

4:51 PM  
Blogger J from Ireland said...

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.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Rachael said...

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.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Blessed Life said...

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!

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Mrs. Wilson said...

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!

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Shauna said...

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.

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Helen said...

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.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

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.

8:11 PM  
Anonymous susan said...

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.

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

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.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Julie @ The Mom Slant said...

I had to sell my BlogHer ticket. Enough said.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Bella said...

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...

9:31 PM  
Blogger for a different kind of girl said...

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.

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Lu said...

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.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

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.



10:22 PM  
Blogger Mamalang said...

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.

10:27 PM  
Blogger Jaelithe said...

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.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

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.

11:14 PM  
Blogger Paige said...

I could have written this.

11:23 PM  
Blogger Maman said...

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.

11:37 PM  
Blogger TheFeministBreeder said...

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.

11:38 PM  
Anonymous Michelle-WT Mom said...

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.

12:12 AM  
Blogger Jake Aryeh Marcus said...

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.

12:19 AM  
Anonymous melissa said...

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...

12:25 AM  
Blogger Carina said...

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.

12:25 AM  
Anonymous Rock and Roll Mama said...

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.

12:44 AM  
Anonymous V said...

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.

12:50 AM  
Blogger Ozma said...

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.

12:57 AM  
Blogger Stephanie Wilson she/her @babysteph said...

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


1:04 AM  
Blogger Kae said...

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.

1:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.

1:43 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

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.

2:24 AM  
Blogger Al_Pal said...

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

6:34 AM  
Blogger Another Suburban Mom said...

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.

6:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Awesome Mom said...

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.

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

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."

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Meg said...

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.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Bela said...

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.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Shannan P said...

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!

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

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.

1:09 PM  
Blogger L.A. Story said...

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

2:40 PM  
Blogger The_EmilyB said...

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.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Phaedra said...

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.

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Cori Howard said...

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!

3:48 PM  
Blogger Rachael said...

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.

4:30 PM  
Blogger J.L. Danger said...

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.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Jenny said...

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.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Hollie said...

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.

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Kim said...

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!

8:31 PM  
Blogger Animal said...

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!"

8:53 PM  
Blogger JCK said...

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.

9:58 PM  
Anonymous LT said...

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.


10:52 PM  
Anonymous JavaMom said...

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.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

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!

12:11 AM  
Blogger AiringMyLaundry said...

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.

12:59 AM  
Anonymous gurukarm (@karma_musings) said...

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...

10:56 AM  
Blogger rella12 said...

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.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Rbelle said...

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.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

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!

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like all 100+ other people on here, I'll state that you are definitely not alone. We've been trying to figure out ways to cut expenses with a minimal impact on our 5 and 2 year old sons. The good news is that, in doing so, we're also becoming more active members of our community.

For instance, instead of spending $30 on movie tickets and another $20+ on overpriced popcorn and drinks, we've started taking them to local high school musicals like Beauty and the Beast and the Music Man. Admission for them is free, for us is $10 or less (hubs usually just stays home). Students sell cookies for $1 at the intermission and the 2 year old is just as happy with water from the water fountain as he is with a bottle of water or a box juice. (It's more fun, afterall.)

I've NEVER said no to them when they asked for a book, as I want to instill a love of reading. But we just can't afford to buy them books all the time, so I took my 5 year old to the local library to get his own library card. In addition to getting him access to more books than we would ever buy him, the library is a free activity with a reading area and quiet time toys where he can just hang out.

We're also fortunate to live in a city with tons of great local parks. So our big weekend outing might just be a drive across town to a playground they've never been to. It's as good to them as going on a vacation.

I recognize that some of these are simple solutions but I'm with you, I'm trying to minimize the impact on the kids during this time. Thanks for having the courage to acknowledge the fear and anxiety that so many of us are feeling.

I also wholeheartedly endorse what the anonymous commenter above said about continuing with charity, even during hard economic times. Even though this is newer territory for us, it's not for many many other people. Not only have we been trying to give a little each month to charities, I think it's important that my kids learn that other children have it much harder than they do. So we've been making sure to talk to our 5 year old about why he needs to give his toys and clothes (and sometimes money) to other kids who don't have access to it. We will all get through this, together.

11:49 PM  
Blogger Bronwyn said...

I grew up in a family with the same financial fears and worries. You're doing the right thing. Give her age appropriate answers and keep the hope. This will not break her, nor you. I understand the fear and the shame, I watched my mom go through the same. But we made it. You will too.

1:23 AM  
Anonymous becky said...

My son isn't old enough to notice yet. But it's tough. So tough. My income dropped more than 50% last year when I went freelance so I could stay home with my son. I had a REALLY good job at a university. And I gave that up. I question that when I look at our finances and we struggle to keep our bills paid (especially health insurance!). I keep thinking that we should have saved more, spent less when I had the good-paying job. Yet we didn't. And now our lives are tougher because of it.

I just have to keep working to build my freelance writing so it will cover our bills better. My husband's industry is hurting from the economy as well. He can only get so many hours right now.

So yeah, I get some of what you're saying. Trying so hard not to beat myself up over the choices I've (we've) made that put us in this situation. And hoping it will pass. Soon.

1:38 AM  
Blogger Frugal Rock said...

My husband and I are highly educated and yet, we choose to survive on one starting teacher's salary of 40,000 a year. I stay home with our two-year-old son. We live in a cozy two-bedroom apartment in the Junction and we couldn't be happier. I don't know how people view us from the outside but I can only imagine that they either feel sorry for us, or marvel at the tremendous waste of money-making potential. Our peers are all doing brilliantly by society's standards, with large homes, two cars, and trips to Disney World with the kiddies. To us, having such mega-responsibilities such as mortgage and car payments, insurmountable credit card debt, and endless bills to pay would be like living with a giant noose around the neck.

Scaling back and keeping it simple has been the key to our happiness and stress-free way of life. And believe it or not, these do not feel like sacrifices to us. (It's all in your attitude!) We choose to rent, bike to work, and for-go frills like cable t.v., expensive blackberries, and impulse shoe purchases. We are not mowing the lawn on Saturdays, nor are we blowing snow in the winter. We find that living this way has freed up so much of our time. We still have enough money to take trips and eat well because we have simply shifted our priorities.

This lifestyle was a conscious choice for us, but many people do not have the luxury of choosing. I think the reason why we don't worry is that like you and your husband, we are equipped with an education. We know that we have transferable skills and can always find work.

I don't really have any advice for you, other than to let you know that change can be amazing. Embracing the unknown can be liberating, and cultivating a comfort with risk has many many payoffs. And you're absolutely right; it may be trite but you always have each other. And that's the most important thing. And money--well, easy come, easy go.

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Sasha said...

Thank you for this post, I needed it. I've read through all the comments, and unfortunately I can honestly say that out of everybody, I am in the worst position of all.

We had to do IVF to get our babes, and I was in such a depression over it we literally used the last of our money to do this. Thank God, it worked and I have beautiful twins for whom I am endlessly grateful. My husband had a huge contract which would have enabled us to buy a house (free and clear) which fell apart two months into my pregnancy. We were left with nothing, and we had to move in with my parents. A year later, we are still here.

My husband CANNOT find work, and believe me, he has looked. His industry has been very hard hit. We have ended up over 20,000 in debt despite moving in with the folks.

It is a horrible situation, and though there are days I can cope and feel that things must, and will get better there are days, like today, where I am desperately anxious, depressed, fearful, and yes, angry. Angry that my husband can't support his family. Angry and I can't support my family. Hideously, horribly, ashamed, and so, so fearful.

The only thing that keeps me afloat are my babes who are the light of my life, but I feel that perhaps I was wrong to bring them into this world when I can't provide for them. Meanwhile, my marriage is suffering. My husband's self-esteem is gone, and I'm afraid I can't even try to prop it up anymore.

When I hear of other friends and family who are doing well I literally feel sick. I wish I were a better person but I'm not.

A couple of years ago I would never have believed this could happen. I had a fantastic apartment, beautiful things, was flying around the world on beautiful vacations. If I had a clue that this was even possible I would have saved, scrimped, but I never thought it would be. Lesson learned. Now if we could just find a way out.

11:22 PM  
Blogger April said...

p.s. do you have skype? we use the video chat and my son LOOOOVES "visiting" my parents and my sister on the computer. it's FREEEEE if you're both using skype :-)

11:18 AM  
Blogger Mrs.Chattypants said...

In July of last year, my husband's business partner gambled the company money away. As a result, the company folded. He was out of a job until November, when he started working construction. That job was only temporary, as with the failing economy, there were no other contracts on the horizon. My husband looked, but was still not able to find another job. At the end of January, he was laid off, and not having been there 90 days, he did not qualify for unemployment. The company laid off just about all of its employees. Now, fast forward four months and he has had numerous interviews and still no decent job. A friend of ours got him a job as a barback in a nudie bar-he took it. It was money, an honest job and we have been able to survive. I have been working as well and we have learned to let go the unnecessary things-like cell phones, cable and fast food. Even convenience foods, which means I cook a whole lot. I felt ashamed that my children had to go through this as I was the adult and Mike and I were not able to provide. They really surprised me. At Christmas, they only got a few things and funny, was that everything they did receive, they played with and appreciated. They understand why we can't go to the movies or out to dinner because we explained to them about paying your bills and needing to have electricity, water and so forth. We had yard sales and sold stuff, theirs and ours, and kids, well, if your are honest with them, they are pretty resilient.
It will be okay. You know that. It sucks royally and the fear just hangs there. BUT you just keep on keepin' on and it will get better. You are not alone as many of us are struggling. And as corny as it is, you do have each other. And really, that is the most important thing. This is your "check" because you are rich in the things that matter. ((Hugs))

2:36 PM  
Blogger Blog said...

I remember going through this as a teenager (during the last recession). All of a sudden we weren't going away - which was a BIG deal in my Forest Hill High School.... We couldn't buy clothes. And my dad was working all the time, trying to make ends meet. He was NOT happy, and my mother went back to work....

These days, there's a marked difference between my daughter's room (born 2005) and my son's (born 2007). She has the fancy furniture and dolls upon dolls. He has HER CRIB and only a change table, hardly any toys.

We are struggling, too. I've had to work my butt off and feel blessed to have a part-time job because my husband's job is completely unstable right now.

I feel grateful, actually, that my daughter isn't asking too many questions. I'm also grateful that she'll learn from a young age things cost money and that you can't have it all. I wasn't so lucky, and I had a very difficult adolescence as a result....

Most of us are, indeed, in the same boat as you are. It's scary. But, we have each other.... ((Hugs))

1:09 PM  
Blogger karengreeners said...

I wrote my Eat Me post about this a couple of months ago, when I couldn't even afford a roast for a holiday dinner.
Freelance is tough; it's have or have not, and for us, last winter, it was have not.
The thing is, the kids had no idea. They are not yet consumers; don't expect gifts and treats when we walk into a store; are just as happy with a trip to the park as they are with a trip to Florida.

It's the adults that struggle through these times, and even if we know that things are not so desperate yet - that we will not lose our house; will still have something for dinner; will get through this - even still, it's a struggle.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Mother of the Groom Dresses said...

A few years ago I really hit rock bottom and it seems to me now that that must have been my own private recession a little before the fact. The good news is that I am back on top now and can personally vouch for the fact that what doesn't kill you does make you stronger. You've gotta just hold on till its over and the thought of our children always makes us Moms 10 times stronger than we ever knew was possible. My blessings to all the other Moms out there in these difficult times xox

5:26 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

I could have written this post myself! As a matter of fact, I just sold my kids' swingset. Of course, my kids are 3, 6, 10 and 11, so they clearly don't believe me when I say selling things is fun! One day, it will get better. At least I hope so.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Rusti said...

I haven't started selling things just yet (that's on my TO-Do list: "learn how to sell on eBay or CraigsList" followed closely by "start going through crap and figuring out what we can live without") but I'm taking things back that I've purchased recently... mostly clothes and outfits for the baby girl, but also a few for me... and to top it off that I have no money, and because I have no money (vicious cycle) I've managed to max out both of my credit cards... which the hubs just found out... it didn't go over well... so I'm working full-time outside of the house, taking back purchases, trying to drum up work for my freelance business/side job, and looking for items that we can sell... and hubs - well, he's not only working full time, but picking up as much overtime as possible at the Sheriff's Department... which means seeing us less than the 2-3 days a week he sees us regularly...

We can't complain really because we both have jobs, we have our health and our beautiful baby girl... we have vehicles... but as far as having extra cash... we don't. and it's mostly my fault, of which I am ashamed... hubs works hard and puts money in our savings accounts, pays the majority of the bills, as well as the majority of the necessities around the house, and I... well, I work... and waste money on frivolous things... like outfits that are cute, but Emma won't wear until NEXT summer... shirts I might wear once or twice after buying them for a wedding... it's ridiculous....

so while I'm not on the exact same page as you are, I'm not feeling so proud of myself lately... especially since I had paid one credit card down quite a bit over the past year or so... then managed to put $1500 back on it in just over a month on things we didn't need... WOW. GREAT IDEA. or not. and now - my minimum payments are both RIDICULOUSLY high. GREAT IDEA #2. or not. so... working on that. and it's a definite work in progress...

thinking of you, sending good thoughts and prayers your way... it will get better, and it will be okay... some day... hopefully some day soon...

1:28 PM  
Blogger Miss Know It All said...

I know it was hard to admit - but believe me, I can honestly say "I feel your pain." My husband is an air craft mechanic. We have a 10 year old son. I work, but DH made substantially more that I do. Did you get that? MADE. As in, no longer makes. He was laid off in November. He was laid off right before our son's 10th birthday. Christmas and Birthday were already bought and paid for, or it would have been slim. But this year? Not so much. We are making it, but not without sacrifice. And as is always the case...insult can always be added to injury. In March I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40. I will be fine - double mastectomy, chemo and raidation required - but I will live. I am blessed with a wonderful job - I have short term disability and bosses that are willing to work with me. I can work from home, and I can work when I feel like it. So far, I have not missed one dime in my paycheck. I have great health insurance. But with an unemployed husband, the co-pays are a bitch.

All this while friends are able to spend money like its nothing. See, I have friends with money. Lots. Like, houses in NICE neighborhoods paid for in cash. Friends who love me, but raise an eyebrow while I try to explain I can't afford a trip to the beach. Or Costa Rica. Or the Bahamas.

So, basically, I say all of that to say this: You are not alone. You will provide the best way you know how. You will be the adult and your kids will be fine. There were probably times in our childhood that we dont remember (hopefully) when our parents struggled. But we are fine. And our kids will be fine, stronger in fact.

3:35 PM  
Blogger BabyonBored said...

I'm always a little late to the comment party on your blog, sister. But here's my two pennies which may or may not have already been shared. I grew up poor, poor, poor. I couldn't have a proper haircut or new clothes or any extras for a long long time. When my brother and sister came along 7 and 9 years after me, my mother was bringing in a better income (my stepfather barely ever worked). As an adult, I don't ever think about being poor or not having had enough. It was plenty that I was loved. I appreciate having things now much much more than if all of it was just a given growing up. I learned sacrifice and I think it's an important, so so important lesson to pass onto your children. This will pass and all will be well but your kids will be better for it. Take the shame out of your game. You are awesome rich or poor.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


5:43 PM  
Blogger Revanche said...

There's no shame in being scared or worrying, it's natural. Mine is a bit flipflopped in that I was scared that I couldn't continue to take care of my family [parents] after the pending layoff.

Something like ten years ago, both of them went through periods after their businesses failed in which they couldn't hold a job for long, and then my mom's health went out the door, and I've supported them ever since. Hadn't ever struck me how completely dependent they were on me until my job loss was imminent. I still haven't even told them that I expect to be out of a job in a month because I'm determined to find another way to support them before they have to worry about it.

Wondering if you're going to be able to make ends meet when you're the sole provider(s) is completely nerve-wracking. But knowing that you can make it, once you get through, is one of the most blessed feelings you can have. And your daughter will learn, in some small way, to be self-sufficient, creative and resourceful for having this experience in her life, in her family.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Booba Juice said...

While I did not have time tonight to read ever comment, those that I did get to read made my night. I know that I am not alone, but being able to read stories of others who are in the same spot as my family is heartwarming.

Fifteen months ago, my husband got out of the military. We had thought and discussed long and hard before we made that desion. We knew that most likely we would not be able to make as much in the civilian world as we did in the military, as my husband wasn't able to get his degree while active duty. But ultimately our desire for him to be around more for our family won out on the desire to be better off financially. (While in the military he spent about 75% of the year away from home.)

However now that we are civilians, and out on our own, I miss many things that the military ment for us financially. For example, while I was never one to go out shopping all the time, I did enjoy being able to get something if I saw it and wanted it. Now I look at the thing that is on clearence, and think, I wish I had the money to get that.

We are keeping our head above water, but just bearly. But the thing is, I am learning to be content with less. And really, it hasn't been all that bad. I have enjoyed making eating at home all the time fun, and exciting. Spending more time playing games with the family at home, not going out to have fun and entertainment. It has been an adventure. And while I would welcome an increase in income, I know that we are going to be okay. I really believe that. And we just have to do the best with what has been provided to us at this time in our lives, and know that it won't always be this way.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous the weirdgirl said...

I'm another one who grew up without a whole lot of money. We were what is called "house rich, cash poor". That meant thrift store clothes and powdered milk and no extra anything and so on. I went to a day camp one year but I suspect it was some freebie program for "those who qualified". We never went on vacations like other people did; just lots of camping. I started babysitting really early so I could buy my OWN thrift store clothes. It went on for YEARS.

But you know what? I'm actually proud of the person I've become because of those lean years. I have a very strong work ethic, I don't take money for granted, I'm resourceful, and I'm very aware of the difference between when you can't help your financial situation and when you're making bad choices. I don't see any shame in being in tough financial quarters; it just happens sometimes.

I know it's really hard. You're not only worrying about how to make it through, you're probably worrying about how it will affect Emilia emotionally. My advice is to try to be as matter of fact as possible about it with your daughter. I've been there and I can tell you the worry won't go away. But it seems to me that the shame gets all tied up with the self-worth of owning stuff and that's... just not a good path for kids to go down.

Emilia will be fine. And you'll feel better - still worried, but better - if you can drop the shame.


1:27 AM  
Blogger chermonblie said...

We're there too. My husband was unemployed for 8 months and is now going to work... but not making anything - commission is rough when there are no customers.

So... I am learning to cook inexpensive meals, making our own laundry soap, really enjoying the one Saturday a month when the grandparents come out and bring us a cooler full of food, doing without tv, sewing from my stash instead of buying new. It'll get better... but I'm hoping my new found frugality sticks around!

5:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

My children's father divorced us all when the kids were 4,5, and 7. It was up to me to provide everything for them after that. I never told them fairy tales--they all knew just how much money we had, what we had to pay with it, and if there was anything left after the bills were paid, they could have a treat. Even at 4, my youngest daughter understood the concept that there had to be money in the bank to pay the bills.

We all struggled through, they grew up knowing how to budget and how to save. They are in their 30's now. They learned early in life that not everyone can have everything they want. That if they save their money they can get something extra.

I don't think it is shameful for kids to know you don't have enough. On the contrary, they need to know that sometimes you don't have enough. Knowing that prepares them for the real world much better than telling them that everything will be alright all the time.

11:57 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Being thankful you have a roof over your head doesn't mean you can't also feel a little down at having to try to explain to your daughter why things can't be exactly how we'd like them to. Thank you for posting. Sometimes I think we all suffer in silence, thinking others will think less of us if we admit to not having it all under control. I don't think that's true. I know that for me, personally, it sure helps knowing I'm not alone in trying to tighten the belt just a little bit more, and a little bit more, and praying daily that we can make ends meet just one more month.

10:57 AM  

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