Tuesday, November 27, 2012

On My Heart: The Post I Didn't Want to Write about Struggling Financially

 

I was raised in a middle class family.  I know my parents worried about money but their worries were on a large scale - how much money did they need to put away for retirement, were they saving enough for college - not on the day to day concerns of food, clothing, and shelter.  My mom clipped coupons and shopped sales to insure that we always had what we needed.  She also taught me about finances and priorities.  I was incredibly blessed to not only grow up in a financially stable household, but to leave my parent's home with a firm understanding of the value of money, the ability to budget, and the distinctions between true "needs", which are in reality quite few, and the many "wants".  When I got married I was prepared to take all that I had learned and create a successful financial future for my family.  It never occurred to me that it was possible that no matter how hard we worked, we wouldn't make enough to make ends meet.

When we married a little over two years ago, I had just graduated with my undergraduate degree and my husband was a graduate student.  I knew that money would be tight for a while and I was happy to contribute in whatever way I could, which at the time took the form of a minimum wage job.  We knew it wouldn't be forever; once David graduated with his Ph.D., he would get a good job.  In the meantime, we had an unexpected move that set us behind quite a bit financially.  I was five months pregnant when we moved, which made it impossible for me to find a new job.  But David's graduation was less than a year away, we could get along until then with our savings and being creative with our budget. 

But here we are, the long awaited graduation day came and went six months ago.  I work a part-time teaching job and David works part-time at a minimum wage job.  The only reason we are surviving financially is because we live with my parents.  As much as we'd love to, we can't afford to rent even the smallest two bedroom apartment.  I'm ashamed to admit that my parents insist of paying for much of our groceries as well, and we let them, hoping that someday we'll be able to repay them for their generosity.  I knew we were marrying young, and I knew that meant that we would have to put in some time "building our lives" to get to where we want to be, but I never imagined that we would be where we are now.  Without our parents, we couldn't provide the basic needs for ourselves and our daughter and that's scary.

But more than scared, I'm angry.  We did everything right.  I have two bachelor's degrees.  My husband has a Ph.D.  We've worked hard and in return only ask to be given to opportunity to continue to work hard to provide for our family.  We've spent countless hours searching for jobs.  We are extremely frugal with the money we do have.  And yet we still can't make it on our own.  

I'm ashamed to be angry.  While there are people in our own community starving, without shelter and clothing, without a place to bathe or someone to care for them, I am absolutely appalled at myself for being so selfish as to want more.  Although we can't provide for all our needs, they are being provided for. Perhaps I'm just another stereotypical child of my generation, who feels entitled to a good job and a decent salary because of my middle class upbringing.  Who doesn't know the true meaning of "need" and who has a lot to learn from true financial struggles.  Yeah, that's probably right on.

Why can't I be satisfied with what we do have?  We have so many blessings for which to be thankful.  While many others struggling financially have to go it alone, we both have parents who are able and willing to help.  We have a beautiful daughter.  We have our health.  We have jobs.  We have our education, the value of which is more than a paycheck.  Most of all, we have our faith in a just and loving God.  

So why can't I just trust Him?  Why can't I let these worries go, continue to work my hardest, and know that there is a bigger plan?  I feel selfish and faithless and alone.  




Why did I choose to write about this?  Hostess Becky made this link-up for women to connect and she wrote these instructions:
What do you do? You write. You write and you open up to us. Tell us who you are. Share a story with us. Tell us why you blog. Something that has been challenging for you in life? Something that has been a major blessing. Anything applies. The goal is that you take the time to actually write and the result would be that other women would find you and your blog and connect.
Well, this is my story right now.  I didn't want to write this post.  I wanted to write about being a mother to an almost one year old.  Or a wife to a hard-working man.  Or about the blessings of being a teacher.  But I couldn't help it, this is the story that I didn't want to write but that has wanted to be told.  It doesn't lend itself to a cute little packaged post, so it's be pushed aside, pushed aside, but this time it pushed back.  I try to stay positive on my blog, to talk about the beautiful life we live.  But beauty isn't the same as perfection and I struggle too.  And sometimes, that struggle needs to be shared, to be spread among others so it's not so much of a burden to carry and to let others

40 comments:

  1. I can totally relate to you. There are times where people tell me that me and my generation is "entitled" but I think our mentors, teachers, role models made us that way. My whole life I heard if you go to college you will have the best life ever! Or if you major in xyz you will get a job right out of school making $50,000+ a year. So I feel like I was brainwashed my whole life and almost am at a point where I regret even going to college because I'd at least then not have any debt.


    I know that isn't true and I am proud of my accomplishments and there are things I learned in college I could never have learned just working my way up in a job out of high school but it's frustrating.


    You are really brave for writing this. I've wanted to write something like this for months but don't know how without sounding self-fish and complainy :(

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  2. I've been there and it absolutely sucks. I wish I could tell you platitudes about how it builds character but it's absolutely maddening. I can tell you, however, that it's a season and it will pass.

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  3. Thank you for writing this. My husband and I have struggled as well, and felt acutely the strange burden of guilt mixed with frustration. There's a lot to write on the subject. I understand where you are coming from, and I understand why you claim your discontent is in some ways a marker of our spoiled generation. But I do disagree! I think there are many valid complaints and questions- not about God's will for us, because I see His hand in my life- but about the way the system is structured, and the path towards practical solutions.

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  4. Hi! I'm visiting from Women Connect! I love how you opened up like this. We struggled financially for some time and in the past couple years have been doing great. Have you heard of the Dave Ramsey program?

    Chantal @ Scattered Seashells

    www.scatteredseashells.com

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  5. I am SO GLAD I found this post...we are in the same situation. We have debt, low paying jobs and great degrees/experience. It just doesn't seem fair sometimes. And it's not always easy to wait for God to pave our path....Thank you for writing this. It's good to know that others are going through the same thing as us!!

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  6. Thank you for writing this! Like you my hubby and I married young and had kids young. We really struggled with making ends meet for 3 years. Now we can make them meet, but that is just about it. The last 3 years taught me to trust in God in a way I couldn't ever imagine. There would be times when bills would not have been paid and money just showed up. Be it from an unexpected "bonus" from my hubby's part time job or doctors offices sending us money back because we paid too much. And that hardly ever happens! It's hard for me to talk about struggling financially; but it shouldn't be. Those years have brought me closer to God and my family and taught me many, many lessons. And I am thankful for that.

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  7. We also went through the lean years, including living in my parents basement with a young child. It's so tough! It's embarrasing. Even 6 years later sometimes we still have to accept help from people when we simply can't make ends meet for whatever reason. Like you, I didn everything right. I got my degree with plans to go forward. Marriage and motherhood interrupted my attempt to get my Masters, which in the end was for the best. I have more than one friend with an MA or PhD who can't find anything, not even secretarial work. It's heart breaking.
    We're on the road to recovery. Like you, we've always been tight with our budget and quite creative. Finally all that hard work is paying off as over our years of little income we've managed to accrue very little debt. I'll pray for you that God provides your husband with a job worthy of his education and dedication!

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  8. Chantal, thanks for commenting! I have heard of Dave Ramsay's program but I'm not quite sure it would help. We actually have a pretty healthy view of money and budgeting, and only a few thousand dollars left of student loans from my husband's undergrad. The issue is that we simply don't have enough income coming in from two part-time jobs to make ends meet. Even if we shuffled around the budget, the money just isn't there.

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  9. Yes, I agree, I was always told I would never have trouble finding a job with my degrees. In fact, up until my class, every graduate from my university's department got a job before school started. I only know of maybe 3 or 4 out of 25 that have teaching jobs from my class.



    I think more than anything, it's embarrassing to have a college degree and work a minimum wage job (like my husband with his Ph.D.)

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  10. You've really pinpointed one of my main frustrations: embarrassment. In fact, I've withdrawn from a lot of my friends because I'm too embarrassed to say, "Sorry, I can't afford to go out to lunch." I'm embarrassed to tell my coworkers that I live with my parents. I'm too embarrassed to apply to government programs that could help us. I think that most of our family and friends have no idea how much we are actually struggling because I just can't share it with them because of my own pride!

    Thanks for your prayers, I'll add you to mine as well.

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  11. Brooke, I hope I'll be able to say that this period of time strengthened my faith as well! We've had money crop up unexpectedly as well - including unexpected opportunities to make a little money on the side. I feel like I will at least always be careful with money when we do have it because I know how much it can mean - and hopefully someday we'll have the ability to donate large amounts to those that are struggling even more than we are now!

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  12. You're welcome! While I'm not glad you are in the same difficult situation, I am glad that I can provide some commiseration! You are certainly not alone!

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  13. Thanks, Sarah! I really appreciate your comment that there are true things I can be frustrated about. I see my middle school students and I hope that they don't get the same shpiel that if you go to college you'll get a job and everything will work out perfectly. A college education doesn't guarantee a job anymore and for some kids, that's not the right option anyway!

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  14. Jen, your comment is really comforting. I sometimes think, "Shouldn't I be learning and growing so much because of these struggles? Well I'm not! What's wrong with me?"

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  15. I'm glad you shared this. It is refreshing to see such honesty with a bad situation on a 'mommy' blog. You said in a prior comment reply that you are too embarrassed to apply to government programs, but I really think you should. Especially WIC. You are both working, and you are paying taxes that support these programs. If you think of it that way, it may take the 'sting' out, so to say. I really hope and pray that your husband can find a position worthy of his education.

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  16. linzlee1982@gmail.comNovember 27, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    New follower here. I am glad that you posted this. It took a lot of courage for you to do so. I will be making my post later today (have 3 kids). It's so unfair that people with college degrees can't find work. I am sure your current living situation must be difficult. It's a blessing that your parents are able to help support you guys. That's the great thing about good parents...they are there for you no matter what! You will be in my prayers!

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  17. I have 7 children and we are in our mid 40s and I can tell you that we and so many other good, Catholic families with many children and good college educations are in the exact same place. I truly believe that God is purifying His people right now. I believe someone else said that, too, that we need to trust ONLY in Him; not our jobs or our education. It is SOOO hard to do, but this situation is so common right now it is hard to fathom. Try hard to not be embarrassed...there are many people just like you. Try hard to trust God and grow in your faith. It won't be easy, but God will use this time of trial for you to grow in faith and trust. God Bless you and your parents whom God has placed there so you would be taken care of!

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  18. Man can I ever relate.... not enough money to go around, and parents helping you out. It is so horrible because you feel guilty for accepting help from your parents. You don't want to live off your parents forever but you also truly don't see another way to survive. Thanks for writing the post so many of us are thinking. I will continue to pray for you and your beautiful family.

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  19. My husband and I each have our BA (his is from Note Dame) and our JDs. We have been licensed attorneys since 2005. We are frugal. We didn't buy a house when all of our classmates were buying houses. We work two jobs each (until my husband switched jobs just this week) from 8am until 1pm and then 2:30pm until 11pm.


    We struggle each month to meet all our bills. It is embarrassing to think that we are licensed attorneys YET we are crippled financially. Despite that, I continuously reassure myself that I am more fortunate than so many other people. It just really doesn't feel that way.

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  20. From a guy's point of view, I really appreciate what you've written. We work hard; we plan ahead; we do the best we can; and despite all of it it's hard to catch a break. This isn't how you thought it would be. You want your parents to be proud of you, instead of worrying. You want to be able to be generous with what you have without worrying about the cost. You're genuinely happy for others when they achieve, and inside you hope & pray that maybe your turn is up next.



    My wife and I have been there, and more often than I want to admit, we've ended up right back where we started from.



    I was told this once, perhaps it applies here:

    God is trying to get your attention and tell you something. Sometimes He has to speak to us through poverty, humility, and the generosity of others to get the message across. Otherwise you won't hear it!

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  21. M @ Perfectly ImperfectNovember 27, 2012 at 8:13 PM

    I came over from the link up and WOW. I already love your heart for sharing this.

    My story is eerily similar. We've been hit a couple of times lately by some hard times and we are struggling right now. We don't live with parents, but we do live in my husbands' grandparents old home which his parents own. We pay a VERY small amount (and utilities) to live here right now while we get back on our feet. We are fortunate that we have this opportunity but at the same time, this isn't where we want to be so we're struggling big time with where life has us. Keep trucking along girl. Like I keep telling myself, it has to get better eventually! I'm a new follower. :)

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  22. I can relate because for the better part of our marriage, this was our situation. No money. Un[der]employed. Dependent on her parents.

    I understand the anger. We did everything right and STILL can't make it. And in our situation, we felt like doing everything right was WHY we couldn't make it. That was the hardest part. We felt betrayed.


    I was angry for a very long time. Angry at the world. Angry at God. It's not something I'm proud of, but it made sense at the time.

    Now that we are out of that situation, I can see what we went through from a different perspective:

    1. You DID do a lot right and it WILL pay off. Eventually. Just not now. For us, things turned around VERY quickly and VERY dramatically. The bad times will not last forever and you WILL get through them.

    2. You did a lot right, but you probably didn't do everything right. Looking back, we made a lot of mistakes because we thought we knew it all, and these mistakes contributed to our situation. We missed a lot of opportunities that we didn't even see. We learned a lot of humility by going through that experience. We also learned just how hard people can have it.

    We did grow through the experience. It sucked, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but it made us grow up. It made us find out who we were and what was really important to us.

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  23. I feel the same way. I feel like I have no friends mainly b/c I just can't afford to go to bars or fancy restaurants and feel like a loser ordering nothing.

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  24. Stopping by from the link-up (mine is http://gavinafamily.com)! Love your blog and especially your honesty. I was definitely more honest in my post today than I've been in a long time thanks to Becky as well. I'm a Catholic newlywed (well, we've been married three years, but I'd like to think of us as newlyweds) expecting our first baby and still figuring out all of this money stuff. Maybe we could help each other sometime! I'll be reading!

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  25. Mandi, a fellow blogger from the Women Connect link-up came across my post and told me to check out yours since we have a very similar story. I am SO glad that I did because lady, I know how you feel. My husband and I got married 6 months ago and 300+ job applications later, he STILL cannot find a job. We planned to move into our own apartment immediately after getting married but we are living with our parents. I am working on my MBA and hoping that I will be able to find something after I finish in a few weeks, but this is just absolutely NOT what I expected our first year of marriage to be. Yet at the same time, when I look at it from the perspective of knowing that God has a plan for our lives and trying to think about what we can learn through all of this, there are many things I am thankful for. Anyway, check out my post and I think you will be encouraged. Now following you and looking forward to connecting with you more in the future.

    http://newlywedmoments.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-secret-to-trusting-god.html

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  26. I think one of the hardest things is that outside people looking in think we have every opportunity to do well financially and that we are doing something wrong (not willing to move anywhere for a job, too picky, too lazy to actually look, etc.). To society people with advanced degrees should be making loads of money, but that simply isn't the case anymore. I'll be praying for you, Hannah!

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  27. You're right, that was a great post! So glad you found me!

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  28. Now that my husband is working, I think we are barely over the limit for most government aid. It's a little bit frustrating because my income isn't stable (as a part-time teacher, I am paid hourly so when there isn't school, my paycheck is smaller - December is going to be difficult with Christmas break) but that isn't considered. We are trying really hard to save right now so once summer comes and I don't have an income at all, we can be ok.

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  29. I feel so bed that my parents are still having to support me in my mid-twenties (and my husband and daughter as well). I know they love us and don't mind, but I feel guilty!

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  30. Thanks, Laura. I know I'm not in this alone and I'm trying my best to turn this into a growth experience!

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  31. I feel like such a mooch, but I know they really do love having us here. I just hope I'll have the finances someday to help my parents when they need it!

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  32. It's nice to hear from a male perspective. I know this is hard on my husband, who takes his role as provider very seriously, but he's quiet about it.

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  33. I'm so glad you have in-laws that are able to help you out! It makes such a big difference. I'm so grateful for my parents taking us in, even if they drive me crazy sometimes!

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  34. James, I'm sure I'll feel the same someday and see the mistakes we're making now. It's so hard though, I feel like we are doing everything we possibly can to make it!

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  35. Just checked out your blog! So glad to have found another similar soul!

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  36. I love how honest this is! Also, we're right there with you! I'm a nurse, my husband is finishing college after serving 6 years in the military and wow we barely get buy between student loans and an 8 month old. It's rough! Look forward to reading more from you!

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  37. I understand that feeling! It's very frustrating.

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  38. That must be so hard. We talk about this a lot in our household...how we work and try and never can quite get ahead. I love your honesty here.

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  39. I know this is an old post, but I wanted to comment.
    Wow. We are in the same boat, and the embarrassment is the worst! I have a BS and my husband has an MS. After over a year of looking for work in his field, my husband enlisted in the Air Force. It's taken over a year for him to actually be sent to basic during which time he and I both worked at Walmart. We are living with my parents and have a 16 month old. In a few months, we'll finally be able to move and start the military life, but it has been SO frustrating! Praying that you guys are able to find stable, fulfilling work. Please pray for us too!

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I'd love to hear what you have to say! You can also contact me directly by emailing me at messywifeblessedlife@gmail.com.