Friday, March 14, 2008

Under Pressure

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?


Melinda said...

Well Rachel, I hear ya! We are in the same place, struggling year after year. It does get very weary and I am so frequently tempted to just spend the money to make life easier that day.
I don't have much encouragement but it might help to think about how life would be if you were working to have that extra money. I am working 1 day a week, (2 half days now while the baby is little) and although it is nice to have some time with adults and away from so many demands, I hate missing out on their little lives.
If I worked full time, I would only see them briefly in the morning and that would be a yelling match, rushing to make them get ready quickly and a very stressful time I'm sure. Then in the evening, I would be tired from work and not want to invest the emotional energy they need for the last 2 hours of the day that we would be together.
I can't imagine all the little extras would be worth missing out on all that time. And that is not to mention letting a stranger have so much influence in their development each day when you were at work.( Lucky for me, my MIL watches them. )
So keep on going! It is worth it!

Kristin said...

Hi, Rachel -- I just recently found your blog while looking for mothers-at-home/homemaking related things. I haven't visited more than once or twice, but your post today really sounded like something I could have written in the past. My husband and I went though medical school and residency on a very, very small income; and at least part of the time I was home with small children. It *does* get so wearying and so frustrating to always, always be watching the checkbook balance closely, to "save and contrive," as I think Jane Austen puts it, and to feel that there never is any "extra" to do something purely because it's relaxing or fun. I know that in later years you will be so, so glad you chose to do this; you are experiencing times with your children that can never be replaced, and that are worth their weight in gold. You will always, always be glad you did this; you will never look back and regret, and know that times you might have influenced them are gone forever.

I also was struck by what you said about not having people over b/c you are embarrassed to serve them your "plain" food -- don't feel that way! Others are much less impressed by "fancyness" than we always think they are. People are so thrilled to be treated to hospitality (it's a rare thing these days), and so happy to be with good Christian company, and they will enjoy the homey-ness of your welcome. The key is your fellowship, not serving some amazing dish.

And lastly (I'm sorry this is such a long, long comment!), I found it very encouraging with things were tight and I was frustrated to read book (often autobiographies) about life in "Olden Days." People had to make do with so little, and things were so dreadfully basic and required so much work. It always made me feel better by comparison! :) I am thinking of books like the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, for example (I may be grown but I sure do love those books still!). Anyway, as I said, a long comment, but your post just gave me a pang in my heart! Keep going, be encouraged; you are doing God's work in a powerful way. My prayers are with you. KF

Mom2Drew said...

Rachel...I think what you're doing is fantastic, albeit difficult right now. With all your terrific sewing skills, what about making items to sell by creating an ebay store or something? I have found trying to come up with ways to earn extra money has helped in lean times. It's certainly not a cure all, but if nothing else...would help give you a little spending cash. but, just try really hard to concentrate on the legacy you're leaving for your family, teaching them it's not about the things-rather about the heart and quality time spent with those you love.

Anonymous said...

You are not alone. I really needed to hear the post and the positive comments, as I too am in a similar situation. I agree that if only i knew others who were going through what we are, or have made the choice to live simply I would feel better about raising my children and staying at home. Even in the country I have found that most women I meet are working and I can't relate at much.
My husband and I wish we could own a home but have to save for several more years yet. That is the biggest material thing we yearn for. Try not to be tempted by seeing others having more, they probably are racking up credit and just not sharing that advice. I am often surprised at our friends who are both working and still not able to live within their means.
Be proud of your money budgeting and know that your family is going to be so much stronger for it. And the time you are spending with them! Please continue to post those feelings and frustrations, I'm sure I'm not the only reader out there it's helping. love, Heather

Rachel said...

Thank you all for your encouraging comments! It really is a matter of priorities and perspective! Thanks again!

Lauren said...

Hey :o)
I saw your blog link on "homespun heart's" site and had to comment. I am also a sahm to 4 kids and we live on my husband's income and I do babysit at the church a few Sunday's a month which brings in a little money. We try to cut corners by having no cable whatsoever, no cell phones(we do have tracfone but if we can't afford a new card we do without), used van (under $3000) bought through a friend at church, and most recently we got a new car insurance quote and it was amazing how much money we saved!! The insurance man said even if you go with the same company you get a cheaper rate by letting him reapply. I had never thought of checking insurance prices since it is just something you are used to but it helped a ton. As for entertainment we buy the Mcdonalds coupons at halloween and valentines and then use them in the months to come. Also we LOVE the library and during the summer they have promotion type things and last year had a coupon book that gave tons of free things. Also we do bookit through pizza hut and they earn free personal pan pizza's and then we combine that when the pizza place has $5 pizza's. Hang in there God will provide if you just ask him.....

Boomeyers said...

I have been a SAHM for 15 years, yes, I'm truly blessed. We have stuggled alot, but it makes me feel better that my kids know that we do it FOR them, not TO them. They are learning invaluable lessons that I learned from MY mother. They do not want for anything, but they do want THINGS all the time! :) Most of the time they buy it themselves, sometimes we pitch in for the big things. I have been working a small PT job for the last 5 years. Ideas for survival? Never turn down hand me downs, have garages sales and GO to garage sales, make your home the resturant and splurge a little on something fun to make meal like a resturant meal. We have Mexican food night, Chinese food night, pizza (frozen) night, chicken nuggets and french fries (splurge and get the Ore Ida Fast Fries), and let them have soda with the meal to make it special. Also, learn to use the crock pot to cook for you, so that your meal is done at dinner time and you didn't have to "Slave" to get it there. Sorry so long here! Good luck!