Like I said last week, leaving my job was the best decision I made, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. Far from it.
When I quit we were really unsure if we could “make it” as a one income family. I mean, we had spoken with a financial advisor and sat down and crunched some numbers and in theory we knew it was a possibility. However, my husband is self employed. That means that he isn’t bringing home a paycheck related to any sort of hourly wage, he doesn’t have any coverage for illness or injury, and there is no help if times are slow. One week might be great and the next might be nothing but tumbleweeds. To top it off, he had recently moved to a new salon and we weren’t sure yet what an “average” month would look like.
In order to make such a drastic change to our financial situation, we also had to change the way we were living. Parts were easy- like stopping daycare which freed up over $1200 a month. Dropping extra costs like gym memberships were pretty painless. Other parts were hard- letting go of our house to make the move to an apartment. We balanced this decision with making sure to find a place that we really liked and had some great amenities for us to take advantage of. We traded in our back yard for two giant courtyards with gas grills, a gazebo and picnic tables, a tennis court, indoor pool, hot tub, and sauna and a gym. The rent here was a bit higher than other buildings we could have chosen, but still under our mortgage payment- not to mention that there was free cable and internet and instead of a $400/mo winter heating bill, heat is FREE! We simply pay for electricity which is under $100/mo.
We traded in extra space for simplicity- getting rid of stuff we never even used, more function-focused organization, keeping only things we love. We still have a laundry room (that was non-negotionable for me) and even have room for our deep freezer so we can stock up on items when they are on sale and store the meat we receive for Christmas and from hunting. Sometimes I have to drive to more than one store to get the best deal. This makes a huge difference on groceries. Instead of a play room that is messy most of the time the girls play in their room and work on cleaning up after themselves (a work in progress, let’s be honest) and our kitchen table is utilized for family events like eating and board games rather than sitting junk on it (most of the time *wink*). Then there were changes that we still are working on- like not eating out so much! We do great for about a month or two and then suddenly we have a month where we are going out weekly (or more) and have to back pedal.
For some people it was hard to imagine making these cuts, but really, it was making the change in mind set that was difficult. Everything after that was simple. We live in a consumer culture where we are endlessly bombarded with marketing ads. Much of it preys upon our fears and insecurities. Don’t believe me? Next time you are watching TV think about the messages that the commercials are sending you- some of them obvious while others are more subtle. Buy this face cream it will make you look younger (fear of aging and losing your beauty), buy this car because it’s fast and powerful (fear of being uncool) or this one because it handles well and has all these features (fear for safety, desire for comfort & keeping up with the Joneses). Sometimes it’s not the product but just the way it’s marketed that speaks to you: if you are a good dad/a trendsetter/attractive/daring & unique/tough/manly/feminine etc. you will buy X. It’s no coincidence that the average American household with at least one credit card has nearly $15,950 in credit-card debt (as of 2012 from creditcards.com). This wasn’t a culture we wanted to partake in any longer. We had tried working to support our spending and buy our happiness. Guess what? It didn’t work out. It simply took us out of the home and away from the things we loved- each other.
Though he was understandably freaked with his new role as provider, my husband has always been a Christian of great faith, and I envied him this. Deep in his heart I believe he truly felt we would be fine, we would be provided for, and that the worst case scenario didn’t really look that bad. I can’t speak for him in depth on this matter. I know that suddenly he was given the responsibility of being the sole provider for 4 people- a feat neither of us had ever had to do before. He could have buckled under the strain, but I think because he wasn’t carrying this load alone, but rather letting God shoulder the burden, he was able to succeed. He slept soundly knowing that we would be provided for- maybe not in gift baskets of money dropped at our door, but that one walk in that we needed to make it this month, etc. I think it’s fair to say he’s actually grown because of the change having found a good-willed sense of pride in himself and his ability to provide for his family as well as a strengthening of his already tough faith.
Me, you know, the one who up and quit her job? Yeah. After reality set in, I definitely had a harder time adjusting. I’ve always been the one in our marriage who manages the money and pays the bills. Because of my personality I’ve also been the one to shoulder the financial anxiety when things look tight. Hubs has always been the “we might die tomorrow, so why worry about it” half while I’m more of the “yeah, but we might live!! What then?!” half of the coin. Faith wasn’t something I had. After all, where in the bible does it say that God is going to make sure my bills are paid and I’m living in a cardboard box? Look at the tests some of his people faced. They lost everything. Not something that’s going to put me at ease and let me sleep without some serious tossing and turning. But that was just part of it. I had a really hard time adjusting to my new role without something solid like a paying job to validate me. I had a hard time allowing my husband to provide for us and not feel indebted and a failure as a feminist. I had a hard time letting go of control. Shit, I’m still struggling with all of that at various levels throughout the season.
Though my husband and I are at different extremes, it keeps us in a sort of checks and balances system. He helps me be more free and make room to enjoy life and I make sure we don’t go crazy and move into a cardboard box. As for all of the rest of it? Well, I have made numerous trips to Goodwill as we continue to rid ourselves of the “stuff” that was once our life as we build a new model of what we want our life to look like. The only thing I’ve figured out is that I’ve had to look outside myself. I’m learning to have faith in a power greater than me. That’s a story for another day; a story that is still in the works. Perhaps I’ll share it if you are interested.