I cried all the way to work this morning.

Apparently the week that I have PMS is not a good time to converse with my husband about finances.

I used to be a crier, but it is pretty rare that I actually weep anymore, and the tears only come when I am extremely overwhelmed with something.  Anxiety.  Anger.  Frustration.

This morning I was freaking out about the impending holidays, and how we are going to afford everything we need and want to do, especially for our children, without accumulating the insane credit card debt that goes along with it.

We are poor these days.  As a freelance artist, my husband never knows when he is going to have work, and then never knows when he is going to get paid for the work he has done.  I am a social worker, and even though I have a graduate level education and am independently licensed, I don’t make a fortune.  I owe money to credit cards and student loans, as does my husband.  By the time we are done paying our debts every month, there is not a lot left for groceries and diapers and toilet paper and deodorant, let alone holiday gifts.  So we end up putting gas or shampoo on credit cards and the cycle continues.  I’ve tried breaking it a few times, but then something big like a car repair begins the cycle anew.

It leaves us wondering if we can pay our rent.  We scrape by, but the stress is toxic.

A couple weeks ago, I wandered Target, purchasing baby wipes and cleaning supplies.  I found myself wondering if I could afford the four bucks and change to also buy toothpaste, or if that would bring the bill up too high and necessitate credit card usage.


I am a hard-working, educated woman who can’t afford toothpaste?  How did this become my life?

It is really hard to stay focused on the present, to thank the universe for my health, and not to follow after a whole slew of totally negative thoughts.  Don’t get me wrong; I know I am fortunate in so many ways.  But somedays, saying “Yay, I have my health!” feels as insincere and shallow as when I was a kid and was told to clean my plate for all the starving kids in third world countries.

Even writing this makes me feel like a crappy human.

Guilty.  Pessimistic.  Entitled.

I usually try to write balanced, mindful stuff, but today I just want to rant, and I’ll probably pick myself apart later for being such a negative jerk.

Taking out school loans and using credit cards is my own, damn fault and I take responsibility for that.  But when I went back to grad school 13 years ago, the economy was different for both me and my husband.  My financial picture was brighter.  I went back to school thinking it would put me in a better position to support family and children.  I didn’t bank on the fact that I would stop getting raises to meet the standard of living.

Or that child care would be nearly half my income.

Or that my husband’s work flow would become so unpredictable.

The holidays loom.  I want to pay for karate for Jack.  I want to buy doll clothes for Emily for Christmas.  I want to relax and be able to buy a fucking tube of toothpaste without being sent into a financial tail spin.

All month, people have posted about their gratitude.  While I’m not much of a joiner, I play along internally, thinking hey, I’m grateful for this or that.  Hot showers.  Laughter with co-workers.  Fresh coffee.  My six year old son appearing in the morning with his baby blanket and lovey to which he’s still attached.  The sucky sound my baby makes with her pacifier in the middle of the night.

I get it.  I have so much.

I know a lot of my clients come in and look at me like I must be Rockefeller.  But the truth is, many days I am about one paycheck away from being on the streets, education and all.  I wear hand-me-downs from my shopaholic mother, and bring my lunch to work every day.  We don’t take vacations and I have two car seats crammed into the back of my dented, ten-year-old Corrola.

I feel intense fear that things are going to fall apart, and anxiety that tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am needy and ashamed.

It doesn’t help that holidays bring out my neurosis in full force.

So, I’m sitting with it and venting and feeling whatever it brings up, which happened to be big, fat tears on the way to work.

What do the holidays bring up for you?  Are they all merry and bright or do you have stress too?  
Daily Prompt: Keeping up with the Jones’ |


14 responses »

  1. I just switched to bottled Iced coffee u buy in bulk from Costco because I was spending four times as much on lattes every day. As a family that makes 100.000 a year it’s shitty that middle class feels so freaking far away, and by definition I’m above middle class…but with student loans and childcare and commuting and a house it adds up to pinching pennies andddeciding if i can afford coffee

    • Bottled ice coffee in bulk actually sounds kind of awesome. . . but actually this year I stopped buying coffee out too. I now drink a couple cups at home in the morning and then switch to a cup of green tea when I get to the office. It has had the added benefit of giving me better breath (there is spearmint in the tea) and less crazy caffeine anxiety. Anyhow, Happy Thanksgiving. Happy to have met you on the blog!

  2. Same here! I asked myself why I had it easier when I was a student. Amongst other things, since I worked in a restaurant to pay for my studies, I had free meals… Every month we calculate if we can buy the mega pack of diapers now or if we can wait till the beginning of the next credit card bill. And we are both working and having good jobs…

    • Well, in a way it is good to hear that families in other countries struggle too, and it isn’t just that America is sucking the life out of us here! I know how hard you work, and the sacrifices you make being away from your little one, so good on you for keeping it up! xo. I know you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in France, but in America today everyone is on holiday for Thanksgiving. So, I just wanted to let you know I am thankful to have met you, my trans-atlantic friend!

      • I realized it was Thanksgiving for you when I received mails from Amazon for the Black Friday (more things we’re supposed to buy to be happy, aren’t we…) and when I saw that Grey’s anatomy didn’t air tonight… I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving and I am thankful too to have met you! xoxoxo

  3. I just want to tell you: I understand and I live this, too. It is so very hard and stressful. I want a life in which I don’t have to worry about money, I don’t have credit card debt, and I don’t have to hem and haw when buying something as simple as toilet paper.

    • Thank you so much for sharing these words with me. I sometimes look at other people’s lives on Facebook or whatever, and it can seem like everyone has “more” than me or that everyone is doing “better” than me and I start to get really down on myself for scrimping every penny every month. So, it is really helpful when other people share that they are in the same boat and share the same struggle. Thank you. Momaste!

  4. Pingback: Joy | momaste

  5. I wanted to just say, that I totally understand. I hate this caged feeling and I really can relate to your words. Again you are so honest and even though the words may have been hard to write, you have connected with all of us who live a similar life. Big hugs x

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