Saturday, July 18, 2009

There's a method to my madness

So. I'm obviously stressed. This is the post where I tell you just what I intend to do about it.

Cuz, see, there's a benefit to being the type of people who are always planning for the future.

We're always planning for the future.

Genius, no?

Let me explain.

Like most Moms, after Nicholas was born in 2004 I didn't want to go back to work. But as I mentioned yesterday, at the time Hubs had gone back to school and had taken a job that paid far less than he had been making so that he could do so. I was (and continue to be) the main bread-winner in our household. (Every time Hubs gets a boost in pay I seem to shout, "OH YEAH?!?! TAKE THAT!" and trump him.)

At the time, we just weren't in a place where we could financially afford for me to do so.

Let me be clear - I give mad props, yo, to Moms that make it work, whatever the cost - financial or otherwise - to be at home with their kids. While my brain knows that kids will grow up and function just fine if they attend day care and have two parents who work full time, my heart and my gut and that little part at the back of my brain that just won't leave me alone feel otherwise.

I want to be at home with my kids.

I remember crying my eyes out a few days before having to return to work. There was this teeny little person who relied on me for everything that was just starting to develop the buds of a personality. He was no longer a newborn that got up every two hours to eat...he was becoming more fun...I could see the light at the end of the sleep-deprived tunnel...and like hell did I want to miss any of the GOOD stuff. (Cuz up until three or four months old newborns pretty much suck. God makes 'em cute for good reason.)

I called my HR department and asked as to whether maternity leave had to be repaid if I didn't come back. (It doesn't - its a benefit you earn through your months/years of employment beforehand.) I hadn't researched day care AT ALL. Hubby had started looking for a job that would allow him to work nights, but as of the day I made that phone call I had no plan what-so-ever to return to work.

I'm sad that I lost the strength of that conviction.

Hubby did get that second-shift job, and we were lucky to find a friend of a good friend who watched children out of her home. The fact that she cared for 'Baby Nicholas' just a few hours every afternoon helped somewhat, but I still cried when I came to pick him up one afternoon to be told, "HE CUT HIS FIRST TOOTH!!!"

Straight to the heart on that one. Ow.

Somewhere in there, Hubby and I had a heart-to-heart. We both wanted me to be able to stay home and were working toward making that a reality. Once he was done with school and had a better paying job it just might work.

"Maybe after the next baby," he said.

Welcome Will, February 2007. Three months later I went back to work.

I didn't cry that spring, heading back to the office. I still believed in my gut that it was just a matter of time until I could leave the 9-5 altogether. That we were being rational about all of this - that we didn't want our kids to grow up poor like we did - and so we must 'keep on keepin' on'.

I'm more than a little sad that I didn't cry about going back to work the second time.

But throughout all of these years, working our tails off, going to school, literally switching shifts with our children (and hardly seeing each other), we were also paying down our mortgage - we happened to be smart enough to refi to a 15-year fixed back in 2003. We're some of the very few that actually LIKE to get statements from our credit union, because we can SEE the balance we owe on our home going down.

We also made other decisions about lifestyle. Neither Hubs nor I own a flashy car. We both drive used Chevy Blazers. We don't have a monthly payment for either.

We don't carry a balance on our credit cards.

We don't have new furniture or electronics, or $100/month cell phone bills.

We don't buy $4 coffees or $12 take-out lunches or take big fancy vacations.*

We could, but we don't.

I'm not saying that having any of these things is bad, I'm just saying that these are some of the choices we've made because we've taken our goal very seriously.

When we move this fall, we will move into a much larger home and the mortgage payment we make will be nearly identical to the one we make now.**

We originally intended to set aside a big chunk of money from the sale of our existing house to buy new furniture (because let's face it, there will be a lot of EMPTY SPACE in that house, wherever it is) but with things the way they are now we probably won't.

And then? Once we get settled?

I will wave buh-bye to the old day job.

And I won't look back.

Let the count-down clock start....NOW.

*OK, I break the unwritten "coffee rule" some days. But I really love plain old joe with flavored creamer and bring it to work from home nearly every day.
**Granted, we'll be starting the mortgage clock over again and paying over 30 years, but I'm cool with that.


Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather said...

My goal is to quit the day job in two years. I wish it could be sooner, but we have so much debt to take care of before I can quit. It really makes me angry sometimes, knowing that I'm really just working to pay off that debt. Oh, the changes I'd make if I could go back even five years.

I'm so happy for you. Fall will be here before you know it. Hell, it already feels like fall around here.

Roger said...

That's awesome! We have been blessed with having Jenni stay home with the kids, and it has had it's rough patches (currently we're trying to figure out college financing and paying off some debt that, I swear, just suddenly appeared), and I have had to work some really long hours, and sometimes, three jobs at a time. It's tough, but we made that decision long ago, before we were married and have been able to do it.
My only regret is that I haven't been able to help Jenni get back to school (she wants to be a nurse, labor and delivery ironically), she has started going back twice, but had to stop because, well, we had another child.
Who knows, maybe in three years we can get her back to school, then after she gets her nursing degree, I can take some time off. :)
Sorry about talking about me here. I really do think that it's great that you will be able to leave your job, and concentrate on your more important job - being a mom.

Roger said...

Ooh, also sorry about not spacing my paragraphs better. :)

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

You look like you have a good plan. Start that countdown.

Karen MEG said...

I'm counting with you hon. This post just cements why I MUST meet you and gives you a huge hug, with that beer.

You've made very smart decisions in your life, Colleen, no doubt about that. Certainly some "sacrifices" by not being able to stay home for as long as you would have liked when the boys were tiny, that being said, as they get older, and I'm experiencing this NOW, they do seem to need you more, for different things. And you will be in that place.

I was lucky in that we were able to be in a position for me to stay at home, for over 4 years now... my baby will be 5 in December. But I'm at the other end of the spectrum, looking at going back to work, for me, my fulfillment and trying to strike a balance between that and being there for the family. Gahhhhh, this is such a subject.

Cannot wait for next week to squeeze ya!

Pop and Ice said...

Without a plan you just drift and then wonder how you wound up where you are...but that is obviously not you. You've got a great plan and so long as you can get your current house sold, I'm sure the rest will work out.

I'm not good with long-term planning, but I am organized daily with my Toodle-Do application. I know I shouldn't, but I leave the longer-term planning to my hubby because it is something he excels at.

Anonymous said...

You and I live such similar lives. I'm pulling for you every step of the way.

(we have 15 year mortgages on our homes and I wouldn't do it any other way.)

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oooh that's so exciting!!! I can't wait to hear how you LOVE it!!!
Three cheers for living within means and having the extra TIME and RESOURCES for what matters! You rock!

Mary @ Giving Up On Perfect said...

Colleen!!! WOW! That is so awesome. I know I’m not your mom or anything, but can I say that I’m really proud of you? (And, you know, a little jealous.) :) Way to go!!