Friday, December 5, 2008

There’s a Big Difference Between ‘Lucky’ and ‘Worked My Ass Off and Went Without’

As you may well know from my previous blog posts, I will be having a baby sometime in the near future, preferably in January. If this kid comes in December it’s going to seriously screw up my insurance plans and if it decides to come in February, there is a good chance that by that point I will have grown into the largest woman you have ever seen. January seems like a good goal, in my opinion. Besides, that’s when the midwife said I was due.

Anyway, unless you know me in real life, you probably have no idea about my plans for work once this whole ‘having a baby’ thing goes down. Here’s my brilliant plan:

*I will take the measley 12 weeks of FMLA guaranteed to me by our sad little government. (seriously, we’re like the only developed country in the world with that little time off for our kids – what does that say about what we really value?) I will take this time unpaid as said sad little government doesn’t require our employers to pay anything during maternity leave and virtually no companies have stepped up to the plate to demonstrate that they really do care about the state of families in the U.S. (interestingly enough, my employer claims to be a “Christian” “family centered” agency. Explain that, please.)

*I will return to work part time at the end of March. I will do this work mostly from home, hopefully only going into the office about 4 hours a week.

*If I decide that really sucks, I’ll quit.

How can I do this? you ask. It’s quite simple, actually. Luckily, my chosen profession is writing. My immediate supervisor sees no reason why I have to come into the office each and every day to do what I can do from bed with a laptop in hand. My immediate supervisor also sees no good reason to start all over with someone new who doesn’t know the ins and outs of the agency, the local philanthropy circuit, or, quite possibly, basic English grammar. You’d be amazed how difficult it seems to be for most people to write in readable English. Therefore, she has deemed that I can job share provided that I will remain the lead writer and deal with most of the big stuff.

Not a bad gig if you ask me.

Now, aside from being asked how I got so lucky as to be working part time from home (and believe me, I do realize how lucky this is in our current economy), I’ve also been asked how it is that I can just up and quit if it really sucks. That is also quite simple. You see, my dear husband and I have worked our butts off to make sure we don’t have excess debt or living expenses that can’t be controlled with his salary. My salary, should I remain on the ‘part-time from home’ schedule, will be used entirely to make principle payments on my husband’s school loans and our mortgage. D assures me that if I work 20 hours a week all of this can be paid off in 5 years. This is sheer bribery on his part, as I can’t even fathom how completely thrilled I would be to be relieved of the burden of a mortgage yet still have somewhere to live.

It was still a bit of a difficult decision to make as I really don’t want to work with little children to take care of. However, being relieved of the mortgage makes it seem worth it to me. Now, paying for cable or new sweaters or just being able to buy a bunch of crap would definitely NOT be worth it, so if this weren’t the arrangement, you can bet my happy butt would have already quit (I am getting quite tired, to be fair, and my hips don’t seem to work properly anymore) and wouldn’t be going back to the workforce until my youngest was in school. D has been forewarned of this already and knows that if I don’t see my entire check going into principle payments I will quit before he can even say, “Can I keep cable?” Sorry, I refuse to work so we can have a bunch of stupid crap. There is a little baby depending on me who is worth way more than stupid crap.

Most of the people I know have been quite supportive of this and have said nice things to me like, “Oh, that’s wonderful, you’ll be so glad to have that time with the baby,” and so on and so forth. However, there have been a few who have simply looked at me and said, “Lucky! I could never work just part time/quit if I wanted to/etc! Do you know how lucky you are?” while they glare at me as though I’m the most spoiled princess they’ve ever run across who just insists on primping herself in front of them for the sake of vanity.

The next person to do this is going to get punched in the face.

Was it ‘lucky’ that I went to school for 7 years while working full time so as to avoid student loans while still having somewhere to live and being able to get a diploma that would get me a decent job? Was it ‘lucky’ that I drove that stupid purple car even after it was totaled, bought back from the insurance company, patched up, and totaled yet again? Was it ‘lucky’ that I lived in an apartment that didn’t even have a bedroom so that I could still afford to put money in savings, even though I was technically living at the poverty line and qualified for the housing assistance program that I worked for? Was it ‘lucky’ that when I really, really, really wanted that hoodie (or those shoes, or those earrings, etc), I waited until I got some money for Christmas before I went out and bought it? Was it ‘lucky’ that I never put anything on a credit card that I couldn’t pay off at the end of the month? Is it ‘luck’ that I have never made a large purchase (aside from my house) that I couldn’t pay off within a year? It is ‘luck’ that I just now bought the furniture I have been saving for since I was 20? It is ‘luck’ that we bought a house for 1/3 of the loan amount we actually qualified for?

That is not luck. That is me making good financial decisions. Did they suck? Yep, they sure did. Especially the part about working full time and going to school at the same time. That sucked. It sucked for a very long time, actually. And the part about qualifying for federal housing assistance based on my sad little salary, yet limiting my spending enough to be able to save money - yep, that sucked. There were a lot of Dollar Store toiletries and Good Will sweaters at my house for awhile there.

But guess what. I did it anyways. Why? you ask. Because I knew that if I ever did get married and decide to have children I did not want debt to be in the way of me staying home with them. When D and I got engaged and decided to buy our house, not only was I debt free, but I had enough sitting in savings to be able to pay a nice chunk of our closing costs, inspector fees, etc. While D wasn’t quite so frugal, he soon stepped up to the plate and got a second job to pay off the debt he had accumulated. Did that suck? Yep, it sure did. He didn’t like working 2 jobs and I didn’t like having him gone that much. But he did it anyways. Now we’re down to his school loan and the mortgage.

I am sick of people talking to me like I somehow just ‘got lucky’ in the lottery of life and will now be able to either pay off my mortgage or stay home with my baby if I so choose. First of all, to call that lucky is a huge joke – let’s face it, real luck would involve never having to deal with a mortgage in the first place. I don’t think I’m ever going to be that well off in this lifetime. But secondly, what D and I have accomplished has not been luck – it has been us working our asses off to make sure we would be financially secure when the time came to raise a family. No, we don’t have as big of a house as we would like in as nice of a neighborhood as we would like. No, we don’t have as nice of cars as we would like. D has only gotten to have cable for about a year, and that’s getting cut off next month (you may have already figured that I couldn’t care less about having cable, so that’s no sacrifice to me, but poor D…). Our home repairs have been largely self-done and we don’t get a lot of new, fancy clothes or expensive gadgets. But you know what – that’s okay. We have what we really need and we spend our money on things that are really important to us.

Financial security is attainable…. but quite honestly, it sucks getting there – unless, of course, you really are ‘lucky’ and someone has left you an enormous inheritance or your parents paid for you to go to that fancy school and you just so happened to be skilled in a field that pays high dollars, or…. you get the picture. I’m never going to be good at the jobs that pay a lot of money. If I ever do make a lot from my writing, well, that will probably be luck. For most of us, we’re just not that lucky. It sucks. I bitch about it a lot, but you know what? I actually do something about it too. I adjust my standards. I delay gratification. I work that second job for awhile (yep, I had a second job too, now that we’re on the topic). I clip coupons and wear slippers instead of turning up the thermostat.

So if you’re one of those girls who looks at me with a sneer while thinking, ‘that lucky bitch!’ just stop for a minute and think about the choices you have made. Then think about what luck really is. I’m betting neither one of us has it.


crimsonwhiskey said...

I completely agree with you on this. I always have people criticize me for my tiny house, 88 model car, and mostly, lack of tv. "What do you do with your time?" or "what do your kids do?" Drives me nuts!! They act like life cannot function without their version of "staples". I was jobless over the summer & was appalled at the people in the unemployment office, fake nails, expensive hair do's, and in some cases their shoes cost more than my house payment! I do have to admitted, I started out a little backwards on the whole life scene & haven't always done things in the most beneficial order, I still don't understand the splurges on non-essentials while bitching about not having enough money. I could go on all day!! Please let me know when ur baby shower is, I'd like to at least welcome your addition with something special :)

Anonymous said...

the decisions you both have made are to be honored...its those people that i go to their houses (that are paid for by the government), that have satellite tv, the air conditioning down to 50 (its hot in tx, it would be up to 80 in the winter in IN), and who have way nicer clothing than i have ever had....oh yeah and they dont have a job, its all given to them.....
those are tough for my little working bootie to handle. not gonna lie...but alas, i think there is something to learn in the process of the decisions you guys have made. a quality of life, a freedom in which our society (EVERYthing around us), deems we can never live without...there is something about the freedom of proving them wrong, in a life of peace my dear prego friend!
live it up and teach others the mini p!!!!