Monday, May 21, 2007

Filthy lucre

I fucking hate this.

"This" being feeling poor. I know in reality I am not in fact poor, that we are better off than much of America and most of the world.

But I'm looking at Strollerderby, and they are flashing some ad for baby clothes from Fred Segal. Meanwhile, I am literally too broke to go to Target and pick up some much needed sandals, shorts and tees for Maggie his summer at like $5/pop. Forget about anything new for me, including the new running shoes I so desperately want so I can start running again and not be so ginormous. We need to fix our roof and our fence, and can't afford to.

And on top of our normal money worries, my husband got careless with the checking account and we are out $350 in overdraft fees. The bank, thank God, waived $105 of the total but is refusing to waive more. Suffice it to say that losing $350 is a hit we absolutely cannot afford. That's our food (and wine!) budget for a month, almost two months of school tuition, more than a car payment, etc. Because of this, neither Paul or I can buy each other gifts for our upcoming birthdays, my mom won't get her Mother's Day gift made good on for awhile, and our much needed night out together this coming weekend will have to be canceled. I can't even think about what bills won't get paid or how we'll manage to buy groceries because that sends me into panic attack.

The stupid thing? Minutes before Paul called me to confess what happened, I was thinking "I am so glad we're in better shape than we were a year ago, or two years ago." And then...CRASH!!!

I'm done being mad at my husband, although I think our days of joint accounts are over for many reasons. But this just points up how shitty I feel all the time about our finances. It seems like all our friends can afford things, can go shopping and buy what they need and even some of what they want, can keep their kids in tons of toys and clothes and even go on vacations every now and again. Everybody else I know who waited to have kids did so to be financially secure---we are less secure than ever.

And I HATE myself for being so envious of what other people have and can afford. I should be a better person than this. I should realize I am incredibly rich in what matters--I have a lovely, comfortable, if somewhat shabby, house in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Detroit, I have enough clothes to keep me warm and shoes to keep me covered, we've never gone hungry and I know if any of us had a health issue we could manage. And most importantly, I have a great husband (although a complete doofus about financial matters) and the world's most wonderful little girl. My parents are both healthy, Paul's parents mostly are, and no one whose opinion well and truly matters (okay, maybe one person) looks down on us for being so chronically broke all the damn time. And of course, I don't know what financial situations actually face the people I envy. For all I know they are in debt up to their eyes and a job loss or serious expense would wipe them out.

But it doesn't stop me from hating it. I want to do better for Maggie than this. I want to be able to shop someplace that's not Target or a rummage sale. I want to not feel my throat close with anxiety when the car or the fridge or something else we can't afford to replace acts up. I want to buy something just because it's pretty. I'm a thrifty sort by nature, and wouldn't be buying the $$$$ Fred Segal clothes for Maggie even if money were never a concern. But it sucks that it's always a concern.

And I am so fucking envious of people doing better than me. Why can't I make enough from writing to be able to help us out? Where are the lucrative freelance jobs? Why do things keep getting harder? I could go back to work full time, but with what we would pay in daycare I'd barely clear enough to make a difference, if there were any jobs in my field which there aren't. Plus, I do want to be with Maggie. I waited a long time for her and the thought of tossing her in daycare, even the loving, caring environment she's in now, hurts my heart. But I worry that I am making the wrong choice, that she is going to bitterly resent us for not being able to provide the best of everything for her, for always being "the poor kid."

I worry that she'll be as ashamed of her parent's lack of means as I am. I don't have what my friends have, and it makes me embarrassed. And this seems to be the one thing you can't write about--I have read about bloggers' struggle with mental illness, maritial issues and cervical mucus, but if anyone out there is worrying constantly about money, I don't read about it. It's like the worst thing you can be as a blogger isn't a bad writer or boring--it's POOR.

I just wish I could either go all hippie and not care about material things at all (although I will say many of the "hippies" I know of are still pushing the MacLarens and driving the Volvos) or say "fuck it," go find a lucrative job (which would mean changing my kline of work) and only see my kid on weekends and evenings. Instead, I am stuck in the middle, knowing I am not doing as well for Maggie as the other parents I know are doing for theirs, and hoping that giving her the gift of time will be the right choice in the end.


pnutsmama said...

first- i hear ya. when i left the world of for-profit advertising for the non-profit way of life, i thought, well, we'll be poor but happy instead of comfortable and miserable. and, for the most part, we are! but every so often that little voice whispers in my ear about how cute that ____ is (usually for pnut) and wouldn't that be nice for us to have. as much as i know the evils of consumerism and consumption, man is it hard!! for me, the thoughts pass and we make due. although i would love to feel just a little more secure financially. a wee bit.

we are currently in process of basically doubling the size of my parents teeny house to make living space (bedrooms, we're keeping the public areas joint) for us and holy mother of god does the cost of that keep you in a panic. even finding every cost-saving measure still doesn't take away the pain of watching your savings disappear (albeit in the form of new living space).

this month my husband (the saver, i am the spender) basically told me we have to not spend money this month and next. super. mmm, pasta. it's funny, he does the bills and i have tried everyway i know how to get him to just do the automatic withdraw every month just to avoid the inevitable late fees we pay almost.every.month. grr. which is my v. unhealthy ammunition if needed when he complains about me getting sandals for the kid, etc.

i will bet eventually (read: after jr. high school) your maggie will thrill you with her ability to find a bargain and reject that consumer mentality that rules nearly everyone i know. and she will be a happier and healthier woman for it. so look at it as a gift- the gift of (almost) poverty.

oh, i know jen over at breedemandweep talks about their finances or lack thereof all the time. i believe she has begun a turkeybacon fund just for that reason. hang in there- it's getting warmer, thank god, since lots of outdoors stuff is f.r.e.e!

Em said...

I'm glad you posted this.

Tonight I was walking past the big houses on the water thinking, "If I could just win the lottery. . . " Big houses seem so out of reach to me right now. Things are very tight here as well. We are literally spending all of our take home pay.

Anyway, you aren't alone.

apt said...

We don't want to give our daughter stuff, we want to give her a sibling, but that's not financially in the cards right now. So heartbreakingly frustrating.

I know that even my friends who just bought a television bigger than our kitchen table say "there's never enough money."

Also, hi, I used to be Amy in Metro-Motown, now I live on the West Coast of MI. This is the first time I've been here, and I plan to come back.

tripmom827 said...

We struggle too. And, I too, wonder how everyone else is able to buy so much stuff. WHat I think about is how my parents gave me everything I ever wanted, except time. That is the "curse" of boomer kids, right? So, perhaps, I am justifying by seeing our choices as swinging the pendulum the other way. My kids may not have every material thing, but they will have me whenever they need me. I hope things look up for you soon. And, great job on the links and everything. I'm jealous of what you have on your blog!

pnutsmama said...

i've been thinking about this a lot.

first, yes, i know lots and lots of people who buy a lot of stuff are up to their eyeballs in debt, so kudos to you (and anyone else) who is wise enough to choose no gift/less rather than just putting it on credit and out of their minds. i can't believe how many people let their balances (!) grow just a little more month after month. scary.

second, tripmom, you hit the nail right on the head: our parents felt guilty about not being around enough so they bought us stuff to make up for it. the ironic thing is while we are aware of that fact and have rejected the ideology that drove that behavior, our generation actually spends more on our kids, to try and make up for what we remember as 'lacking' when we were kids. a vicious cycle to be sure.


msuspartan99 said...

Amy, Hey it's the mother of C1 and C2 and the Very Happy wife of a stay at home Dad named Brett! I read your blog on being poor. Just wanted to give my thoughts on the subject. First, it takes a huge comittment to decide to have a child. Another to have a parent stay home with them and lose the extra income that you were used to in your "single" days. (pre-kids) But to me, you can't put a price tag on security, love and emotional stability that is your responsibility to provide for a child. Brett and I had to make several hard decisions last year about being poor. We sold our house in Mi, found one in Ohio, both transferred jobs and had a new baby in a matter of three weeks! Once I got back to work after maternity leave, I begged my hubby to stay home with the kids. He wasnt sure about it for a very long time. I understood, he's a man and should be the one bringing home the dough. I was not about to quit because I love my job and was going on 7 years of working and always had. He hated going to his "place of hell" so It only made sense that it be him that took our kids to school, t-ball practice and to the park. The other end of it is that our kids have clothes from Once Upon a Child and yard sales. But I would sacrifice anything materialistic to make sure my kids had only the things they "need". The love, sense of security, education, food clothes and shelter. And sure if occasionally we get a nice bonus check, maybe a trip to the zoo is in order. Your kids will love and respect you more for being real with them and spending time with them then some toy that you will throw away in two weeks anyway. There is no amount of money (that even the lottery can provide) that can take the place of making your family #1. The flip side for me is when my 3 yr. old ask me why I have to work all the time. I just tell him the truth, excactly what I wrote above. I respect you and Paul for having your priorities in order. Kudo's Teresa S.