Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Looking For Opportunity in a Forced Stay-at-home-mom Hand

The Real Face of Stay-At-Home Mothers: Those Who Have No Other Financial Option - Forbes

I found this article because being this side of 20 weeks makes the issues of financial stability that much more pressing - that much more frightening.

Today when I got home from work, Christian was looking at other apartments. We don't want to move yet, because I'm so close to my job now (let alone the birth center), but come July when my contract's up we may have to.

We're also looking at the retirement accounts that we've acquired which have been losing money for years. When you're not making enough interest to cover inflation, it doesn't make sense to continue doing what you've always done. Does draining those accounts scare me? Yes. Absolutely. Am I more concerned about paying less interest on our student loans and being able to pay for essential baby gear? Yes. Absolutely.

And like the women the Forbes article cites, I find myself in a situation that is less of a choice and more forced at this point in our lives.

Unlike the supposed new face of SAHMs, I'm not foreign-born. I am younger, but certainly not the youngest mother-to-be on the block. The economy may be coming back, but I happen to live in a place where many of my skills are redundant. The Bay Area is flooded with young, highly educated people - many with less experience who are willing to work for less money. 

Who needs someone who studied interfaith dialogue? Politics? Art? Who worked in education without a teacher's certification? Who doesn't have a doctorate? Who has no interest in being a corporate stooge?

When I was looking for full time work, there wasn't any. Even the jobs that were in line with my professional experience weren't interested in me for whatever reason. I guess I didn't know enough people in the area or whatever. Regardless, I decided to give up on full time work to pursue something else - the result of which is partially this blog (the other half being my books which you should buy and read - of course!).

Now I find myself in a position where my hand is forced. I DO want to stay at home, actually. I want to have time with my kiddo. I want to see every first. But I also don't want to become lonely, depressed, or crazy (or any combo thereof). And unfortunately, that is a real possibility.

I grew up having everything I wanted. My family went on regular vacations. I didn't have 20 sets of lessons, but I spent my time in self-directed exploration with kits, tools, and crafts my parents gave me. I had my own room.

As of right now, I can't give those things to my child and it pains me. It pains me that I feel like they will have a worse life than I did.

I know other couples have started with less and ended up doing remarkable things. My parents went from a parsonage with piddily salaries in Philly to living in their own condo in Santa Barbara wine country. Christian's parents worked hard and went from renting a tiny place outside of Camarillo to owning a sizeable house in Santa Barbara. Neither was (or even is) easy. Still they did it. It's not impossible, or at least it didn't use to be. But I don't want to get ahead of myself on the cynic train...

So I remind myself that life leads us in directions we cannot anticipate. I remind myself that J.K. Rowling wrote some of her books on bits of napkins when she was a struggling single mother. Other writers have dealt with scores of rejections and gone on to do great things and have best sellers (even with some of the books that were originally rejected time and time again). Other women have made SAH work for them even with only one income that was lower than the national median.

I can do it. I know. I can be strong. I just don't want to have to be. I feel like we've been doing this our whole marriage and I want a solid break. I want my time of blatant abundance to arrive already. I want zero debt, healthy investments, and a fat savings account. I want vacations to places I've never seen that involve visiting museums or taking lessons that cost more than free because I can afford it.

I want more than I grew up with.

I think this is a more common occurance than many would like to admit. Perhaps we were brainwashed so well we thought we could have a loving marriage, a nice house, well adjusted kids, AND healthy finances. Maybe the truth is we can't have all those things. Maybe we have to let go - be more zen and less attached to these ideas of what happiness and security mean. If I can open myself up to possibilities and begin to dream of ways life can be more wonderful, perhaps I can see opportunities for greatness staring me in the face.

That is my personal goal - to dream of ways life can be more wonderful every day and to be open to possibility. Life can surprise us. We must remember. Every moment ends as another begins.

So yes, I am staying at home under uncomfortable circumstances at first. But I know this is a big year. I know this isn't a grim situation, but an a opportunity. I just don't know exactly what opportunity it is. I'm keeping my eyes and heart open.

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