We are certainly in a season of just keeping on keeping on, making small progress towards some goals, but not really getting anywhere fast. When we began our one-income sojourn coming up on 6 years ago there was surely a period of adjustment, but then life moved along pretty well. Now it seems hard again. Coupon-clipping and deal-hunting and cooking from scratch and always using-what-you-have rather than buying what would really work best gets tiring. My husband is working his tail off so we can save for a much-needed van replacement, and we just seem to be a bit, no, quite a bit, discouraged by it all. When we became a one-income family when Sportster was born, we were the first among our friends to do so and it felt a bit lonely. No one could relate. Though most friends have had mom come home from work, they seem to be faring well financially now (from what we can see as onlookers) and we are still struggling. Struggling not to live a life of luxury, struggling just to live within our means and fund necessary budget categories like groceries. Prices on many necessities of life have gone up and this pinches our budget a little further. No big family vacations, no furniture purchases in years, no high-end vehicles, no new wardrobes or haircuts over $12.95 or spa treatments, no big-ticket gifts, no vacation property purchases, no organic meat or milk delivered to our door, always saying no to our kids when they ask for something at the store. (By the way, those are all good things, if you have the money.) Yes, we have chosen this lifestyle so I can be home for our kids and attend to their needs and their hearts while they are young. But often the thing you know is right to do for your family is not the thing that is easy.
I was talking with a good friend's mother when Sportster was about 8 months old. She made the comment that it was such a worthwhile choice to stay home but that it is hard as you see others around you getting ahead because they have more resources for things. She spoke from experience and her comment really struck me at the time, and I think those words are even truer to me today, now almost 5 years later.
And often the lack of financial resources puts pressure on other areas of life as well. We could surely use more date nights to invest in our marriage, but then the cost of babysitting is a limitation for us. It would refresh me not to have to think about what was for dinner every once in a while and just go out to eat or order in. We would enjoy the company of friends more often if we felt some room in our budget to order pizza or if I wasn't embarrassed to serve them some of the low-budget fare we are used to eating. I may be more inclined to set up playdates if I didn't think about the cost of gas to arrive at the destination. There are many things that would add enjoyment and interest to our lives, but that we currently can't afford. Surely there are things from our two-income days which we could have done differently to better prepare us for this season, but overall our situation is not the result of careless spending and high living during those short years of being DINKs. Our current budget has been trimmed in all areas we know to trim, and still those cuts don't seem like quite enough.
Our needs are met and God has blessed us in amazing ways, but sometimes the burden of responsibility and knowing where every last penny is being spent wears me down. There are many others who are struggling more than we are. Sometimes I think it would help to know some of these folks so I would look beyond our own situation and focus on the needs of others. But I know these trials and struggles are increasing our faith and dependence upon God, the God who owns it all and who has provided for our needs out of his mercy.
If you are in this situation or have been, what encouragement can you give? What ways have you found to make the most of the resources you have been entrusted with? How do you find energy and joy to keep pressing on with the all the little things that make this lifestyle possible?